You set the temperature to 4°C and put your medications in — perfect, right?
Most people are a bit surprised when they start tracking temperature in their fridge for the first time. You would normally not notice fluctuations, or that the door compartments can be as much as 10°C warmer than the shelves. It is simply something you might have never wondered about, and did not need to.
However, when you are storing temperature sensitive medications at home, like insulin, hormones or other biologics, the ins and outs of your refrigerator become important. Medications should best be kept between 2–8°C/36–46°F, which is easily possible, but also more tricky than it seems.
Here’s the three most common misconceptions about how your fridge works:
1. Set temperature is just a setting, not a measurement.
But… it says 5°C?! Some fridges put temperature values on their control panel. Others have turn dials that go from warmer to colder. Either way, the set temperature is an approximate value that will be maintained on average.
2. Temperature in the fridge is not constant.
Most people will be familiar with the on/off noise of a fridge compressor.
The compressor pumps refrigerant through the fridge walls with full power, then stops abruptly once temperature has sufficiently decreased. Active cooling has stopped and the fridge warms up until a certain value is reached, which restarts the compressor again.
So, if you set the temperature to 4°C, in reality there is a fluctuation around this average.
(newer refrigerators with digital inverter compressors are not only less noisy but also do a better job at keeping fluctuations flat)
3. Temperature completely depends on the placement.
Most modern fridges are in now way inferior to an IKEA wardrobe in terms of storage logistics.
There are designated drawers for vegetables and fruits, then colder areas for meat&fish. Not to forget the infamous butter compartment — although usually the warmest spot, it is often used to store insulin&co, because it is so practical.
Air circulation in the refrigerator compartment creates different chill zones.
All of these spots differ wildly in temperature!
We wanted to give this a real life test and have put some temperature sensors in a big fridge over a whole weekend. It was set to 8°C — see what actually happened in the different spots in our next post 🙂