Skip to content

Design matters: refrigerator control dial

A fridge control dial, with 1: Min and 5: Max

I know that the higher number usually means colder, but every time I adjust a fridge’s temperature I feel a degree of uncertainty. Do MAX and MIN refer to temperature, as the label next to the dial suggests, so that 1/MIN = minimum temperature = cold? Or do they refer to the cooling effort of the fridge, so that 5/MAX = maximum refrigeration effort = cold? Or am I looking at degrees centigrade?

It’s not hard to work out, but it is hard to be sure immediately – and the best test you can run is to turn it to either extreme and freezing your lettuce or sweating your cheese.

The point is that there shouldn’t be even a moment’s doubt about which way to turn the dial, and you definitely shouldn’t have to use trial and error to be sure. Come on – it’s the only switch in the fridge. And we use it so rarely that we’re likely to forget what the numbers mean.

How about:

  • “Temperature: “Cooler / Warmer; or
  • “Temperature (°C)” (but please place a degrees symbol after each number, and don’t pretend it’s accurate if it’s not); or
  • “Cooling Power (5 = Coldest)”.

Clarity about the main function of a device – the only setting a consumer is interested in – should not be a rare quality.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...