A refrigerator (colloquially fridge) is a common household appliance that consists of a thermally insulated compartment and a heat pump (mechanical, electronic, or chemical) that transfers heat from the inside of the fridge to its external environment so that the inside of the fridge is cooled to a temperature below the ambient temperature of the room.
Cooling is a popular food storage technique in developed countries. Lower temperatures in a confined volume lowers the reproduction rate of bacteria, so the refrigerator reduces the rate of spoilage.
A refrigerator maintains a temperature a few degrees above the freezing point of water. Optimum temperature range for perishable food storage is 3 to 5 °C (37 to 41 °F). A similar device that maintains a temperature below the freezing point of water is called a freezer.
The refrigerator is a relatively modern invention. It replaced the icebox, which was a common household appliance for almost a century and a half prior. For this reason, a refrigerator is sometimes referred to as an icebox.
Freezer units are used in households and in industry and commerce. Food stored at or below 0 °F (-18 °C) is safe indefinitely. Most household freezers maintain temperatures from -10 to 0 °F (-23 to -18 °C), although some freezer-only units can achieve −30 °F (−34 °C), and lower. Refrigerators generally do not achieve lower than -10 °F (-23 °C), since the same coolant loop serves both compartments: Lowering the freezer compartment temperature excessively causes difficulties in maintaining above-freezing temperature in the refrigerator compartment.