Power out refrigerator tips: What to do when the electricity goes out

Rule No. 1: Don't open your refrigerator or freezer.

Here in Minnesota, we generally suffer a few power outages each winter season. But when the power goes out, your refrigerator is not cooling. So what should you do with all your food?

1. Call the power company
Find out how long the power will be out.

2. If the power outage is less than 24 hours:
Keep the doors shut on both the refrigerator and freezer compartments to keep food cold or frozen. If you’re experiencing a refrigerator power outage for more than 2 hours, you might want to pack dairy and meats into coolers (Styrofoam is fine) filled with ice, says the CDC.

3. If the power will be out for more than 24 hours:
Add 2 lbs of dry ice in the freezer for every cubic foot of freezer space, which will keep the food frozen for two to four days, according to appliance-maker Whirlpool Corp. Otherwise, you’re going to have to eat all that perishable food. Or try canning the food, if you know how.

Thought it seems counter intuitive, a full freezer stays cold longer than a partially filled one and a freezer full of meat stays cold longer than a freezer full of baked goods. A half-full freezer will keep food safe for 24 hours, and a full freezer will keep food safe for 48 hours, according to the CDC.

If food contains ice crystals, you can refreeze it, although the quality and flavor may be affected. Test meats to ensure the temperature hasn’t risen to 40 degrees. Use your gut. If it looks like it’s in rough shape, toss it.

2 thoughts on “Power out refrigerator tips: What to do when the electricity goes out

  1. Hmm… 2lbs of dry ice per cu.ft.? I’m guessing that an average freezer compartment in a 25 cu.ft. fridge is about 10 cubic feet, so 20lb of dry ice to keep food frozen for a couple more days? “Energy star” anyone?!

    Nagging aside, add some dry ice on top shelf of the fresh food section also: cool air(and CO2 released form dry ice) will sink to the bottom of the fridge cooling down your food on all shelves more or less evenly.

  2. The average freezer compartment capacity is closer to 4 cu. ft., as a 25 cu. ft. fridge is quite a bit larger than what most people own. But even in the larger refrigerators, the freezer capacity is about 6-8 cu. ft. But good tip about the fresh food section, thanks for sharing.

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