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How to Keep Your Refrigerator Cold During a Power Outage

Updated on November 7, 2012
You can help keep your refridgerator cold by freezing containers of water before a power outage strikes your area.
You can help keep your refridgerator cold by freezing containers of water before a power outage strikes your area. | Source

A power outage can threaten the safety of our perishable foods especially if the power is out for a long period of time. There are simple steps you can take to help preserve your food and to help keep your refrigerator cold and your frozen goods frozen. By following these tips you can lessen the amount of spoiled food you have to throw away.

The "Olden Days"

Years ago there were no such things as electric refrigerators or freezers. Instead they had an ice chest to keep their perishable food items cold for longer periods of time. There wasn't a concern for the electricity to stay on because regardless their food wouldn't be affected.

Even though we now live in a more modern day and age we can still go back to the techniques of the "olden days" to preserve our perishable foods during long term power outages.

Supplies for a Possible Outage

There are a few supplies you will need to gather in advance to be completely prepared for a possible long term power outage.

  • Frozen Foods
  • Ice
  • Small Cooler
  • Empty Plastic Container from Water, Juice, etc.

These items will help you to create you own "modern day" ice chest.

Packing Your Freezer

I know this might sound crazy but a packed freezer will stay frozen much longer than a freezer that is less full. Usually when we think of power outage food supplies we assume we should just fill the cupboards with nonperishable foods, but by neglecting to fill your freezer will put the frozen food you do have at risk of spoiling sooner.

*If you do not have a large freezer or a separate deep freeze freezer you will want to leave some room for ice or containers of water that will be frozen for later use.*

Keeping Refridgerator Cold with No Power

If your power does go out you can relax because you have prepared in advance for such an event. The first thing you should do is place your family's drinks into your small cooler with some ice to keep them cold. This will allow you to keep your refrigerator closed for a longer period of time so that the cold air inside doesn't escape right away. You want to open the refrigerator the least amount of times as possible because each time you open it you are allowing warmer air to get inside and your food will spoil very quickly.

The same goes for the freezer. You want to keep it shut as much as possible to help preserve your food and also your back up ice supply. If you have smaller children who just can not resist opening the fridge you can try placing a chair in front of it to help them withstand from continually opening the fridge door.

Creating Your Make Shift Ice Chest

If you power is out for an extended period of time and you fridge is warming up to unsafe food levels you can now start building your make shift ice chest with the ice you stored before the power outage. Simply add some of your frozen containers inside of your fridge to help keep your food cold. This can really add a lot of extra time to allow you to save or use most of your food while waiting for the power to be turned back on.

The less you open the fridge the longer it will remain cold and the longer it will take for your ice to melt. You refrigerator is one big cooler that is tightly sealed so ice will do the trick to keep it cold. Your freezer will stay colder a lot longer especially if it is full because all of the frozen food helps keep every thing inside frozen. Food in a full freezer can stay frozen for up to 48 hours if not longer as long as you keep the door shut as much as possible.

Always Be Prepared

You can always be prepared for a power outage if you have enough freezer space to do so. If you do not have extra space to freeze containers of water you can always purchase ice from your local convenient store. If you area is going to be hit with a storm that may threaten to cause power outages it is best to purchase ice right away and/or freeze extra water yourself before the power does go out!

Any empty container can be filled with water and frozen. We actually have used empty cat liter containers to freeze because of their larger size. We just fill them up and place them in our large deep freeze in the basement for future use if needed.


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    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      This is great advice. One time, our fridge and freezer were out for 3 weeks while we waited for a part to be delivered. Two tips from that experience: Do not just put bags of ice in the fridge. They will leak and make a real mess. Also, you can buy dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide, available at almost any supermarket) and put it on the top shelf, and it will keep things very cold.

    • JillKostow profile image

      Jill Kostowskie 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      rfmoran - Sorry for writing this hub during the craziness of hurricane Sandy but it was Sandy that inspired me to write this one. We were lucky to keep our power but many communties around us along with part of our communtily did lose power. Some power has been restored but there are still a lot of families still in the dark. We were prepared for this storm and will be again in the future. I am glad you found it useful even though it was a bit late!

    • JillKostow profile image

      Jill Kostowskie 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Robert Erich - I am sure my kids would have loved to dig into the ice cream as well!! It does get cold enough in our area during the winter months if the power went out to keep our food cold and/or frozen but during the fall you can never be sure if it will be to warm to put items outdoors. By utilizing the ice you can keep your food in the fridge cold for longer periods of time if needed. Thanks for sharing your personal experience with me!!!

    • JillKostow profile image

      Jill Kostowskie 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Emma Harvey - Thanks!!

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Now you tell me! hurricane Sandy just blew through Long Island. We were lucky and power came on after a few hours, although 90 percent of Long Island is still without power as of Oct 30. Your ideas are great. I shall use them next time, because you never know how long the power will be out. Thanks. Voted up and useful.

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      It is certainly a great idea to have a backup plan in mind. I spent a year in the Marshall Islands and we had sketchy power. One day, 4 of us teachers decided to splurge and buy a huge tub of ice cream (ice cream was always expensive, but buying large was a much better deal).

      Anyway, the day after we bought this massive tub of ice cream (the size of the Baskin Robin tubs), the power went out! After several hours of not opening our freezer and the power not coming on, we knew that we had to do something. We called together all of your fellow teachers and we had a massive ice cream feast - just eating it out of the tub. It was epic! We did, however, feel a bit sick afterwards.

      Meanwhile, here in Michigan, if the power goes out you simply put your freezer contents outside and their fine.

      Thanks for the great article, I'm sure it will benefit many!

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Kisby 5 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Really good advice here, especially in these emergency situations.

      Up and useful.