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How Long Will Cold Food Last During a Power Outage?

Nobody likes a power outage. During the summer, life at home gets dark, boring and hot in a hurry. But even worse is losing an entire fridge and freezer worth of groceries. Worst of all would be assuming your food is still good and eating it, only to learn the hard way that you were wrong.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, it’s important to rely on the advice of the American Red Cross.

Two Hour Limit

For the contents of both your refrigerator and freezer, there’s one simple rule to follow: if the air temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for two hours or more, the food is not safe to eat. Knowing the rule is the easy part, but measuring the temperature and keeping it below 40 degrees for as long as possible takes a little more strategy.

Keeping accurate tabs on your fridge and freezer temperature requires advance planning. You’ll need to purchase small thermometers and put them in both compartments so they’ll be there when you need them. Ideally, you should get thermometers that transmit the temperatures to a separate digital reader or your smartphone. This will help you avoid opening the doors, which will instantly drive up the temperature in your fridge.

The two-hour time limit won’t buy you a lot of time in the refrigerator. A power outage of three or four hours may be enough to ruin all the food inside. Freezers are a little more forgiving. Because they’re colder, a full, unopened freezer may keep food safe for two days. A half-full freezer may only be safe for one day.

Fill ‘Er Up

Solids and liquids maintain temperatures better than air, which means a fridge that’s full will stay colder longer than a fridge that’s only half full. If you’re anticipating a severe weather event that could knock out power to your home, or if your home is prone to unexpected power outages, you can give a boost to a half-full fridge or freezer by adding containers of water. Just make sure there’s enough time for them to fully chill before the power cuts out!

There’s another important rule, though: don’t cram the space full. In order to run efficiently, there needs to be a good flow of air throughout your fridge and freezer. Ideally, that means there’s a little bit of space on all sides of each item. Most importantly, make sure nothing is blocking the vents inside your fridge and freezer.

Be Prepared

This food safety knowledge is an important part of power outage preparations, but you still need to eat! Since you don’t want to open the fridge, make sure you keep a supply of non-perishable, ready-to-eat food in the pantry. And if you want to take it a step further, get a small camp stove and plan simple hot meals that you can prepare with shelf-stable ingredients.

Better yet, invest in a generator. A permanent standby generator can be made ready to self-activate instantly when needed, providing uninterrupted power to your entire home. A large portable generator can do the same job, or you can choose a smaller generator that will at least save your groceries by keeping your fridge running.

For more information, call Mister Sparky® at (800) 906-4577 today!

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