Inexpensive Little Gadget Saves Frozen Foods From Unexpected Thawing

How to Keep Frozen Foods Cold During a Power Failure

By Lee Crain

How to Keep Frozen Foods Cold During a Power Failure

If you're like us, your most expensive food is in your freezer.

For most people, meat is likely to be the most expensive food in your house, especially beef. No one can afford for it to be ruined by an unplanned thawing.

While doing some emergency preparedness planning, I began to think about the food in our freezers.

The one downstairs is not a refrigerator-freezer combination; it's a freezer only and we have hundreds of dollars of meat stored in it.

I asked myself some questions:

  • What would I do if I had no electricity for a while? How would I protect the food in the freezer? (The answer to this question and a few others like it led us to purchase a solar generator and create an entire backup electricity system for our home.)
  • At any moment, what is the temperature inside the freezer? How do I know the food is frozen? And how frozen? What temperature?
  • If the freezer failed, how would I know it in time to save the freezer's contents?
  • At what point would we finally have to open the freezer and evacuate the frozen food to another freezer, to prevent it from perishing, and how could we know that?
  • Or, at what point would we have to attach it to our solar generator and power it on to keep the food frozen?

In the event of freezer or electricity failure:

  • A freezer that is full of food will stay cold much longer than an empty or almost empty freezer, so keep your freezer near full.
  • Tightly wrapped food stays frozen longer than loose foods. (Use a FoodSaver to vacuum pack food before freezing.)
  • The way to protect your frozen food the longest is to not open the freezer door. If you own an upright freezer, opening the door instantly spills the cold air out of the freezer and onto the floor.

I looked online for a way to track the temperature inside our freezer without having to open its door.

Indoor-outdoor thermometers provided the necessary technology.

Indoor-Outdoor Thermometer

For less than $10, you can buy a high quality thermometer that has two small probes attached to the display unit by very thin wires. I bought a couple and mounted them on our refrigerator-freezer in the kitchen, the other on our freezer downstairs. Then, I inserted and secured the probes into the top of the refrigerated compartments and waited. (The top of the units have the warmest air so this is the best place to install the probes.)

There were some surprises.

At the original settings, our refrigerator-freezer in the kitchen was almost freezing the refrigerator section, at 33-34 degrees F. No wonder almost nothing ever goes bad in that refrigerator. The freezer side of the unit varies between about 6 and -12 degrees F.

At the original settings, our downstairs freezer varied from about -2 to -20 degrees F. No wonder the ice cream we remove from it was as hard as concrete!

Now, whenever I pass either unit, I usually give the thermometer display a glance to ensure that all is well and they are operating correctly. For less than $10, it's good insurance.

(Something to remember: foods like meat are salty; their freezing point is most likely 27-28 F. Sugary foods also have a freezing point below 32F.)

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