When we lived north
of Reno, before the power grid was improved in our area, power outages were
frequent at all times of the year. A
butterfly might flap its wings and poof! The power was out. Because our electricity was rather
unreliable, whenever a storm was in the forecast, we filled the tubs with
water. We had a whole house generator
and portable generators as well and could run everything except the well. (We were on the side of a mountain and the
well was about 700 feet deep. FWIW, we
decided never to get a house with a well that deep again.)
When we lived in
Missouri, the threats to the power supply were both the severe storms we could
get as well as the tornadoes. They were a
little more predictable, though still dependent on the skill of the weathermen,
most of which in my experience are only slightly less inept than politicians.
Winter is the time
when I’m most concerned about the power going out, so now seems like a great
time to review the steps to take when preparing the refrigerator for the possibility
of the power going out.
Fill empty milk jugs
with water and freeze them. Because cold
air sinks, place them at the top of the refrigerator and freezer compartments
to keep food cold as long as possible.
Fill in as much empty space as possible.
Check the gasket
around the doors. If any cold air is
leaking out, use thermal tape (or cut up one of those grocery freezer bags) to
stop that leak.
In the summer, keep
the house as cool as possible to reduce the temperature gradient between the
refrigerator and the kitchen. Of course,
you don’t want to do this in the winter.
The day before you anticipate
the potential for a power outage, lower the thermostat on the refrigerator as
much as possible without damaging the food.
Plan the meals for
the next couple of days and organize the food so that it can be removed from
the refrigerator quickly. Remove items
that don’t really need to be refrigerated, like the butter and eggs. Remember, if the power is out for the fridge,
you may not be able to use the oven, either, if it is electric.
Use your phone to take
a picture of the refrigerator contents before the power goes out so you can
look at it without opening the door. It will drastically reduce the amount of
time that the door is open and the amount of cold air that escapes.
If your area is
cold enough, many of the less cold-sensitive items like butter, eggs, and even
cheese, can be kept outdoors in the shade.
If you may be leaving the property for an extended period of
time and need to know whether the power went out for the freezer, place a coin on
top of ice cube tray filled with ice. If
the power was out for too long, the ice will have melted and the coin sunk to
With a generator you
can run the refrigerator for a few hours each day. Remember that it takes more power to start the
compressor than it does to run it, so you may need to turn off everything else before
starting the compressor for the refrigerator.