Refrigerator During a Power Outage [Detailed Survival Guide]

As much as it is vital to protect a refrigerator after a power outage, it is also vital to know what to do with a refrigerator during a power outage. Let us discuss it.

Refrigerator During a Power Outage
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Refrigerator During a Power Outage – What to Do

The most important step during a power outage is to keep the food in a refrigerator safe. Spoiled food can affect your health, and you may not know when food goes bad simply because the refrigerator still feels cold during an outage. 

But it is also vital to disconnect the refrigerator from the wall outlet and turn off other appliances to keep them safe. That is because a power surge can occur and damage the appliances beyond repair.

To keep food safe and also protect the refrigerator, keep the door/doors of the refrigerator shut as much as possible. This is especially needed if the outage lasts longer than two hours. The refrigerator can stay cold for as long as four hours during an outage if you do not open it often. For the freezer, it will remain cold for about 24 hours without opening if it is half-full. A fully-stocked freezer will remain cold for two days if you reduce how often you open it.

You may want to move perishable foods stored in the refrigerator into the freezer during an outage. That way, the cold freezer preserves them for a longer period. Take as much as you would need for a period when you open it so that you do not have to keep going back to the freezer.

One way to extend the cooling period in the refrigerator is to use dry ice or blocks of ice. Keep them handy if you know the outage will last for a while. When the unit’s internal temperature starts rising, you can place the ice in strategic points inside it to preserve the food.

Remember to keep the refrigerator unplugged for the duration of the outage. If possible, turn the circuit breaker off.

Refrigerator Temperature During a Power Outage

The maximum internal temperature level for a refrigerator during a power outage is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or about 4 degrees Celsius. The freezer must remain at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 degrees Celsius. These temperatures must never be exceeded; if anything, they can go lower for food safety. Otherwise, the foods stored in the refrigerator will no longer be consumable.

Food in the Refrigerator During a Power Outage

Food will last a few hours in a refrigerator during a power outage, about four hours. That time will only be achieved if you do not excessively open the refrigerator door. Therefore, keep the door shut as long there is no electric power. That should preserve the food for that duration.

For the freezer, the food should last for about a day if it is only half-stocked. If it is filled, not excessively so, it will remain cold for two days or approximately 48 hours. Freezers hold more cold air to freeze food, unlike refrigerators. For fridge freezers with single cooling systems, the freezer cools the fridge.

After these durations, the food will no longer be safe to consume. It is crucial to find alternative power sources or use blocks of ice to preserve the food. Also, ensure you properly cook foods from your refrigerator at this to kill harmful bacteria that may be growing.

As explained in this article, some foods go bad faster than others. Therefore, it is important to put thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer to check their temperatures. That way, you know when you need to remove foods or cook them.

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How to Power a Refrigerator During a Power Outage

Apart from using dry ice or blocks of ice to keep your refrigerator cold during a power outage, there are other sources to try. You can use a generator, a power station, or a battery to keep the refrigerator running during an outage.

To use a battery, you need the 12-volt type with an inverter, and even then, it can only power a mini-refrigerator. However, it is a superb alternative to a generator if you do not have one. If you have items such as medicine you need to preserve, you may need to have such a refrigerator and battery handy. Connect the battery, the car battery type, to an inverter. Plug AC appliances into the inverter and keep a car running to recharge the battery.

To use a power station, find one that delivers about 1800 watts and peaks at 3300. Also, you may opt for one with a higher output, as long as it can power the refrigerator and a few appliances. The refrigerator should directly connect to the power station. It saves you the cost of running a car and buying an inverter. 

The only seeming disadvantage is that power stations tend to be expensive. However, the cost comes only once and you can use it for a long time. Compared to the cost of running a generator or using a 12V battery with an inverter, it is worth the price.

A 2000-watt or 2500-watt generator can power your refrigerator, even if it comes with a freezer. The higher-powered generator can run on either fuel or propane so it works for any eventuality. On propane, it may run longer than on fuel, but you may want to consider this option to power your refrigerator in an outage.

Factors to Consider When Making an Alternative Power Choice

It is not so easy to make a choice of which alternative power source to use unless you already have one or more of the listed options. If you are looking for ways to make the right choice, however, consider the following:

1. Wattage

The wattage output your refrigerator needs will decide the option you choose. The starting wattage of a full-capacity refrigerator is about 2200, but it needs less wattage to run constantly, like 700. This is not set in stone, only an estimation. That means you need a generator of about 2500 watts to power such a refrigerator. However, manufacturers put the starting and running wattage of a refrigerator on the tag.

2. Residence

Where you live also plays in role in helping you decide which to choose. A generator may not work so well if you live in an apartment, and using a car battery may not be convenient. Your best option may be using a power station. It is not noisy and does not emit toxic fumes, so you use it in your apartment. The main point is to find the right battery pack that can power your specific refrigerator.

3. Climate

The climate will also determine your alternative power source choice. Hotter climates mean your home will be hot during a power outage with no air conditioning. Consequently, you will need a power source that can constantly run the refrigerator for long hours. A 12V battery will not work in such a situation, but a generator with enough wattage will. A power station may work, but only if you can find one with a high wattage output.

4. Length of Operation

A generator can run as long as you need it to if you put enough gas or propane. The same cannot be said for a power station or battery. You will need electric power to recharge them. So, you may be stranded if you choose either of them unless the power is restored before they need charging.

5. Refrigerator Size and Type

The older the refrigerator, the more energy it consumes. Newer model refrigerators are rated energy-star, so they consume less amount of energy. Also, the size of the refrigerator will have a great impact on how much power it needs to run. The bigger the refrigerator, the more wattage output it requires. A generator may be your best bet if you have a full-capacity and modern refrigerator, even if it is energy-star.

Important Note

Do not put room-temperature food or other items in a refrigerator during a power outage, especially if you connect it to another power source. Also, avoid opening the refrigerator door as much as possible. In addition, you may want to keep some frozen items in the refrigerator to help it remain cold for a longer period. If this is not possible, keep all food items in the freezer for preservation if you are using an alternative power source.


Keep a close eye on your refrigerator during a power outage. Even if you use a generator or battery pack to power it, it is best to check the contents from time to time and ensure the temperature is up to food-safe levels.

Use food items that may rot too quickly, such as soft cheese, eggs, dairy products, meat, and cut vegetables and fruits. Ensure you thoroughly cook the ones you will eat and do not store unfinished ones in the refrigerator.

Finally, contact the electric power authorities to know when the power will get restored. That way, you will know which alternative to keep the refrigerator up and running and for how long.

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