With the number of tropical storms that lash the Philippines every year, it is inevitable for us to endure brownouts due to downed lines from time to time. One of the most dreadful things about brownouts is the thought of our food in the refrigerator going bad when not properly refrigerated. Which brings us to the question: how long will a refrigerator stay cold during a brownout?
Refrigerators are surrounded by insulation material that keeps the cold air inside and keeps the ambient temperature outside from affecting the temperature inside. This allows your food in the refrigerator to stay cold for around 4 – 6 hours after a brownout. However, the time can be made shorter or longer depending on your usage.
In this article, we will give you an estimate of how long your refrigerator will stay cold after a power outage, and strategies to help keep your food safe during a brownout.
Note: in other countries, low voltage fluctuations are usually known as “brownouts”. However, in the Philippines, brownouts and blackouts/power outages have the same meaning.
- Factors that affect your refrigerator’s temperature
- How long will your fridge stay cold during a power outage?
- How long will your freezer stay cold during a brownout?
- Safe food temperatures
- How to keep your refrigerator cold during a brownout
Factors that affect your refrigerator’s temperature
Your refrigerator is in a constant balancing act to maintain the temperature inside its compartments to keep our food safe. When the power goes out, it can no longer create cold air. Thus, it will be a matter of keeping the cold air that is already inside and keeping warm air out.
These are the factors that will affect how long your refrigerator will stay cold without power:
- The thickness of the insulation
- Ambient temperature
- Amount of food inside (hint: the fuller, the better)
- How often you open the refrigerator door
You don’t have any control over the first two factors, so you’ll be better off focusing on the last two factors to help you keep the refrigerator cold longer during a brownout.
How long will your fridge stay cold during a power outage?
When completely left alone, your refrigerator can stay cold for about 4 – 6 hours after a brownout. Of course, this will depend on the factors listed above.
The fridge section of your refrigerator has relatively thin insulation compared to the freezer section, so the cold air will dissipate quicker even if you keep the door closed especially if the ambient temperature is high.
How long will your freezer stay cold during a brownout?
The freezer section of your refrigerator will fare better during a brownout; it can keep food cold for up to 24 hours. This is because the insulation in the freezer section is thicker than the insulation in the fridge section.
Also, since freezers normally operate at a temperature of -18°C, it will take a lot of time for the temperature to go down to unsafe levels.
Safe food temperatures
The basic idea behind refrigeration is to slow down the process of decomposition by slowing down the growth of bacteria in our food.
Refrigerators are advised to be kept at a temperature of 1°C – 3°C at all times to keep your food safe. Anything above 4°C can speed up the growth of harmful bacteria in the food. This can cause spoilage or worse – food poisoning.
In the freezer section, a temperature of -18°C is the safest you can go. While you can still use most of the food in the freezer when the temperature goes higher than that, the quality might deteriorate, and the risk of food poisoning will go higher. Exercise caution at all times!
Warning: Food poisoning is a serious matter. When in doubt, throw it out!
How to keep your refrigerator cold during a brownout
While we cannot control the time it takes for our electric company to restore power, we can control our actions that affect our refrigerator’s temperature. Here are the things you should do to keep your refrigerator cold during a brownout:
Keep the doors closed
Opening the doors will let cold air out and warm air in. Always keep the doors closed to help maintain the temperature inside for longer.
Keep ice and water bottles in your freezer
The ice and frozen water bottles in your freezer will transform your freezer into a makeshift cooler. This can help minimize spoilage in the freezer.
As a substitute, we can use freezer gel packs to freeze ahead of time. Some refrigerator models have gel packs built-in to their freezers.
Group frozen food together
According to the USDA, we should group frozen food in the freezer to help keep them cold for longer. This is why it is recommended to keep your freezer full in anticipation of a brownout.
The idea is that the frozen foods will act as a big ice block inside the freezer. If you arrange it this way, only the outer layers will be partially melted with the core still pretty much frozen; this will help keep the outer layers to stay cold as well.
With the number of storms that ravage the Philippines, we should prepare for the inevitable power outages.
Keeping your refrigerator cold during a brownout will help reduce spoilage and keep food poisoning at bay.
Also, did you know that brownouts can damage our refrigerators? We’ve written an article about this already. You should go check it out to protect your fridge from damage.
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (2020, February 11). Food and Water Safety During Power Outages and Floods. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/food-and-water-safety-during-power-outages-and-floods
- Cuttac, A. D. M. (2016, December 5). Why is -18°C the ideal freezer temperature? – FreshMAG. FreshMAG MY. https://blog.liebherr.com/appliances/my/ideal-freezer-temperature/
Miguel Mores worked for 5 years as a member of the product management team for a home appliance company in the Philippines. He started 101appliance to answer the most common customer questions that he has encountered during his time in the industry. He now works in the digital marketing field and manages a small online bookstore on the side.