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Your freezer lost power, and you need to know that it happened. In this article, I’ll cover several methods of knowing when you have a potentially expensive and smelly problem.
I’ve kept a small jar of ice with a penny in my freezer for years. Does that really make sense?
The idea is simple. The power goes out while you’re out of town for a couple of days. You return and find the coin that was on top of the ice is now sitting at the bottom of the jar – below the ice.
The problem is that the coin-in-the-jar method is not reliable. Since ice can float, how long was the power off? Will your meat thaw before a block of ice does? Beth Skwarecki from Lifehacker did a little experiment to illustrate the issue.
A Better Option – A Few Ounces Of Water Instead Of A Coin
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Rather than filling a small jar, only add a few ounces of water this time (I use a Mason jelly jar because they are safer to freeze). Lay the jar flat and allow it to freeze solid along the inside of the jar. You’ll need to have a lid on it, obviously.
Now, tip the jar upright. If the freezer power is cut off long enough, the ice will melt to the bottom. If you come home and the ice is refrozen at the bottom of the jar, you know your freezer lost power, and the inside temperature dropped below freezing. Not good.
Of course, it’s not foolproof. Your few ounces of ice will thaw before those one-and-half-inch thick T-bones you were saving for the weekend, but you have no idea if they went bad and refroze or if it was out only long enough to melt the water.
Here’s Another Trick To See If Your Freezer Lost Power
Freeze about an inch of water in a small jar, but this time freeze it standing upright. Once the water is frozen solid, add an inch of Coke and allow that layer to freeze.
If your freezer loses power long enough, the water and coke will mix into a single dark color. Your two layers are now a single layer of mixed Coke and water.
You still have the same issue as the water frozen to the side of the jar. It will thaw before many of your meats.
Devices To The Rescue
When it comes to devices that will tell you your freezer has lost power, there are two schools of thought — temperature, and power.
First, temperature alarms tell you that your freezer lost power.
These will monitor the temperature of your freezer and/or refrigerator, and you can set it to trigger an alarm if the temp rises above the level you set.
I’ve been using this Wireless Digital Freezer Thermometer(Aff) for over a year now, and it has worked flawlessly. I’m impressed at how long these upgraded units’ sensor batteries last inside the freezing temperature.
There are two drawbacks I can see.
- First, you need to be home to hear the alarm with my device. It doesn’t notify you. I’ll show you one that does (maybe) next.
- Second, I run two refrigerators and three freezers at home. Don’t judge, I’m a prepper. I bought this newer set to add to the two I was already using(Aff) (don’t buy this one; the batteries don’t last as long as the one I linked to above). The problem is that the new and old versions use the same frequencies. Both monitors receive whichever sensors have the strongest signal. Once I added the upgraded version, the older model started displaying the temperature of the newer sensors – leaving my original freezers’ alarms useless.
As I mentioned, the sensors I’ve been using don’t notify you when you’re not home.
There are devices that will email or text you if the temperature rises too high. I haven’t used any of these, so I can’t speak to how well they work. This is the one I’m looking at right now. It has good reviews. MOCREO ST5 WiFi Thermometer Freezer Alarm, Email Alert, App Notification(Aff).
But do the alerts work if you have a power outage that causes your Wi-Fi to go out? Nope. Not until the power comes back on. There’s also the question if you’ll receive false positives if only the Wi-Fi goes out.
Next, there are power outage alarms.
Knowing your freezer lost power without waiting until the temperature starts rising seems better.
ENDMAN Power Failure Alarm for Freezer Alarm(Aff) – This is the one I’m looking at. It doesn’t send an alert, however. I explain why alert notifications might not be ideal below. Again, great reviews, but I can’t recommend it until I’ve had a chance to use it.
Power Failure Detector with Text Message and Email Alerts(Aff) – I haven’t used this product, but it does have 4.4 stars from almost 1,400 ratings. I probably won’t buy this one. It does have a huge flaw in my mind. If the power is out, you probably don’t have Wi-Fi for the unit to send the alert. It doesn’t help you at all if the router and modem are off during the power outage. I suppose you could have Wi-Fi with battery backup, but I don’t.
On the other hand, if your freezer circuit or outlet fails or the GFCI outlet pops, you still have Wi-Fi unless that’s using the same circuit or the same outlet, respectively.
Between the two, temperature alarms and power outage alerts, only the temperature alarms will be useful if the refrigerator just breaks.
There’s An App For That
Of course, there’s an app for that. I know a lot of preppers hate apps (And anything that relies on electricity for some reason. I mean, why have a freezer in the first place? Just sayin’), but I prefer to use tools when I can, even those developed before the turn of the century. /dig
Hey Doug, I’m out of town right now, and my power seems to be out. Can you please take the emergency key I gave you (Because I built a community of support around me) and save my meat?
I don’t know how the apps work, but if they use your home’s Wi-Fi, we’re right back to the same issue as above — no electricity = no Wi-Fi.
We don’t go out of town often; when we do, we always have a house sitter.
Wouldn’t knowing your freezer lost power before your food spoils be better? Maybe you can do something about it before you have an expensive (and smelly) mess.
Smart Meter Power Outage Alerts
DTE, you suck. I can’t even see updated usage on your app, much less see that the power is on. We’re supposed to be happy with a generic outage map.
If you have a smart electric usage meter, it doesn’t rely on your home Wi-Fi to connect to the electric company. If your electric supplier offers the service, you may be able to sign up for it. We use DTE, and I don’t see that option for us here in Michigan.
Check with your energy provider to see if it’s available for you. This is more than the outage alerts that text you when there’s an issue in your area — it’s specific to your home.
Wrapping Up There Are Much Better Ways (Than A Coin) To Find Out If Your Freezer Lost Power
Or maybe you look for your stove or alarm clock to blink to let you know your power was out.
Whether you use an old-school tactic, a product, an app, or outage notification, have a plan to address the issue when your freezer loses power.
Get your emergency generator or car inverter online and save the day.
And don’t dismiss what I said about having someone close by that can help if you can’t get home soon enough. A neighbor, family, or a friend you trust enough to allow access to your home makes sense.
One final note – I get notifications when my home cameras are offline. That doesn’t necessarily mean the power is out; it could just be the router or Wi-Fi, but it gives me a heads-up.