Saving Refrigerated Food in a Power Outage or BlackoutInverters R Us
“Last summer, gale-force winds knocked out the power in our home and the electric company didn’t restore electricity for 72 hours. The heat of the summer beat the cold right out of our refrigerator and storage freezer, ruining heaps of food. There’s no way I’m letting that happen again.”
My family lives in Florida, in a town where high winds are often the cause of power outages that can sporadically leave us without power for extended periods of time. We’ve resorted to using flashlights and candles on many occasions, and I feel we are well prepared to last through a power outage without any major issues, except when it comes to keeping our perishable food cool. The summers here get hot … really hot. And the old trick of simply not opening the refrigerator doesn’t cut it if the power remains off longer than a day. After throwing out all of our refrigerated and frozen food following a long power outage last summer, we started to rethink our level of preparedness and decided to come up with a backup plan.
Where to Start
Our homeowners association has rules against running gas-powered generators, even during times of prolonged power outages. Silly, I know. Therefore, the obvious choice for our situation was to purchase a power inverter. I didn’t have much knowledge of power inverters before I began doing my research; all I knew was that they were devices that converted DC power (the power stored in batteries) to AC power (the kind of power that comes out of your electrical outlets at home). After further research talking with our neighbors, I was convinced that a power inverter would meet our needs. With a backup battery to pull power from, I could simply plug our refrigerator or our storage freezer into the power inverter to keep our food preserved during a period without electricity.
Deciding on an Inverter
Of course, as with everything it seems, there were countless power-inverter options. As I read more, I was pleased that my needs were pretty minimal and my family could get just what we needed for under $100. Now, if we ever decided that we wanted to run more appliances or gadgets through the inverter, we would likely need to buy an inverter with a higher capacity and invest in a larger battery bank. But, for us, a simple 1000-watt power inverter was enough. Plus, I had a deep cycle battery in the garage I didn’t have much use for since selling our boat a few years back. We went with what they call a modified Sine power inverter, which means it puts out electricity that’s a bit different than what comes out of the power outlets in our home, but still runs most appliances just fine. There’s plenty of information online about the difference between modified sine and pure sine wave power inverters, and if you have questions about whether or not the appliances you want to run can be powered by a modified sine power inverter, I suggest doing some online research or just call Inverters R Us like we did.
For my family’s minimal needs, we simply looked on our refrigerator and our storage freezer to see their watt usage and went from there. Our refrigerator is 720 watts and our storage freezer is right at 500. Therefore, we can’t run them at the same time with the 1000-watt power inverter we bought, but we are just fine with running them alternately for periods of time to keep their contents cold. Also, we could have purchased a power inverter with a built in automatic transfer switch that clicks on to power the refrigerator when the electricity goes out, but we went with simple; we’re just fine moving the plug over to the inverter setup if the power goes out. For extended outages, I simply run an extension cord out to the garage and start one of the cars up (with the garage door up) and run the inverter off my vehicle until the temp of the fridge gets down.
Now, this summer, should the power go out (as it usually does), all of our food will be kept cool … even if my family has to sweat a little without the air conditioning.