Tips & Advice

This Simple Trick Tells You If Your Power Went Out While You Were Away

This could save you a trip to the doctor from food poisoning.

If you go on vacation frequently, you probably expect your house to be exactly as it was when you return.

However, if you’re not home, you don’t really know whether anything has happened while you were gone unless you can see physical signs that something went amiss.

You might think a power outage occurring while you were away wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but if you leave food in your refrigerator or freezer that you plan to eat when you return, you’ll want to know whether your power went out, and if it did, whether your food warmed up enough and for long enough to spoil.

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Flashing clocks that need to be reset only tell you power was lost, but they don’t tell you for how long, especially if the power surges a few times.

The Frozen Coin Trick

So what’s the solution? You don’t need to install any fancy detectors or cameras in your house to check for a power outage. Instead, you can just leave a coin on a cup of ice in your freezer before you leave.

Just fill up a cup of water, put it in the freezer until it’s solid, then add a coin on top and stick it back in the freezer, as outlined in this Facebook post, shared by Sheila Pulanco Russell:

If the coin is at the bottom of the cup when you return, then there was a power outage that went on for long enough for the water to melt, causing the coin to fall through. When the power comes back on, the coin will be stuck in the frozen water at the bottom. If the coin is still at the top when you get home, the power stayed on or went out just temporarily.

This is an easy, inexpensive and practical way to determine whether or not it’s time to toss your food once you’ve returned from a trip or unfortunate evacuation.

Because water takes a very long time to melt in an insulated freezer, a quarter at the bottom of the cup will tell you that your food is almost definitely spoiled, since the power would have had to be off for quite some time.

How Long Does Your Food Stay Safe Without Power?

If you’re only out of town for a weekend, you’re in luck. A full freezer can stay cold for 48 hours without power (as long as you keep the door closed) and 24 hours if only half full, according to FoodSafety.gov.

If your freezer isn’t that full, you can always group packages together so they form an “igloo” to protect each other before you head out for your travels, just in case.

You’ll need to be more cautious about food in the refrigerator, as it will only stay cold for about four hours after losing power — and again the key here is to ensure you keep the door closed.

RELATED: 36 Items You Should Have In Your Emergency Bag

What To Do When Power Comes Back On

Here’s what FoodSafety.gov recommends for when the power returns:

  • Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or leftovers) that has been above 40 degrees for two hours or more.
  • Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or that feels warm to the touch.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.
  • With frozen food, check for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees or below.

The site also recommends that you never taste a food to determine if it’s safe or not.

Good to know!