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Food safety when the power goes out

When the power goes out, inconvenience is just beginning for homeowners who need light, air-conditioning, television, and other appliances to keep their household running. Especially critical is keeping refrigerated and frozen food at the right temperature to ensure safe eating. So in the event of a hurricane, or other natural disasters that result in wide-spread long-term power outages, how long will your food stay safe?

Perishables – meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products – need to be refrigerated at or below 40 degrees F and frozen food at or below zero degrees F. In the case of a power outage, food can be safely cold for about four hours if the refrigerator remains unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.

But as is often the case, when disaster strikes, getting the power back on can be a days-long, or even weeks-long process, so the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service has a long list of what needs to be discarded if your refrigerator has been without power for more than 4 hours.

These include: raw, cooked, or leftover meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and egg substitutes; luncheon meat and hot dogs; casseroles, soups, stews, and pizza; mixed salads (i.e., chicken, tuna, macaroni, potato); gravy and stuffing; milk, cream, yogurt, sour cream, and soft cheeses; cut fruits and vegetables (fresh); cooked vegetables; fruit and vegetable juices (opened); creamy-based salad dressings; batters and doughs (i.e., pancake batter, cookie dough); custard, chiffon, or cheese pies; cream-filled pastries; and garlic stored in oil.

The average household budget would take quite a hit to replace the above. While coolers, a supply of ice, or dry ice help when you have time to prepare, and may help to extend the safe life cycle of your foods, it makes more sense to be always ready with a portable generator.

“It’s important for homeowners to be aware of the importance of emergency planning before a weather emergency. Having a portable electrical generator on hand when it will be needed most is a big part of such a plan,” said Dorrance Noonan, CEO of A-iPower, a manufacturer of portable power equipment. “Generators can keep the lights on, food cold, pump water, and run essentials such as cell phones, televisions, and laptops.”

How Much Is At Stake?

Do you know how much you have invested in the contents of you refrigerator and freezer? According to a 2014 insurance study of policy claims when failures occurred, they found the average value of contents can be $400-$500 on average. One event can justify the cost of a generator!

Tips for choosing a generator

When choosing a portable generator, A-iPower recommends homeowners look for these features:

Enough Power: Choose a generator with enough wattage output to power the appliances you’ll need in an emergency. Take into account both continuous running watts and surge wattage ratings when determining the correct generator to buy.

The more watts your generator has, the more items you can power at the same time. To know how much you will need, calculate all the wattage requirements of all the items you may need to operate in case of an emergency. Typically, wattage is listed on the device, on the back or on the bottom. If not, a simple formula for determining watts is multiplying volts x amps. The total will tell you the model of generator you need.

Many websites offer assistance when assessing power needs. One such site is found here:

A standard refrigerator and freezer unit requires anywhere from 1500 to 2300 starting watts and 500-750 running watts depending on size and capacity.

One thing to remember is that some devices have starting wattage requirements that are larger than running watts, like the air-conditioner, which is the biggest power user. So to calculate the minimum number of watts you need, use the starting watts of the air conditioner plus the running watts for all other devices. This is the minimum wattage you will need from a generator.

For example, let’s say you have a generator with 4,500 starting watts and 3,500 running watts. A 10,000 btu central air conditioner will take about 3,000 (depending on model) starting watts. After it has powered up, it will run at about 1,500 watts. That leaves you 2,000 watts to power other items. So, if you plan to run more items that will exceed 2,000 watts, you will need a larger generator. It’s a good idea to give yourself some wiggle room on the total watts needed and go for a model the next size up.

Run times: Check to see how long the run times are on a full tank of gas. The generator run time is found on the generator spec sheet and owner’s manual. Run time is determined at 50% load levels and the power used directly impacts the run time. The more power used, the shorter the run time and the sooner you will have to refuel.

Sufficient electrical outlets: A portable generator should have enough receptacles for the devices a homeowner wants to run. Models that include a multi-outlet cord offer greater convenience.

A-iPower portable generators, which come in 10 different models, are specifically designed to provide easy-to-use backup power in an emergency. They can run through the night on a full tank of gas and, depending on the model, can power multiple appliances at the same time. The line includes models that meet California CARB standards and are approved for sale in California.

For more information on A-iPower portable generators, visit
For more information on Food Safety visit: Food (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services),
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service,
USDA: “Keep Your Food Safe During Emergencies,”