When a hurricane or major storm crashes through your neighborhood, even if you’ve evacuated or left for the weekend, it’s important to know if your power went out. No power means the food in your fridge or freezer might’ve spoiled. But it’s impossible to tell how long the power was out, right?
Hold your horses! People have become awfully crafty about keeping tabs on their home’s power while they’re away (either on vacation or in an emergency evacuation). Using a few MacGyver-esque tricks, these folks returned home and had definitive answers as to whether or not they needed to toss their frozen goods!
1. Returning home after a major storm presents all sorts of problems, including trying to determine whether the food in your fridge is still edible. Thankfully there are some handy tricks to tell! Before a hurricane struck her town recently, Sheila Pulanco Russell of North Carolina shared a tip for everyone to ensure they didn’t eat rotten or spoiled food.
“It’s called the one cup tip,” she wrote in her October 5, 2016, Facebook post. “You put a cup of water in your freezer. Freeze it solid and then put a quarter on top of it and leave it in your freezer.” And that was it. Huh?
Sheila Pulanco Russell / Facebook
But there was a simple genius to her idea. If the power went out for a long time, the ice melted and the quarter floated to the bottom. If the power came back on, the freezer kicked up, and the water re-froze—with the quarter at the bottom of the cup.
“If the quarter has fallen to the bottom of the cup that means all the food defrosted and you should throw it out,” Sheila wrote. “But if the quarter is either on the top or in the middle of the cup then your food may still be okay.”
But her tip came with another little piece of advice, too: “If you don’t feel good about your food, just throw it out,” she wrote. “The main thing is for all to be safe.” And believe it or not, Shiela wasn’t the only person with a genius tip like this…
2. While Sheila’s tip utilized the properties of frozen water to diagnose power outages, others that surfaced over the years have enacted similar, low-cost methods. For instance, one life hack only required an ice pop.
Thick particular trick called for evacuees or vacationers to lay a frozen ice pop flat on something else in the freezer, like a box of waffles. For this to work properly, the pop needs to hang halfway off the box.
A.PONZ / flickr
Determining if the power went out was as simple as taking a look at the ice pop. If it still jutted out of the box and lay as horizontal as ever, then good news: the power never went out!
Otter Pops / Facebook
If, however, the ice pop sagged over the edge of the box, then the freezer slightly warmed up and defrosted its contents at some point. The more of a bend in the ice pop, the longer the power had been out. If it was at a 90-degree angle, it was time to toss the freezer food.
Otter Pops / Facebook
3. Storm-fleers have employed other frozen treats to determine whether or not their power went out while they were away. This particular trick came with a treat, too: a half-pint of ice cream.
What did they do? They ate half a pint of ice cream, then stuck it back in the freezer (still unfinished, sorry) on its side. For the lactose intolerant out there, pre-freezing a half-filled bottle of water worked just as well.
If the power went out, the ice cream or water—frozen in the bottom portion of the container—melted. Those returning home knew their power was out for a long time if it pooled out into a horizontal position.
4. Of course, other tips for dealing with power outages cut out all the theatrics. For these tips, all people needed to know if the power in their freezer went out was a single ice cube.
Johanna Derry / VICE
This tip suggested putting a couple of ice cubes into a plastic bag that can be sealed, and then leaving it in the freezer while away. As long as the freezer remained in working condition, the ice remained in a beautiful solid shape. If the power went out, though…
Perhaps it’s no mystery that if the power went out while a baggy full of ice sat in the freezer, there’d be a baggy of water—or, at least, a frozen sheet of ice in a bag. And that meant the power had been off long enough for ice to melt!
5. Not every method for diagnosing power outages involved melting ice or frozen treats. Some tips involved a good, ol’-fashioned digital clock. If it was blinking at midnight, the power went out. But that didn’t exactly tell people when the power went out, or for how long.
One Internet user suggested people buy a plug-in analog clock. The hands would stop ticking if the power cut, but when electricity returned, the gears turned again. However far behind the actual time it was was how long the power had been off!
6. Say after employing one of these tests that someone found the power had gone out. One tip recommended keeping all food in garbage bags, so in the event of an outage, food disposal would be simple. Still, other tips made simpler suggestions…
7. For those who really dreaded the thought of spoiled food, some tipsters suggested just emptying the fridge before vacation or evacuation. That way, if the power shut off, it didn’t really matter.
Part Select / YouTube
It should be noted, though, that anyone emptying the fridge would benefit from leaving a bit of activated charcoal or baking soda inside. This would stop odors from accumulating inside the fridge while they were away!
Hopefully, of course, you’ll come home from a memorable, refreshing vacation—or a worrisome evacuation—to a home that’s exactly how you left it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, though!
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