A couple of days before Hurricane Matthew got here I took my largest food storage containers, filled them with water, and put them in the freezer. On Friday, the power was out for thirteen hours. Because of the large ice blocks, the temperature never went below thirty degrees and I didn’t lose any food.
Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.
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For years, I’ve read the advice to test your refrigerator’s door seals by closing the door on a dollar bill. They say that if it’s easy to pull out, the seals aren’t keeping the cold air in well enough. Once long ago I priced a new gasket and it cost nearly $100, so I didn’t buy it. Recently I saw a variety of gaskets on eBay for $10 to $40, so that’s not so bad. Www.ehow.com has detailed instructions on how to install a new gasket.
BUT, in the comments on one site, an appliance repairman said that even good gaskets would let you pull a piece of paper out. He said the gaskets should last over fifteen years. So I closed a dollar bill in the door of my nearly new refrigerator and it pulled out easily. So much for decades of saving-money articles! Apparently, they all quoted each other without checking it out.
Another poster said that if the seal leaks because it has warped or twisted, you could heat it all around with a blow dryer to soften it. Then shut the door and it will reshape itself to a better seal. You should replace the gasket if it is torn or cracked. I did notice that the seal feels tighter if I gently push the doors shut instead of just letting them fall shut.
I read in Reader’s Digest’s “Penny Pincher’s Almanac” to check the refrigerator seal by putting a bright light inside, closing the door and looking for the light. They used a 150-watt floodlight on an extension cord. They aimed the light at the opposite side of the door from the side where the cord went in. I don’t have such a thing, so I used my solar camping lantern. I aimed it first at one side of the door and then the other.
By golly, there was a bit of light showing at the top corner of the door on the opposite side from the hinges. The gasket is fine, but the door is not hung straight, leaving a tiny gap. Hunh. I don’t have what it takes to re-hang a door. So I laid a bead of white caulk along the inner dimension of the doorway (not on or touching the door). That partly blocked it, but a dim light still came through. So I put a tiny bit of caulk on the flat front edge of the doorway where it is slightly recessed. That stopped the gap completely. So yay me! It remains to be seen how the cold will affect the lifespan of the caulk.
Refrigerators and freezers work best if they are nearly full, but there is room for the cooled air to move around the food. In the freezer you want to be sure you don’t block the temperature sensor. If yours isn’t full, you can fill plastic containers such as milk jugs or water bottles with water to hold some space. The water will expand as it freezes. Leave an inch or two at the top to allow for that.
In a power outage, the frozen containers serve first as an ice block for preserving the food, and then as a water source. Cold containers of water in the refrigerator help the unit to cool back down more quickly after you have opened the door. Keep liquids covered.
I filled two-liter soda bottles with water and rolled them to the back of the lower refrigerator shelves. This helps the refrigerator work more efficiently. It also prevents foods from being pushed to the far back of the shelves and forgotten. I can put in more or fewer bottles of water, according to how much empty space there is.
For the best food safety, the refrigerator should be between thirty-five and forty degrees Fahrenheit. According to one article I found, keeping it ten degrees colder than that will use 25% more electricity. And freeze your produce! I put a thermometer in the refrigerator and learned it was 32° F. I set it one number warmer on the temperature dial and it became 35°. I’m not going any warmer, because I want to keep my food as fresh as I can for as long as I can.