Our Experts Guide You on What To Do When The Power Goes Out for Your Commercial Refrigeration System

What To Do When The Power Goes Out for Your Commercial Refrigeration System

Posted by | 12-05-2024

Power outages are unexpected and can wreak havoc on commercial refrigeration systems, especially when your business relies on keeping products fresh and safe. In such situations, it's crucial to have a plan to minimize losses and prevent food contamination. This guide will walk you through practical steps for maintaining food safety and reducing damage when the power goes out for your commercial refrigeration system.

A common scenario during a power Outage

Keep Food Safe in Power Outages

When the power goes out, the safety of food stored in commercial refrigeration units becomes a primary concern. 


During a power outage, the length of time a refrigerator can keep its contents cool will vary, generally lasting between 4 to 6 hours. This duration can be influenced by the ambient temperature of the surroundings, such as the kitchen's warmth. To prolong the cool environment, it's advised to avoid opening the refrigerator doors, as each opening allows cool air to escape and warm air to enter.


For freezers, the ability to maintain frozen conditions without power depends significantly on how full it is and whether the door remains closed. A fully stocked freezer can freeze food for approximately 48 hours without opening the door. This is due to the thermal mass of the frozen items, which helps maintain a cold environment inside the unit. Keeping the door closed is crucial to preserving the freezer's internal temperature during a power outage.

Our Experts Guide You on What To Do When The Power Goes Out for Your Commercial Refrigeration System

What to Do After Losing Power

Losing power can be stressful, especially for businesses dependent on commercial refrigeration systems. With food safety at stake, knowing the right steps to take immediately after a power outage is crucial.


  • Keep the Door Shut: Do not open the refrigerator door unless necessary. If available, consider placing a block of ice in a container inside the fridge to maintain cooler temperatures for a longer period.
  • Use Insulated Containers: In anticipation of a prolonged power outage, transfer perishable foods into insulated containers and move them to a functioning refrigerator or cooler to keep them at safe temperatures.


  • Minimize Door Openings: Limit opening the freezer door unless it's essential. Each time the door is opened, it allows the cold air to escape and warm air to enter.
  • Group Food Together: If your freezer isn't fully packed, organize the items into tight groups to help them stay cold longer.
  • Pre-Chill to the Coldest Setting: If you suspect a power outage is imminent, set the freezer to the lowest temperature in advance. If an extended outage is expected, consider obtaining dry ice to help maintain freezing temperatures before the thawing process begins.
  • Transfer Foods to Another Freezer: If the power outage will last for several days, swiftly move food to another working freezer or a commercial cold storage facility.
  • Avoid Leaving Food Outside: Even if temperatures are low outside, placing food in the snow can expose it to the sun, causing it to warm up.

A family in a restaurant during a power Outage

What to Do Once the Power is Restored

  • Check Food Temperatures: Ensure that perishable food in the refrigerator and freezer is safe by checking the temperature with a food thermometer. If the temperature is above 40°F for refrigerated food or frozen foods have fully thawed, it's safer to discard them.
  • Examine Frozen Foods: Inspect frozen food for ice crystals and use a thermometer to confirm temperatures. Foods with ice crystals and those below 40°F are generally safe to refreeze.
  • Avoid Tasting for Safety: Never taste food to decide whether it's safe; always rely on visual checks and temperature readings.

What is Safe to Refreeze?

  • Foods with Ice Crystals: Any food that remains partially frozen and contains ice crystals can be refrozen safely.
  • Thawed Fruit: If thawed fruit still smells good and hasn't spoiled, it can be refrozen.
  • Bakery Goods: Bread, cakes, cookies, and plain doughnuts can be safely refrozen.
  • Pantry Staples: Nuts, flour, and cereal are stable enough to refreeze.
  • Raw Meat and Poultry: Raw meats and poultry that remain at or below 40°F are safe to refreeze.
  • Juice: Most types of juice can be refrozen.
  • Fats and Dairy: Margarine, butter, and cheese can generally be safely refrozen.

What Should Not Be Refrozen?

  • Completely Thawed Foods: Foods like meat, poultry, and seafood that have been completely thawed should not be refrozen.
  • Prepared and Cooked Foods: Items like pizza, hot dishes, stews, and soups lose quality and are unsafe to refreeze once fully thawed.
  • Questionable Food: Discard foods with odd or off-putting odors, colors, or textures.
  • Thawed Vegetables: These are particularly susceptible to bacterial contamination and should not be refrozen.
  • Low-Acid Foods: Creamed foods, puddings, and other low-acid foods should be discarded if fully thawed.
  • Melted Ice Cream: Melted ice cream loses its original texture and safety; it should not be refrozen.

Inside of a restaurant after losing power

Pro Tips from Our Experts

Navigating a power outage is challenging for any business, particularly those reliant on commercial refrigeration systems to keep food fresh. Proper preparation can lead to substantial losses and potential health hazards.

Tips to Overcome a Power Outage

  • Know Local Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local guidelines and health codes concerning power outages so your business remains compliant.
  • Staff Training: Educate and train staff to ensure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities during a power outage, allowing for a coordinated response.
  • Regular Equipment Testing: Inspect walk-in refrigerators and freezers, ensuring doors are properly sealed. This will keep your ingredients fresh longer if a power outage occurs.
  • Proper Food Storage: Strictly follow food label instructions to ensure ingredients are correctly stored. This prevents spoilage due to improper handling and prolongs shelf life.
  • Consider a Backup Generator: Investing in a generator will provide power to essential equipment, such as refrigerators and freezers, during prolonged outages.

What to Do After Losing Power

  • Turn Off Kitchen Equipment: Immediately shut down all kitchen appliances, including burners and ovens. Without proper ventilation, harmful smoke or fumes can accumulate. If necessary, open doors and windows to ventilate the area.
  • Communicate with Guests: Keep customers informed about the situation to alleviate confusion or fear, especially if your establishment is completely dark.
  • Coordinate Staff Communication: Delegate tasks and keep staff members on the same page to resolve the outage smoothly.
  • Limit Access to Refrigeration Units: Avoid frequent entry into walk-in refrigerators or freezers, as each opening lets out cool air and reduces efficiency.
  • Dispose of Partially Cooked Foods: Partially cooked ingredients should be discarded to eliminate the risk of bacterial contamination.


  • Be Mindful of the Danger Zone: Ensure foods don't linger in the "danger zone" (40°F - 140°F), where bacteria thrive. Keep a thermometer handy to monitor temperatures.
  • Discard Partially Cooked Food: To prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, throw away food that was only partially cooked before the outage.
  • Plan of Action: Develop and routinely update a detailed plan that staff can follow during power outages. Include emergency contact numbers, equipment handling, and safety protocols.

Inside of a commercial refrigerator full with fruits

How Can Ancaster Food Equipment Help?

At Ancaster Food Equipment, we've been specializing in refurbished refrigeration products across the US and Canada for over 30 years. Our extensive experience means we understand the challenges businesses face during power outages and how crucial reliable refrigeration is for keeping your inventory safe. While we don't offer backup power options like generators, our expertly refurbished refrigerators and freezers are rigorously tested to ensure they perform well even in challenging situations.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to prepare for power disruptions, our products offer excellent quality and longevity at a fraction of the price of new units. With our commitment to customer support, we're here to help you maintain operations, reduce potential losses, and ensure your refrigeration needs are met no matter the circumstances.

Final Words

Power outages can be challenging for businesses relying on commercial refrigeration. However, with a strategic plan and expert guidance, you can minimize losses and maintain food safety. By following these steps, you can ensure that your refrigeration systems withstand unexpected outages while protecting your inventory and keeping your customers safe.

If you need assistance preparing for emergencies or upgrading your equipment, call us at 1-855-680-4398. Our team at Ancaster Food Equipment is ready to help you find the right refrigeration solutions to suit your business needs.

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