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The Quarter On A Cup Of Ice Trick (In case of a power outage)

Before you head out of town, freeze some water and put a coin on top. This quarter on a cup of ice trick will alert you if there’s a power outage when you’re away.

This is a pretty useful hack. For more, check out all of our life hacks.

Putting a quarter in a cup is a great power outage trick. Find out all about it on

When Hurricane Florence hit Wilmington, we evacuated. We already had plans to leave, though. My brother was getting married in New York, and no way could we miss that. So, when we were getting ready to leave, we had to do a few things to prepare.

Some hurricane preparations actually carries over to regular travel preparations. And one of those things is the quarter on a cup of ice trick. That’s an easy way to check to see if your home lost power while you were away. This is especially good for holiday travel, when there’s often a treat of a major storm knocking out power while you’re away, but it’s just a good rule of thumb any time you travel for an extended period of time.

This is not absolutely scientific, but it’s pretty good for peace of mind if you’re heading out of town, especially if you are leaving with a well-stocked freezer.

The cover of "Drugstore Divas' Hot To Prepare For A Hurricane" guide.

If you found this simple trick because you’re looking for hurricane prep for the upcoming storm season, check out our How To Prepare For A Hurricane Guide for more hurricane safety tips.

The Quarter On A Cup Of Ice Trick (In case of a power outage)

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The quick rundown of the quarter on a cup of ice trick is that you freeze a cup of water, then put a coin on top of the cup of ice. Then, put that cup of ice in your freezer (often, people put it on the freezer door but if you don’t have space, just putting it on a freezer shelf is fine).

If the coin is still on top of the ice when you’re back, your fridge never lost power during the entire time you were gone and your freezer’s contents have remained at a safe temperature.

If the quarter is a little lower in the cup, you lost power for a little while.

And, if the coin is on the bottom of the cup, you lost power long enough that the entire cup of ice melted back to water, the coin sank all the way to the bottom, then the power came back on and refroze the ice.

​In that case, the fridge was warm or at room temperature for sure a long time, you should discard your perishable foods and the contents of your freezer.

What To Do:

Fill a clear cup with water and stick it in the freezer until it turns into ice. Take it out, place a quarter on top, and then put it back in the freezer.

What Does The Quarter On A Cup Of Ice Do?

The concept of this freezer trick for power outage is that when the power goes out, food in your freezer will start to thaw. And the ice in the cup will melt. That will cause the quarter to fall. When the power returns, the water will freeze again, encapsulating the quarter within it.

If you come home and the quarter is still on top, you know you didn’t lose power and your food is fine.

If you return home and see the quarter at the bottom of the glass, you know your food has (most likely) thawed and refrozen. And, then, you want to check this article with food safety tips from Washington State University. It will let you know what refrigerator and freezer food is fine and what needs to be discarded.

And, if the quarter is somewhere in the middle of the cup, you know you lost power for a while.

Does The Quarter On A Cup Of Ice Trick Work?

In theory, it’s a great idea. But the quarter on a cup of frozen water trick doesn’t tell you the exact temperature of your fridge during the time the power was out. It also doesn’t tell you how long the power was out.

Plus, if you think about ice cubes, they don’t actually just melt from the top down. Ice melts all around, basically equally. So you’ll be losing from the bottom as well as the top and sides.

Also, do you know what the time lapse of ice melting is? I don’t.

So, with this freezer trick for a power outage, you’ll know if you lost power. And if the quarter is on the bottom of the glass, you’ll know you lost power for a significant amount of time and that you should probably discard your raw meat and other items.

But, without an appliance thermometer, you won’t really know if you lost power for the whole time you were gone or what the fridge temperature was.

And, if you do have an appliance thermometer to determine the temperature of your freezer, the FDA has a great article about Food and Water Safety During Power Outages and Floods, which tells the right temperature for the safety of your food and more.

A fridge with the words "How To Deep Clean Your Fridge In 3 Steps" digitally written on top.

Deep Cleaning Your Refrigerator:

Unfortunately, after the aforementioned hurricane we evacuated for, we had to discard all the contents of our full freezer and refrigerator. We lost power for nearly three days when we were gone and we didn’t want to risk it. Our fridge being completely emptied gave us a great excuse to deep clean our refrigerator.

So, if you do lose power and your food thaws and needs to be discarded, check out our post about How To Deep Clean Your Fridge. At least that’s a silver lining.

Have you done this Quarter On A Cup Of Ice Trick when you’ve gone out of town? Let us know about your experience in the comments.

Cindy Ingalls

Tuesday 10th of September 2019

I've never heard of this hack before. I could see it being somewhat useful during hurricane or even winter storm season.

Jen Walker

Monday 9th of September 2019

This is a neat sounding trick; I've never heard of it before. I think to really know, you'd have to be willing to test it in a freshly unplugged freezer and check it every hour or two to document when is happening. #alwaysascientist

alexandra cook

Sunday 8th of September 2019

im amazed how informative this is, i got a lot of ideas that i might use, thanks for sharing

Jasmine M

Sunday 8th of September 2019

I 've never heard of this trick, but I will definitely use it the next time our power goes out. I've already bookmarked this page for the future. Power outages happen all the time where I live and it'd be good to know when the food should be thrown away. Thanks for the much needed tip!

Sarah M

Saturday 7th of September 2019

I didn't know about this trick. This is certainly an indication when the quarter is at the bottom of the glass then it means power lost for a long time but yes it's not 100% accurate in finding foods need to frozen or throw away.