Having to keep your insulin cool during a power outage without electricity or a fridge may seem like a hypothetical scenario, but it's not. Power outages in the USA happen every day.

And while a brief blackout is a minor inconvenience, extended outages pose serious challenges for those relying on refrigerated medications like insulin.

So, what if the power is not back for 24 hours or even several days? How can you keep your insulin refrigerated if there's no more electricity or your fridge stopped working? Let's explore a few disaster preparedness strategies essential for people living with diabetes!

4AllFamily's insulin coolers to keep insulin cool without electricity or a fridge

Why Must Insulin Be Refrigerated?

Insulin is a life-saving medication used for managing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It functions as a synthetic hormone that helps lower blood glucose levels. But due to its protein-based composition, insulin is temperature-sensitive, and even highly susceptible to damage from extreme temperatures and temperature fluctuations. 

Refrigerating insulin helps prevent its degradation, ensuring it remains effective until its expiration date. If insulin is exposed to temperatures that are too high or too low, it can become ineffective and unsafe to use, potentially leading to serious health risks. Therefore, insulin that has frozen or warmed up is good for the trash. 

Insulin Storage Temperatures

Generally, unopened insulin vials, pens, and cartridges must be stored at fridge temperature - between 36°F (2°C) and 46°F (8°C). However, once opened or out of the fridge, it can be kept for about a month at room temperature - between 56°F (13°C) and 80°F (26°C). 

I say "about" because expiration dates and temperature recommendations may slightly differ depending on the type and brand of insulin

So, always make sure to check the specific storage recommendations for the insulin you're using. They are generally specified in the notice or instruction sheet that come with your insulin.

While most insulins can stay out of the fridge for only 28 days, some formulations have enhanced stability. Brands like Tresiba, Toujeo, Novolin, Levemir, and Humulin, for example, can remain effective for up to 56 days when stored at room temperature, with Tresiba offering the longest duration.

But no insulin withstands high temperatures well. Regardless of the brand, insulin should never be exposed to temperatures above 80°F (26°C) for prolonged periods, as this can degrade its effectiveness.

Below is a reference chart indicating the recommended storage temperatures for the most commonly used insulin types:

Insulin Storage Temperature Chart

Related article: How to Keep Insulin Cool While Traveling?

What Happens If You Don’t Refrigerate Insulin 

Insulin that has been unrefrigerated for too long or exposed to heat loses its efficiency. See, insulin is a protein dissolved in water. And just like every protein, it spoils over time, it starts to break down and lose its properties. It may also get contaminated by bacteria.

Think of it this way: just as refrigerating meat extends its freshness, similarly, keeping insulin in cold storage preserves its effectiveness over time.

While using insulin that has not been adequately refrigerated isn't immediately harmful—it won't poison you or cause illness—it will compromise its effectiveness. Inadequate insulin activity poses a serious risk of high blood glucose levels, which can be dangerous and challenging to manage.

In fact, the primary danger of using degraded insulin is the risk of severe and prolonged hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). For individuals with type 1 diabetes, this can escalate to diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening condition that may result in diabetic coma. For those with type 2 diabetes, the major concern would be hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS), which involves severe dehydration.

Therefore, keeping insulin cool and protected from heat is vital, whether you are at home, traveling, enjoying outdoor activities, camping, or facing a power outage. Always remember that effective diabetes management heavily relies on the integrity of your insulin.

Related article: 10 Tips That Work to Inject Insulin Without Pain!

Keeping Insulin Cool During a Power Outage, Without Electricity or a Fridge

Blackout! Whether it's due to a natural disaster such as a storm, ice, or hurricane, or a system failure, your home is suddenly without electricity and your fridge stopped working. The return of power is uncertain.

What happens now to the insulin stored in the fridge? You certainly don't want to lose medication worth thousands of dollars. Fear not—here are effective strategies to keep your insulin cool and safe even without electricity.

Keep Open Insulin Cool Below 80°F 

First, remember that any insulin vials or pens that you'll be using within the next 28 days (or more depending on your specific insulin brand) don't need to be refrigerated. These can stay at room temperature - but always below 80°F (26°C)!

So, as long as you don't leave your insulin in the sun or near the stove, it should be fine. However, if you live in warm places and the ambient temperature is above 80°F (26°C) you must use a cooler!

This is where 4AllFamily proves invaluable. Our range of cooling cases and portable refrigerators ensure that your insulin stays below the critical temperature of 80°F (26°C), even in environments as hot as 104°F (40°C). Depending on your needs, you can choose models that operate with Biogel packs and require no electricity, or opt for versions that can be powered through your car’s cigarette lighter, a portable solar panel, or an external battery that can still function even during a power outage!

Insulin coolers to keep insulin cool without electricity or a fridge

Related article: How to Ship Insulin & Refrigerated Medications?

Keep Insulin Refrigerated with a Portable Insulin Cooler

Now, we get to the tricky part. Your stocks of unopen insulin must stay refrigerated even during a power outage, even without a fridge, and even without electricity. There's no way around it, and it's very important that the cold chain isn't interrupted for too long.

During a power outage, your fridge is not connected anymore and it will stop refrigerating after a few hours only. 

The most reliable solution to keep your insulin cool enough without your fridge is to use a medical-grade portable fridge. With our innovative products, you can still keep your insulin refrigerated for several hours, or even days, without any power supply. This solution can be a lifesaver for your insulin during prolonged outages!

Insulin coolers 4AllFamily


Keeping Insulin a P owerless Fridge

If you don't have an insulin cooler at hand, you can still manage to keep your insulin refrigerated during a power outage, though it requires a bit more effort.

A standard domestic refrigerator can maintain its internal temperature for about four hours after losing power. To extend this period, transfer your insulin to the freezer compartment. Ensure the freezer door remains closed as much as possible to preserve the cold. This setup can keep your insulin refrigerated for up to 48 hours.

However, it is crucial to prevent the insulin from freezing, as frozen insulin becomes ineffective and unsafe. To avoid direct contact with ice, wrap the insulin in a cloth or place it inside a small box. Additionally, unplug your freezer to stop it from inadvertently freezing the insulin when power is restored.

For longer power outages, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends using dry ice: 50 pounds of dry ice can keep an 18 cubic foot freezer stocked and cold for two days. Replenishing your freezer with fresh ice every 48 hours is an effective way to keep your insulin cool. If you don't have a freeze, you can also use an ice chest or an insulated cooler bag to manage the temperature effectively.

Related article: How to Store and Refrigerate Ozempic in All Situations!

What to Do If You Cannot Refrigerate Your Insulin? 

If a power outage disrupts the cold chain, leaving your insulin unrefrigerated for an extended period, you might worry about having to throw your insulin away. However, before resorting to such measures, you can still salvage what’s usable.

Related articleHow to Dispose of Insulin Needles, Pens, Syringes, and Vials?

Use Your Insulin Within 28-days  

Remember that when unrefrigerated, your insulin is safe to be used within 28 days (more for some insulins). This recommendation comes directly from the drug manufacturers. While this guideline should be adhered to strictly, some insulins may have a slight safety margin that allows for a few extra days of use. However, proceed with caution and monitor your blood glucose closely if you decide to use insulin that hasn't been properly stored. 

If you experience unusually high blood sugar levels or suspect the insulin isn't performing as expected, it's safer to dispose of the insulin and start with a fresh pen or vial.

Related article: When Does Insulin Expire? How Long is it Good For?

Identifying Spoiled Insulin

It’s critical to know how to spot insulin that has gone bad:

  • If the insulin appears cloudy, discolored, or contains clumps or strings, these are signs of degradation.
  • Do not use insulin that shows any of these changes; it is better to discard it safely.

Related article: How Long Can a Diabetic Go Without Insulin?

We also invite you to share your experiences and tips. Have you ever had to manage insulin storage during a power outage, without electricity or a fridge? Join the discussion below and help others with your insights.

Last updated on April, 19, 2024.

May 12, 2021


4AllFamily Customer Care Team said:

Dear Robin,
Thank your for participating in our discussion! However, according to its manufacturer, Humulin-N can stay unrefrigerated for up to 31 days. Here’s a link to its instruction for use and storage: https://pi.lilly.com/us/HUMULIN-N-IFU.pdf
Warm regards,
4AllFamily Customer Care Team

Robin said:

Please note: Humulin N is only good for 2 weeks when no longer in refrigeration.

4AllFamily Customer Care Team said:

Hi Candyblack,
Thanks for your comment! We’re sorry to hear about the recent Hurricane that hit Florida again. Our coolers are a great solution to use during power outage. Keeping insulin safe and refrigerated at all time is essential for good diabetes management.
We hope you and your family are safe and sound!
All the best,
4AllFamily Customer Care Team

candyblack880@yahoo.com said:

I have a teenage grandson with type 1 diabetes , so I like to keep up with the best ways to help care for him and keep his insulin safe. This is our 2nd hurricane here in Fl. in Nov. and we always lose power ,anywhere from 2 days to a week. I appreciate the great information you gave about keeping insulin safe!

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The information presented in this article and its comment section is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a replacement for professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for any medical concerns or questions you may have.