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Freezers - Find the Best Freezer for Your Home

Freezer 101 - From Buying to Caring for a Freezer


Though freezers have not undergone as much change over the past decade as some other large appliances, there have been some enhancements when it comes to storage convenience and energy efficiency.  While most homes have a refrigerator with a freezer compartment, these may be convenient in the kitchen but can be insufficient for the amount of frozen foods a family needs on hand.  And savings associated with buying food in bulk can be substantial, but excess fresh food should be stored appropriately and properly in a freezer for longterm storage.  My tips will help you to find the best freezer for your home, but I'll also give you some important care and maintenance tips as well.

Freezer Installation Tips - Plan Before You Buy

1. Types of Freezers

There are basically two types of freezers, chest and upright models and each has its own pros and cons.  Many consumers will choose a freezer style based on convenience, followed by capacity and how often they retrieve foods from a freezer.  Your current refrigerator freezer capacity may also influence the style that most appeals to you.  Some households even have one of each style of freezer, over and above their refrigerator freezer space - that's not uncommon.

Freezers are available in a good variety of capacities from apartment-sized 5 cu. ft. to large sizes in the 20 cu. ft. range.  It really depends on what you need when it comes to storing frozen foods and while the size of household will often influence how large a freezer you need, other things such as lifestyle (hunting, fishing, entertaining) may also affect the need for freezer space.  Where you live and the availability of food markets or whether you need to stock up for in-between shopping trips, is also an important freezer capacity consideration.

Chest Freezers

Chest freezers are the most economical to buy, have the best frozen food storage space for bulky items but are the most inconvenient when it comes to cleaning the unit and retreiving foods.  Chest freezers require more space to place and they also need head room for opening the lid. When it comes to performance and maintaining fairly constant temperatures, since chest models have no fan, air circulation is limited and that hinders the temperature to adjust evenly throughout the freezer.  However, as long as the whole chest freezer maintains a zero F. or below temperature, foods will remain frozen.

  • Pros:  Cheapest, best for bulky items, best for energy efficiency, lower operating costs, large variety of sizes
  • Cons: More difficult to clean and retrieve foods, large footprint, most are manual defrost, basic storage options, bending required to access foods

Upright Freezers

Upright freezers cost more than chest models but offer the most convenience when it comes to cleaning, organizing foods and finding what you want to retrieve.  However, their similar to a refrigerator style tends to encourage lengthy browsing which can increase energy costs.

  • Pros:  Easy to organize, retrieve and store foods; easier to clean, not much bending, more storage features
  • Cons: Limited capacity choices, more costly, some are manual defrost, encourages browsing, less energy efficient, may not have space for large and bulky items

2. Important Freezer Features

Best features will vary with the type of freezer, but the most important convenience features are those that help you organize and more readily retrieve foods, regardless which model you choose.  Chest models offer basic storage options; uprights on the other hand, offer more choice when it comes to small storage bins and baskets.  These are the most important features for each type of freezer:

Chest Freezers:

  • Convenience of a Freezer Light
  • At least one basket; more depending on capacity
  • Locking option
  • Adjustable/removable divider
  • Operating light
  • Power on indicator light

Upright Freezers:

  • Freezer Light
  • Door bins
  • Metal shelving
  • Slide-out baskets
  • Automatic defrost for cleaning convenience
  • Safety Lock
  • Alarm if interior temperture is too warm
  • Quick freeze

Manual versus Self-Defrost Freezers:

Self or auto-defrost freezers are the most convenient because they require no defrosting, but they do use more energy since they cycle on/off to keep the freezer frost-free.  Because the temperature fluctuates slightly when the freezer cycles to defrost, foods are more prone to freezer burn in a self-defrost freezer than in one that requires manual defrost.

Most chest freezers are manual defrost while upright freezers come in either manual or self-defrost.  Confirm the type of defrost before buying so you'll know if it requires more cleaning.  When a freezer cycles on/off to defrost, there's more operating noise - that may also be a buying consideration.

3. Freezer Bells and Whistles

Chest freezers have limited features but if you are buying a large capacity model, more than one basket and removable divider would help you to better organize the contents and that means easier retrieval of what you need.

Upright freezers tend to vary when it comes to features and beyond the important items, these can help you to organize the freezer more easily as well as make it easier to wipe clean:

  • Variety of adjustable/removable door bins;
  • Convenience of Freezer Door Bins
  • Slide out shelving
  • Adjustable shelving
  • Slide-out baskets
  • Locking option
  • Soft freeze section

4. Energy Efficiency - A Must to Save Money

Buying an Energy Star freezer is the best way to know that it meets certain energy efficiency targets, but Energy Star freezer models are limited.  When it comes to energy efficiency, chest models use less electricity because most are manual defrost and there's less cold air loss when the door is open. There's also less tendency to browse at the contents compared to an upright model.  However, this is where you must decide whether you would rather sacrifice a little energy for the organizing convenience of an upright freezer model.  Once you've decided on a freezer type, take time to compare Energy Guide labels to see which freezers cost less to operate. 

5. What Not to Buy

If you have problems with bending for food retrieval or organizing freezer contents is a high priority, an upright freezer is probably your best choice. On the other hand, if you already have an upright freezer to keep foods conveniently organized and easy to retrieve but need more freezer storage, a chest freezer is the best choice.

Avoid making poor freezer capacity choices.  Buying too large a freezer can lead to wasted energy trying to keep empty space at freezing temperatures and buying too small may not meet your needs and require updating the freezer.  Keep in mind that the more freezer capacity you have, the more tendency for waste from foods that become old and freezer burnt.

These questions might help you decide on capacity:

  • Do you buy foods in bulk to save on groceries?
  • Will you need freezer space for garden harvest, hunting or fishing bounty, or seasonal baking and cooking?
  • Do you have the space to install the freezer size you are looking at?
  • Will you be moving in the near future and need to relocate a rather large freezer?
  • Planning on downsizing your household in the near future?
  • Do you live in a rural area where it might be difficult to buy foods when unexpected company drops by?
  • Is there a long period between grocery store trips?

6. Price Ranges and Compare Prices

Without a doubt, a chest freezer is cheaper to buy than an upright model and when it comes to manual versus defrost, a manual freezer is cheaper than an auto-defrost model. For this reason, freezers vary considerably in price from a couple of hundred dollars for a basic chest model, to several hundreds for a custom front panel, full-featured upright freezer.

The biggest price point factors are type of freezer, capacity and type of defrost function. Most uprights have good food storage options; some have more ways of organizing and storing foods, plus convenient cleaning features - all of these will influence the price of upright freezers.

Compare Prices

7. Freezer Reviews

With different types and capacities, it can be difficult to find the right freezer for your home.  To find the best freezer, after learning about freezer features, read freezer reviews:

To help others make good freezer buying decisions, take a minute and review your current or previous freezer:

8. Freezer Care, Use and Freezer FAQ's

While a freezer may seem to require little or no maintenance, that's far from the truth.  For best energy efficiency, it's important to keep a manual defrost freezer free of ice build-up and to keep stored frozen foods properly rotated (use oldest first) and regularly checked for quality, to discard foods that are too old or no longer safe to consume. Foods that have suffered from freezer burn should be discarded.  And you should wipe the door, shelving and interior periodically to ensure a clean place to store frozen foods.

Freezer care also includes a proper installation.  Never place a freezer outside in warm climates or in front of a sunny window - this will increase your operating costs as the freezer struggles to keep cool.  Freezers should be installed in a dry, cool area away from heat vents if possible.  Loading a freezer is also a care consideration to ensure you allow room for properly close the lid, but also be able to find what you need quickly to minimize the time needed to keep the door open.  If you have young children in the home, keeping a freezer locked is a good way to prevent accidents.

9. Related Appliance - Refrigerators

The type and size of freezer you choose will often be influenced by the style of refrigerator you have and especially by how much frozen food storage space you already have.  So consider the overall freezer storage space potential (current refrigerator freezer plus new stand-alone freezer capacities) before buying a freezer.  And if you're planning on replacing your refrigerator in the near future, you may want to keep this in mind when choosing a freezer style and capacity.

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10. General Appliance Tips

What to do if your appliance has been recalled or you've upgrade to a new model.  And there are reasons why it's a good idea to inform manufacturers of problems or areas where appliances could be improved.  Remember to review your product manual and keep it handy - it has lots of use information, as well as key tips on how to properly care for your new appliance.

Promotional Feature: View this video series to learn how to take good care of your house.

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