Since refrigerator freezers are not intended for long-term storage, a separate freezer can help you save money by buying on sale, in season and in bulk. When correctly prepared and packaged, many fresh vegetables, fruits and meats are as good frozen as they are fresh. There are several key factors to consider, including the type of freezer and energy efficiency, new or used, frost-free versus defrosting and, most important, size and access. Whether you can’t resist a sale or just need some extra freezer space, Pronto’s Freezer Buying Guide will help you choose the best freezer for your lifestyle and budget.
Freezers are most efficient when they’re full, so avoid buying more capacity than you need. One cubic foot of freezer space typically holds 35 pounds of food; capacities range from 1.3 to more than 25 cubic feet. Base your decision on how you shop and how quickly you’ll empty and refill the freezer.
Chest freezers are more energy-efficient than upright freezers. Look for upright freezers and chest freezers with manual defrost that have earned the Energy Star to save money and energy and reduce your carbon footprint.
Freezers in garages work harder in extreme heat to maintain and optimum temperature. Unless you live in a mild climate, place your freezer in a basement or pantry area.
Choose manual-defrost chest freezers with drains for the lowest energy consumption. Choose self-defrosting upright models with drains if you have a tight budget. Otherwise, look for self-defrosting upright freezers that will save you time.
Look for freezers with adjustable thermostats that save energy and interior lights that reduce the time spent digging for food. Freezers with locks and keys provide safety measures for homes with children. Upright freezers should include door-mounted shelves and removable or sliding baskets for easy organization.
The device that provides cold air to a freezer, typically by pulling hot air out and moving it past a tube filled with gas that cools as it is pressurized.
A spigot or hose attachment at the bottom of a manual-defrost freezer that makes it easy to remove the water left over from defrosting.
A freezer that is at last 10% more energy efficient than required by law. Freezers that carry the Energy Star may be eligible for discounts from your utility company.
A freezer that requires you to manually remove all frost buildup from the interior. This requires turning off the freezer, allowing the frost to melt, draining and then wiping down interior surfaces.
A freezer that controls its internal moisture level to prevent frost from forming. These freezers have a reputation for drying food out if it’s stored for extended periods of time.
Freezers run most efficiently when they’re full, so this is a case where you want to avoid purchasing more freezer space than you’ll use. Also remember that food doesn’t keep forever in a freezer; stocking your freezer faster than you use what’s in it may result in keeping—thus wasting—food longer than what’s considered optimal. As you’d expect, the smaller the freezer, the greener the freezer: Less capacity means less energy consumption.
Freezer capacity is measured in cubic feet, and freezers range in size from compact units with 1.3 cubic feet to large-scale units offering more than 25 cubic feet of storage. One cubic foot of freezer space holds approximately 35 pounds of food. Consider your shopping habits as well the intended use of your freezer to determine the capacity you need. If you shop once a month and intend to refill freezer after each trip, you’ll need less capacity than households that purchase food in bulk or that cook large quantities of meals to freeze for later use.
Although many kitchen appliances meet today’s energy efficiency standards, not all freezers qualify for the Energy Star rating. Those freezers that have earned the Energy Star use at least 10% less energy than required by federal standards. Qualified models include upright freezers with automatic or manual defrost, and chest freezers that only offer manual defrost. You’ll conserve energy, save money and lower your carbon footprint by choosing one of these freezers.
Where you intend to place your freezer also contributes to how energy efficient it can be. If possible, place your freezer in a pantry, basement or extra room in your house. Keeping freezers in the garage makes them susceptible to temperature changes, forcing compressors to work harder and use more energy in hot weather. This kind of wear and tear on the compressor can shorten the overall life of your freezer and increase the likelihood of repairs.
Freezers are available in chest and upright configurations. Chest freezers have a slight energy efficiency advantage over upright freezers as less cold air escapes from the compartment when the door opens. Chest freezers also tend to be better insulated than upright models. Choose a chest freezer if you plan to shop in bulk and need to store items for longer periods of time, or if you regularly purchase large or other hard-to-fit items.
Upright freezers cost less initially than chest freezers, take up less floor space and retain cold better during a power outage, but they are slightly less energy efficient. Choose an upright freezer if you shop monthly or bimonthly to refill your freezer or if you’re freezing smaller items. Unlike chest freezers, which are generally one large compartment, upright freezers often feature shelves, baskets and bins that help keep food organized and easy to find.
Manual-defrost freezers are typically less expensive than self-defrosting freezers, but you’ll need to commit to defrosting the unit regularly in order to keep it running efficiently. If you’re considering a chest freezer, manual-defrost models are the only chest freezers that have earned the Energy Star. Look for manual defrost freezers with drains that make the defrosting process neater and easier.
If you’re considering an upright freezer, both manual and self-defrosting units qualify for the Energy Star. Some people claim that self-defrosting freezers have a tendency to dry out food if it isn’t used quickly; if that’s been your experience, base your decision on how long you intend to store items before use. While you’ll pay more up front for a self-defrosting freezer, the time you’ll save by not having to defrost and drain it is likely worth the extra cost.
Whether you’re considering a chest or an upright freezer, look for models with interior lights. Not only does it make it easy to find items—especially in chest freezers where items may be layers deep—but it helps reduce the amount of time cold air escapes through the open door. Look for easy-to-access, adjustable temperature controls to help maintain the recommended optimum temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Power indicator lights offer additional peace of mind. If you have small children in the house, look for freezers that offer a lock and key safety measure. Heavy-duty hinges, reversible doors and magnetic door seals offer extra convenience and efficiency.
Other freezer features are mainly applicable to upright models and focus on organization. Look for door-mounted shelves, interior shelves and removable or sliding baskets to make storing and locating items quick and simple.