5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Freezer
By Fran J. Donegan
While not everyone needs a standalone freezer, there are plenty of situations where it’s indispensable. Perhaps you like to shop for food in bulk because you live in a rural area, or because it’s more economical or convenient than frequent trips to the store. Maybe you’re a hunter or avid gardener who always has loads of meat or produce to preserve. If any of the above describes you, there may already be a freezer in your basement or garage. If there is, there is a good chance it is one of the estimated 16 million that is over 10 years old, which means it may be wasting energy.
If it’s time to upgrade, here are five things to consider when shopping for a new freezer.
- Upright vs. Chest
There are two types of freezers: chest and upright. Chest freezers have a smaller footprint than uprights, but they still offer more open space for storing bulky foods. In a fully-packed chest freezer, it is sometimes hard to see what is below the first layer of items. Some models include bins or dividers to aid in organization.
Upright freezers look like a standard refrigerator. The inside contains shelves and door storage so items can be easily organized and seen when you open the door.
You can find both types of freezers in sizes that range from small—five or six cubic feet—to large units that offer over 20 cubic feet of storage space. If you are replacing an existing freezer, you know if the size you have works for you, or whether you need to adjust up or down. If this is your first freezer, there are formulas that the industry uses to calculate freezer size. To find the right size for you, multiply the number of people in your house by 1.5 cubic feet. Another formula to keep in mind is that one cubic foot of space can store about 35 pounds of food.
Try to visualize what you plan on storing in the models you see when shopping. Also, consider the amount of floor space you have available for the freezer, then balance that out with your budget. In general, the larger the unit, the higher the price.
- Energy Efficiency
As with most appliances, manufacturers have made freezers more energy efficient in recent years. When shopping, compare energy costs by consulting the Energy Guide label on the appliance, which will tell you the estimated cost to run the freezer. Be sure to compare similar appliances with one another.
Energy Star appliances are at least 10 percent more efficient than standard models. Energy Star is a voluntary Environmental Protection Agency program that rates products, including freezers, for energy efficiency. The goal is to save consumers money on energy costs while helping to protect the environment.
In general, chest freezers use less energy than uprights, because not as much cold air escapes when you open the freezer. Also, most chest models rely on manual defrosting of the unit, which requires less electricity than automatic defrosting. If you choose a manual defrost model, be sure to keep up with the maintenance. A layer of ice will affect the energy efficiency of the unit.
- Additional Features
In addition to automatic defrosting, there are several convenient features that you can find in a freezer. Here are a few examples:
- Interior light
- Safety locks
- Convenient shelving
- Easy-to-use controls
- Quick-freeze feature
- Easy-to-reach drain on manual defrost units
- Power-on light—this lets you know the freezer is working without having to open the door.
- High temperature alarm—this alerts you if the temperature inside the unit begins to rise.
Just as you would when buying a refrigerator, be sure to measure the space you have picked out for the freezer. Also, make sure doorways and other passages are wide enough to accommodate the freezer. In addition to the footprint of the appliance, figure in a three-inch space on the sides and back to ensure proper air circulation around the unit. Chest freezers have a hinged top, so you will need enough space above the freezer to open the door completely.
Most manufacturers recommend placing the freezer is area that will not go below freezing or above about 110 degrees. That's a large range, but if you plan on keeping the freezer in a garage or shed, keep those recommendations in mind.
Once you’ve decided on a freezer and set it up, set the temperature to 0 degrees, which is a good temperature for storing frozen foods. There's usually a cool-down period that allows the freezer to reach a safe temperature before you can store food in it. You'll find that information in the manual that comes with the freezer. Whichever model you choose, be sure to keep it in good working order to maintain optimal efficiency.
Fran Donegan writes on energy usage, appliances and many other home improvement topics for The Home Depot. Fran is the author of several DIY books for homeowners, including Pools and Spas and Paint Your Home. To research home freezers, including styles referenced by Fran, you can click here.
Companies: The Home Depot