Buying a freezer

Get the low down on buying a cool and chilled-out freezer

A stand-alone freezer. (Image credit: Haier)

A stand-alone freezer. (Image credit: Haier)

Capacity

As with refrigerators, a freezer’s storage capacity is measured in litres. Freezer capacities range from around 80L (the same size as a typical bar fridge) to over 700L (bigger than many fridges). Naturally, the capacity you require will depend on the size of your household and the amount of frozen food you buy each week. If you like to buy your groceries in bulk or regularly purchase plus-sized items, go for a chest freezer with a larger capacity. But don’t get a capacity that exceeds your needs as this will waste floor space in your house and can also affect your electricity bill. Naturally, a bigger freezer will require more energy to run – make sure to check the energy rating label before making your purchase.

Style

Because of their squat, boxy design, chest freezers are not particularly pleasing to the eye. Upright freezers are generally more stylish, and can even match the style of your fridge. Most vendors offer a range of different finishes, from traditional white to titanium and stainless steel. Upright freezers are also available as built-in models that can be incorporated into your kitchen design, with finishes designed to make them seamlessly blend in.

Of course, your secondary freezer does not have to be stored in your kitchen; it will work just as well in your garage, laundry or anywhere else where space is available. If the freezer is out of sight, its style becomes less of an issue in your buying decision.

Cooling

Freezers keep food cold in a variety of different ways, depending on the model and its price. Most chest freezers use manual defrost, which means you need to periodically remove built up layers of ice. Some chest and upright freezer models offer frost-free cooling (also known as automatic defrost) and do not require you to remove any ice. This is achieved by circulating dry air around the cabinet using fans. Some frost-free models offer multi-flow air delivery, which is good for keeping every inch of a freezer consistently cold.

Naturally, frost-free freezers are a lot more convenient than models that need to be defrosted manually. They also help to reduce frost build-up on food, making it easier to read the labels. On the other hand, frost-free models are more expensive and require more energy to run.

If you decide to buy a freezer with manual defrost, go for a model with a water drain outlet and drain hose (usually located at the rear of the unit). This will make it easier to remove the melted frost.

Operation

Your new freezer is likely to be around for a long time, so it’s worth investing in a model that is efficient and easy to maintain. Look out for the standard Energy Rating label on each freezer, which rates its overall energy efficiency and tells you how much energy it is likely to consume in a year. Labels that display more stars and lower kilowatt-hours (kWh) will cost less to run.

Because they have smaller, top-mounted doors, chest freezers are more efficient at trapping in cold air than upright models and also require less energy to run. They will keep food frozen longer without electricity, which can be handy during prolonged periods without power such as a blackout.

Make sure that the controls are in an easy to access location, and that they are easy to operate. Cleaning the inside of your freezer can be made a little easier with plastic shelves or baskets (as opposed to wire shelves and baskets, which are cumbersome to clean and can rust easily if scratched or chipped). Removable one-piece shelves/baskets will also help confine spills and can be easily wiped down.

Some freezers may make noticeable noise when the compressor stops and starts. If the freezer is going to be in an occupied area of the house, such as the kitchen, make sure any operational noise won’t irritate you and your family.

Side by side

If the space inside your house is limited, one option might be to buy a side-by-side refrigerator. As the name implies, these refrigerators divide the fridge and freezer vertically into two side-by-side sections, offering more freezer space than a traditional fridge. Side-by-side refrigerators are more expensive than ‘regular’ refrigerators, but they can be cheaper than buying both a fridge and a stand-alone freezer. If you’re shopping for both appliances at the same time, a side-by-side refrigerator can be quite cost-effective. (For more information about side-by-side fridges, check out our refrigerator basics buying guide.)

Additional features

Additional features to look out for include auto fast-freeze (which automatically adjusts the temperature depending on how cold/warm the freezer is), an adjustable thermostat (for manually changing temperature), an interior freezer light, power indicators (which let you know the freezer is still operational), bacteria guard (an anti-bacterial coating on baskets and shelves), rollers (for easy manoeuvrability), reversible doors and child-safety locks. As you would expect, the more features a freezer has, the more expensive it will generally be.

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