Freezers buying guide

We explain how to buy the perfect freezer, whether you are after a chest model or an upright freezer

Image Credit: pixel perfect stock on morgueFile (http://mrg.bz/PUS1wt)

Image Credit: pixel perfect stock on morgueFile (http://mrg.bz/PUS1wt)

FAQ — Freezers

What is the difference between a chest and an upright freezer? Chest freezers are generally bulkier than upright models and come with a top-mounted door. They are better suited to storing large and bulky items, such as large cuts of meat, and are also more efficient at trapping cold air inside the freezer because the cold air travels downwards. Upright freezers look similar to traditional refrigerators. Their shape is better suited to the majority of kitchens designs with vertical cavities. They also store food horizontally on shelves, which makes it easier to access and retrieve frozen items.

What does ‘energy efficient’ mean? Freezers use energy (electricity) to keep food cool. When two freezers of the same size are compared, the one that uses less electricity is more energy efficient. The Energy Star rating is a guide designed to tell you how efficiently a freezer uses electricity. (The more energy efficient a model is, the more stars it receives.)

Why do some freezers with a better star rating use more electricity? It’s important to remember that the Energy Star Rating is not actually based on the amount of electricity a freezer uses. Instead, it lets you know how efficient a freezer is at using electricity — this allows the rating system to take different freezer shapes and sizes into account. Obviously, a big freezer will use more electricity than a small freezer, but if it converts this energy more efficiently, it will receive a better rating.

How can I tell which freezer will help decrease my energy bill? The Energy Rating label provides an energy consumption number in kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. This is the amount of energy a freezer will use under set conditions, and can be used to compare how much electricity different freezers will use.

The smaller this number, the less energy the freezer will use. The kW-hours used per year will differ based on the size, type and energy efficiency of the unit.

Some new freezers offer advanced features that monitor and adjust the flow of cold air in the freezer, adapting to your daily usage patterns as well as the external climate conditions. These features are designed to increase energy efficiency, as well as keep temperature fluctuations in the freezer to a minimum.

Which type of freezer uses the least amount of energy — chest or upright?

A chest freezer will generally use less energy than an upright freezer of a similar capacity. This is because they require less energy to keep food cold, and less cold air is lost when you access the freezer. Make sure you look carefully at the energy consumption number in kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year on the Energy Rating label.

Is there a way to reduce running costs and save energy?

Aside from choosing an energy efficient freezer, there are some simple things you can do day-to-day to reduce running costs and save energy.

Install the freezer away from direct sunlight and away from hot areas (such as near ovens, dishwashers and heaters). Make sure the recommended gaps are left around the freezer to assist with ventilation (generally around 50mm) and never put hot food in the freezer. Also, if you’re planning to keep your freezer in the garage, check how often the room temperature fluctuates.

Try to minimise the number of times the door is opened, and don't leave the door open for a long time. Keeping the freezer reasonably full will also help reduce the temperature loss when the door is opened, saving energy — in other words, don’t buy a freezer that’s bigger than you really need.

General wear and tear of a freezer can lead to unnecessary energy consumption, but regularly cleaning and maintaining the unit can prevent this. Seals on the freezer door can become loose over time, so check and replace the seams to prevent cool air escaping from the freezer. Regular cleaning of the condenser coils (the frame of black pipes behind the freezer) may improve your freezer’s performance, and ensure your freezer doesn’t ice up with regular defrosting.

What about capacity?

The capacity of a freezer is measured in litres. This lets you know how much food can be stored inside the freezer. Storage capacities range from around 80 litres to huge 700 litre models.

What does frost-free mean?

A frost-free freezer uses fans to circulate cold air and does not require manual defrosting. This means you don’t have to remove frost from the shelves or freezer walls. Frost-free freezers are also quicker at generating cool air. The majority of chest freezers are manual defrost, which means you may need to occasionally remove the frost yourself; a few new models offer a frost-free option too. Upright freezers come in both manual defrost and frost-free varieties. Expect to pay more for a frost-free model.

What is auto fast-freeze?

Some freezers come equipped with an auto fast-freeze option. This is a feature that automatically adjusts the temperature of the freezer to quickly freeze food and keep it constantly frozen. If you open the freezer door on a hot day or place freshly cooked food in the freezer, auto fast-freeze will adjust the temperature accordingly. Some cheaper freezers offer manual fast freeze, which requires you to press a button (this is different to the thermostat).

How long will my freezer last?

Years. The actual length of time a freezer will last will depend on the specific model. For normal domestic use, a freezer can last up to 20 years.

What is the best way to transport my freezer and how long should I leave it before turning it back on?

A freezer, like a fridge, should be transported upright. Different manufacturers may recommend leaving the freezer off for different times. If the freezer is transported upright and treated gently, this may be as little as an hour.

If the freezer is not transported upright, leaving it off for 8 hours or overnight is advisable. Check your freezer’s manual for exact instructions.

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