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Freezer Buying Guide

Helpful information for buying a new freezer, including the differences between upright and chest freezers.
Freezer Buying Guide Video
Freezer Buying Guide
Freezer Buying Guide Video Freezer Buying Guide Video
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Freezer Buying Guide Video

Getting Started

If you often buy foods in bulk, do a lot of meal prepping or hunt for your own meat, a freezer can be a good investment.
A dedicated freezer is a great way to free up space and make it easier to keep your frozen foods organized. With a variety of sizes available, you can find a freezer that fits into your existing kitchen, or can easily be placed in a garage or basement. Before buying a new freezer, familiarize yourself with some common features to make your shopping experience easier. Here are the things to look for when buying a freezer.
Photo of chest freezer in basement

What Types of Freezers Are There?

There are several types of freezers available on the market today including standalone, under-counter and built-in freezers. All models are available in a range of capacities; the difference, as you may have guessed, is their physical orientation. Each type has some additional features which may make one a better choice for you than another. Let's look at the different types of freezers:

Chest Freezer

As the name implies, a chest freezer opens like a chest, with the door on the top. They are wider than they are tall, range in sizes from 5 to 25 cubic feet, and are the better choice for users who need to keep lots of large or long items frozen. Hunters, or anyone who buys large slabs of meat directly from a butcher, will appreciate the uninterrupted space of a chest freezer.
Advantages of a Chest Freezer:
  • They run quieter than auto defrost upright freezers
  • Have the ability to stay cooler longer after a power outage
  • The temperature is more consistent because it doesn't cycle on and off
  • They typically cost less than comparable upright models
  • They have a longer lifespan than upright freezers by 5 years

Disadvantages of a Chest Freezer:
  • They tend to take up more space due to a larger footprint
  • They can be difficult to get into due to their design
  • If not organized correctly, stored foods tend to get lost
  • They are manual defrost only so the freezer must be defrosted once a year or more frequently if your freezer is prone to ice buildup

Upright Freezer

An upright freezer looks a lot like a standard refrigerator, but it has just one door and one main interior compartment. They range in sizes from 6 to 25 cubic feet, come with in-door storage, are easy to organize and even offer adjustable racks. If you're looking for a way to store lots of smaller, individual items like frozen pizza, small cuts of meat or pints of ice cream, an upright freezer is the better option for you.
Advantages of Upright Freezers:
  • They can be ordered as auto-defrost or manual defrost
  • If you purchase a frost-free model yearly defrosting isn't necessary, making them much easier to clean
  • They have a smaller footprint allowing you to get the maximum amount of capacity without compromising space

Disadvantages of Upright Freezers:
  • Freezer burn is more likely as your food temperatures are fluctuating slightly due to the auto defrost feature making it easier for moisture inside foods to escape
  • They cost more than comparable chest freezers
  • Foods don't stay cold as long during a power outage
  • Shorter lifespan than chest freezers by approximately 5 years

Built-In Undercounter Freezers

Undercounter freezers have many of the same features and benefits of a stand-alone upright freezer except they are smaller and need to be installed under the counter. They're available in 18 or 24 inches in width, with capacities ranging from 4.2 to 5.2 cubic ft. and are available as a single door or two drawer unit with an icemaker, some have the ability to be installed outdoors and they are customizable as they can be ordered with a stainless panel or with a custom wood panel and hardware. Undercounter freezers are the perfect solution for anyone limited on space or looking to incorporate a second freezer into your kitchen, but they do come at a hefty price. Expect to pay a premium for limited freezer capacity.

Freezer Columns

Integrated column freezers are the newest members of the freezer line-up. These integrated units give you the freedom to mix and match with different sized column fridges to create your perfect combo; they can also be installed separately. They have the same functionality as standalone freezers coupled with many of the same features you would find in a stand-alone refrigerator including WiFi connectivity, an external ice dispenser, a water filter, internal ice maker, storage drawers and door bins making these units the pinnacle of all freezers. Column freezers are available in sizes ranging from 80 to 84 inches in height, 18 to 36 inches in width and are available in capacities of 19 to over 22 cubic ft. Additionally, you can finish them with stainless steel door panels or customize them to match your own kitchen cabinetry and hardware. However, you will need a dedicated space for column freezers and they do require a more detailed installation as they are designed to be installed inside a custom enclosure. Much like under-counter models, freezer columns come at a hefty price.

Features To Look For When Buying a Freezer

Some of the terms and concepts you should be familiar with before buying a freezer. All of these things will help make it much easier to find the best freezer for your needs.


Freezers are measured by their interior capacity, which will be listed in cubic feet of space. Although they may be described with terms like "extra-large capacity," be sure to check the actual capacity when comparing two models from different manufacturers. There is no standard terminology, so one brand's "extra large" may not be the same size as another's. "How big of a freezer should I buy" is the most common question asked by shoppers. The answer will depend entirely on how much food you plan on storing. Most experts suggest 1.5 cubic feet of freezer space for each member of your family, but it will depend on what kind of frozen goods you buy. It can be tempting to buy the largest freezer you can find, but try to determine your optimal freezer space based on how much food you realistically think you'll be storing. A large freezer that stays mostly empty will need to work harder to stay cool, and is a needless waste of energy.

Defrost Drain

Water from the melting ice flows out of the freezer through this drain. A defrost drain makes it easier to defrost the freezer because you won't have to collect all the water with a sponge and bucket.

Energy- Efficient Rating (Energy Guide Label)

The EER, also known as the Energy Guide label, gives you two important pieces of information: the estimated energy consumption on a scale showing a range for similar models, as well as the estimated yearly operating cost based on the national average cost of electricity.

Defrost Features

Dedicated freezers are especially prone to frost buildup. While it might seem like this will keep your foods cold better, frost buildup on freezer walls or cooling coils actually decreases the efficiency of the freezer and can make it operate worse. To prevent this, you'll need to occasionally defrost your freezer. Many freezers can defrost themselves automatically, while others will need to be done manually.

Self-Defrosting Freezers

As the name suggests, self-defrosting freezers (sometimes called frost-free freezers) can automatically prevent the buildup of frost or ice. A special internal heating element gets activated on a regular schedule, melting any excessive frost that has formed. However, the downside of this is, because of this process foods are also more prone to freezer burn in a self-defrosting freezer than in a manual defrosting freezer. Vacuum sealing, wrapping food items as tightly as possible using plastic wrap or wax freezer paper, or simply using frozen foods in a timely manner are all effective ways in preventing freezer burn.

Manual Defrost Freezers

Manual defrost freezers don't have any built-in mechanism to prevent ice buildup or melt it once it has built up. You will need to turn the freezer off and leave the door open to melt the ice. All chest freezers will have to be manually defrosted, which can be a messy, time-consuming task. However, one benefit is that manual defrost freezers are usually more energy efficient.

Shelves, Storage Baskets, and Drawers

Think about the types of things you're likely to store in your new freezer, and make sure that the freezer you choose can be organized to fit your needs. The right amount of shelves, baskets, and even drawers ensure that you have a place to store everything. On the flipside, make sure that they can all be easily removed if you expect to store large items.

Door Locks

Many standalone freezers feature an integrated door lock. This is a great way to ensure that your freezer door stays securely shut. It's also a great theft-deterrent for those whose freezers are located in a garage.


The ideal freezer temperature is 0° Fahrenheit (-18° Celsius) for all food storage. -10° Fahrenheit (-23° Celsius) is recommended to quickly freeze food. While many foods will freeze at about 32° Fahrenheit, they need to be stored at 0° Fahrenheit to slow down deterioration. It is important to keep the freezer temperature constant in order not to increase energy expenditure


If you are planning on placing the refrigerator in your garage or somewhere else that is not climate controlled, make sure the freezer is certified as garage ready. These appliances are built to operate in temperatures more extreme than you'd find in a normal house. A standard freezer can not guarantee its contents will stay frozen if it's placed in an excessively hot garage.

Door and Temperature Alarm

Leaving the door ajar on your upright freezer can be catastrophic. To help prevent that, many models offer an audible alarm that will alert you if the door does not fully seal or the temperature rises for any other reason.