So. You’ve decided to take the plunge into the world of deep freeze. Welcome! We bought our first deep freeze 3 years ago and have never regretted it. We have, in fact, recently purchased a larger chest freezer. So now we’ll have two. Yep, we’re those people.
There are several major considerations when buying a deep freezer:
- New or used?
- Chest or upright?
- Manual or auto-defrost?
New or Used?
When purchasing anything, I generally fall on the side of used. Why make more stuff when we already have so much? In the case of refrigerators and freezers, though, I fall on the side of new for two reasons: price and energy efficiency.
People keep their freezers for a long time and freezers made before 1993 use twice as much energy as the newer models. I shopped Craigslist for several months but gave up when I found only older models. Plus the prices folks were asking weren’t much better than new! For $100 more, I could get a brand new freezer that would save me that much money in electricity AND come with a manufacturer’s warranty.
Chest or Upright?
There are two styles of deep freezer: chest and upright. There are clear pros and cons to each type.
I’ve got one chest freezer and another being delivered in a couple of weeks, so it’s pretty obvious what I think the better option is. Chest freezers are not only more energy efficient, they also have WAY more usable space than an upright. I like to put gravity to work for me!
They can, however, quickly devolve into a crazy mess if you don’t go in and organize them regularly. Right now my freezer is almost unmanageable because it’s out in the cold, cold garage and I don’t want to handle cold, cold meat in a cold, cold garage. I generally have a pretty good idea of what’s in there, though, so I can usually find what I’m looking for.
If you have trouble bending and reaching, the chest freezer is not for you. I’m short and occasionally have to perform feats of acrobatics to reach into the furthest corners of the freezer. I’m used to it, but it can get a little tedious.
With their smaller footprint, an upright can be the right choice if you don’t have a lot of floor space.
Verdict: Completely depends on your preference and floor space.
Manual or Auto Defrost?
Hands down: manual defrost. Auto-defrost models go through cycles of warming and cooling to keep ice from forming on the walls, increasing energy usage and degrading your food more quickly. Not good. In addition, the auto defrost mechanism is just one more thing that could break.
Manual defrost means unplugging the freezer and putting all your frozen stuff in coolers (or another freezer). You open a drain on the bottom of the freezer and let the ice on the freezer walls melt.It’s quick work with a hair dryer and a towel. Don’t forget to restopper the drain when you’re done!
Some folks say to defrost yearly, but we’re only just now getting noticeable ice buildup in our 3 year old freezer. I’ll defrost it when we get the new freezer in a couple of weeks.
Most chest freezers are manual defrost and most uprights are auto defrost, although you can find chest freezers with auto and uprights with manual.
This is the least straightforward question of all, because it depends completely on your budget, space, and food consumption. My rule of thumb: buy the biggest freezer you can afford that fits your space.
We started out with an 8.9 cubic foot freezer. And it served us – two adults and two young kids – perfectly well until about a year and a half ago. I’d get a quarter beef twice a year and freeze some berries in the summer, but I was still doing a lot of our shopping at the grocery store. Then I started doing less grocery store shopping and more bulk buying. I had to turn down some really good deals due to freezer space concerns! It breaks my heart to turn down a killer deal.And our two young kids have turned into tweens – full time eating machines! We are now going through a quarter beef in 3 months. I don’t relish finding a decently priced quarter grassfed beef every 3 months; I’d much rather buy a whole cow at a decent price. I’m also going to need to freeze more fruits and veggies. More chickens. More nuts. More soup for easy meals when I go back to work! So we invested in a 14.8 cubic foot model.
Here’s something to consider: why not get two freezers? We’ll have 23.7 cu ft of freezer space between the two freezers and paid just a hair more for the both of them than what a new 24.9 cu ft model costs. The energy usage of the two smaller ones is also just a hair more than the usage of the big one. I get to have a freezer inside, making me much happier, and we have a back up freezer in case one fails. I call that a win-win.