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Chest Freezer vs. Upright Freezer

Boulevard Home

Which freezer is right for you?

We weigh 5 factors you must understand when purchasing a freezer.
• Manual defrost vs. Frost free freezer (Selfdefrost)
• Convenience Factor – organization, ability to locate food, etc.
• The upfront cost of purchasing a freezer
• The energy efficiency of one over the other
• The food preservation ability.

SelfDefrost vs. Manual Defrost

Selfdefrost (or frostfree) is a cleaning design feature in freezers. Selfdefrosting is an automatic defrost cycling process requiring no work from the owner.

Frostfree freezer remains frostfree by warming heating coils inside the freezer adjusting the internal temperature from approximately zero degrees Fahrenheit to approximately thirtytwo degrees Fahrenheit, one to four times daily. It’s not at the higher temperature for long but it allows for any ice buildup to go away. Because of this cycling on and off frostfree freezers can create more noise.

Most Upright Freezers are Frost Free and look like regular refrigerators.

A manual defrost freezer does not contain any automatic heating elements to prevent the buildup of frost or ice. It requires the owner to manually defrost the freezer coils as frost builds up. It is typically recommended to defrost a freezer when the frost has become a quarter to a halfinch thick or at least one time a year.

Convenience: (Frost Free)

Upright Freezers – These freezers look like a regular refrigerator and have multiple shelves and organization is simple and easy to find the foods you are looking for. Because most upright freezers are selfdefrosting consumers love the time and labor savings that brings.

Chest Freezers – Don’t have as many organizing options. It also requires more floor space to place. Most Chest Freezers are Manual Defrost. Most people defrost their freezer about once per year. To defrost a freezer, everything that is in the freezer has to come out because the freezer has to be shut off for as long as it takes to get rid of any ice/frost build up.

Upfront Cost of Freezer: (Manual Defrost)

When comparing the same size capacity. An upright manual defrost freezer will usually cost less than a frost free mostly due to less components in the manual defrost freezer. Chest Freezers will most of the time cost the least amount.

There is no difference in the lifespan of a freezer. On average a typical lifespan in 11 years.

Energy Efficiency: (Manual Defrost)

Self Defrost: Because selfdefrosting freezers cycle on and off throughout the day it will use more energy than a manual defrost.

Manual Defrost: They save energy because they do not contain heating elements with the need to cycle on and off. They also maintain a more constant freezing temperature. One benefit for chest freezers is when the door opens from the top it allows much less cold air to escape creating even more savings. All Chest Freezers are manual Defrost freezers.

A manual defrost freezer may use up to 40 percent less energy than a selfdefrosting model.
Both a frost free or a manual defrost freezer can carry an Energy Star Rating. This means the appliance is at least 10% more energyefficient than the minimum federal standard.

15‘ – Chest Freezer is the cheapest to operate.
15’ – Manual Defrost maybe $10 more per year
15’ – Frost Free – Add another $30+ per year to operate.

Food Preservation: (Manual Defrost)

Food is supposedly going to freezer burn faster if kept in a frostfree freezer. This is due to the temperature fluctuations caused by the defrost cycle. Many sources are mixed as to whether automatic defrosting affects freezer burn or not. Items in the freezer with a poor barrier or covering are affected the most. Think about meat, it is usually wrapped it in plastic barrier, and then its wrapped in thick paper. It’s not to make it look neat, it’s because its a barrier from high temperatures.

Frost inside a freezer is built up by warm air entering the freezer cavity. If you are constantly opening your freezer door the buildup would happen quicker. This may be a sign that a frost free option would be better for you. If you are looking for longer freezer storage capabilities then a manual defrost may preserve your food better long term.


Which is better? It depends on what is most important for you. The convenience of a selfdefrosting or the cost, energy savings, preservation of the manual defrost model.

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posted by willigders