A few months before I started this blog (which is almost three!), we bought a deep freeze. I’ve written about the freezer and its energy use a few times, and mentioned various frozen food more than a few times, but some recent reader questions prompted this post with more details.
Are you thinking about buying a freezer? Here are a few things to consider.
How to you plan to use the freezer?
The answer to this question will determine what size freezer you need (or if you really need a freezer at all).
We use our freezer for three primary things: 1) Frozen produce (from the garden and farmers’ market). 2) baked goods — we bake all of our bread, and the freezer space allows us to make 4-6 loaves at a time, and 3) bulk dry goods — various flours, nuts, and seeds — the freezer protects against rancidity and various pest invasions.
Regarding size of freezer, you want enough capacity, without having excess space. A full freezer is more efficient than one with a lot of extra space. We have a 15 or 16 cubic foot chest freezer. There are times when we could use a bit more space, but for us, this is a decent balance between too small and excess capacity.
Freezer or second fridge?
Your answer to the first question will also provide a partial answer to the question of freezer vs. second refrigerator. As long as you’re using them fairly regularly, bulk dry goods should keep equally well at refrigerator temps. However, long-term storage of items in categories one and two in my list requires freezing. Ditto for meat, if that’s part of your diet.
A second refrigerator will give you SOME extra freezer space, but that freezer is not the same as a deep freezer (either chest or upright). A deep freezer maintains a colder temperature than the freezer compartment of a refrigerator, which means that frozen foods (produce, meat, baked goods) stay better, longer in a deep freezer.*
Volume for volume, chest freezers are hands-down more energy efficient than upright freezers. Here’s a little snapshot from the Energy Star freezer comparison chart:
These are all for the same brand of freezer. If you compare the two larger models, the 22 cu. ft. chest uses about 2/3 the energy of the 20 cu. ft. upright.
So a chest freezer is the obvious winner, right? Well, they have two main drawbacks: 1) finding things in a chest freezer can be trickier than an upright and 2) chest freezers are not frost-free, which means every now and then (once a year or less, unless you have the freezer somewhere really warm, like a garage), you have to take everything out of the freezer and remove the ice that builds up on the sides.
For us, the energy savings of the chest is worth the drawbacks (more on how we deal with those in an upcoming post).
Used or new?
Used is the way to go, especially for a chest freezer. Unless it’s truly ancient, most run-of-the-mill chest freezers will be more efficient than new upright freezers, even if the chest freezer does not have an “Energy Star” rating.
After just a bit of searching, we found our 15 cu. ft. chest freezer on Craigslist. It was less than five years old, and they accepted our offer of $75 ($100 asking price). Over three years later, it’s still going strong.
Tips on buying used
If you’re going with used, make sure the unit is plugged in before you arrive. Bringing a thermometer to check the temperature wouldn’t be a bad idea, but we didn’t think about it when we bought ours.
Also, if getting the freezer from its original home to its new home requires tilting it or turning it on its side, there IS a risk of ruining the compressor. To reduce the risk, minimize the time that the unit spends in a compromised position, and, once it’s settled in its new home, wait for six to twenty-four hours before plugging it in to give the coolant time to resettle.
*A deep freezer maintains a temperature of less than 0° F (actual temp varies by model and setting), while the freezer compartment of a refrigerator usually hovers right around 0° F.