It can be exciting to take advantage of a big sale and buy in bulk. What do you do, though, with all of those extras when your refrigerator and freezer are practically bursting? An upright or chest freezer can provide the space you need for those frozen pizzas, ice cream, homemade soup and casseroles that either won’t fit in your fridge or won’t stay fresh long unless they’re frozen.
When choosing a freezer you will want to take into account the amount of bulk food you buy and how much space you will need to store it. A big consideration will be deciding whether a chest freezer or an upright works best for you. They each have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Factors like the size of your family, if you have small children, how much money you want to spend and how much space you have available all come into play.
Chest vs. Upright Freezers
Chest and upright freezers are the two most popular types of freezers. One of the most basic considerations when deciding between the two is the space you have available to store it in. An upright freezer has a much smaller footprint than a chest freezer. An upright freezer is, of course, much taller, so if you have a tight space with a low ceiling, the width of your space may be the biggest consideration. Because of their ability to fit in awkward spaces, chest freezers may be the best freezer for certain garages. Chest freezers are also well suited for a garage’s fluctuating temperatures, since they maintain extremely low temperatures.
You can pack more food into a chest freezer than an upright since chest freezers generally consist of a large open space with one or two baskets to hold smaller food items that you want easy access to. However, food is much easier to access in an upright freezer. Most upright freezers can self-defrost, saving you the trouble of relocating your frozen food. A chest freezer will require that you defrost manually, but there is less risk for freezer burn as long as you have a safe place for your food when you defrost.
Best for Energy Conservation
With the need for a constant flow of electricity to operate, freezers aren’t the most environmentally friendly machines on the planet. A freezer doesn’t have to be Energy Star certified to be energy efficient, but it helps. You want a freezer that has relatively low annual energy consumption, which is safer for the environment and often translates into lower annual energy costs. The Amana AZF33X16DW is an upright freezer that is Energy Star certified, and it has a unique design with insulated walls, that lock in cold air and improves the freezer’s energy performance. The Kenmore 12502 is a chest freezer that has a below-average energy consumption and costs an estimated $26 a year to operate, which is fairly typical of chest freezers.
The Amana AZF33X16DW, with its capacity of 16 cubic feet, offers plenty of room for those items that won’t fit in the freezer above your fridge. When you open the door, this Amana upright freezer uses incandescent lighting rather than LED lighting. Incandescent lighting is warmer, but it generates more greenhouse gas emissions than LEDs. However, it has other features that help conserve energy.
Best for Families With Small Children
Especially if you have small children, finding the right-sized freezer with a child lock or an alarm is a good idea. You’ll want a freezer that has a big enough capacity for your family’s needs but is compact enough to fit into whatever space you have available in the garage, basement or other area of your house. The GE FUF14DHRWW and the Midea WHS-258C1 chest freezer are two of the best freezers for people with small children. They each have child locks, which is an especially rare feature for a chest freezer. The GE’s temperature controls are inside the freezer, which is somewhat inconvenient but also makes it harder for children to reach.
The General Electric FUF14DHRWW is an upright freezer that will free up space in your existing freezer and store the foods your family loves to eat. This freezer has a lower capacity than many in our guide with just 13.8 cubic feet of space. Nonetheless, it makes the most of its internal space with pullout baskets that are great for storing bulky items like turkeys and hams, preventing them from falling out of the freezer when you open the door. The wide-swinging doors make it easy to access your food. It is smaller than other freezers in our lineup, but it still has substantial depth. This compact freezer is well suited for individuals or small families.
Best for Big Families
If you have a big family you’re obviously going to want a large-capacity freezer with plenty of space to store a wide variety and a large quantity of frozen foods. Having a child lock on your freezer is a bonus that will allow you to monitor your children’s access to it. Child locks are an unusual feature for chest freezers and uncommon among upright freezers. If the freezer doesn’t have a child lock, it is good to have a freezer with an alarm, which will let you know the door has been left open when the temperature dips. The Magic Chef HMCF7W2 and the Frigidaire FFFH17F2QW are both large capacity freezers. The Frigidaire also has a child lock that automatically ejects the key so you won’t leave it behind.
The Frigidaire FFFH17F2QW is an Energy Star-qualified upright freezer with 16.6 cubic feet of space. That provides plenty of room to store the frozen pizzas, turkeys, desserts, veggies and dinners you can’t fit in the little box over the fridge. This upright freezer offers energy-friendly features such as frost-free operation and exterior temperature controls, so you don't waste energy adjusting the freezer's temperature by having to open the freezer door.
There is one characteristic about the Magic Chef HMCF7W2 chest freezer that is indisputable – it offers more storage space for your food than any other product in our lineup. With a roomy 6.9 cubic feet of interior space, this freezer gives you room for some serious food storage. To illustrate its size, this freezer can handle 420 pints of ice cream. It stores more food than any other chest freezer in our buying guide.
Best for Deep Freeze
Most freezers have low settings that dip well below 0, and some go lower than others; having the option of locking in freshness and flavor by setting the freezer temperature extremely low is a nice option. Many upright and chest freezers have a fast freeze option which will quickly drop the temperature of the freezer to its lowest setting, sometimes even below that. This is a great feature if you have ice cream or other frozen foods that have been sitting in the car for a while on the way home from the store. The Danby DCF055A1WDB1 has a low temperature of -11.2 degrees and an outside temperature dial that lets you adjust the temperature without losing cold air. The Whirlpool WZF56R16DW is an upright freezer with a fast freeze feature that drops the freezer to 10 degrees below its lowest setting, to chill food fast and keep it fresh.
The Whirlpool WZF56R16DW is a relatively compact 15.7-cubic-foot upright freezer with some nice temperature control features and enough space to store the food you can’t fit in the little box above your fridge. It has five spacious door shelves, three freezer shelves and a space for big meat like turkey and ham in the bottom. The bottom space has a built-in storage gate to prevent those oversized items from sliding out when you open the door.
The Danby DCF055A1WDB1 is a spacious chest freezer that can hold plenty of frozen meats, vegetables, pizzas, ice cream and ice. With a spacious storage area of 5.5 cubic feet, the Danby chest freezer holds an ample supply of frozen foods. To give you an idea of what that means, this freezer's interior could hold about 336 pints of ice cream, which is more than most small chest freezers.
Freezers vary quite a bit in price. Chest freezers tend to be less expensive than the equivalent upright models. The chest freezers we looked at range from less than $200 to just over $400. The upright freezers start at around $450 with high-end prices of more than $900. The trick is finding the affordable freezers that have the features you need. You can buy the upright Maytag MXF34X16DW for less than $500. It has a reversible door, which gives you the flexibility of orienting the door to open to the left or the right, according to your available space. The Haier HF50CM23NW is a compact chest freezer with plenty of storage space and a price tag under $200.
The Maytag MXF34X16DW is an upright freezer with a compact design that maximizes internal space. It has five full-length door shelves with plenty of space for storing your favorite frozen food that you want easy access to. The bottom shelf has a built-in storage gate to hold food like turkey, ham and other large items in place so they don’t slide out when you open the door. It has three shelves that are adjustable so you can configure your freezer space in a way that works best for you.
The Haier HF50CM23NW has a spacious interior that lets you organize food in a way that works for you. You can use the storage basket in this chest freezer to separate the things you use the most from the items that can stay in the freezer for months. Further, the basket is removable, which helps quite a bit with cleaning when it's time to defrost your freezer.
What We Evaluated, What We Found
When you make any big purchase, you want to make sure you get the one that’s right for your needs. One of the most important factors goes beyond the initial price of the appliance. You want to choose a freezer that costs only a small amount each year to operate and consumes very little energy. In fact, the best chest and freestanding freezers are Energy Star certified, which means that the manufacturer participates in the energy efficiency program developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. We thoroughly researched chest and upright freezers that are comparable to each other in cost and storage space and calculated how much, on average per year, it would cost you to run them.
You should also measure the space you plan to place your freezer and then compare your measurements to the dimensions in our buying guide reviews. Keep in mind that you need to leave a few inches around the appliance for air clearance. You’ll need enough space above the freezer to lift the lid if it’s a chest freezer or to open the door wide if it’s an upright freezer. Taking the time to measure the intended space for your freezer and knowing the freezer's dimensions assures quick and painless installation. Manufacturers suggest a certain number of inches of air clearance to help the unit operate more efficiently; otherwise, your freezer’s compressor may work overtime to keep your food frozen.
What Else Is Important When Choosing a Freezer?
In addition to important considerations like cost and features, there are certain specifications you will want to consider before deciding which freezer to purchase. Some considerations, like where to store the freezer, will be dependent on environmental factors that vary depending on where you live.
Because freezers are often located in rooms that are not as insulated as your home's interior, you should consider carefully where the best location is for your upright freezer. In some locations, you may be able to store it outside. Ideally, you want to put it in a cool, dry place in your home. If you live in a very cold climate, you may not be able to keep your chest freezer in your garage, because the system requires that coolant boil by a combination of pressure and heat, and if exterior temperatures are too cold, the freezer may stop working.
If you decide to place your freezer in your garage, consider the fluctuation in temperatures it will experience during summer and winter months. Placing the freezer against a west-facing wall in your garage is not a good choice as heat from the sun will collect in the garage, forcing the freezer to work harder. This uses more energy and increases your power bill. Conversely, if outside temperatures dip below freezing during the winters where you live, this can be hard on the freezer's internal parts and components.
Most of the freezers come with a limited one-year parts and labor warranty that will replace defective parts, but some go beyond that. For instance, the Maytag MXF34X16DW also has a 10-year limited parts warranty on the compressor, and the Haier HF50CM23NW has a five-year sealed system warranty. Some manufacturers also offer extended warranties that you can pay extra for.
Refrigerators optimize the lifespan of food by storing it at safe, low temperatures. Unfortunately, they usually don't come with much freezer space, and you can quickly run out of space, especially when you're trying to store items like frozen meats, pizzas and ice cream. Investing in an upright or chest freezer is a wise choice, especially if you have a large family or just need extra cold food storage space. In our buying guide, you will find informative reviews for top manufacturers like Amana, Kenmore, Frigidaire and Whirlpool.
Contributing Reviewer: Noel Case