Buying Guide

Best Freezers for Your Home

How to Choose the Best Freezer for Your Needs
A woman opening a sliding drawer in the bottom half of an upright freezer.

Freezers are useful and long-lasting home appliances. To help decide which type of freezer to buy, consider these features:

Freezer Capacity

Your food storage needs can determine the best freezer for your home. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need 1.5 cubic feet of space per person. Using this formula, a family of four would need at least a six cubic foot freezer. You may find the best freezer for your home will have an even larger capacity if you want to freeze food for emergency situations or if you buy a side of beef or other large amounts of meat at one time. Also, gardeners may want extra freezer space for storing the fruits and vegetables they grow. 

Freezers with Double Doors

Freezers with two side-by-side doors, or double doors, are attractive and functional. Two doors allow you to access one side of the freezer at a time, which cuts down on the loss of cold air and saves energy. Two narrow doors can also save space if you need to place your freezer in a small area. 

Auto Defrost Freezers

Also called frost-free or frostless, these types of freezers prevent a build-up of ice and frost. They work by using internal coils that periodically heat and cool, so ice doesn’t have  a chance to accumulate. Auto-defrost freezers usually cost more upfront than manual defrost models, but for most people, this time and labor-saving feature is worth the price. 


Manual Defrost Freezers

Manual defrost freezers require you to remove all the food a couple of times each year to allow accumulated ice to melt. Otherwise, the build-up of frost and ice can reduce the freezer's efficiency and use more energy. You'll need to put old towels or shallow pans at the bottom of the freezer to catch the melted water. You'll also need to temporarily store your foods somewhere else to keep them frozen until you can put them back in place. Manual defrost freezers typically cost less upfront than auto defrost models and use less energy.

Best Freezers for a Garage

Many people use a chest freezer in a garage that can accommodate its larger footprint. However, a freezer kept in an unheated garage may not cool properly, because the compressor may not be prompted to come on often enough or to come on at all. If the temperature in the freezer eventually becomes the same as the temperature in the unheated garage, some of the items stored inside may not stay frozen. For example, the recommended temperature inside a freezer is zero degrees F. If the outside temperature is above zero and the garage freezer temperature is also above zero, foods like ice cream will not stay frozen. Harmful bacteria can also grow on some foods. 

On the other hand, If the air in the unheated garage is too cold, frost can form on the outside of the freezer and the insulation layer. When the ice freezes and thaws, it can cause damage, making the freezer work harder.

If you want to keep a freezer in an unheated garage, look for one labeled “garage ready” or one that the manufacturer has designed to operate safely in garage conditions.

Compact or Small Freezer

A compact or small freezer is ideal for households that don’t store a lot of frozen foods. A small portable freezer can also be a great alternative to an ice chest, because it will keep foods at low temperatures for longer periods of time. Small and compact freezers that plug in or run on batteries are available.

Energy Efficient Freezers

Look for a freezer with an Energy Star rating, which indicates a model that uses an average of 10 percent less energy than a standard freezer. An Energy Star means it meets the U.S. government’s standards for saving energy and reducing impact on the environment.

Interior Lights

Lights inside a freezer make it easier to see what’s stored there.

Drawers, Baskets and Bins

Drawers that slide out on racks, removable baskets, bins and other storage options make it easy to organize and see your frozen foods. They also allow you to rotate them periodically, so you can use older foods before newer ones. 

Chest Freezers
A chest freezer sitting beside a plant stand and a bench in a mud room.

Chest freezers open from the top and hold more food per square foot than uprights. They are usually less expensive upfront, but they take up more floor space. They can come with shelves, baskets, bins and/or sliding drawers that can be used to organize foods. Chest freezers may be the best freezers for shoppers who are budget-minded and need large amounts of storage space.

Most chest freezers require manual defrosting, although some are available with auto defrost. Chest freezers are more energy efficient than uprights, and their doors seal tighter, so food stays cold for longer periods of time during power outages. 

Upright Freezers
An upright freezer beside a tool chest and a storage rack in a garage.

An upright freezer looks and opens like a basic refrigerator. Most have adjustable shelves, pull-out bins and baskets and/or storage drawers that make it easy to see your foods, organize them and rotate them, so you can use up older foods before you store new ones. They are less efficient than chest freezers because every time you open the door, cold air comes out and sinks to the floor. The freezer then has to make more cold air to replace it.

Upright freezers can be auto or manual defrost. An upright freezer with auto-defrost will use more energy than a comparable manual defrost model and usually costs more upfront. The convenience is worth the price difference to many people.

Upright freezers take up less floor space than chest type freezers. To choose the best upright freezer size for your home, consider where you'll put it. Measure the space to be sure it can accommodate the freezer's height, width and depth, adding at least one inch to the depth. Also check to see which way the freezer door opens, so it has room to clear.

Portable Freezers
A portable freezer with a camouflage design and camping gear in the bed of a pickup truck.

Portable freezers may have wheels, or they can be small enough to carry from one place to another. These freezers are useful for businesses or households that need to store relatively small amounts of frozen foods. Some portables can be used outdoors when you’re camping, fishing, hunting or entertaining around a pool. 

Commercial Freezers
A row of single-door and multiple-door commercial freezers on wheels sitting side-by-side.

Commercial freezers are available with storage capacities up to 72 cubic feet and over, and they come in upright or chest styles. Some have multiple doors and/or see-through doors or lids, so you can easily take stock of what's inside. They may be manual or auto defrost models.

Freezer Comparison Table
chest freezers
upright freezers
portable freezers
commercial freezers
Description Capacity 5.0 - 25.0 cu. ft. Capacity 5.0 - 21.0 cu. ft. Capacity 3.18 cu. ft. or less Capacity 72 cu. ft. or more
Feature/Benefits Chest freezers open from the top. They hold more per square foot than uprights. Less expensive upfront than an upright model Uses less energy than an upright Good for storing large amounts of food Stores big and bulky packages easily They open like a standard refrigerator. Many are auto-defrost. Most have adjustable shelves, bins and drawers for easy access and organization. They have a smaller footprint than chest models. Wheeled designs make portables easy to move. They are true freezers, not ice chests. They're good for small spaces, recreational use and car trips. They have a lot of storage space. Some have two or more doors. Some have see-through lids or doors. Many have adjustable shelves, drawers or bins. They're available with manual or auto defrost. They're available as chest or upright models. They can store large amounts of food and big packages.
Other Considerations They take up more floor space than uprights. Many have adjustable shelves, baskets and drawers. They're more expensive than chest models. They use more energy than chest models. They can run on AC or DC power. Models with rechargeable batteries require a charging source. They're usually more expensive than residential models. They use more energy than residential models.
Where to Put a Freezer and How to Use It
A woman putting frozen food in a wire basket in a chest freezer.

Avoid putting a freezer too close to a heat source, such as near an oven, clothes dryer or window with direct sunlight. These will make it work harder to keep the temperature constant and will increase your utility bills.

Don’t buy a freezer that's bigger than you need. A partially-empty freezer has to work harder than one that's full. Keep it at least two-thirds full of frozen foods or use bags of ice or plastic jugs filled with water to take up more space.

Consider putting a chest freezer near your garage door, so you can easily unload frozen foods when you drive in. Be sure the lid will open without hitting anything.

Freezer FAQs
  • How long do freezers last?

    Most can last 14 to 17 years, but as an appliance gets older, it’s more likely to need repairs. A freezer that suddenly stops working can leave you with foods that spoil if they’re not used or re-frozen quickly and with melting ice to clean up. On average, a freezer lasts about 16 years. Fortunately, new models use less energy than older ones, so a replacement can save money over the long run. Energy recommends replacing freezers made before 1993 because they’re not considered energy efficient.

  • What is a good size freezer?

    Freezers come in small or compact, medium and large sizes. Estimate the size you need by multiplying the number of people in your household by 1.5 cubic feet per person.

  • Are frost-free freezers better?

    With a frost-free or auto-defrost freezer, you won’t have to spend time or effort defrosting your appliance, removing and replacing the food inside and cleaning up melted ice. However, your upfront cost will probably be higher and a frost-free freezer will use more energy. For most people, the cost difference is worth it.

  • What is the difference between a freezer and a deep freezer?

    The original deep freezers were appliances used by various industries to freeze foods to a core temperature of -18 degrees Celsius within one hour. Today, a “deep freezer” usually refers to a chest freezer that opens horizontally.

  • Which is better, a chest or an upright freezer?

    If you want to save money upfront and on ongoing utility bills, a chest model may be the best freezer for you. If you want to conveniently store and organize foods in an appliance that fits in a limited space, an upright freezer may be your best choice.

The best freezer for your home is one that fits your available space and holds as much food as you need to store. A chest freezer takes up more floor space, but usually costs less upfront and uses less energy. An upright freezer is more convenient for organizing foods but typically costs more upfront and uses more energy.

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