Buyer’s Guide: Chest Freezers
Need to keep large amounts of food in cold storage? Get the 411 on chest freezers before you start shopping.
Whether you have a large family to feed, do a lot of hunting or fishing, or simply tend to grocery-shop in bulk, a chest freezer—which offers additional cold storage to the freezer in your overstuffed kitchen fridge—can be a wise purchase. While you can spend as much as $1,000 on an upright version slightly smaller than a fridge, most consumers opt for a horizontal model with a hinged door on top (like a treasure chest), which will cost less than $600 and be more energy-efficient to boot.
Considering that the United States Department of Agriculture estimates Americans waste $161 billion in food each year, why not find out if a chest freezer is the secret to saving more money on your monthly groceries? Read on for an overview of points to consider, and once you have your priorities you can check out our top three picks for the best chest freezer.
Understand the Savings
As hinted at earlier on, chest freezers tend to be more energy-efficient than their upright counterparts for two reasons. For starters, gravity helps keep a horizontal door sealed tighter, leaving less room for air leakage and ensuring greater efficiency. But mainly you save because chest freezers generally don’t have automatic defrost. That function, which periodically turns off the appliance and melts any accumulated frost, uses extra electricity every time it runs through a cycle. Chest freezers require manual defrosting—meaning you’ll occasionally turn yours off, leave the door open, and let warm air circulate through its interior for an hour or two, then wipe up any melted frost and be back in business.
When shopping, be sure to check each model’s energy rating. Adjusting for differences in capacity, the one that costs the least to run per year is the best buy.
The capacity of most chest freezers ranges between 5 and 20 cubic feet. One cubic foot can hold about 35 pounds of cut and wrapped meat; bone-in takes up more space because of its irregular shape. It’s not worth running a freezer that won’t hold everything you need, and you don’t want to waste space with something too big, either. So figure out how much you’ll keep in your freezer. Don’t forget to factor in times of the year when you tend to have the most food—around the holidays or after hunting season, perhaps. Take inventory of what you’ll be storing and then do the math to determine what capacity suits best.
Make Sense of Size
Most chest freezers run between 2 and 4 feet wide, and between 3 and 6 feet long. Since you clearly can’t wedge a 5-foot-by-3-foot appliance into a 4-foot-by-3-foot clearing in your basement, you’ll need to measure your available space and make sure your chest of choice will fit. Measure the space where you intend to put the appliance, as well as such spaces as doorway width to ensure you can get the freezer into the spot.
Chest freezers tend to be no-frills appliances, but some models offer worthwhile features. Storage bins, for instance, allow you to sort items while an interior light helps you see what you’ve got in there. And a lock will keep nosy parkers out of your frozen fodder. These extras are generally worth a slightly higher price if you’ll be accessing the chest on a regular basis, it’s kept in a dark area, and/or theft is a concern.
FAN FAVORITES: 3 Picks for the Best Chest Freezer
Hoping to stock and store a surplus of groceries so that less of your food goes to waste? Start your search for the best chest freezer, based on consumer reviews, expert opinions, and the shopping criteria outlined above.
Whirlpool WZC3122DW Chest Freezer ($599)
The expert reviewers at The Spruce chose this Whirlpool model as the best overall chest freezer of 2017 for capacity, energy efficiency, and extra features. Offering 21.7 cubic feet of space, this chest has beastly measurements spanning more than 5 feet in length and almost 3 feet in width. Bells and whistles include a trio of storage bins, an interior light, and an exterior lock and temperature control knob. This extra large capacity, manual defrost freezer costs around $42 to run a year. Available at Home Depot.
GE 10.6 cu-ft Chest Freezer ($359)
This midsized chest freezer from GE is a hit with Lowe’s shoppers, around 500 of whom give it a cool 5 stars. The 10.6 cubic foot manual defrost model is Energy Star certified for its phenomenally low yearly cost to run: $29 on average. With three sliding storage baskets, adjustable temperature control, interior light, exterior power light, and external lock, it’s got all the extras and it spans just over 4 feet by 2 feet. Available at Lowe’s.
Midea WHS-129C1 3.5 cu-ft Chest Freezer ($359)
On the smaller end of the scale, Amazon shoppers love the Midea 3.5 cubic foot chest freezer for its tiny footprint and its reliability. Clocking in at just under 2-foot-by-3-foot, this diminutive model gets high marks from short-statured owners who appreciate the easy reach to the bottom. The manual defrost freezer comes with a hanging wire basket and adjustable thermostat, and costs $32 per year to run. Available on Amazon.