Buying a freezer? Our test results and buying guide will help you make the right choice.
We've tested 4 chest freezers, and we also explain what to look for when buying a chest or vertical model and provide tips for getting the best out of your freezer.
Note: if you're after a combination fridge-freezer, see our separate Fridge-freezers report.
Models we tested
For test results for combination fridge-freezers see our separate Fridge-freezers report.
About our test
- Temperature performance: We check how well the freezer maintains even temperatures. We also check how it copes with ambient temperature change – and whether the freezer allows a good range of temperature choices and the controls’ mid setting gives an appropriate temperature.
- Energy efficiency: We check energy use and comparative energy efficiency of the models.
- Cool-down: We measure how long it takes to cool the air in an empty freezer, from when it’s switched on until it reaches -13°C in a warm temperature-controlled room.
- Insulation efficiency: This gives an indication of how the freezer would perform in a power-cut. First the freezers are switched off in a room with an ambient temperature of 32°C. The test starts when the freezer temperature is -15°C and ends when it gets to -5°C. The longer this takes, the better.
- Ease of use: We assess storage, access and general versatility, ease of cleaning, and how easy the controls are to use.
Here's what you should consider before you buy a freezer.
Chest or vertical?
Size and shape
A chest freezer is best for maximum storage capacity as they are available in sizes up to 700 litres. But a 700 litre chest freezer occupies a lot of floor space.
We don't know of any really large vertical freezers - 389 litres seems as big as you can get. If you want a pigeon pair - identical, but separate fridge and freezer - in your kitchen, vertical models are your only choice.
Vertical freezers are usually more convenient to use because you don't have to dig down through the layers of frozen food. Smaller chest freezers can be very awkward to use once packets get buried at the bottom.
Chest freezers are not frost-free so you have to defrost from time to time. If you don't open the lid too much or leave it up for too long, ice build up is slow, and defrosting once a year is usually enough. Look for a model with a drain bung at the front, so you can easily drain off the melt-water. Drain bungs with spouts help minimise spills. The drain should be high enough to fit a suitable container underneath. This makes defrosting easier.
Cold air falls (just as hot air rises), so as soon as you open the door of a vertical freezers all that lovely freezing air flows out. When the lid of a chest freezer is opened, cold air does not flow out, and not a lot of warm air will usually flow in. This helps make chest freezers more energy efficient than vertical freezers once door and lid opening is taken into account.
Frost-free freezer technology also uses more energy, which gives chest freezers a further advantage.
Size for size, a cyclic type chest freezer can use 25 percent less energy than a frost-free vertical model. The new star rating system takes this into account, and most vertical freezers have fewer stars than similar sized chest freezers. It's worth comparing the energy use figures on the label or checking the Australian Greenhouse Office website which has a 10 year running cost calculator.
Shelves, drawers, baskets and partitions
Vertical freezers are available with shelves or drawers. Shelves allow you to open the door and immediately see what's there. But check how movable they are, and whether they have lips to stop food falling out at the front, sides and back when you do move them.
Sliding drawers may take up more potential storage space than shelves, but they make it easier to access food: check they slide smoothly. Some have opaque fronts, so you'd probably need to label what's in them to make finding things easier. Drawers with a solid front also make the storage area more enclosed, so less cold air escapes when you open the door.
Baskets or partitions in a chest freezer help you organise the freezer for later retrieval of long-lost leftovers.
Check where they're located and if they're easy to understand and adjust. Some need a coin or small screwdriver to change the setting.
Some freezers come with soft, thin aluminium liners. Look for heavy-duty liners that won’t dent easily.
A light under the lid of a chest freezer can make finding items easier.
Buying second hand
New freezers are more energy efficient - so if you're buying second hand, newer is better.
- Only buy if the freezer looks tidy and well cared for.
- Check the lid or door seal is intact and the door or lid shuts properly.
- Under the Electricity Act, all electrical appliances for sale must be safe – whether they're new or second-hand, bought privately or from a dealer.
- If you buy from a second-hand dealer and then discover the freezer’s faulty, you're covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. If you buy privately, you're not.
- Keep the door or lid shut! It sounds obvious, but time is critical for excluding warmth and moisture from the inside. Some models have an alarm light which comes on when the freezer door is not properly shut. Ideally, the alarm should be easy to access - some alarms are poorly positioned beneath the freezer door so as to not be visible from a normal standing position.
- If your freezer is nearly empty, put in some plastic bottles, three-quarters filled with water. This will reduce temperature variation within the compartment, and prevent the temperature from dropping sharply when the door is opened.
- The coldest part of a chest freezer tends to be on the compressor step; the coldest part of an upright tends to be the top shelf. Keep long-term storage items here.
- Moisture-proof packaging such as plastic containers, thick plastic bags and aluminium foil will preserve food quality by preventing dehydration and oxidation.
- Some freezers have a "fast-freeze" function, to ensure the rapid freezing of freshly loaded food. Remember to turn it off after a few hours, or running costs will be higher and constant noise could be a problem.
- A freezer should be -18°C or below. Slightly warmer (no higher than -15°C) can still be OK and it'll make ice cream more scoopable, but food quality and storage times are likely to be affected. Its best to keep your freezer properly cold and store ice cream in the warmest part: the bottom of an upright and the top of a chest.
- Large temperature fluctuations can compromise food quality. One sign of this is if your ice cream develops crystals on the top - that means it's thawed a bit and refrozen. This will affect its texture and taste, and may well affect the quality of other foods too.
- A freezer needs to be able to cope with extreme temperatures because they're often kept outside the house. Freezers are designed to cope with ambient temperatures ranging from 10°C to 43°C. However, if your freezer is in a garage or shed, temperatures can easily get lower or higher than this, making it difficult to maintain the set internal temperature. It's best to use a thermometer to check, especially when the outside temperature changes significantly.
- Ideally, you shouldn't load a freezer with food that's at room temperature; cool it first so it doesn't affect the food already in the freezer.