Are you having freezer defrosting woes? A frost-free freezer could be the solution you need.
It’s true that all modern freezers can be defrosted in some way. However, there are important differences between frost-free freezers and manual defrost types.
For some people, a frost-free freezer makes life much easier. You’ll avoid the buildup of frost and the yearly hassle of removing it.
But there are also a few drawbacks that you should know about before you buy one. To decide which style of freezer is right for your lifestyle, you first need to understand the differences between them.
Once you have a handle on how both types of freezers work, you will be better able to choose one that will fit your needs.
What is Freezer Frost?
People who own old or inexpensive freezer styles are often very familiar with freezer frost. To defrost some freezers, you have to manually scrape out the buildup of frost, which can make a frost-free style very enticing.
However, you can choose the right freezer solution more easily if you know a little more about freezer frost and where it comes from.
The frost that builds up on the sides of a freezer comes from moisture in the air. When the moisture reaches a low enough temperature, it sticks to the coldest nearby surface, which tends to be the sides of your freezer or the built-in ice maker.
Where does the moisture come from, though? It generally gets inside when you open the freezer door. However, if the gasket that seals the freezer doesn’t work well, it might leak, allowing water to get in.
The food in your freezer is also a source of moisture. If you store food that’s not wrapped or packaged well, the moisture will gradually work its way out and move toward the coldest part of the freezer. In fact, freezer frost is closely related to freezer burn: when air can reach the food, and moisture seeps out, you end up with freezer burn.
Why Defrosting Your Freezer Matters
Unless they’re designed to be frost-free, freezers naturally build up frost over time. There’s no way to completely prevent moisture from entering, although you can take steps to keep it to a minimum.
However, what’s so bad about a little bit of frost? After all, it’s just water, right?
The purpose of freezing food is to make it last longer. Freezing temperatures keep the microbes that make food decay from growing. In fact, as long as you avoid freezer burn and keep the temperature low enough, frozen food can stay good “indefinitely.”
However, a freezer doesn’t stay exactly at freezing all the time, which is why the things inside can still eventually go bad. Every time you open the door, the temperature varies a bit, and other conditions that lead to frost buildup, like a faulty gasket, also affect the temperature.
As frost builds up thanks to the clash of warm and cold air, you’ll start to lose space in your freezer to the walls of ice. However, your freezer will also become less efficient thanks to the buildup of frost.
Defrosting your freezer, whether you do it manually or with a frost-free option, is critical for making your food last. You want your freezer to help you save time and money by storing food for you, so you’ll need to take steps to make sure it runs well.
As a general rule, you should defrost your freezer at least once a year, or when the frost buildup exceeds ¼-inch thickness. You’ll need to take everything out of the freezer (which might mean throwing some things away) and either scrape away the ice or let it melt.
However, a frost-free freezer means you won’t have to do this work. Is it worth it? Let’s take a look.
What’s a Frost-Free Freezer?
Most of today’s new freezers are frost-free styles. However, some people have noticed issues with the frost-free design, and it may not be the best choice for everyone.
A frost-free freezer keeps frost away by letting the temperature go up once a day, to 32 degrees instead of the standard 0 degrees. However, in order for your food to stay good indefinitely, it has to stay at or below 0 degrees. When the temperature is going up regularly, even though it’s still “frozen,” your food doesn’t last as long.
The rising temperature of a frost-free design keeps your food below freezing but is warm enough to keep moisture in the air from condensing into ice. Instead, that moisture is collected and siphoned away from the freezer. You won’t get a buildup of frost - but you’re more likely to have freezer-burned food. The consistent, fluctuating temperature allows more moisture to leave your food.
If you freeze large quantities of food and want to keep it for a long time, a frost-free freezer won’t work well. However, you might still decide to use a frost-free freezer for everyday items and invest in a traditional deep freezer with no temperature fluctuations for things you want to freeze in the long term.
Pros and Cons of Frost-Free Freezers
Still not sure if the frost-free option is right for you? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.
Frost-Free Freezer Price Range
An upright frost-free freezer (a standard choice for home freezers) will cost about $500 on the low end, and up to $1,000 for a fancier model. An under-counter frost-free freezer is more expensive, at about $1,500 to $2,000, but most families won’t need to make that kind of investment.
It's rare to find mini-freezers with frost-free designs since they're small and easy to defrost. However, you can find some small frost-free chest freezers for under $500.
Traditional freezers cost less but are also hard to find new. If you decide to go the traditional freezer route, you’ll likely save even more by buying a used model. However, you’ll also have to face the fact that your used freezer likely won’t last as long - as well as doing the yearly manual defrost.
2018’s Top Frost-Free Freezers
If you decide to buy frost-free, how can you make the right choice? Here are our top models for the year.
How we reviewed
These are the factors we used when putting together this list of top frost-free freezers.
This Frigidaire model is our number-one pick for upright frost-free designs. It nicely balances size and value on Amazon. It has some of the best reviews of any frost-free models and has all the major features you’re looking for.
This freezer offers more than 20 cubic feet of storage space, making it larger than most frost-free freezers on the market. However, it’s less expensive than other, similarly sized freezers.
Since it’s upright, it doesn’t take up much space, and it’s easier to keep it organized than a chest-style freezer.
The features that make this freezer ideal include adjustable legs and a safety lock. It also has a power “on” light so you can see whether or not it’s working without opening the door.
This model is also quite efficient, so your energy bills won’t go up as much as with other models. Frigidaire is known for making reliable appliances that last a long time, so you can enjoy this freezer for years to come.
Kenmore Elite 27002
The included delivery and hookup makes the price even sweeter. This fridge also does a better job at keeping food fresh than some frost-free designs: it runs at a standard -20 degrees.
Use the “soft freeze zone” for things like ice cream that you don’t want to be frozen too hard. The built-in LED lights make it so you’ll never have to dig around in the dark for a specific frozen item again.
If 20 cubic feet sounds like a little too much, you’ll want to check out this smaller freezer design, with a capacity of 13.8 cubic feet. This model starts at on Amazon, so it’s also more affordable than the two varieties above.
Since it’s on the smaller side, this freezer is a great choice for pantries or small kitchens. You’ll still be able to store a lot of food in here, so this is an ideal design for couples or small families.
Looking to squeeze a frost-free fridge and freezer into an even smaller space? Then you’ll love this 8.8-cubic-foot design from Summit.
It has one of the smallest freezer footprints you’ll find, with a slender 22-inch width. This is a great design for small studio apartments or space-crunched kitchens.
The adjustable shelves, crisper, and other organizational elements make it easy for you to find exactly what you’re looking for inside. The sleek stainless steel exterior also gives a lovely, modern look to any kitchen.
At $676.99 on Amazon, this isn’t the most budget-friendly option. However, if you’re working with a small space, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better fit than this freezer.
If you want a more affordable frost-free fridge and freezer combo, you’ll be glad to hear that this Danby model is available at a very affordable price. Although it doesn’t offer the tiny footprint of the Summit design, this 10-cubic-foot freezer gives you a bit more space. Use the electronic controls to easily operate the fridge and freezer’s settings.
The best frost-free freezer for you depends on what you’re looking for. You can easily find these freezers in upright and fridge-and-freezer combo designs.
If you want an under-counter model, you’ll have to spend more, while you can save some money with a smaller chest freezer. However, the upright style works best for most people.
Whether or not you choose a frost-free freezer is all a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer the ease of avoiding manual defrost, while others don’t want to risk wasting food with fluctuating temperatures.
No matter what, if you’re set on getting a frost-free freezer, the designs on this list won’t let you down.
Do you think a frost-free freezer is right for you, or are you happy to defrost a traditional freezer instead? Leave a comment and let us know!