What is a Deep Freezer and How Does it Work?

April 25, 2023
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All About Deep Freezers

A deep freezer is a standalone appliance with a sole purpose: freeze food at low temperatures for extended periods of time in an energy efficient manner.

They usually maintain a temperature around 0 °F - well below the freezing point of 32 °F . They’re able to provide you with additional frozen food storage beyond the freezer compartment in your fridge freezer.

Having a deep freezer in your home allows you to free up storage space in your fridge freezer and provides long term storage of frozen items up to a year.

This is especially helpful when making meals, storing dinners like soups and stews that are already made, or just buying food in bulk.

Types of Deep Freezers

The two types of deep freezers are upright freezers and chest freezers. Each is discussed in detail below.

Chest Freezers

Chest freezers are a popular type of deep freezer with a horizontal orientation, typically having a large storage capacity. They have a top-opening lid and offer efficient insulation, as the cold air stays inside when the lid is opened.

They offer a bit of energy efficiency over upright freezers as cool air is denser than warm air and tends to stay in place when you open a chest freezer. The upright freezer is more prone to warm air displacing cold air when you open the door. This can result in higher energy costs for upright freezers and potentially better long term food preservation.

The layout of a chest freezer is also a bit more conducive for storing oblong or irregularly shaped food items than an upright freezer. A chest freezer offers a large open space to store food items.

Chest freezers are generally more energy efficient but it can be difficult to bend over to store and retrieve frozen food when compared to an upright freezer

Some advantages of chest freezers include:

  • Ability to accommodate larger or bulky packaged food items
  • Greater storage space due to lack of shelving (although shelving options are available)
  • Potentially lower energy consumption

However, chest freezers also come with some drawbacks:

  • Larger floor space requirement
  • Shelves aren't as helpful as with an upright freezer, making organization more of a challenge
  • You will have to bend over to retrieve food items
  • It may be more difficult to locate certain food items when compared to an upright freezer
  • Most chest freezers are manual defrost - this requires you to periodically remove all food items and unplug the freezer to remove ice buildup within your chest freezer

Upright Freezers

On the other hand, upright freezers resemble standard refrigerators in their vertical orientation, with front-opening doors and internal shelves or drawers. This design allows for easier organization and access to your frozen items.

Some benefits of upright freezers include:

  • Easier organization and access to items
  • Smaller footprint, occupying less floor space
  • Integration of adjustable shelves, drawers, or compartments
  • Many upright freezers are auto defrost - which allows you to avoid the headache of manually defrosting your freezer

However, there are some drawbacks to consider:

  • Potentially higher energy consumption due to less efficient insulation
  • Less storage capacity than chest freezers

As you can see, both chest and upright freezers have their unique features and benefits. Your choice will depend on your storage needs, space constraints, and personal preferences.

Consumer Reports provides a good overview of the pros and cons of both chest and upright freezers

How Does a Deep Freezer Work?

Refrigeration Cycle

The refrigeration cycle is the backbone of a deep freezer's functioning. It relies on the following key components: the evaporator, compressor, condenser, and expansion valve.

  • Evaporator: This is where the cooling process begins. It absorbs heat from the air inside the freezer, causing the refrigerant to evaporate and flow towards the compressor.
  • Compressor: The compressor in a freezer transfers all that absorbed heat and increases the temperature - and as a result the pressure of the refrigerant, turning it into a hot, high-pressure gas.
  • Condenser: The hot gas travels through the condenser coils, where it releases heat into the surrounding air and turns back into a liquid form.
  • Expansion Valve: The refrigerant passes through the expansion valve, where its pressure and temperature drop before entering the evaporator again.

This continuous cycle maintains a consistently low temperature within the deep freezer.

Temperature Regulation

Controlling the temperature of your deep freezer is crucial for keeping food safe and preserving its quality. Most deep freezers have adjustable temperature settings that are accessible with a built-in thermostat.

Recommended Temperature: It is advised to maintain a temperature of around 0°F (-18°C) for optimal food preservation (Whirlpool).

Monitoring your deep freezer's temperature is essential for proper food storage. Periodically check your freezer's temperature setting and adjust it accordingly to maintain the ideal conditions. You’ll want to keep your condenser coils free of dirt and debris as well. Dirty condenser coils can negatively impact the freezer's cooling efficiency..

Benefits of Using a Deep Freezer

Extended Food Preservation

Long term food preservation is where deep freezers really shine. Both chest and upright freezers are able to maintain the quality and safety of your food for longer periods of time than your fridge's freezer compartment.

This means that you can stock up on perishable items and enjoy them well beyond their typical shelf life. It's a practical solution for preserving seasonal produce and reducing food waste at home.

Energy Efficiency

Since they are specifically designed for deep freezing duties, deep freezers are almost always more efficient than the freezer compartment in your typical fridge freezer. They will usually have more substantial insulation than a small freezer compartment. The entire unit is designed for keeping things frozen - not for just keeping things cool.

Extra Storage Space

Having a deep freezer in your home can greatly increase your storage capacity for frozen items. This is particularly useful if you have a growing family, enjoy shopping in bulk, or simply want to keep a more extensive assortment of frozen foods on hand. The additional freezer space enables you to better organize and store your food items, making meal planning and preparation much more convenient.

Selecting the Right Deep Freezer

When choosing the right deep freezer, there are a few key factors to consider that we will cover now:

  • Size and Capacity
  • Features
  • Energy Consumption

Weighing your requirements against the benefits of each of these features will ensure you select the best freezer to suit your needs.

Size and Capacity

First, determine the right size and capacity for your freezer. This will depend on the available space in your home and the volume of items you plan to store. As discussed previously, a chest freezer has a larger footprint and may not fit in your kitchen. An upright freezer takes up a lot less floor space due to its refrigerator-like profile.

Consider where you'll place the freezer. Due to the large size and footprint of chest freezers, many homeowners choose to place them somewhere outside of the kitchen. Basement and garages are often popular choices so that your freezer doesn't infringe on kitchen space. They even make freezers that are "garage ready" and specifically designed to withstand the wild temperature swings of your garage.

Be sure to measure the available space to ensure a proper fit. Keep in mind that freezers need 1-3 inches of clearance on all sides for proper air circulation (Whirlpool).


Next, evaluate the features of the freezer. Chest and upright freezers have various characteristics that may be useful for your needs.

Upright freezers frequently have horizontal shelves for organizing your food. Chest freezers, on the other hand, have larger storage spaces that may be more suitable for bulky items or irregular items that don't do well on shelves. That said, there are plenty of shelving and storage options available for chest freezers as well.

Other useful features to consider include an adjustable thermostat, freezer alarms, defrosting options, and interior lighting.

Energy Consumption

Lastly, it's essential to consider energy consumption. Energy-efficient freezers can help you save on your electricity bills and reduce your environmental impact.

Look for a freezer with an ENERGY STAR rating. This rating acts as a seal of approval by the US Environmental Protection Agency. This means that the freezer satisfies stringent energy efficiency guidelines. Also, compare different models and their estimated annual energy usage before making a decision.

By taking these factors into account, you can confidently select the right deep freezer for your specific needs and requirements.

Proper Maintenance


To maintain your deep freezer efficiently, you should clean it regularly. First, unplug the freezer and, if needed, defrost it. Most chest freezers are manual defrost, while many upright freezers are auto defrost.

Then, wipe the interior surfaces using a mixture of warm water and mild dish soap. Rinse well and dry with a clean cloth.

Clean the door seal to prevent any air leaks. To do this, wrap a credit card in a cloth, dip it in soapy water, and glide it into the grooves of the door seal, as suggested by Real Simple. To eliminate any odors, place a box of baking soda inside the freezer.

Another required maintenance item is to keep the condenser coils on your freezer free of dust and debris. Pet owners will need to be especially vigilant when it comes to keeping those coils clean. You’ll want to periodically vacuum or wipe down the coils to keep them working at optimal efficiency.

Temperature Setting

To ensure your deep freezer is working effectively, regularly check and adjust the temperature setting. The optimal temperature for a freezer is 0°F. This temperature is low enough to keep frozen food safe and slow bacterial growth.

Most deep freezers have a thermostat that you can adjust either manually or digitally. In some cases, there might be a specific knob or a digital panel to control the temperature setting. Make sure to read the user manual for proper guidance on adjusting the temperature to achieve the desired level.

Safety Precautions

When using a deep freezer, it's essential to follow certain safety precautions to ensure proper operation and avoid potential hazards. Here are some guidelines to help you use your deep freezer safely:

1. Proper Installation: Always place your deep freezer on a level surface and maintain adequate space around it for proper ventilation. Ensure the electrical wiring is suitable for the appliance. Don’t use an extension cord with your deep freezer.

2. Temperature Monitoring: Monitor the temperature of your deep freezer regularly and keep it at or below 0°F (-18°C) to maintain food quality and preserve it for long periods. Use a reliable thermometer, and adjust the temperature settings if necessary.

3. Safe Storage Practices:

  • Store food in airtight, freezer-safe containers to prevent freezer burn and maintain quality.
  • Label the containers with the date and type of food to keep track of freshness and avoid food waste.
  • Organize the contents in a way that allows for proper airflow and prevents overloading, keeping items you use frequently within easy reach.

4. Power Outage Preparation: Be prepared for power outages by having a backup plan in place. Avoid opening the freezer door during a power outage unless absolutely necessary, and consider using ice packs or a generator if the outage is prolonged.

Following these safety precautions will help you maximize the benefits of your deep freezer while ensuring it operates efficiently and safely, protecting both your food and your family.

Frank Salvatore

Hey there - I'm Frank Salvatore. I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!

About Me
Frank Salvatore
I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!
Learn More About Me
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