Types of Freezers

May 21, 2022
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The Different Varieties of Residential and Commercial Freezers and Their Features

Chest Freezers

A chest freezer is a popular and inexpensive option for extra food storage. They're known for their long, boxy rectangular shape.

The door is located on the top of the freezer, making it easy to access. Just reach down into the chest and get whatever frozen food item you need. Since it is a big open box, you can much more easily fit larger items (like Thanksgiving Turkeys) in a box freezer as opposed to your refrigerator's freezer.

Photo of a Chest Freezer From Above

Chest Freezer View From Above

Your chest freezer will also be the home of frozen items that you don't need every day. This is because your chest freezer will be a little bit of a walk from your kitchen. Their large footprint necessitates that they be put in a larger room with plenty of space.

Basements and garages are typical locations for chest freezers. Be sure that if you put your chest freezer in the garage that your freezer is garage ready - and we'll discuss that in a moment.

Chest freezers are available in a range of sizes, so you can choose one that fits your needs.

They are also more energy-efficient than your typical refrigerator's freezer. The seal on a chest freezer is usually a bit stronger than on refrigerator freezers - which helps to prevents warming from outside air. The position of the freezer (on the ground) also helps to prevent rising warm air from getting into the freezer (as is the case with refrigerator-freezers).

For ease of food storage, most chest freezers come with baskets that make it easy to organize your food.

Countertop Freezers / Tabletop Freezers

A countertop freezer is a relatively small freezer that can be used in residential, commercial, and industrial settings that can be placed on top of a counter. These are also referred to as tabletop freezers.

They have relatively limited capacity when compared to a larger freezer (like a chest freezer). While they'll free up floor space and make it easier to retrieve items, the tradeoff is that they'll take up valuable counter space.

Drawer Freezers

Drawer freezers are becoming more common in high-end residential homes, but are much more prevalent in commercial kitchens (like restaurants).

They fit right into the under-counter cabinet space and have drawers that slide out, making it easy to access the items inside.

The finish of the drawer freezer can be made to match your cabinets. This provides a cohesive, stylish look to your kitchen. Stainless steel is also a popular finish for drawer freezers.

While extremely convenient, drawer freezers are extremely expensive when compared to other types of freezer options.

Integrated Freezers

Integrated Freezers are specifically designed to blend perfectly into your kitchen. Guests may not even know that you have a freezer.

As an example, with Sub-Zero integrated freezers, the grilles and hinges aren't readily visible. They're effectively hidden. This allows the freezer to blend in perfectly with the design of your kitchen

There are even multiple configurations for integrated freezers - including under counter, beneath the refrigerator compartment, and a full column freezer.

Undercounter Freezers

An undercounter freezer is a compact storage unit that can be used in both commercial and residential kitchens. These freezers are typically placed under countertops, making them ideal for small spaces.

For home use, these freezers are great if you need a bit of additional freezer space, but need to have access to frozen goods within your kitchen. This eliminates the hassle of going to the garage or to the basement to access a chest freezer.

They're also used in commercial environments like bars and restaurants. This provides easy access for staff and eliminates the need to travel to the walk-in freezer.

Under counter freezers come in a variety of finishes. Stainless steel is most common (as it is with most appliances). However, there are a variety of other colors available - including white, black, and slate. They even make integrated under counter freezers that blend seamlessly into your kitchen.

Due to their small size, they're usually much more energy-efficient than your refrigerator's freezer.

They tend to be a fairly expensive freezer option - especially considering their somewhat limited capacity when compared to other varieties of freezers.

Upright Freezers

An upright freezer (sometimes called an "stand up freezer" or "vertical freezer") is a type of freezer that stands upright, similar to a refrigerator. You can place items you'd like to freeze into an upright freezer without having to bend over - similar to how you'd use a refrigerator.

They come with similar storage options as a refrigerator. Many have storage right within the door. There are also storage baskets and shelves in many upright freezers to make storage easy.

Upright freezers also have a wide variety of finish options - a bit more than is available with the generally less expensive chest freezers. The majority of models are stainless steel, but you can also get an upright freezer that is white, black, or grey - to name just a few of the more common colors.

The features in an upright freezer are very similar to what you'll find in other types of freezers. Temperature Controls, Locks, and alarms are common features for upright freezers.


  • Auto Defrost Feature - most upright freezers have an auto-defrost feature so you don't have to deal with the hassle of manually defrosting your freezer.
  • More Ergonomically Friendly - It is much easier on the back to reach into an upright freezer for your frozen food than it is to bend over and pull a heavy item out of a chest freezer.
  • Space Savings - an upright freezer won't take up nearly the same footprint as a chest freezer. This can free up floor space in your kitchen (or garage / basement).


  • Energy efficiency - while there are Energy Star certified upright freezers, an upright freezer is generally not as energy efficient as a chest freezer. Warm air tends to rise. This means that warm air is much more likely to travel into an upright freezer. Especially when compared to a chest freezer that is located on the ground. This means that if the door is open for a significant length of time that the freezer will have to kick on to cool the compartment back down to the appropriate temperature.
  • Cost Considerations - chest freezers are an alternative to upright freezers and are considerably cheaper than upright freezers.

Portable Freezers

A portable freezer is a small, portable appliance that can be used to keep food cold. Most portable freezers are about the size of a mini fridge, and they often come with wheels so that they can be easily moved around.

Portable freezers are perfect for taking with you when you travel, as some can be easily carried and most can be stored in relatively confined spaces (like the back of a truck). This makes them ideal for activities like tailgating or camping - when you have access to power.

Most available models have a limited storage capacity of less than one cubic foot. There are models that do have even larger capacities. 3-6 cubic feet is common, and some larger portable freezers have a storage capacity of over 10 cubic feet.

Freezer Features

Additional Basket

Note: Home depot has sliding and lift out storage baskets

Adjustable Temperature Control

The majority of freezers (almost all) on the market allow the homeowner to modify the temperature of the freezer. Temperature adjustments are available either on the outside or inside the freezer and can be performed either with a knob/dial - or electronically.

External temperature control is a bit better from an energy efficiency standpoint because you don't have to open the freezer to modify the temp.


Open Door Alarm

Some freezers come equipped with an open door alarm. This is a great feature that can save energy - and save your frozen food - should someone inadvertently leave the freezer door open.

This is much more common in upright freezers than chest freezers. While it may not completely prevent leaving a chest freezer door open, gravity certainly helps to keep the door closed. The feature is even more important to have on an upright freezer.

Temperature Alarm

A freezer's temperature alarm will sound should the temperature of the freezer be outside of the designated acceptable range. There are a wide variety of freezer temperature alarms available. A freezer temperature alarm can be just a simple audible beeping noise, or it can notify you on your smartphone should your freezer alarm be WiFi enabled.

GE Freezer with Temperature Alarm

Auto Defrost

The auto defrost feature is a life saver when it comes to maintaining your freezer. Auto defrosting prevents ice from forming within the freezer by eliminating moisture buildup. This is superior to manual defrost which typically involves removing contents from the freezer, turning off the freezer, and draining the freezer.

A freezer with auto defrost will be more expensive than one without the feature, but the time savings over manual defrost makes it totally worth it for many homeowners. Photo of a chest freezer that needs to be defrosted

A chest freezer with a lot of frost buildup

An Auto Defrost freezer also tends to use a bit more energy on a day-to-day basis than a manual defrosts freezer. This is required to prevent the ice accumulation within the freezer.

However, the energy efficiency of a manual defrost freezer is somewhat compromised by the energy required to cool the freezer and its contents after a manual defrost cycle. The manual defrost freezer also loses energy efficiency if you're not diligently defrosting the freezer when ice begins to accumulate. Too much ice buildup in a manual defrost feature will require additional energy.

Chest Freezers with Auto Defrost

Most models of chest freezers don't have an auto defrost feature. When frost forms on the food inside of your freezer, you'll have to go the the arduous process of manually defrosting the freezer.

Upright Freezers with Auto Defrost

If auto defrost is important to you, you'll probably want to get an upright freezer instead of a chest freezer. Upright freezers tend to be a bit more expensive due to compact space and additional features. Around half of upright freezer models offer Frost Free options.

Freezer Baskets

Both chest freezers and upright freezers come with sliding baskets or lift out baskets. This allows you to better configure your freezer storage space to meet your needs.

Freezer Shelves

Upright freezers have shelves to assist with storage. The number of available shelves will vary by the type of upright freezer you select.

Magnetic Door Seal

Many freezers come equipped with a magnetic door seal. This magnetic seal helps to ensure that the freezer stays closed with a strong airtight seal.

Reversible Door Freezers

This feature allows you to effectively put the hinge on the other side of the freezer so that the freezer door will open in the opposite direction than what you see in the showroom or on the freezer manufacturer's website.

This will apply mostly to upright freezers and is provided as a feature to meet the specific needs of your kitchen (or wherever you plan on placing the freezer.

Freezer Drain

A freezer drain makes it easier to go through your annual defrosting process if you don't have a frost-free freezer. You're able to easily drain the water that pools instead of having to scoop water out of the bottom fo the freezer.

Energy Star

Freezers are awarded energy star certification when they are deemed to be at least 10 percent more efficient than the minimum standard set in the United States.

Chest freezers are more energy-efficient than upright freezers. The energy use of energy star chest freezer units is extremely low and only costs around $30 annually to operate. Despite their energy efficiency, most models offered for sale at major retailers aren't energy star compliant.

Upright feezers use more energy and their electric operating costs are higher - around $50 per year. Not surprisingly, they use more energy than chest freezers. Very few models offered by major retailers are energy star certified.


Unlike most other household appliances, the available colors and finishes for freezers is much more limited.

You can have just about any color freezer you want - as long as that color is white. This holds true especially for chest freezers where the majority of models are white.

This is probably because chest freezers aren't usually located in the kitchen and don't have to match a color scheme.

Upright freezers have more color options - with a stainless steel finish being almost as popular as white. This is because unlike chest freezers, many upright freezers are installed in kitchens - where matching other kitchen appliances is a priority.

Here are the finish options for freezers in order of popularity:

  • White
  • Stainless Steel
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Grey
  • Slate
  • Stainless Steel

Garage Ready

Many manufacturers offer "garage ready" freezers. Unlike most freezers, these freezers are specifically designed to work in the challenging conditions and wild temperature variations of a garage. This differs greatly from regular freezers which are made to operate within the fairly consistent temperatures inside your house.

GE Garage Ready Freezer

The temperatures in a garage are can be either too cold or too warm for a regular freezer. These temperature extremes can have adverse effects on a freezer's compressor.

Super chilly garages with temps in the thirties or below may actually result in the formation of frost on the freezer. This can damage freezer components. A freeze-thaw cycle in your garage can even result in moisture that freezes on the external surfaces of the freezer - including the hinges - making it difficult to even open the freezer. Additionally, the compressor may not even be activated until the external temperature is higher than the freezer's internal temperature setting.

In the heat, the compressor may not be able to keep up with the warm air in the garage. This can result in the internal temperature rising and result in food spoilage. Even if the compressor can regulate the internal temperature to the prescribed setting, it is possible that the compressor's lifespan will be shortened by operating in conditions it wasn't designed for. As a result, you may have to shell out the cash to get a new freezer sooner than you had expected.

You can get a garage ready chest freezer if you have a bit of extra space in your garage. Chest freezers tend to take up quite a bit of spaces, but many garages can accommodate this large footprint of a chest freezers.

If space is at a premium in your garage, you can consider going with an upright freezer that is garage ready. These freezers are usually a bit more expensive and take up less room, but they'll get the job done.

LED Lighting

LED lighting is a great feature for freezers and you'll pay a bit extra for it. This feature is more common in upright than chest freezers.

The primary benefit of LED lighting is that you'll be able to easily see the contents of your freezer in low-light environments (like garages).

LED lighting will generally last longer than fluorescent bulbs which will mean you won't have to worry about changing freezer bulbs.

Freezer Locks

  • Safety Lock - This is a common feature in both upright and chest freezers. The lock's purpose is to keep children out. The strong suction of a freezer can be a hazard for children should they become trapped inside. The lock prevents them from being able to open the freezer.
  • Keyed Lock - Many freezer models also offer a keyed lock. This can not only keep kids out, but it can protect the contents of your freezer from being stolen.
  • After Market Locks - If your freezer doesn't come equipped with a lock, you can add one after your purchase. There are many options available to add a lock to an existing freezer.
Photo of a chest freezer with a lock

Locks are a safety feature for freezers

Power On Light

The power on light indicator is a fairly common feature in both chest and upright features. The light is visible on the outside of the unit.

The light lets you know at a glance that the freezer is receiving power and is able to keep the contents of your freezer at the designated temperature. If the power on light is off, you know that you have a problem with your freezer that will need to be addressed.

Ultra-low Temperature

Ultra-low temperature freezers are typically suited for laboratory environments. A typical freezer that you would use for residential use will typically operate between -5 and 5 degrees Farenheit.

Some commercial laboratories have much stricter freezer specifications. Ultra low freezer temperatures range from around -5 degrees to -112 degrees Farenheit.

Commercial Freezers and Industrial Freezers

Commercial freezers are generally built for more specific purposes and are more durable than freezers that you would put in your home.

Batch Freezers

Batch freezers are essential tools in the food industry, allowing for the rapid freezing of large amounts of food. By quickly lowering the temperature, they maintain food quality and extend shelf life.

Commonly used for items like ice cream and other frozen desserts, the process involves placing food in trays or containers and then freezing them swiftly as cold air circulates over the containers.

Plate Freezers

A plate freezer is a specialized freezer designed for commercial and food service use. It employs advanced freezing techniques to swiftly chill a variety of foods. Within a plate freezer, food is positioned between metal plates and quickly brought down to the desired temperature.

Benefits of using this method include:

  • Freezing both packaged and raw foods.
  • Rapidly cooling large quantities of products.

Plate freezers can handle a broad spectrum of foods, from pastries and meat products like beef patties and fish fillets, to uniquely shaped vegetables such as asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, and broccoli.

Spiral Freezers 

Spiral freezing is an efficient method that uses specially designed refrigerators to freeze a large volume of products in a limited space without compromising quality. This technique ensures uniform freezing, preserving the moisture, flavor, and texture of items like ice cream and frozen pizza.

Businesses benefit from spiral freezers which utilize either cryogenic or mechanical cooling methods. These freezers also circulate high-velocity air over the product, either from top to bottom (downflow) or side to side (crossflow).

Blast Freezers

Blast freezers - also referred to as "blast chillers" quickly cool food to maintain its flavor, nutrition, and safety. They freeze so rapidly that water molecules inside the food don't harm it, effectively inhibiting the growth of harmful microorganisms.

Display Freezers

If you've been to the grocery store recently, you've no doubt cseen display freezers. Display freezers are large, glass-fronted cabinets that are typically found in grocery stores.

Display freezers typically have shelves or racks that can be adjusted to accommodate different types and sizes of products. They are used to store and display frozen food items, such as ice cream, frozen pizzas, and frozen entrees.

Retail display freezer cabinets are designed to keep the products inside frozen while also providing good visibility for customers. Customers don't have to open the freezer door until they see exactly what they're looking for. This helps to conserve energy by keeping the cold air in the freezer.

Medical Freezers

Medical freezers are specially designed to store vaccines, medications, and other medical supplies at stable temperatures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that medical freezers be kept between -58°F and +5°F (depending on the specific requirements for the vaccine or medication being stored).

Most medical freezers are equipped with alarms that sound if the temperature inside the freezer rises above the set point. This helps to prevent the accidental thawing of medical supplies, which could lead to spoilage or contamination.

The finishes for medical freezers are a bit more limited than the options for residential freezers. White is far and away the most common color of freezer - although grey, black and other colors are available for some models.

Merchandiser Upright Freezers

A merchandise freezer is essential for any business that sells frozen products. You're most likely to see merchandiser freezers in grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations.

These upright freezers are usually tall and narrow, with glass doors that allow customers to see the merchandise. Merchandisers are typically placed in high-traffic areas, such as near the entrance of a grocery store.

These freezers obviously have power requirements, so they'll usually be located along a wall along the perimeter of the store. This placement makes it easy for customers to find the merchandise they need and also allows businesses to promote their products.

In addition to glass doors, merchandise freezers may also have shelves or drawers that make it easy to organize and display merchandise.

Freezers vary greatly in size and capacity, so businesses can choose the freezer that best meets their needs.

Merchandiser Horizontal Freezers

A horizontal display freezer (or glass top freezer), is a type of freezer that consists of a glass top wherein customers can see and select the different items on display. You'll commonly see this type of freezer located near the checkout counter of convenience stores or gas stations so that customers can easily access their favorite frozen treats or snacks while they are waiting in line to pay.

Typically made from high-quality materials such as aluminum, tempered glass and steel, horizontal display freezers are designed to be highly durable and resistant to damage over time. Additionally, these freezers have excellent insulation properties, ensuring that your food stays frozen even when the outside temperature gets warm.

These freezers usually come equipped with lots of different baskets for efficient storage of frozen goods.

Walk-In Freezers

A walk in freezer is a large storage space that is typically used by restaurants and other food businesses. These freezers typically have a large entryway or walk-in area, where workers can walk in and access the shelves that hold various types of food products.

The interior of the walk in is often lined with insulation to help maintain a steady temperature, keeping perishable foods fresh for longer periods of time. Many walk-in freezers also contain specialized features such as sliding shelves and temperature controls, allowing businesses to store and manage their inventory more efficiently.

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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