Freezer reviews: Features explained
We reveal exactly what you need to know before you buy a freezer. Discover the marketing gimmicks you should avoid if you don't want to pay over the odds, and find out which features are essential if you want the best freezer for your home.
Energy ratings for freezers
After central heating, refrigeration appliances are the biggest domestic users of energy, because they run all the time.
New models of freestanding, built-in and chest freezers are now labelled A+, A++ or A+++ based on their energy consumption. An A+++ rating is the most efficient.
If you bought your freezer before July 2012 it could have an A rating, and if you bought it before September 1999 it could have anything up to a G rating, with no limit on how much energy is used.
When we test freezers we measure energy consumption and calculate our own running costs, based on the amount of energy it consumes.
Colour and finish
These days freezers come in several different finishes as well as white. Silver and stainless steel are particularly popular at moment, but if you're more adventurous some manufacturers provide other finishes such as natural linen.
Be warned, though – the trendy coloured models can be more expensive, and some of the colours we've seen look a bit plasticky compared with appliances that have a proper metallic finish.
One of the first things you need to decide is whether to opt for a frost-free or standard model.
Frost-free models do away with the chore of defrosting the freezer. They work by forcing air through the freezer cabinet, which removes the moisture that would otherwise freeze and build up as frost or ice over time.
They don't cost much more to run than conventional models, and the smarter ones adjust the amount of defrosting they do to keep excessive icing at bay.
But if food isn't carefully wrapped, it may dry out more quickly than it would in a standard freezer.
It's also more important to allow space around food for air to circulate in frost-free models than it is in conventional ones.
Freezing fresh food
It's one thing for a freezer to keep frozen food at the right temperature. But it's a tougher task to actually freeze fresh food quickly, which is important if it is to retain its nutrients.
And for many types of food, such as bread, it also helps to stop the texture from changing too much.
We measure the amount of food that can be frozen to -18°C in 24 hours.
Freezing fresh food quickly can be made easier if you have this feature.
For the best results you need to switch to the fast-freeze setting the day before you want to stock up. This way, the freezer is able to cope when you add lots of warmer food.
For other freezers, you can turn down the thermostat while the food freezes – but you have to remember to turn it back to its normal position later to avoid wasting energy.
Storage space in freezers
The storage space that manufacturers claim is often unrealistically large. They don't account of the space taken up by drawers, shelves, handles and mouldings.
Our own figures show the actual usable space inside. In some cases, this is more than 20% less than the manufacturers' figures.
Useful freezer storage features
Many upright freezers have fixed shelves between all the drawers, which makes it impossible to store large items.
Check the 'good storage flexibility' rating in our test results to see which freezers can adapt to let you fit in different-sized items.
Transparent compartments are another useful feature. They allow you to find food inside without having to rummage in every drawer.
Most freezers have a drawer big enough to hold something that's an odd shape, such as your Christmas turkey.
Not all freezers do, though, so check if this is something that's important to you.
Shallow freezer drawer
This drawer allows you to freeze soft fruits such as strawberries separately to preserve their shape when they're defrosted.
Some freezers come with useful security features.
Some chest freezers have locks on them. In order to stop a child getting accidentally locked inside a freezer these locks need to have a special two-part movement design. Most locks use a press and then twist system.
Door alarms and warning lights
These let you know when you haven't closed the door properly. Keeping the door shut saves energy by stopping the freezer going into overdrive to keep food frozen.
Thermometer or temperature gauge
A thermometer helps when setting up your freezer; the manufacturer’s recommended setting is a reasonable guide but it may not provide the best balance of freezing and efficiency.
Freezer climate class
Every freezer has a 'climate class', which tells you the range of room temperatures with which it can cope.
|Freezers: Climate class temperatures|
|Climate class||Temperature range (oC)|