Freezer maintenance - Including cleaning, defrosting and power cuts.

As with anything you own, whether it's an electrical appliance, an item of clothing or a small vegetable patch in your back garden, if you look after it and give it the best care possible, it will reward you with a long life, which is hassle and problem-free.
This applies to your freezer also. There are many ways in which you can get the most out of your freezer in terms of efficiency and working life.

When buying an electrical appliance or piece of equipment, it is always recommended that you carefully read the manufacturers instructions that are supplied with your purchase, as each make is different and may vary in maintenance details.

Below is a brief general guide on how to look after your freezer and get the most from it.

Replace old models

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If you are contemplating on whether to get rid of your old freezer and buy a newer model, in practically every case, it would be best to do so.

Newer models are much more energy efficient than older models and you could save as much as 50% on your electricity bill each year by buying a new freezer.

What you would spend on purchasing a new freezer, you could actually save on your electricity in one year alone, so it would make sense to ditch the old model for a younger version in this instance.

Similarly, if you have two freezers in your home, this is also a waste of money. Purchasing one larger freezer for all of your needs is much more economic than running two separate freezers and should be something worth considering.

When purchasing a new freezer, bear in mind that although a more energy efficient model (A++) is initially more expensive to buy, it will save you money in the long run, as it uses up much less electricity than freezers that are graded lower on the energy efficiency scale.

Where to keep your freezer

The ideal place to house your freezer in terms of convenience would be in the kitchen. However, for some people this may be impossible due to lack of space. Therefore, anywhere that is dry, cool and well ventilated would be best. This could be in your garage, laundry room or in a corridor. Do not place your freezer in an area that receives a lot of sun or where temperatures are too high, as this would mean that your freezer would have to work twice as hard to stay cold, leading to an extremely high electricity consumption and bill.

Try to ensure that your freezer is kept away from any sources of heat such as a cooker, hot water boiler, dishwasher, oven or a tumble dryer and leave a few inches gap between the back of the freezer and the wall, so that air can circulate freely around.

The condenser coils, situated at the back or bottom front of the freezer should be unobstructed and air should be able to flow freely around. At the same time, a build-up of dirt and dust will reduce the efficiency of your freezer, so make sure that you regularly clean around the freezer and remove any dust for maximum operation and lower bills.

Fill your freezer

Your freezer will run more efficiently if it is kept well stocked with frozen food. More electricity is used up to cool an empty freezer and although an empty freezer may be easier to manage, it is actually costing you more money.

Whenever you open your freezer door, cold air is lost, but with a freezer that is around two-thirds full, less cold air is able to escape.

Whenever you are low on food in the freezer, place a few large bottles of water inside to make up the room and keep running costs at a minimum.

Check the seal

Ensure that the seals around your freezer door are tight otherwise cold air could be lost through any gaps, just as warm air could also enter.

Place a piece of paper or a 10 note halfway inside the door of your appliance and try to remove it by gently pulling. If it easily slides out, it would be a good idea to replace the seals of your freezer, so that unnecessary amounts of cold air are not lost.

Defrosting and cleaning your freezer

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Although many freezers nowadays do not need to be defrosted manually, they should still be cleaned out every six months in order to get rid of any unwanted odours, food residues and dirt.

All types of chest freezers must be defrosted manually and this should be done at least once a year or more if there is a large build up of frost inside the freezer. Generally, your freezer should be defrosted as soon as there is an accumulation of about inch (5 cm) of frost on the sides, top or bottom of your freezer.

Removing the frost build-up will help your freezer to run more efficiently and lower your electricity bill in the long run.

On the day that you decide to defrost and clean your freezer, ensure that you have several hours free to complete the job. It would also be easier if your freezer were not very full with food packages at the time.

Carry out the following instructions for a safe and easy way to defrost your freezer:
  • Remove all contents from the freezer. Wrap packages in chilled newspaper to prevent thawing and place them inside cardboard boxes covered with newspaper, in the refrigerator if separate from the freezer or inside cool boxes.
  • Unplug the freezer from the electrical supply.
  • Place bowls or pans of boiling water inside the freezer cabinet and close the lid/door. This will speed up the defrosting process. Check the freezer every 10 - 15 minutes.
  • Remove ice and frost as it starts to melt. Scrape the sides with a plastic scraper and remove large pieces of ice by hand, transferring them to the sink. Mop up any water with a towel.
  • When the inside of the freezer is completely ice, water and frost-free, wash the interior with a solution of 1 tbsp of baking soda mixed with 2 pints (1 quart) of water or 1 cup of vinegar together with 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of water. This will help to remove any undesirable odours.
  • Wipe the surfaces over with a cloth dipped in clean water and dry with a towel.
  • Turn the freezer back on and leave for 30 minutes to cool.
  • Return the packages back to their original place inside the freezer.

Power failure (power cuts)

In the event of a power cut or if the freezer stops working for some reason the contents of your freezer should keep cold for around 24 hours and still be safe to eat.

The contents of a full freezer will stay colder for longer, up to 48 hours, as long as the freezer door is kept closed at all times, so that no warm air is able to enter.

A half full freezer will keep the contents safe for half the time (24 hours) under the same conditions.

When the power comes back on, you must check the condition of the food packages. If there are ice crystals still present or if an item is partly thawed, then they will still be safe to eat and refreeze.

If food has completely thawed, on the other hand, do not refreeze these items and try to consume them within 3 days. Discard any ice cream that has melted immediately.

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If you have advance warning of a power cut there are certain things that you can do to ensure that your food stays as cold as possible and can be safely consumed once the power has returned.

Switch the fast freeze button on beforehand, so that the freezer temperature is as cold as possible before the power cut takes place.

Move items such as bread, cakes and ice cream to the coldest part of the freezer (bottom), whilst denser items such as joints of meat, should be moved to the top. Fill any gaps with scrunched up newspaper in order to reduce air circulation.

When the power returns, do not open the freezer door or lid for at least several hours afterwards and until the temperature has dropped down to its regular temperature setting.
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