Choosing a freezer for your family plus advantages and running costs of a freezer.

Most people nowadays have a freezer in their home and whether they just cook for themselves or for a large family, they find this electrical piece of equipment a necessity rather than a luxury.

There are advantages and disadvantages of owning a freezer. The main disadvantages are the initial cost of the freezer itself plus the additional cost of running the machine. On top of this, if there is a lack of space within the home, it may be difficult to find a place for it.

However, as our lives seem to become busier and busier, and we find that we have less time to devote to cooking and shopping amongst other household chores, the advantages of owning a freezer much outweigh the disadvantages, more so than say twenty years ago.

Advantages of a freezer

There are a number of advantages of having a freezer in your home and they mainly relate to saving time and money.
  • Shopping can be done in bulk, which will free up time to do other things plus it will reduce money spent on shopping.
  • Cooking can be done in bulk thus saving time and energy costs.
  • Items that can be cooked from frozen may be kept for "emergencies" when you don't have time to cook.
  • You can buy large cuts of meat, joint them at home and freeze them until needed. Larger cuts of meat are much cheaper to buy than already cut and packaged smaller cuts.
  • If hungry unexpected guests arrive at your house, you will always be able to welcome them and feed them if you have a well-stocked freezer.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables may be frozen when in season and consumed all year round.
  • Food may be frozen until needed and less is thrown out if not consumed by the use-by date, which ultimately save money and time (you would have to go shopping again).
  • The top of the freezer may be used as an extra work surface if needed.

Choosing a freezer

If you do decide to buy a freezer you will have to make sure that you choose the right one for the needs of you and your family.

Basically, there are two main considerations when it comes to deciding on which type of freezer to purchase - the size according to the size of your family and the type of freezer according to how much space you have at home.

There are three types of freezer - the chest freezer, upright cupboard freezer and a combination refrigerator-freezer.

For a single person, a combination refrigerator-freezer may suffice, however for a large family with children, a chest freezer would probably be invaluable.

If you freeze a lot of fresh produce from your garden or buy large joints of meat, you will also require more space than if you just need to freeze ready-made meals or frozen vegetables from the supermarket.

It is true that an empty freezer is more costly to run, but on the other hand, miscalculating or misjudging how much you will use the freezer and purchasing one that is too small for your family's needs, may also be a costly mistake.

To calculate how big a freezer you will need, a rough guide is 2 cubic ft per person plus an extra 2cubic ft. For a family that freezes lots of meat and fresh produce from the garden, allow slightly more per person.

1 cubic ft will store between 20 - 30 lb of frozen food. Therefore, for a regular family of four, you should purchase a freezer that is between 10-14 cubic ft and for a family of four that will require extra room for garden produce; a larger freezer will be required.

Running costs

Did you know that it is actually cheaper to run a freezer than it is to run a refrigerator or a combination refrigerator-freezer? Together a separate refrigerator and freezer will make up around 11% of your yearly electricity consumption, with 7% of that assigned to the refrigerator alone.

The chest freezer type is the most economical to run. It uses approximately 50% less electricity than other types of freezers, although running costs are dependant on a number of factors such as how full the freezer is kept, the location of the freezer, the efficiency of the freezer, how often the door is opened and how much frost builds up.

Freezers that must be defrosted manually, may be slightly harder work but they are better at protecting against freezer burn and they are much more cost effective than frost-free models.

It is also important to check the energy efficiency grade of the freezer before buying, as this will also make an impact on your electricity bill.

The difference in yearly running costs between an A++ grade freezer and a C grade freezer is around £200 ($300 apx) in some cases.

Below we discuss the three types of freezer in more detail.

Chest freezers

Chest freezers are large square or rectangular shaped models that are more suitable for large families who often buy in bulk or for people who have many items to freeze.

They are available in sizes ranging from about 4 cubic ft - over 20 cubic ft. Unless you have a very large kitchen area, this type of freezer is often stored in the garage or basement, due to its size.

This type of freezer opens from the top, which means that cold air is retained well, due to the fact that cold air falls downwards rather than upwards. Therefore this machine is cheaper to run, as less cold air is lost when the freezer door is opened.

On the downside, due to the shape and size, it is slightly more difficult to organise the contents, see what is inside and reach inside to clean or remove items, especially if you are short. For this type of freezer that is able to hold much more, an inventory and some kind of organisation is essential.

Chest freezers are supplied with removable baskets, which are useful to store smaller products and to separate different types of foods. It is also possible to buy extra baskets, which would improve organisation further.

Chest freezers must be manually defrosted, as they are not available in a frost-free model. Although defrosting must be done manually and takes more of an effort, it is required less frequently and it is more cost-effective.

Chest freezers maintain the quality of the frozen food better and for longer and although the size and shape may be a disadvantage, they are cheaper to buy and more economical to run. Newer models are equipped with a fast-freeze option, high temperature warning system and the best models are of the highest energy efficiency grade (A++).

Before buying a freezer or any electrical appliance, check the energy efficiency grade, as a lower grade uses up more electricity to run and could end up being an expensive piece of equipment in the long run.

Upright freezers

Upright freezers are single unit stand-up freezers, ranging in size from 2 cubic ft to 20 cubic ft. They take up much less floor space than a chest freezer and therefore for the majority of people are ideal to have in their kitchen.

Upright freezers will have either one or two doors that open from the front rather than from the top. The advantages are that contents are easier to pack, get at and organize, however, this type of freezer is more expensive to run, as cold air is lost much more easily and warm air is able to enter also.

Upright freezers are ideal for small families or for people who do not freeze a very large number of items. The freezer is divided into slide-out baskets and may also contain shelves and compartments, depending on the model. They also come in a range of sizes and heights, which means that smaller models can be placed on top of other appliances or worktops if space is lacking.

Unlike the chest freezers, upright freezers are available as manual-defrost or frost-free. Manual-defrost freezers are cheaper to run but you will have to defrost them once a year.

Combination refrigerator-freezers

This type of freezer is perhaps the most popular, particularly for those who lack space in their kitchen.

Combination refrigerator-freezers are made up of two separate units that are built into the same machine. The freezer may be situated above, below or to the side.

The freezer part is insulated from the refrigerator and a thermostat controls the temperature of both sections independently without affecting the other. It is therefore possible to defrost the fridge or freezer without disrupting the functioning of the other.

This type of freezer is available as manual-defrost, frost-free or automatic defrost.

It is important to check that the freezer part is a proper freezer rather than just a freezing compartment, ideal for the storage of commercially frozen products only. A freezing compartment does not have the capacity to produce sufficiently low temperatures to freeze foods, although they are able to store frozen foods for a certain amount of time.

When choosing a freezer to buy, it is vital that you know exactly what you need and what there is on offer in the market and if you are unsure, to ask for advice from personnel in the store or to carry out some previous research beforehand. A freezer is an important piece of equipment that should last you and your family a number of years.

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