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Ten tips

Ice age: How to buy a stand-alone freezer

If you love to do bulk shopping at warehouse clubs or prefer to keep plenty of potential dinner options on hand, you may be in the market for a separate freezer. The following tips can help you make the right purchase for your home.

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2003


1. Know what you need. The freezers in most refrigerators have 4 to 6 cubic feet of space, while separate freezers can have anywhere from 4 to 25 cubic feet of space. Three sizes -- 5, 15 and 20 cubic feet -- make up half of all purchases.

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2. Count the costs. Stand-alone freezers cost from $140 for a small unit to about $750 for a large model with shelves, bins and lighting that make it easy to find food.

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3. Think energy efficiency. As of July 2001, new freezer models must meet federal standards requiring them to use up to 30 percent less energy than older models. Operating a new 15-cubic-foot freezer costs about $30 to $55 a year -- about what it costs to operate a new refrigerator.

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4. Consider a chest. The least expensive and most energy-efficient kind of freezer, a chest looks like a box with a door that opens upward. Chests have lots of usable space, but their design makes it difficult to organize the items inside, and they must be defrosted from time to time, which can be a messy hassle.

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5. A self-defrost upright freezer looks like a single-door refrigerator, with adjustable shelves and bins that allow you to organize and reach items easily but that reduce usable space by about 20 percent. The self-defrost capacity lets you to avoid an unpleasant chore and adds about $20 a year to your energy costs.

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6. Manual-defrost uprights fall in between chests and self-defrost uprights when it comes to price and energy efficiency. Their contents are easier to reach than chests' contents, but their unadjustable, coolant-filled metal shelves can make defrosting an ordeal, and the lack of a fan to circulate cold air can lead to uneven temperatures.

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7. Look for special features. When shopping around, be on the lookout for: interior lighting; a power-on light; a temperature alarm; a quick-freeze feature; and a flash-defrost feature that hastens the defrosting process.

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8. Conduct a little experiment. Once you bring your freezer home, place a freezer thermometer close to the center of the main compartment to see whether a temperature of 0 F is being maintained. Check it after 24 hours, and adjust the settings if necessary.

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9. Know when it's time to defrost. To maintain optimal energy efficiency, defrost chests and manual-defrost uprights when 1/4 to 1/2 inch of ice builds up on the walls or shelves. In hot, humid climates like Florida's, you may have to defrost several times a year.

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10. Defrost wisely. Unload all your food and freeze it elsewhere so it doesn't thaw out. Turn off and unplug your freezer, leave the door open, put containers of hot water inside and wait for the ice on the freezer walls to melt.

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-- Compiled by Laura T. Coffey. Sources: Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org); MSN Shopping (www.eshop.com)

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