Keeping pace with deep freezer technology

30 Jul

It’s worth spending a little extra for more interior space. All six shelves on the door are devoted exclusively to bread products, making it easy to find those rolls when you need them. (Geoff Meeker photo)

July 30, 2012

This has been a tragic year for appliances in my household. Everything seems to be giving up the ghost, and all at once.

The latest appliance to fall ill was the upright freezer, which served me well for 15 years.  Food started thawing in the lower section, while large amounts of frost formed in the top. It seemed obvious that air was leaking around the door seal, though it seemed snug enough.

It may have been repairable but time was of the essence – I was losing food – so I set about looking at new freezers. Had the technology advanced much since 1997?

For my purchase, I looked only at upright freezers. I’ve never liked chest freezers because it’s easy to lose track food buried in the bottom layers. It’s far more convenient to open a freezer, pantry style, and see everything at once and all within easy reach, than bending and reaching into in a chest model.

When I last bought a freezer, it wasn’t a highly evolved appliance – essentially, a large insulated box that kept food frozen, with no bells or whistles. There are more frills now, and some useful ones, though the basic technology remains the same. That is, it’s still a big, insulated icebox.

Here are some of the extras you’ll find:

External control panel

Many freezers have an LCD control panel on the door that displays the temperature inside and/or the cold setting. The panel should also allow you to adjust settings without opening the door.

Door ajar alarm

If the door is left ajar for more than five minutes, an alarm will sound until the door is closed. This feature alone could pay for the cost of a freezer, by preventing food wastage. (I’m an expert on this subject. The door was left ajar on our old freezer several times, resulting in a catastrophic defrost of most items inside.)

Temperature alert

An alarm will sound if the temperature inside the freezer rises above 23 degrees F. This is useful if the freezer is malfunctioning, but it runs on electricity and is thus useless in the event of a tripped fuse.

Shelf bookends

Many manufacturers provide shelf bookends, which clip onto the wire shelving and keep all those boxes of frozen food standing upright, nice and neat.

Bright lighting

Look for a freezer with a good interior light. My old unit had no light at all, so I’ve quickly fallen in love with this little feature.

Soft freeze zone

Some freezers have a compartment that is not as cold, to store ice cream and keep it soft and scoop-able. This sounds silly to me, but some people seem to like it.

Frost free

This is not a new feature but, having defrosted the old freezer so many times, it’s an essential one in my view. It works with a fan that forces air through the freezer, so it’s important that you don’t squeeze too much in there and not block off the back wall.

Adjustable shelves

Some brands have adjustable or removable shelves, inside the box and on the door. There are shelves that tip out, hideaway pizza shelves and slide-out drawers.

Beyond the options that interest you, I do recommend going with extra interior space if you can afford it. My old freezer was 14 cubic feet and cramped compared to the new Frigidaire, with its 20 cubic feet. It offers more shelves, greater space between the shelves, a wider body and six large trays on the door (the latter are devoted exclusively to bread products, believe it or not, and I have not had a freezer-burned package of hamburger buns since getting the freezer). More interior space also ensures better air circulation in the frost-free models.

You can spend anywhere from $450 for a smaller, no frills freezer up to $1200 and more for the larger appliances with all the options. After visiting six appliance stores around the city, I settled on the Frigidaire (FFU21F5HW), which offered a good combination of size and features for $719 (at Smith’s Furniture). I encourage you to shop around, too.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at


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