Consumers looking for a large freezer have two options: upright and chest freezers. Upright freezers are best for consumers who frequently buy smaller quantities of food they need to access quickly. Upright freezers are tall, narrow units with a door that opens from the front. An upright freezer's footprint is similar to that of a small kitchen refrigerator. Many users prefer upright freezers over chest models because they say it is easier to organize and access the contents. On the downside, upright freezers tend to cost more to operate than chest freezers because cold air escapes from them more easily. Also, they can't store as much food for their size; one review we read for a Kenmore upright complains that the 16.7-cubic-foot freezer doesn't hold as much as the owner's old 8.8-cubic-foot chest freezer. Many upright models have a self-defrosting feature, which saves the hassle of defrosting. In professional tests, self-defrost models generally do better at maintaining a consistent temperature, but they aren't as energy efficient.
Chest freezers, on the other hand, are shorter and wider, and they open from the top rather than the front. They are best for consumers who often buy bulk foods and tend to store them for long periods of time. Chest freezers take up more floor space than upright models, so users tend to store them in a basement or garage. They are not generally available in frost-free versions, so chest freezers have to be manually defrosted from time to time. Compared to upright models, chest freezers generally cost less to buy and run. Since cold air flows downward and the door opens from the top, less cold air is lost when the door is opened, making these models more energy efficient. Also, since they're better at retaining cold air, they can preserve frozen food for longer than upright freezers. The food stored in them is also less susceptible to freezer burn. Chest freezers run more quietly than upright models and come in a wider range of sizes, so you won't be stuck buying a larger freezer than you really need. However, there are some drawbacks to the chest design: Users find chest freezers more difficult to organize because it is hard to what's inside, and the low height of these freezers forces users to bend down to reach them.
Compared to other types of kitchen appliances, freezers don't receive a lot of attention from professional reviewers. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute, for example, hasn't tested them lately, and they aren't covered in the appliance-satisfaction survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates. Still, the editors of ConsumerReports.org test freezers regularly, and the website currently lists results for more than 60 upright and chest freezers. Testing is straightforward, and editors offer a helpful buying guide (identifying the pros and cons of different features), but there's not much discussion about individual freezer models.
The U.K.'s Which? and Australia's Choice magazines perform thorough tests and offer helpful buyer's guides, but the freezers they spotlight aren't sold in the U.S. We also found freezer reviews at ConsumerGuide.com, but there's no indication that the selected freezers have been tested -- or even seen in person -- so these ratings should be taken with a grain of salt. The EnergyStar.gov website provides information on how to choose an efficient freezer, along with a list of models that qualify for the Energy Star label. (Energy Star-rated freezers are at least 10 percent more efficient than non-qualified models.)
Beyond that, consumers provide the best insights on freezers. We found the largest volume of user reviews for specific models at retail sites HomeDepot.com, Sears.com and CompactAppliance.com (which specializes in smaller freezers). Other retail sites, as well as review sites like Epinions.com and Viewpoints.com, provide additional feedback. We also consulted the appliances forum at GardenWeb.com, a discussion website that is a great place to ask questions and get specific answers. However, most of the information on this site pertains to combination fridge-freezers, which are covered in our Refrigerators report.
Comparing freezer reviews can be confusing because identical models are often sold under different brand names. For example, many Kenmore freezers, which are sold exclusively at Sears, are manufactured by Frigidaire and are sold elsewhere under the Frigidaire name. We have made a point of noting which freezers in our report are also available under other names so that you can check out both versions to find the best price.