Upright Freezer- Manual or Defrost?

Bumblebeez SC Zone 7September 23, 2010

I may need a new freezer and am having a hard time deciding if I want to get another manual defrost.

I know, for many of you this is a moot point! Who wants to defrost a freezer?

But I have always read that manual defrost keeps food so much longer and fresher than constantly having the temperature fluctuating.

Now, however, I am reading this is not true. That upright manuals are not better - that it is only the chest type (not an option) that work much better.

Any thoughts to help me decide?

I do not have a food saver and and I don't harvest anything or buy sides of beef, etc.

It seems like I throw a lot of stuff out because of ice crystals but that might be because my freezer is off kilter.

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Not an expert on freezers but am a little surprised that there are even manual ones around any more!?! I DO know that "scientifically" chest freezers are more efficient than uprights. Every time you open the door to an upright (that includes refrigerators), the cold air just falls out on the floor. The whole fact that heat rises.

Had a spare, 2nd hand fridge/freezer for a while. Defrosting freezer was not one of my favorite chores.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 11:57AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Manuals will keep food fresher and lasting longer than frost free freezers. This is well known.

The concern is about manual uprights which are a little different than manual chest types.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 12:18PM
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I got a manual, and I would greatly prefer a defrost model. Mine is a major PITA to defrost. There's a practical experience! ;-o

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 12:22PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Well, yes, it is a PITA but I am not taking that into consideration much.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 12:27PM
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I'd love to have a frost-free....but my manual one just

ate defrosting and use my food up pretty quickly so length of time is less of a concern. Might choose to use the vacuum sealer more if ice crystals became a problem.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 12:35PM
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I didn't like using my foodsaver so I freeze food a different way which would help you with the ice crystals if you want to get a self-defrosting freezer.

I take all meats and tightly wrap them in plastic wrap before inserting them into freezer bags. I have found that I can keep it much better and longer this way. You could adapt that method with items other than meat also.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 12:44PM
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"Well, yes, it is a PITA but I am not taking that into consideration much."

You should. That's what I said before I bought it. I'm singing a different tune now.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 12:50PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I've had a manual upright for 15 years so I know what is required. I am thinking of switching to a frost free upright.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 2:05PM
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I do save sides of beef, etc., so my needs are somewhat different than yours. I have a manual defrost chest type which keeps meat longer and holds more in sheer pounds.

However, auto defrosts cycle on and off, that's how they work. So, if you have things stored for a while, and they've gone through a couple of cycles, they have thawed a bit, then frozen, then thawed, then frozen. They are still perfectly safe, but the quality suffers.

The question is, do you keep enough food for long enough periods to make up for the job of manually defrosting. Only you can decide that.

Or prevent forest fires. Oops, sorry, I was channelling Smokey the Bear there for a minute. Remember, "only you can prevent.....". Oh, never mind. LOL.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 2:38PM
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Defrosting is a pain, but I think it's a design fault (at least on our 25 year old dinosaur. The drain comes out the bottom and you can't even raise it enuf to drain in a shallow pan (jut backs up inside).... It's on the floor which I pad with dirty towels which go into the washer next to it. I try to get as much frost as possible in big chunks which also melt nicely when you turn the hot water on to wash the towels.
It doesn't keep food as well as my Dad's very old chest, but does keep it a lot better than our side by side upstairs.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 2:39PM
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We bought a new freezer for the church about a year ago. It's manual defrost....but it has a defrost cycle and it heats and melts a lot of build up in about an hour.
Non-frost free freezers keep freezer burn away lots longer than frost free does.
How often do you have to defrost? Once a year? put the freezer stuff in coolers and open the door, fill a couple of big pans with hot water and aim an electric fan into the freezer. It's done very quickly!
And...manual are cheaper to run.
Linda C

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 2:45PM
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Now, however, I am reading this is not true. That upright manuals are not better - that it is only the chest type (not an option) that work much better.

Bumblebeez, could you expand on that? I get the whole "cold air goes down" thing making chest freezers preferable, but while it's closed and cold, a sealed box is a sealed box, no? Why are "they" now saying manual isn't better for uprights?

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 3:02PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I did not know before that only chest types were recommended by "experts" for manual defrost.
Anyway, I'm here for the GW expert advice!

From a review on freezers

"In general, our research shows that upright freezers offer the best performance. Most models have a self-defrosting feature, so users don't need to defrost by hand. Manual-defrost upright freezers exist, but they're not recommended by experts. Without the fan present in self-defrosting but not manual-defrost freezers, uprights often struggle to maintain a consistent temperature, which can cause food to thaw and spoil over time. Uprights also tend to cost more than chest freezers.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 4:23PM
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I would never buy a manual defrost. JMO. My upright frost-free is as old as the hills, don't remember when it was purchased and I shudder to think about the day when it has to be replaced. I don't have coolers big enough to hold all that stuff. It would force me to clean it out though.LOL


    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 4:39PM
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Food does keep much longer in a manual defrost freezer. For that reason, I wouldn't consider a frost free one. Think about how quickly items freezer burn in the (frost free) refrigerator freezer.

Anyway, I have a manual defrost chest freezer and defrost approx. once a year. I suspect that upright might need to be defrosted more often but don't know that for sure. How often you have to defrost is going to depend a lot on how often you get into the freezer. But if you're throwing out a lot of food now because of ice crystals & you have a manual defrost, you're for sure going to be throwing out a lot more w/ a frost-free model. IMO.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 6:43PM
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I don't have a freezer, so I have no practical user experience.

However, I am curious about freezers, so I think about it once in a while. I have not found a lot of scientific studies or comparisons on the various aspects of freezers.

Just some random thoughts:

I cannot understand how a manual defrost freezer can be better, or more efficient than a frost-free type. Ice and frost is a fairly good insulator (think igloo), once the cooling coils are covered with ice, you basically lose your heat transfer efficiency completely.

This is important because most freezers use capillary type of mechanical thermostats to control the compressor. This type of thermostats have great limitations. They have low resolution and they have low response time. In other words, they only react to temperature swings from 10 to 20 degrees and it takes a long time for them to sense the 10 to 20 degrees change in temperature. In a non-forced air type of freezer, you will have a big problem of very uneven temperature control.

It is never easy to defrost a freezer. It takes a lot of work and time, even if you are doing it once or twice a year, depending on your humidity, how you package your food and how often you open up the freezer. Each time you do it, it can take one to two hours to have your frozen food exposed to room temperature, or get yourself a big ice box.

It is a very good thing to get a freezer with outside condensing coils. You will get almost free cooling in the winter time, and you don't have to waste money to run your air conditioner to cool the 300 watts to 1,000 watts of heat to run the freezer.

Regarding freezer burn, it is a good thing and it is a bad thing.
When a freezer works well, freezer burn occurs quicker and easier, and the opposite is true.

You will need to package your food very well in a good freezer. And only a good freezer can accomplish the recommended 0 degree F evenly, accurately and quickly.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 6:57PM
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I have an upright auto defrost freezer. It works very well and keeps all my food frozen. I can't use a chest freezer because I am only 4 ft 10 inces tall and it is just too difficult and I can't reach the bottom. I would never buy a manual freezer. Just my experience. Just weigh all your options and then make the decision best for you!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 7:21PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Ho Hum!
Food does keep much longer in a manual defrost freezer. For that reason, I wouldn't consider a frost free one. Think about how quickly items freezer burn in the (frost free) refrigerator freezer

This has been my guiding rule on freezers so far. We have two refrigerators and I do not use the freezer parts at all except for ice and an occasional something.
Food does indeed go bad faster in them I am sure of that.

I also can cram most of the freezer food into these two while I defrost the big one- which, physically and mentally, isn't that big a deal. Not fun, but neither is cutting the grass and I do lots of that too.

I will probably let dh make the decision unless I hear from someone how great the frost free type is for their food. The consensus seems to be no one wants to defrost one, that I understand, but I am willing to do that.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 7:37PM
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Good decision beez. We do lots of things that are not "fun" in the name of doing what we gotta do.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2010 at 12:09AM
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ghoghunter, I'm 5'1" and Elery gets a big charge out of seeing me lean over the edge of the freezer with my feet up in the air, standing on my head to retrieve something from the bottom of that chest freezer.

Still, it holds and entire half a beef and a whole pig, and an upright just doesn't have the sheer storage capacity, so it's a chest freezer for me and Elery gets a lot of entertainment value so it's all good, LOL.

I've definitely got to defrost after Amanda's wedding and before we put a pig in there!


    Bookmark   September 24, 2010 at 3:39PM
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I have had both and by far and away my manual upright is the best freezer I've ever had. It's a very large freezer and I only defrost it about twice a year. The difference in the quality of the frozen goods is very noticeable to me.

Defrosting isn't that big a deal, at least to me. I put all the food in coolers, place a fan in the freezer, place the hose in a plastic basin. I coax some of the ice mass along as it thaws and it's all done within an hour or so.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2010 at 4:51PM
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I've had both frost free and manual defrost freezers. I now only own manual defrost and wouldn't own a frost free again. (Of coarse, my refrigerator has frost free freezer, but not by choice, so I only keep ice cubes in there). There is a VERY noticeable difference in the quality of the food.

I can and freeze food and cook from scratch. I have both a manual defrost chest freezer and a manual defrost up right. I use the upright for leftovers and anything I want to get to quickly and easily. The chest freezer is for longer term storage such as fruits I have frozen and sides of beef, etc. Even home made ice cream keeps quite a while in these manual freezers.

The fact that the frost free freezers continually heat themselves up in order to melt ice ruins the quality of food. No matter what the manufacturers want to tell you, your food heats up and re-freezes as well.

To me it is not that big a deal to defrost the freezers once in a while. It is a simple process, and I use up food in one to the point where it is easy to store the rest in another freezer until I'm done defrosting. It's no more of a chore than having to do your laundry or wash dishes. Not sure why everything has to be so "effortless" any way, especially when it comes to food quality.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 3:02PM
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We just bought a new chest freezer cuz our upright has problems. Its gasket is bad so it needs defrosted monthly. I scrape the ice so I don't have to defrost it so often, not fun either way. The chest is to hold some beef, elk, garden veggies and fruit. It wont be opened very often. The items we use often will be kept in the upright. The chest has a power on light so you know its working...its sooo quiet. It was on sale and we get 10 bucks back from the power company cuz its an energy star. Most chests are manual defrost and one review (dont remember which brand)said they defrosted theirs only once in 4 yrs.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 3:02PM
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I forgot to mention that my chest freezer is a Whirlpool that I bought a few years ago, and it has worked well. Stays nice and cold. The newest one (the upright manual) is a large 20 cubic ft. Frigidaire, and it has been absolutely excellent. I put my husband's engineering thermometer in there and the temps stay nice and cold, as well as steady.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 3:06PM
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I agree with the others manual will keep food longer without any decline in quality. I have had both and due to my size I much preferred the upright.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 3:34PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I appreciate all you manual defrost people chiming in!
I was feeling lonely.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 8:56PM
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I'm another manual type.

The big thing with any freezer is, as you empty them, you freeze air. So every time you open it up moist air enters, you take your package and close the door. Repeat. That is lots of moist air changes which now sit as a void in the freezer.

The ice and frost build up you see is the result of all that.

we keep paper grocery bags filled with newspapers and taped together. So fill a grocery sack with newspaper and slip that into a second sack the other way, so no newspaper is exposed. Masking tape it shut.

Anytime we create enough room in the freezer we place another paper "brick" inside. These get placed to the back in uprights or to the bottom in chest freezers so your food is always reachable.

Anyway, long story short, our upright is at least five years old, manual, and we have never defrosted it. Doesn't need it.

Our chest freezer was moved here over 10 years ago and if I recall correctly we have defrosted it once.

Keep them full for max efficiency, works for me. Food or newspaper bricks, the mechanics of the process don't know the difference.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 9:16PM
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I have an upright and a chest freezer and they are both manual defrost. I hate defrosting, but it only takes me three or four hours for both of them and I do it in May, June or July, before the garden starts producing. The chest freezer is easier to defrost, but the upright is easier to see what you have.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 9:23PM
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Manual chest here too. I think we had a discussion about this a while ago and like some have said here, many of us have never or infrequently defrosted ours. My latest is about 5 years old and I haven't had to defrost it yet. It doesn't usually get too empty but as/if it does I put half/gallons of ice in it. A few times there was some buildup right at the top but I just scraped it down/off. In these years there is still very little loose frost in it. I might clean it out this winter or end of winter. I get to the bottom of it frequently and rotate things so things don't really get lost. I have kept things much longer in there than you'd think and had little problems with freezer burn or deterioration.

Annie, Christy says she is 5' and I must admit her digging in the freezer is one of my pleasures. When she goes out to the room it's in by herself, I always keep track and tell her I'll come rescue her if it's more than ten minutes. Smiles.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 12:45AM
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"I cannot understand how a manual defrost freezer can be better, or more efficient than a frost-free type."
Better is a matter of opinion, but efficient is not. Look at the cost of operation of comparable sized units and you'll see which is more efficient. Running a defroster costs, ergo, less efficient.

"It is never easy to defrost a freezer."
Again, it's relatively speaking and an opinion so it's hard to address, but when I had my manual defrost upright freezer going I'd defrost maybe every two years. I didn't like doing it, wasn't a favorite job, but it was easy. Pull the stuff. I'd do it in the winter when it was good and cold so I'd just put the stuff in totes or coolers in the garage. Simple. Unplug the freezer. Simple. Open the door and start a fan blowing. How much simpler can things get? I'd get impatient with it so I'd take a hair dryer and get the big chunks, give it a quick wash down, which was optional but simply spray and wipe and plug it back in. Sounds much more complex than it was in reality. Some chores are simple but still not popular. This is one of them. Now really, is this truly "a lot of work"? Hardly. A lot of time? No. And I speak from having owned one and done it.

And I was very happy I had an upright rather than a chest. I've seen all the digging to the bottom of a chest freezer, and defrosting them were far more difficult than upright.

A self-defrost freezer would be nicer in the one way, but you *do* pay a price for it. If you have a big family and go through a *lot* of food, for instance nothing is in there more than a month, then a self defroster would be good. But for longer term storage, it's no different than the unit on your refrigerator and most everyone agrees that's not the optimal freezing unit.

dcarch, I assume you're saying keep a freezer in a cold garage. Well this is not recommended by the manufacturers and common sense says that what you might gain in the winter would be lost in the summer heat in that garage. Most all garages, unless air-conditioned are much hotter than the house in the summer and therefore the freezer will run much more. And if it's got a/c, it's proably heated too so there goes your theory of free cooling. And I have to disagree. I don't see freezer burn as ever being a good thing!

1 Like    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 10:45PM
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Again, I don't have a freezer, therefore my statements are just based on my understanding of how things generally work. Also, I am not saying that a manual freezer is a lousy freezer.

I can understand a self-defrost may not be as efficient because it uses a heating system inside to defrost regularly and there is a fan to circulate cold air. Also, I think a manual defrost most likely will need thicker insulation because it can't even out inside temperature as well, while a self-defrost will uses thinner insulation to give you more storage, which is a good selling point. However, some of this lack of efficiency is balanced out when you manually defrost a freezer, because you need a lot of energy to melt the ice and re-cool the entire freezer again and all the food that's been out for an hour or so. thinner insulation can give you around two cubic feet more of storage.

"----dcarch, I assume you're saying keep a freezer in a cold garage.------"

Actually I am talking about a split system. The condensing coil is installed outside of the house. This system gives you bonus cooling in the winter and will not heat up your house in the summer. The basic mechanics of a refrigeration cycle, just like an air conditioner, it is most efficient when you don't really need it.

"----I don't see freezer burn as ever being a good thing!-----"

Of course not. What I was trying to say was that a self-defrost freezer uses forced cold air and that can mean faster freezer burn if you don't package your food well; however, it is a good thing because the food get frozen much quicker. The quicker the food gets frozen, the smaller the ice crystals will form inside your food (less cell membrane damage), which may mean better quality food (similar to flash freezing).

One of the main advantages of a frost free unit, besides convenience is its ability to keep recommended temperature quickly and evenly throughout the inside. The thermostat typically used in a freezer is of the capillary type. This kind of thermostat will take anywhere from 10 to 20 degrees F from the set temperature to turn the compressor on and off. This deviation from 0 degree F in an unevenly cooled freezer can mean a less than ideal storage environment for food.

This condition gets worst when ice is formed on the freezer walls because ice is a relatively good insulator.


1 Like    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 11:37AM
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son just bought a chest freezer x Sears & was told no chest freezer is frost free any more... they are manual defrost (true?)! We just bought a new upright: roll-out freezer on bottom, 2-door refr. on top & really like it as the 'side-by-side' I 'just had to have'some years ago was so unhandy: ref. side too narrow as was the freezer side!! We also have a small upright freezer in the garage as well as a 18 ft. regular top freezer, bottom single door refr. so all are self defrosting but I see no problem with the food stored in them. My gripe is that most of the units have the controls way in the back of the refr. or freezer & a pain if for any reason you have to adjust the temps.!! Makes no sense but one sales person said it was to 'keep you from adjusting the temps. as they were set at the factory for correct temps.' ??

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 5:35PM
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I have a garage apart from my home, this is where we keep our freezer. During the summer months it gets very hot and our frost free upright, even though it continues to run will not keep the food frozen. The sales person at sears told us we needed a manual defrost to work properly in a warm invironment. I hear chest are better for manual defrost but that just won't fly with my wife so I base my questions on upright freezers only.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 4:47AM
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