Although a refrigerator freezer may provide sufficient frozen food storage for a small family, a chest or upright freezer can be very convenient and can even save you money in the long run. Having ample freezer storage allows you to take advantage of bulk food specials, freeze seasonal berries and jams, as well as everyday and special event baking, make-ahead meals, and wild game or large meat orders.
So what style of freezer should you buy and what will work better for you? There are trade-offs to each type of freezer.
Chest vs Upright Freezer: Major Differences
The type of freezer that best suits you depends on your particular lifestyle and needs. Some people prefer to have an upright for everyday frozen foods, while they store seasonal game/meat or special and seasonal baking in a chest freezer.
|Chest Freezer vs Upright Freezer Comparison|
|Chest Freezer||Upright Freezer|
|Appearance||Lift-up door, baskets, lower to the ground||Front-opening door, shelves, stands vertical|
|Size||5 to 25 cubic feet||5 to 25 cubic feet|
|Maintenance||Labor and time-intensive if manual defrost||Less maintenance|
|Energy||Uses less energy||Uses more energy|
|Installation||Larger footprint||Smaller footprint|
|Cost||Less expensive||More expensive|
|Lifespan||Up to 14 years||Up to 14 years|
Chest freezers usually come with at least one wire basket to help you organize the contents. You can segregate types of foods using cardboard boxes to better organize freezer contents. However, chest freezers require a lot of bending, reaching, and moving frozen foods to find what you're looking for.
That being said, they do accommodate odd-shaped, long, or large items that may be difficult to place in an upright freezer. There are some models on the market that have a bottom drawer accessible from the outside of the chest freezer, but while this can add convenience to a chest model, it will also reduce capacity slightly and add to cost.
Probably the best convenience feature of an upright freezer is the ability to better organize the frozen foods, making it easier to monitor and rotate contents to keep frozen foods current. Some upright models have versatile storage systems with adjustable and removable door storage bins, sliding, adjustable shelving, and pull-out baskets or bins.
All these features add to the ease of sorting and storing contents. Although you can better organize an upright, there are constraints. Items such as large turkeys or long, frozen items may not fit without removing a shelf to accommodate the size.
Watch Now: Chest vs Upright Freezer Comparison Guide
Chest freezers have a door on top of the freezer that you lift when you need to use it. They are often long and lower to the ground than an upright freezer. However, there are mini-chest freezers that may need less floor space and a bit more vertical space. Though you will find a majority of chest freezers that have a white finish, you can also find a few rare stainless and black finishes. Many chest freezers also have caster wheels for mobility.
An upright freezer will have a single front panel door on it that opens just like a refrigerator. It will also be as tall as a refrigerator. As with chest freezers, most are white, but there is also a selection of stainless and black stainless finishes available. You may even find a few bright red upright freezers that will add a vintage look to your garage or basement.
Best for Appearance: Upright Freezer
Since an upright freezer looks like a refrigerator, it will seamlessly integrate into your kitchen or other high-traffic living space. They are also available in more colors than chest models. A chest freezer often looks more utilitarian and is usually best suited for basements, garages, or other out-of-the-way areas.
Both styles of freezers are generally sold in 5- to 25-cubic-foot sizes, but there are capacity differences in the same size chest and upright models of freezers. It's also easier to find the mid-range freezer sizes in stores and not all freezers are available in self-defrost models—something you'll want to confirm.
Repair and Maintenance
Although certain chest models have automatic defrost or are frost-free, most chest freezers are manual defrost, a task which requires several hours or a whole day to accomplish. However, there are fewer components inside a manual defrost chest freezer that will need maintenance.
Most upright freezers are self-defrosting and that means there are more components inside the appliance that may need repair down the line, including automatic heating elements, hoses, and drip trays. However, you won't need to handle the sometimes arduous task of manually defrosting the freezer when you own an upright.
Best for Repair and Maintenance: Upright Freezer
Since most upright freezers are self-defrosting, most owners appreciate the minimal maintenance and convenience of never having to manually defrost a freezer.
Chest freezers that have manual defrost are less noisy than upright freezers. However, if the chest has a powerful and high-speed compressor, you will hear some noises. You may also hear the normal expansion and contraction of the liner.
A self-defrosting upright freezer constantly cycles on and off which makes it noisier than a manual defrost chest freezer. As the freezer cycles, you'll hear normal noises like whooshing and whining several times throughout the day. The compressor also makes infrequent noises. Consider the noise factor when deciding where to place an upright freezer.
Best for Noise: Chest Freezer
A chest freezer will be quieter than an upright, but only if it's a manual defrost model.
Because of the built-in sidewall insulation, chest freezers hold their cold temperatures very well and therefore use the least amount of energy to run. In fact, during a power outage or a household move to another locale, as long as the freezer lid is not open, an unplugged chest freezer can keep the contents frozen for two or even three days, depending on the frozen food quantity.
The self-defrost feature of most upright freezers can cost you, plus it will use more energy, but the convenience is well worth this extra cost. An auto-defrost feature in an upright works similar to a refrigerator auto-defrost by cycling off/on to keep the freezer free of ice build-up.
Best for Energy Use: Chest Freezer
If you opt for a chest freezer that has a manual defrost, it may use half the energy of a self-defrosting upright freezer. For the best energy efficiency, choose a freezer that is Energy Star qualified. Both upright and chest freezers can carry an Energy Star rating.
Because of the width of a chest freezer, which will vary depending on the size, its footprint is larger than what is needed for an upright model, even for a small chest freezer. You'll need to ensure that there is enough space to place it and sufficient headroom above the freezer to fully open the door.
Check measurements before buying to ensure you have a spot for it. It's worth mentioning that when choosing a chest freezer, you should consider the path to and inside the house and how many turns or doorways you'll need to go through to get it in place. Although chest models are now made slightly narrower than years ago, it's not unusual to have to remove a door or two to get it inside the house and beyond. Always locate a freezer in a dry level area.
An upright freezer has a smaller footprint than chest models. Think in terms of placing a refrigerator when considering a location for an upright freezer. It needs room for height as well as width, door swing space and at least an inch behind it. Also, consider which way the door swings and whether it is reversible.
Best for Installation: Tie
It depends on the space you have available for a freezer. Besides adequate space, both types of freezers simply require an outlet with the appropriate voltage rating.
The most economical type of freezer is the chest model. In addition, every inch of a chest freezer is usable storage which makes the appliance a great value.
If you can afford the extra cost and you love to keep everything organized in its place—an upright may be best for you. Upright freezers are more expensive than chest models yet provide less usable storage capacity; a difference of about 10 to 15 percent less. Prices are influenced by capacity and storage systems, as well as convenience features such as auto or manual defrost. It can be hard to detect whether an upright has self-defrost or not; you'll need to confirm that with the dealer.
Best for Cost: Chest Freezer
If you're just looking for economical frozen food storage while keeping energy costs at bay, a manual defrost chest model is more economical to buy and operate.
Manual defrost chest freezers tend to have longer life cycles than upright models. That's because they have fewer components than an upright freezer.
An upright freezer has more components to wear out than a chest freezer, especially if it's a manual defrost model. The automatic heating elements that constantly cycle on and off can wear down over time.
Best for Lifespan: Chest Freezer
Most chest and upright freezers can typically last between 10 to 14 years. With fewer components to worry about, a manual defrost chest freezer may be your best bet when it comes to the appliance's longevity.
Having a freezer—or two—in your home can add another dimension of storage worth considering. Both chest and upright freezers serve a valuable function when it comes to storing food and each has its pros and cons. You have to choose whether you want a chest or upright freezer based on your budget, the capacity you need, the conveniences of self-defrosting and interior organization, and energy efficiency differences.
Instead of having a refrigerator/freezer in your kitchen, you could choose an all-refrigerator model that would greatly increase cold food storage and keep your frozen foods in one or two freezers of any type. It should be noted, however, that freezers of any style will increase your energy costs while providing this food storage convenience.
Top Brands & Retailers
- Danby sells all sizes of chest freezers and it's known for its energy-efficient models with smaller footprints that have exceptional insulated interiors.
- Whirlpool sells both chest and upright. It's also known for its handsome double-door side-by-side model, the Whirlpool SideKicks Upright Freezer.
- GE also sells both styles and offers a spacious 21.3 cubic foot frost-free upright that's over 6-feet tall.