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Understanding the Differences Between Frost-Free and Auto Defrost Freezers


A buildup of frost inside a freezer will affect the taste of frozen food, create bad odors, take up valuable space, and even cause damage to the appliance. Most modern freezers have features to deal with frost and these fall into two broad categories, frost-free and auto defrost. They sound similar, but they work in very different ways and we will cover them both in this article to help you make an informed purchasing decision.

What is a Frost-Free Freezer?

A freezer with a frost-free feature has an automatic fan system, which is designed to remove warm air. This keeps the internal freezer temperature consistent and moisture is prevented from accumulating and freezing on the walls. The fan keeps the cold air in the freezer circulating to prevent a buildup of frost and there should be no need to manually defrost the appliance.

What is an Auto Defrost Freezer?

All auto defrost freezers have an automatic self-cleaning function that requires no intervention to work. The system heats coils in the freezer which prevents frosting to ensure that you don’t need to manually defrost the freezer. Many upright freezers have a fan-assisted or direct cooling system with an auto defrost feature in place.

Frost-Free vs Auto Defrost: Which is Best?

Both approaches do a good job when it comes to keeping the frost off the freezer walls. They both negate the need to defrost the freezer manually and they work without human intervention. So, it can be hard to choose one over the other without some extra information. Let’s break the choice down into three key areas: effectiveness, cost, and energy efficiency.

1.   Effectiveness

These freezer types are both effective at preventing frost buildup, but a frost-free model will promote a drier environment in the freezer. This can extend food storage times significantly, but there is a significant caveat. If the freezer air is much drier there is a greater risk of freezer burn and stored foods must be properly protected. It’s also important to keep the fan housing clear of food stacks in a frost–free model or the fan cannot circulate the air properly.

2.   Cost

A frost-free freezer will have a higher purchase price than an equivalently sized auto defrost model. Frost-free freezers use more technology and at this time these advanced features still come with a premium price tag.

3.   Energy Efficiency

A frost-free freezer is a more energy efficient appliance than an auto defrost model. Both freezer types do reduce energy bills because they prevent frost buildup, but a frost-free model is better. For many people, this will offset the higher frost-free freezer purchasing price and the running costs will be lower.

Freezer FAQ’s

What happens if a freezer is not defrosted?

If you have no auto defrost or frost-free freezer functions, there will be a buildup of frost layers on the inner surfaces of the freezer. This can cause a few problems. First, the available storage space for food in the freezer is reduced. Next, the buildup of frost over the temperature sensors and vents will cause the freezer to overwork leading to an unexpected repair bill or earlier than expected replacement. A build up of frost also increases the risks of freezer burn which can affect the flavors and storage life.

Can a chest freezer be frost-free?

No, a chest freezer is not compatible with frost-free technology because it is already designed for colder temperatures. Frost-free systems are typically found in upright freezers and refrigerator/freezer combos.

If you’re thinking about upgrading your freezer, you can explore the options with this collection of upright and chest models or speak to a home appliance expert for a more specialized service.

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