Tuesday 27 June 2017

Which Freezer should you buy?

Find a freezer you can rely on with the results of our independent tests

Find a freezer you can rely on with the results of our independent test.
Find a freezer you can rely on with the results of our independent test.
Zanussi ZQF11430DA, €430
The Lec CF200LW fridge freezer, €303
3. Zanussi ZFT10210WA, €400
The Zanussi ZFT11100WA, €250
Zanussi ZQF11430DA, €430

Clodagh O'Donoghue

A great freezer will help you make the most of your grocery purchases and reduce food waste. A freezer is very useful for those who end up cooking more than they can eat or who want to have homemade dinners for the week safely stored away. Freezers also come into their own for those who like to bulk buy food items or avail of discounts and who will not be able to consume all their purchases at once.

So, although not cheap to buy, freezers can be a great investment and can help you save money and time. In our tests, we look for freezers that will freeze food fast to preserve nutrients and quality, that will maintain a stable temperature regardless of whether the surrounding room heats up or cools down, and that will keep food safely frozen in the event that the power is cut off for a period. We also note features that will make life easier for users and that will increase the efficiency and utility of the appliance.

Our five Choice Buys excel in all areas and include chest, upright, tall and under-counter models.

Chest Freezers versus upright models

The available space you have at your disposal to house a freezer will largely determine the type of appliance you opt for. The choices are, essentially, a chest freezer or an upright model, which both have their advantages. Here are some factors you might like to consider:

Storage: Chest freezers are essentially wide open boxes, sometimes with a couple of hanging wires baskets or vertical dividers, and - compared with upright models - they are better able to fit bulky items like a leg of lamb or a turkey. Upright models, which take up less floor space than chest freezers and which open like a fridge, have removable drawers that fit on fixed shelves and that may not be deep enough to accommodate anything very large or awkwardly shaped.

Ease of use: Even with one or two hanging baskets, chest freezers can be cavernous containers in which food is hard to organise and you may need to be reasonably fit and nimble to reach down to an item at the bottom of the appliance. In contrast, upright freezers have the advantage that food items can be sorted into different drawers that are easily accessed, making loading and retrieving your frozen assets a breeze. This added convenience comes at a price though, as upright freezers tend to be more expensive than chest models.

Features: Chest freezers tend to be simple appliances with few bells and whistles. In contrast, if you opt for an upright freezer, you may be able to avail of a number of handy features, including a fast-freeze function to provide an added boost of cooling power when needed. Alarms or warning lights can be useful to let owners know if the door has not closed properly or if the temperature begins to rise. If you dread the thought of periodically defrosting your freezer, it might be worth seeking out a model with a frost-free feature that prevents ice from building up in your freezer in the first place.

Energy efficiency: As well as being cheaper to buy, chest freezers tend to be less expensive to run. Due to their design, they are generally slightly more energy efficient than upright appliances and the fact that they have a lid on top means that not as much cold air escapes when you open them up.

Insulation: Chest freezers are better at keeping food frozen in the event of a prolonged power cut and could be worth considering if you live in an area where power outages are common.

Freezer efficiency

Like all refrigeration appliances, freezers are always-on machines that can significantly push up energy bills. To minimise running costs, choosing a more energy-efficient model when buying a freezer is key. There are also other ways to cut down on energy costs.

• As we have seen, appliances with a frost-free function will push up energy bills more than a freezer that has to be defrosted manually. However, freezers that have a lot of ice build-up use more energy so, to keep a manual-defrost freezer running at maximum energy efficiency, you will need to defrost it regularly.

• Food is safely frozen at -18°C, so the freezer does not need to be any colder than this. Keeping your freezer colder than -18°C is a waste of energy. You can use a freezer thermometer to check the temperature of the appliance and adjust accordingly.

• Don't leave the door open longer than necessary as warm air enters and the freezer has to put in extra effort to lower the temperature again. A well-organised freezer cuts down on the time spent rummaging around with the door open and transparent drawers let you see what is inside without having to pull out each drawer.

• Similarly, the door seal needs to be making good contact and be free from frost to keep warm air out and to avoid added running costs.

• Features like door alarms or warning lights are useful as they alert you when the door is not properly closed, enabling you to rectify the problem quickly - thereby stopping the freezer from having to use additional energy in the effort to keep food frozen, as well as preventing your frozen food from thawing unexpectedly and ending up in the bin.

• Do not put freshly cooked food straight into the freezer, as this will warm the appliance up and it will have to work harder to reduce the temperature again. Cooked foods should be cooled before being popped into the freezer and you can speed the cooling process up by dividing the food into smaller portions - which could also be handy when it comes to defrosting, as it may save you from having to defrost a far larger portion than you need.

• Do not overfill your freezer, as cold air needs to be able to circulate around the appliance to work properly.

These product tests are carried out by the independent consumer organsitation International Consumer Research and Testing (ICRT), in association with the Consumers' Association of Ireland.

1. Lec CF200LW, €303

(freestanding chest)

For those in the market for a chest freezer, the Choice Buy Lec CF200LW is an excellent option. Although it does not come with a lot of fancy features, this appliance will do a great job of performing the main tasks of freezing food quickly to the recommended -18°C and the temperature will remain stable within this appliance regardless of fluctuations in temperature in the surrounding room. This freezer scored very well in terms of energy efficiency and it delivers superb insulation, keeping food safely frozen for around 52 hours in the event of a prolonged power cut. Chest freezers are not as easy to use as upright models but the wire basket that comes supplied will help you arrange your frozen food within this Lec appliance, which has an impressive capacity of 196 litres. If this freezer sounds appealing but is too large for your available space, a narrower version, the Lec CF100LW, holds almost 98 litres of food and offers a similarly impressive performance for the lower price of around €220. Though not stocked in shops in Ireland at present, these freezer models may be bought online.

2. Zanussi ZFT11100WA, €250

(Freestanding, upright, under-counter)

The Choice Buy Zanussi ZFT11100WA is the cheapest of our Choice Buys and delivers a great performance at an affordable price. The freezing power of this under-counter, freestanding appliance is impressive so that, even without a fast-freeze function, your food will be frozen down to -18°C very quickly, preserving more nutrients and delivering a fresher result when it is thawed. Temperature stability is first-rate with the temperature within this appliance remaining unaffected even when the surrounding room warms up and a warning light will indicate if the temperature rises for some reason. The Zanussi ZFT11100WA will also provide great insulation, keeping your food safely frozen for up to around 26 hours if the power is shut off, and around 78 litres of food can be stored in the appliance's three plastic drawers. This freezer is reasonably energy efficient and as it is not a frost-free appliance, it will need to be defrosted manually. This is a white model, and an equally excellent stainless steel version, the Zanussi ZFT11100XA, is also available.

3. Zanussi ZFT10210WA, €400

(freestanding, upright, under-counter)

Another freestanding, under-counter freezer from Zanussi, the Choice Buy ZFT10210WA holds a little more than our previous Choice Buy as well as offering some useful features and delivering excellent freezing power. Food will be frozen very quickly, preserving quality and colour, and if an extra boost is needed - such as if you are adding a large load of fresh food at once - you can make use of the handy fast-freeze function. With superb temperature stability, this appliance will be immune to rising temperatures in the surrounding room and will keep your food safely frozen. Insulation on this appliance is not as impressive as on other models but in the event of a power cut, food will stay frozen for a quite satisfactory 21 hours before starting to thaw. This freezer did not score well in our energy-efficiency tests but the four plastic, removable drawers hold a very decent 83 litres of food and as it is a frost-free appliance, you will not have to spend time defrosting it manually.

4. Zanussi ZQF11430DA, €430

(built-in, upright, under-counter)

Those looking for an under-counter freezer that can be built into their fitted kitchen might like to consider the Choice Buy Zanussi ZQF11430DA. With excellent freezing power, it does not take long for food to be chilled to -18°C and there is also a fast-freeze function if you feel an added boost of cooling power is called for. You will be able to fit a very decent 79 litres of food inside this appliance, which offers four removable, transparent drawers. Food frozen inside this appliance will be kept at a safe temperature, regardless of how the room warms up or cools down. If the power is cut off, this freezer will maintain food at safe temperatures for an impressive 32 hours and there is a high temperature alarm to warn you if there is a problem. Reflected in the ease-of-use score is the fact that the control panel is located at the bottom of the appliance, making access a little tricky, and you will need to defrost this freezer manually as it is not frost free.

5. Grundig GFN13820W €750

(freestanding, upright, tall)

Those who need a spacious, upright, tall freezer might like to consider the Choice Buy Grundig GFN13820W. This roomy appliance has a very generous usable capacity of 204 litres, as measured in our tests, and contains six plastic, removable drawers - one of which is extra deep for storing bulky items - plus two freezer shelves with flaps for stowing flat items like ice-cube trays. A fast-freeze function can be used to speed up the freezing process, and with top-notch temperature stability you will not have to worry about your food remaining safely frozen, even when the surrounding room experiences wide variation in temperature. Even in a power outage, this appliance can be relied upon to maintain its freezing temperatures for up to 28 hours. Despite its large size, the Grundig GFN13820W is very energy-efficient and it is also the quietest of our Choice Buys. In addition, this high-end appliance is frost free, so there will be no need to tackle the tedious job of defrosting.

Irish Independent

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