What is a Frost Free Freezer

If you're offered a choice between a traditional appliance and a frost free fridge freezer the chances are your immediate reaction will be to go for the frost free option. It sounds better, and certainly it's lower maintenance. So what's not to like? Well it turns out things aren't quite as simple as that. There are a few things you should understand before you choose your new appliance.

Why Frost Free Freezers Were Developed

Frost in a freezerThe biggest problem of a traditional freezer is that a layer of ice builds up on the inside of the walls. The only way to get rid of this is by manually defrosting the unit. This should be done anytime the ice builds up to around a quarter of an inch thick, and you have to turn off the freezer to do it. It's time consuming, labour intensive, and you either have to run your store of frozen goods right down, or find alternative cold storage until your freezer is ready for use again.
The other problem with traditional freezers is that they can cause 'freezer burn'. This occurs when ice forms on the surface of food, it ruin textures and makes produce taste bad too.

When you're considering the pros and cons of frost free freezers, cutting out the work of manual defrosting, having a unit that doesn't have to be put out of commission for maintenance, and reducing freezer burn are definite advantages.

For many people, these advantages are enough. Most people aren't really interested in the technical details, they don't ask 'how does a frost free freezer work'. The important thing is that it does.

The Disadvantages of Frost Free Freezers

The major disadvantages of auto defrosting units are that there's more to go wrong, they cost more to run, and they offer less storage space for the same size model. To understand why this should be so it's necessary to be able to answer the question 'what is frost free freezer technology?'

The Mechanics of 'Frost-Free'

Making a freezer frost free, or producing an auto defrosting fridge, means introducing a heating element into the appliance. This periodically melts the ice on the sides of freezers or at the back of fridges. Frost-free models also need a fan to blow cold air around the storage compartment, and a timer to switch the auto-defrost cycle on and off.
The introduction of a heating element and fan increases running costs, and as cooling depends on circulating air it's important that the unit isn't overloaded, hence the reduction in usable storage space in a frost-free unit when compared to a similarly sized traditional appliance.

Needless to say, the introduction of three new components into the basic design means there are more parts that can fail.

Read Your Owners Manual!

The principals will always be similar, but details will vary from model to model. It's easy to assume that all that's involved in using your fridge or freezer is switching it on and filling it with food. Understanding a little about the technical specifications of your unit may help you to use it more efficiently.

So... which is best?

That's something that only you can decide! For some people economy of operation and less risk of needing the repair man outweighs the advantage of never having to defrost the freezer, for others eliminating the work of defrosting and freezer burn is paramount. What's most important is that once you understand the trade-off involved, you can make an informed decision and buy the unit that suits you best.