Why Are Chest Freezers Not Frost Free?

From its spacious interior that can store food in bulk to its affordable price and maintenance, there’s a lot of reasons why households and businesses use chest freezers. But the downside is that chest freezers have not kept up with frost-free technology. And so, we've researched why chest freezers lack frost-free capabilities.

A frost-free freezer raises the interior temperature every few hours, causing heat to melt frost buildup. Chest freezers cannot be frost-free because they are designed to keep an extremely cold interior temperature of around -0.4°F at all times, which would be incompatible with the mechanism of a frost-free appliance. 

The good news is that while your chest freezer can’t be frost-free, defrosting it doesn’t have to be your most dreaded chore. Keep reading to find out how to prevent frost buildup and how to quickly and efficiently defrost your freezer!


Woman putting some vegetables in the freezer, Why Are Chest Freezers Not Frost Free?

How Does A Chest Freezer Work?

Like other freezers and refrigerators, a chest freezer uses a refrigerant to absorb heat from food and other items inside it. It goes through compression, condensation, and evaporation to transfer the heat it has absorbed to the air in your kitchen.

The refrigerant starts out as hot gas and goes through compression, during which time it cools off and condenses into liquid. Once this happens, the liquid goes through the condenser coils towards the evaporator coils. 

As it moves along, it starts evaporating and turning back into gas – all while absorbing heat from the components in the freezer. When it reverts into its gaseous state, it goes through compression and the cycle repeats itself again and again. 

The design of a chest freezer is generally more energy-efficient than that of upright freezers (even frost-free models).  Chest freezers are sealed at the top, which prevents warm air from replacing cold air whenever they’re opened. 

Why Does Frost Build Up and How Do I Prevent It?

Chest freezer frozen inside

Every time you open your freezer, warm air enters from the outside environment and creates moisture upon interacting with the cold air inside. This also occurs when you place warm or non-frozen items inside your freezer. 

The coils in the freezer’s system immediately freeze this moisture. Frost then builds up over time and with regular use. 

Luckily, there are easy ways to prevent frost buildup in your chest freezer! Here are a few easy tips you can start with:

  • Don’t open your freezer frequently or keep it open for long periods of time. 
  • Avoid overloading or underloading your freezer. 
  • Let food cool off on your kitchen counters or chill in your refrigerator before you place it inside your freezer. 
  • Keep your freezer indoors to prevent exposure to extreme temperatures. Keep it away from appliances that generate heat as well. 
  • Clean the door seals of your freezer and check it for cracks, rust, or mold at least once a month.
  • Leave space between your freezer and the wall to make sure the coils on the back of the appliance function efficiently.
  • Place food in smaller, airtight containers before putting it in your freezer. 

How Long Does It Take To Defrost A Chest Freezer?

A dark gray colored chest freezer

Defrosting a chest freezer can take up to 24 hours, depending on the amount of buildup and the appliance model. 

While this may seem like a lot of time, don’t worry. You won’t have to put in a lot of work! Most chest freezer models have a draining system that will do the work for you. All you’ll have to do is turn it off and allow the frost to drain out. 

If you defrost your chest freezer more frequently, ice buildup can melt away in a few hours.  

How Do You Quickly Defrost A Chest Freezer?

A woman opening her chest freezer

While there’s not much work involved in defrosting a chest freezer, you may want to speed up the process so you can have it back up and running in a shorter time. 

Here are a few steps you can follow to quickly defrost your chest freezer:

  1. Place a pan of boiling water at the bottom of the chest freezer. Steam from the hot water will melt the ice all around the freezer faster. If you have a particularly large freezer, you can use more than one pan. 

  1. Put a fan inside the freezer. A fan introduces room temperature air and increases air circulation, so frost buildup will melt at a quicker pace. 

  1. Use a hot towel and rubbing alcohol to soften the ice. Put a towel, rag, or any type of soft cloth into boiling water. Then, pour in rubbing alcohol. Place the cloth over the ice to melt and soften it quickly. 

  1. Scrape off the ice. Once the ice inside your freezer starts to soften, you can use an ice scraper, putty knife, or spatula to scrape off large chunks of ice so they don’t have to melt on their own.

    Word of warning: be careful! Use only a wooden or plastic scraper to perform this step. Don’t use metal scrapers or knives or anything sharp to avoid damaging your freezer.

How Often Should Freezers Be Defrosted?

Your chest freezer should be defrosted at least once every year. You can do it twice a year to prevent day-long defrosting. If the ice buildup in your freezer is visible and if it interferes with the easy operation of your appliance, it’s best to defrost it right away. 

It’s important to regularly defrost your freezer. Otherwise, frost buildup could keep your appliance from functioning efficiently, create unpleasant odors, and hike up your energy bills. 

It can even cause “freezer burn”, which is caused by the loss of moisture in frozen food. This could negatively affect the quality of your meals. 

In Summary

While chest freezers are not frost-free, defrosting them can be a quick and easy process that you only need to accomplish once or twice a year. Their capacity for storage, energy efficiency, and low-maintenance features make the pay-off of manual defrosting worth it. 

As long as you clean and defrost your chest freezer on a regular basis, you can use it to keep your food fresh and frozen for well over a decade.   

For more about chest freezers, check out:

How Much Power Does A Chest Freezer Use

Will A Chest Freezer Work In A Cold Garage

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