Which freezers are best for the garage: Upright freezers, chest freezers, or portable freezers? There are plenty of reasons to place a big, bulky freezer in a garage or outbuilding.
In this article we’ll look into the ups and downs of each freezer type, so you can determine which is better for your needs.
1. Upright freezers
Upright freezers have drawers and shelves that allow for easy organization of different types of foods. This is by far the best reason why upright freezers are better than a chest freezer for a normal household.
- Upright freezers often have automatic or semi-automatic defrosting features, so you don’t have to manually defrost your freezer.
- Most upright freezers have a variety of drawers and shelves that allow for easy organization of different food items.
- Less food is wasted as they won’t hide at the bottom of the freezer. Drawers are usually no deeper than 10-12 inches, making most of their contents easily accessible.
- Upright freezers don’t appear as big and bulky as chest freezers, and they utilizes the garage space better due to the vertical shape.
- Upright freezers are easily cleaned. Simply pull out the drawers and wash them with a mixture of water with a few drops of dish soap, and wipe off the sides with a wet cloth. As good as new.
- Adjustable legs. Most upright freezers have a pair of adjustable legs that allow you to level the unit on an uneven surface.
- Most upright freezers have an adjustable door that you can attach on either the left or the right side for easy access regardless of how you place it.
- Upright freezers are generally very quiet, but this may not be an issue in a garage unless you sleep nearby.
- Energy efficient. Even the biggest upright freezers use a relatively small amount of electricity.
- Expensive. In most cases, upright freezers have a more sophisticated design than the good ol’ chest freezers, but the price is also relatively higher for most models.
- Not as spacious as a chest freezer. Forget about storing a big turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, unless you want to pull out several drawers first.
- No drain plug at the bottom. If the freezer shuts off by mistake, water will most likely leak out onto your floors within a few hours.
- Requires additional space for the door to open fully, and in a small garage this isn’t always practical.
- Freestanding upright freezers need proper air ventilation, and they’ll usually pull fresh air in at the bottom and blow hot air out from the top. For this process to work you’ll need to pull it away from the wall, and leave a 4-5 inch gap behind the unit.
2. Chest freezers
Chest freezers are affordable and reliable, but they’re also bulky and noisy. If you like the idea of having one big storage space for your frozen foods, a chest freezer is the best choice.
- Very spacious. One big container enables you to fit big pieces of meat or poultry without having to cut them into smaller pieces (a big Thanksgiving turkey, for example!).
- Affordable. Chest freezers are relatively cheap in comparison with upright freezers, and you could potentially save a few hundred bucks while getting the same capacity.
- Because of the simple construction, chest freezers are likely to last more than a decade whereas parts of an upright freezer could break off.
- Chest freezers are generally considered very energy efficient due to the generous capacity and low electricity use.
- One big lid gives you a great overview of the items being stored inside the chest freezer. In a garage, the lid could also serve as a spare table.
- Wire baskets are easily moved and cleaned whenever needed. In most chest freezers, the wire baskets can be slided from one side to another for easy access to contents below.
- The biggest disadvantage of chest freezers is the large, open compartment. Chest freezers can be quite deep, and the foods at the bottom are not easily accessible.
- Most chest freezers do not come with any automatic defrosting features, so you’ll have to defrost it manually from time to time. Otherwise it won’t keep running as smoothly as usual.
- Chest freezers are generally harder to clean. There’s usually a drain plug at the very bottom front of the unit, and you’ll need a shallow bowl to collect the liquids. This is a bit impractical, and there’s a chance of spilling liquids onto the floor if you’re not careful.
- Because of the relatively bulky proportions, chest freezers require a lot of floor space in your garage. Furthermore, most models release hot air from the back or the side, which means that you have to factor in a few inches of space between the unit and the wall.
- The lid will usually not stay open on its own, and this is impractical when you’re reaching for something at the bottom of the chest freezer.
3. Portable freezers
Portable freezers work well in a garage, as they won’t need stable temperatures to function properly. For temporary storage of bulky food items, a portable freezer is worth considering.
- Portable freezers are durable, and work very well in a small garage where things are often reorganized and moved around.
- They have locks. That way you can secure the lid, and prevent unwanted visitors inside your freezer.
- Some portable freezers have handles and wheels. These features allows for easy transportation when needed.
- A portable freezer is a great add-on to the refrigator, and you can even bring it outside to store ice cream and other frozen snacks for your party.
- Affordable. Portable freezers can be quite affordable, if you don’t require a lot of features.
- Portable freezers are not only great for the garage, but also for off-grid living and long road trips.
- Some portable freezers are not suitable for long-term storage of frozen foods. They won’t get cold enough.
- They’re not as spacious as regular chest freezers, so this is not your best option if you want plenty of storage space.
- Considering the relatively low capacity, portable freezers are quite expensive to use on a permanent basis.
- Portable freezers can be quite noisy as well, so they won’t work well in a sleeping area or anywhere near the bedrooms.
- Portable freezers usually have one large compartment with no baskets or dividers, so your items are basically piled on top of each other.
Changes in ambient temperature affect the freezer
While placing the freezer in a garage seems like a good idea, temperature changes is a major factor to consider for multiple reasons.
Maybe you bought the freezer to stock up on groceries so you don’t have to go out as often as you used to, or maybe you just appreciate having that extra storage space at hand. Regardless of your reasons, placing the freezer in an unheated garage seems like the obvious choice for those in lack of space inside the house.
However, according to Consumer Reports, changes in temperature can be a real problem (source). An unheated garage that isn’t insulated could quickly fluctuate between highs and lows during day- and nighttime. This is a big problem, as it may damage the freezer.
When it gets hot the freezer works overtime, and when it gets cold the freezer shuts off. In a scenario where the temperature quickly fluctuates from one extreme to another, your freezer may not be able to keep up.
In fact, most freezers are designed to work in a room with a stable climate, as it requires very little of the freezer’s compressor to keep up.
The more your freezer has to work to maintain the internal temperature, the more it costs to run. In a very cold climate, however, the compressor may not even turn on – and your food could thaw.
If you’re in a part of the country where it gets very hot during the day and very cold during the night, you should consider insulating the garage first or simply place the freezer inside your house instead.
We also recommend going for a “Garage Ready” freezer, as it performs better in a garage overall.
Check the garage/outbuilding climate with a hygrometer
For example, the ThermoPro TP50 Digital Hygrometer (available on Amazon).
While a thermometers’ sole purpose is to measure the ambient temperature right now, hygrometers measure the humidity in the air and save the highest and lowest recordings as well.
Most hygrometers have multiple features, and among some of the most useful features are the highest/lowest temperature records in a specific span of time.
With a hygrometer you can easily check if your garage gets too hot or too cold, and you can check the humidity levels as well. These are important factors to consider if you want to buy a freezer for the garage, as the performance of your new freezer is impacted by these factors.