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Outdoor Chest Freezer


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18 replies to this topic

#1 TheNoodleIncident

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 11:25 AM

Was looking to buy a large chest freezer to keep in our garage - need to start making larger volumes of food to freeze for later use, also want to take advantage of sales on meat, etc.

We were told that chest freezers (or regular fridges, for that matter) cannot be kept in cold weather because it will not function properly (freon freezes). Anyone have an experience with this that can comment on whether or not this is true, how to work around it, or certain types of freezes that can be kept in an un-insulated garage.

#2 andiesenji

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 11:39 AM

Unless you are buying an old second-hand freezer, it will not be cooled by freon. The newer refrigerants is tetrafluoroethane and it is less sensitive to the effects of cold unless the temps get down to below 15° F. in your garage.
You can remedy this by getting an inexpensive "barn" or greenhouse heater that will come on only when the temp in the space drops to near freezing.

The newer refrigerant has been used in refrigerated trucks long before it was used in home freezers/fridges, and is less likely to leak and as I said in the beginning, is more stable over a larger range of temperatures. It would have to be as the reefer trucks drive thru varying climates while keeping the interior at the optimum temp.

A friend who lives up at June Lake has a Gladiator freezer in her garage and these are made to operate in extreme cold but are fairly expensive. She is a caterer so needs the extra capacity.

Edited by andiesenji, 14 January 2012 - 11:43 AM.

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#3 TheNoodleIncident

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 12:56 PM

As an update, I called a few manufacturers (GE, Frigidaire, etc) and all said that they are not meant to be operated in cold temperatures (the threshold ranged from 31* - 60*). I find this very odd because the overwhelming "layperson" opinion from my internet searches has been that the freezer will be perfectly fine, but all the salesmen and manufactures say don't do it. I'm guessing that they are just being cautious so as to minimize warranty claims, but I'm still hesitant to take a chance with a $600 purchase.

#4 Chris Hennes

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 01:06 PM

What is your alternative? To spend $2k on a cold-weather model? Makes more sense to me to go with consumer experience rather than manufacturer butt-covering.

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#5 TheNoodleIncident

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 01:23 PM

Yeah, my gut says to just buy it and I'll be fine. More realistically, we just cleared out a spot for it in the kitchen. Won't be able to get a model quite as big and I don't love having it in the kitchen, but it will be cheaper and more convenient to use at least.

Still open to ideas if anyone has one....

#6 lindag

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 01:26 PM

Last winter I was having a problem with my in-the-garage refrigerator as it wasn't working properly when the garage temp got too low. (I also have a full-size upright freezer out there)
What I had to do was go to Sears and purchase a "garage refrigerator". I understand the difference is that these units have a built-in heater to protect the motor.
I live in Western Montana and my garage is well insulated but unheated. I don't believe the temperature has ever gotten down to freezing insided the garage but I'm not positive...we can get to minus 20 at times but that is not common anymore.
The new garage fridge is a refrigerator-only model, no freezer. So far it has worked perfectly.
The upright freezer has never had a problem and I don't know why one will fail and the other doesn't.
How cold does your garage get? And what's the climate like where you live?

#7 Darienne

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 01:47 PM

Our experience, unheated, partially insulated garage. A few miles north of Toronto's latitude. Two items in the garage.

A second hand full size refrigerator with small freezer. When it gets really really cold, we have put a low wattage light bulb into the fridge and that has worked quite well.

Second hand medium size chest freezer. No problems whatsoever ever.

Both these items were far from new. And their costs were far from high. If you have a Habitat for Humanity /Restore near you, I'd start there.

(We also have a very large chest freezer in our cellar and a full size fridge with small freezer in our kitchen.)
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#8 Shamanjoe

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 02:32 PM

I have a fairly new Frigidaire chest freezer that I keep on my uninsulated screened in porch. I live in California so the temps are nowhere near freezing, but it routinely gets to the 40s in the early morning and I haven't had any problems since I put it out there last year.
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#9 TheNoodleIncident

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 02:53 PM

I'm on Long Island, so below freezing is not uncommon in the winter. Still seems like there is a good chance that a chest freezer (not fridge) would be fine. At this point I think I need to play it safe - killing a $600 freezer, plus close to that much in food, and even worse breast milk (TMI?) would be a disaster.

Apparently they do sell a $30 kit that will allow certain refrigerator units to work in cold temps, but unfortunately doesn't seem to be available for chest freezers.

#10 LesleyC

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 03:22 PM

Over here in the UK, Beko manufacture some chest freezers that will work down to about -18C, and they are one of the cheapest chest freezers on the market. They surely must have a US equivalent.

#11 Edward J

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 05:14 PM

Stupid question, but......

Why can't you put the freezer in your home?

Ther are stand up models as well, and they're not such space hogs as the chest type.

#12 Dianabanana

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 06:14 PM

Huh. I've had a chest freezer in my uninsulated, unheated, detached garage for 10 years. Every year it gets down to at least 5°F, and occasionally much lower. I've never had a problem. It's from Sears but it's not any kind of fancy "garage freezer."

#13 mgaretz

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 06:26 PM

First, I won't own another chest freezer. They are a royal pain to get stuff out of, especially when it's buried on the bottom. That stuff also tends to get forgotten and ends up being thrown out - quickly negating the cost savings of the chest vs upright. Second pain - they need to be defrosted. If you get an upright frost-free model, you never have to worry. Third, a chest freezer eats up floor space. You can't (or don't want to) store stuff on the top because it's the lid. You can stack a lot of stuff on the upright and your net loss of space is much less compared to a chest.

#14 TheNoodleIncident

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 08:07 PM

Not stupid....we just don't have the room. We prefer the 13 cubic foot version for the garage, but will settle for the 9 cubic foot if we keep it inside.

I was tempted by the upright self-defrosting version, but actually have several family members who have specifically recommended against those models. Appreciate the recommendation, but without getting into the details, I'm fully convinced that a chest freezer is for us.

#15 vice

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 09:09 PM

If winters are consistently below freezing in your neck of the woods, why not just unplug the sucker?
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#16 mgaretz

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 09:15 PM

I was tempted by the upright self-defrosting version, but actually have several family members who have specifically recommended against those models. Appreciate the recommendation, but without getting into the details, I'm fully convinced that a chest freezer is for us.


Having sold both for a living, and also owned both (several chests, now just one upright) I'd be curious to know what their objections were. The only small downside to a frost free (other than upfront cost) is the small increased energy cost because of the defrost cycle. But trust me, that will be more than offset by the cost of the food you forget in the bottom of the chest (that you throw away).

#17 Ashen

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 04:35 AM

the typical problem is the pressure of the refrigerant in the condenser gets too low for the compressor to work properly.. It may even cause damage, although I have never seen it happen.

As to the new refrigerant working better at lower ambient temp range. This goes against everything I know about R-134a , which is the most common refrigerant used in residential cooling tech. Most of that was second hand info from service techs and engineers from when I was
working at a Fridge/Freezer/dehumidifier factory .

In almost every way it is less efficient than the old r-22 but without the evironmental damaging properties.
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#18 Darienne

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 08:29 AM

But trust me, that will be more than offset by the cost of the food you forget in the bottom of the chest (that you throw away).

If you are able to keep records of what is in your freezer, then you will not forget what it is the bottom of it. Granted this takes a certain amount of self-discipline, but for us it is worth it in the end. We have not had to throw anything out for years now.

But then our freezer is well organized with interior squared buckets which hold items according to some rationale, e.g., Mexican ingredients, nuts & dried fruits, vegetables, raw meats, cooked meats, etc.

Just throwing it into the ring...
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#19 Nyleve Baar

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 05:04 PM

I've had a large chest freezer in an uninsulated detached garage (actually an old stable) for well over 30 years. The same freezer for over 30 years. Has not failed once and our winter temperatures regularly go down waaaaayyyyyyy below freezing in central Ontario. I get that the manufacturers don't advise you to keep their unit in such a dire environment, but I think they're just covering their you-know-whats. I use mine to keep the big overflow: decent bread, turkeys that have gone on sale, my friend's organically raised chickens, Montreal bagels, that kind of thing. The day-to-day food goes into the upright freezer that lives in the house.