Chest Freezer Auto Defrost vs. Manual Defrost

When choosing a freezer chest for the home, you have two options. The first is automatic defrost, which is defined as a chest freezer that automatically goes into defrost mode after a specific duration of time. Automatic defrost freezers are commonly referred to as frost free freezers. The second is manual defrost which allows you to choose when to defrost the freezer manually. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.

This guide helps you decide which type of freezer meets you and your family’s needs completely. It will help you determine which solution is the least time-consuming and energy-consuming option for you.

How Know if a Freezer is Frost Free

Before you purchase your freezer or refrigerator it is important to understand whether the unit you are buying is a frost free unit or manual defrost.

If you are purchasing a freezer or fridge-freezer online it is very easy to find out if it has frost free capabilities. Depending on the website/company you are using you will need to look in different places.

Below are screen shots from websites of various appliance retailers that show where you will need to look to see if it an automatic defrost freezer.

Home Depot

Best Buy


Do Frost Free Chest Freezers Exist?

If you go on to any major appliance retailers website you will notice that all of the chest freezers are manual defrost. I have personally checked Home Depot, Best Buy, Amazon, Lowes, Leons, and have not being able to find one frost free chest freezer.

If you are considering buying a frost free freezer you will need to purchase an upright freezer or a fridge freezer combo that will have automatic defrost capabilities.

Automatic Defrost Freezers

Many people prefer the automatic defrost function on a freezer because it requires less work. They can count on the appliance defrosting itself whenever necessary. There isn’t a lot of thought or time put into the task because you can do it without outside assistance. Knowing how the auto defrost function works helps you appreciate it more.

How Auto Defrost Freezers Work

An auto defrost freezer works on cycles that shut the machine on and off, allowing the ice that has built up to melt in the interior of the appliance. A drip tray located at the base of the freezer catches the water that flows through a small hose located at the back of the machine. The most impressive part about this type of freezer is that you’re not required to dump the water out. It will eventually evaporate, meaning less work for you.

Average Cost of Auto Defrost Freezers

One consideration to make when shopping for an auto defrost freezer is how much the purchase will set you back economically. On the low end, you can expect to pay $150 USD for a smaller auto defrost freezer. A more expensive model typically costs $500-$600 USD, although more costly versions do exist for your consideration.

Energy Efficiency of Auto Defrost Freezers

When compared to a manual defrost freezer, an auto defrost freezer is less energy- efficient. When the defrost system cycles on and off it affects the amount of power the appliance uses.

There is some type of heating element that is used during the “defrost cycle”. This heating element is the specific reason for the increase in power consumption, because it turns on multiple times a day.

Looking for an energy-efficient model leads to greater monthly savings on home energy bills.

Positives of the Auto Defrost Freezer

Some of the positives of having an auto defrost freezer are that it’s less work to defrost it. You don’t need to remove all the items from the freezer to allow it to melt completely. You also aren’t required to dump the drip tray because the water will eventually evaporate on its own. If you want a freezer that does the work for you, automatic is the way to go.

Negatives of the Auto Defrost Freezer

The negatives of owning an automatic defrost freezer are cost, increased energy usage, and no real way to empty pooled water besides letting it evaporate. You have to decide if the convenience of not having to do much physical works out weighs the expense of a higher monthly electric bill.

Manual Defrost Freezers

From a cost standpoint, a manual defrost freezer is one that many people choose. They don’t mind not having the automatic defrost feature available. They also prefer buying a freezer for less and spending fewer dollars each month to use it because they can turn the appliance off during the defrosting process. Once familiar with how manual defrost freezers work, anyone can keep them from becoming frosted over.

How a Manual Defrost Freezer Works

A manual defrost freezer is much like the old-fashioned models of yesteryear. It requires you to remove the contents of your freezer, unplug the appliance, and allow the ice to melt. It also requires you to dump the pooled waters so that the unit isn’t wet when you put food back into it.

When you are looking to purchase a manual defrost freezer make sure that you look for one with a water drain. This will make the process of defrosting the freezer much easier.

Average Cost of a Manual Defrost Freezer

Like automatic defrost freezers, prices range from under $330 USD for smaller models to upwards to $1,000+ USD for pricier models. It depends on the brand, size, and finish of the freezer. Energy-efficiency also influences cost because of the long-term savings it presents.

Energy Efficiency of a Manual Defrost Freezer

This style of freezer is much more energy-efficient because it doesn’t cycle on and off. You can plan to defrost it during the time of day where energy consumption typically soars. It won’t contribute a lot of additional cost to your home energy bill because you’ll unplug it until the ice has thawed. You’ll then plug it in again after there is no more ice present.

Manual fridges lack the heating/defrost element therefore they do not experience that regular spike in energy consumption.

Positives of Having a Manual Defrost Freezer

Many positives come with owning a manual defrost freezer. The first is that you incur less of an expense when you initially buy this style of appliance. Next, it costs nothing to defrost it because you unplug the power cord from the electrical outlet. You’re not using the electricity while the freezer defrosts.

Negatives of the Manual Defrost Freezer

The process of manually defrosting a freezer can be very challenging. It takes a great deal of time to do and may require you chipping away at thick ice to help expedite the process. If you have the time to spare to devote to such a project, you won’t find it problematic.

It is standard to defrost you chest freezer annually. I would recommend defrost your freezer twice a year for optimal performance and to increase the life span of your appliance.


Now, you’re well aware of the similarities and differences between automatic and manual defrost freezers. You’re able to determine the right option for you based on function, cost, energy efficiency, positives, and negatives of each type of appliance. Having this information in mind makes the selection process quicker and easier for you. You’ll know why the automatic function is important to you or not.

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