Self-Defrosting vs Manual Defrosting Freezer

Comparative Characteristics

Written by Elisa Chan. Updated on automatic defrosting

When choosing what kind of freezer to buy, it is important to consider how intensively you are planning to use it. Respectively, such nuance as whether it will be self-defrosting or manually defrosting matters greatly.

Of course, freezing without the automatic defrosting requires your personal participation, however, automatic defrost freezer also has its nuances in the process of use.

Which one is the best to use and why?

Let’s compare both models and figure it out!

What Is Self-Defrosting Freezer? Specifics Of The Device

To begin with, first, we need to clarify and define what kind of freezer is called self-defrosting and what the difference is between this model and the ordinary manually-defrosted one.

Well, the auto-defrost freezer, as it comes from its name, is defined by its ability to defrost itself without human interference. 

Usually, it works in cycles shifting the on and off stages. First, it is functioning as the usual freezer and then it turns off itself after the preset period of time to let all the ice that has gathered by that time melt.

During the day, such a self-defrost freezer turns on and off several times which may cause certain problems in a way as it produces quite a lot of noise. The reason is simple and obvious: the engine is constantly in gear for shifting the freezing and unfreezing cycles all the time. 

For those who can not stand any noise, the continuous humming and whirring may be rather irritating

Self-Defrosting Freezer
Photo by Enrico Mantegazza on Unsplash

Is there a difference between frost-free and auto defrost freezers, people often ask? No, no distinctions exist between these two devices since both these terms mean the same. The scheme of work for both devices is also identical.

Another point of concern that bothers people is what happens to the ice after it is melted in the frost-free freezing machine. Here everything is simple. After each defrosting stage, the water that the defrosted ice turns into is drained through the hosepipe to the special container that is located at the base of the machine, often from its backside.

We agree that such a construction may not seem quite convenient but, on the other hand, there is no need to take away that water yourself manually. It will evaporate by itself without your participation.

Usually, self-defrosting upright freezers are more expensive than their manual counterparts which, to tell the truth, is obvious.

Frost Free Chest Freezer

auto-defrost freezer
Photo by Dev Benjamin on Unsplash

Above, we were talking about the ordinary self-defrosting freezers that have an upright construction and look like the ordinary freezing camera in the fridge only being separated. 

However, those who normally have quite a lot of stuff to freeze and don’t feel like wasting time on the unfreezing fuss, often ask whether self-defrosting chest freezer can be available on the market.

Even though most of the chest freezers are the manually-defrosted models, there are several ones that have an automatic defrosting system being built in.

Of course, if you decide to purchase the one like this, take into account at once that such a device will cost significantly more than the manual versions.

On the other hand, automatically-defrosted items will allow you to avoid wasting time on the unfreezing process regularly.

Manual Defrost Freezer

Manual Defrost vs Automatic DefrostManual Defrost vs Automatic Defrost

Now that we have found out what the frost-free freezers are, why not to proceed to the ordinary manual models to take a closer look at them?

Unlike the automatic unfreezing system, the manual defrost requires, as you could already understand, the direct interference of the owner of the machine.

It will be the owner who will be obliged to clean off the ice from the chamber each time the freezing machine is in need of it. 

Of course, taking care of this kind of machine will require your time more often compared to the automatic version, on the other hand, these models are much cheaper and affordable.

How do you usually unfreeze the manual defrost upright freezer?

Well, the process is time and effort-consuming!

  • First of all, you need to take out all the foodstuff that is being kept inside
  • Then, disconnect the machine from the source of energy, open the door, and let it become warm enough.
  • As soon as the goal is reached (normally, it will require several hours to finish), you will have to manually delete all the ice that covers the insides of the freezer which, as you understand, may take quite a lot of time.
  • Also, divert the water that has gathered in a drain tank to empty it.
  • The next stage is to wash the freezer and dry it. It is OK to use any liquid soap and water for this purpose.
  • If there are shelves inside, take them out and wash separately using the same cleaning means.

And only after the freezer and the shelves are absolutely dry, you can plug the advice in again setting its thermostat to zero. Finally, now it is safe to put all the foodstuff back inside.

Consider that you will have to go through this procedure regularly whenever the ice layer will reach the quarter-inch thickness.

Chest Freezers With Manual Defrost Option

self-defrosting upright freezers

Just like with the frost-free models, you can buy a manual defrost chest freezer.

The general scheme of functioning will be identical to one of the ordinary manual freezing machine. The only distinction is that the chest model will most likely lack shelves and will be somewhat more complicated to unfreeze.

One more inconvenience that the owners of the chest freezing machines with the manual defrost option have to stand is that this kind of freezer takes more space wherever you install it.

Frost-Free Freezer vs Manual Defrost

Well, since we have already found out what the basic distinctions and nuances are regarding the functioning process of the manual and frost-free freezing machine, let’s take a closer look at these two models and compare their major pros and cons, and see whether they really differ so much as they say about it.

Using this information, it will also be easier for you to make the right choice if one day you decide to buy a new device.

Auto-Defrosting Freezer Non-Self-Defrosting Freezer
Exterior Usually, an automatic defrost freezer looks like an ordinary fridge with the door attached to the front side.

It is equipped with shelves inside.
Most often, a non-frost-free freezer is less convenient in terms of storage and retrieving the content. 

In addition, they require more space if we are talking about chest models.
Maintainance This model doesn’t require draining melted water yourself as it goes directly to the water tank and evaporated itself.

However, you must always check the draining pipe for cracks and leaks.
You must regularly check the freezer for how much ice has formed there and manually remove it when necessary which takes time and effort.

Chest models have a drain to delete the water.
Noisiness Since the machine is constantly working, it makes quite a lot of different noise. Manual models are quieter even though they still produce a light noise. 
Energy consumption Because of the non-stop working cycle, automatic models consume more energy. Manual machines, on the contrary, require less energy which makes them more budget-friendly.
Installation Just like the manual freezing machine, the frost-free one has the identical scheme of installing it. The manual freezing machine is installed the same way as its automatic counterpart.
Price Frost-free models of the freezing device cost more because of the higher energy consumption level and more automatized processing. Manually defrosted freezing machines are cheaper and more affordable as they require more handwork from their owners.
Term of validity The automatically defrosted freezing device will serve you between ten and fourteen years for sure.  Manually defrosted model’s lifespan is about 10-14 years.

This comparative chart shows you the frost-free vs manual defrost pros and cons. Generally speaking, the main conclusions are the following:

  • Auto-defrost freezers are more expensive due to the amount of energy that they require for working
  • The non-self-defrosting freezer would be the better choice for those who want to save some money as this model consumes significantly less energy.
  • Compared to the frost-free model which doesn’t need a human’s participation, the manual one requires you instant care.
  • A freezer with the manual defrost would be the more optimal variant if you don’t want to hear the constant loud noise of the freezing and defrosting cycle.
  • Freezers with the auto defrost tend to have the drain pipe leaks which requires regular checks.

And also, one more thing for you to consider. The chest versions of both the models are more spacious than the upright ones even though they are less convenient regarding the storage (no shelves, remember?).

Now you know what the main distinctions between the manual and frost-free freezing machines are and, hopefully, it will allow you to make a choice easier when the time comes to buy a new freezer for your home.

Choose reasonably and thoroughly compare and ponder, and be sure that both your household and the wallet will benefit.

Written by
Elisa is a passionate cook who will advise you on healthy and delicious food topics! With her help, you will discover how to properly store and freeze food, as well as learn important nuances about preserving vitamins in your meals to make them stay nutritious.
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