Buy a New Freezer?

by Gary Foreman

I have a large chest freezer that has to be about 30 years old. I am considering replacing it with a newer, smaller upright one. Do you have an idea of the electricity efficiency gains a new model would have over an old one? It's got to be significant enough to pay for itself pretty soon, especially when you factor in the sale of the old freezer.

Rex asks a good question. How much more efficient is a new freezer and how long would it take to pay for itself. To answer those questions we did a little research and came up with some information from the Wisconsin Energy Bureau.

First, let's look at how much electricity it takes to run a freezer. In part the answer depends on how big the freezer is and whether it's manual or automatic defrost. A manual defrost 14.8 cubic foot chest freezer can have an annual cost to operate of $36. By comparison, a 15.7 cubic foot automatic defrost upright freezer will cost about $66 per year to run. Generally speaking, chest freezers are more efficient that uprights.


(Note: Actual costs will vary depending on your electric rates.)

How does that compare to a 20 or 30 year old model? According to the Wisconsin Energy Bureau a new model uses slightly more than one third of the energy of the older models. So you could be spending $120 to $180 per year to operate your old freezer. So your savings would be in the range of $70 to $115 per year.

Are used appliances a good deal?

The newer models are more energy efficient for a number of reasons. They use more efficient compressors, better insulation, door seals and have eliminated anti-sweat devices.

Now, let's compare our savings to the cost of a new unit. You'll probably pay between $300 and $1000 for a new freezer depending on the size, options and how good a sale you find. So depending on your savings, the freezer should pay for itself somewhere between three and ten years.

Another way to look at it is in the total cost of ownership for the life of the product. If your old freezer costs say $150 per year to operate you'll spend $3,000 in electricity over it's expected 20 year lifespan. A more energy efficient model that costs $50 per year to operate will only use $1,000 in electricity over it's life. That's a savings of $2,000.

There are three other things that you should consider. With an older freezer you run the risk of a breakdown. That means that your investment of frozen food will be jeopardized. With today's food prices, it's not hard to have a few hundred dollars tucked away in that freezer. If you've prepared meals in advance you could also lose the time it took to make those meals. An old freezer that fails could be a very expensive experience.

Another issue to consider if you wait for the old freezer to give out is that you'll be giving up any shopping advantage you might have. You won't have time to compare which manufacturers have the most efficient and trouble free units. You might not have time to compare prices at different stores. You'll be limited to those models that the dealer has in stock now. All in all, you could end up getting a freezer that you don't really want and paying $75 or $100 more than you should for the privilege.

Should I use a HELOC for home remodeling and repairs?

Finally, as Rex points out, you should be able to sell the old freezer for a few dollars. Who knows, maybe you can make enough to put a few extra roasts in that new freezer!

If you're like Rex and have a 25 or 30 year old freezer it's time to start thinking about a new one. Take your time. Shop around! And when you find the right one you'll be protecting your investment in frozen food and lowering your electric bill for years to come.

Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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