Savvy Tips Guru

Freezer vs Refrigerator: Can a Freezer Double Up as a Refrigerator?

freezer vs refrigerator

What’s humming in the corner of nearly every kitchen, working tirelessly around the clock to keep your food safe and fresh? You got it—the unsung heroes of modern living—the refrigerator and the freezer. These appliances have a key role in our daily lives, quietly safeguarding our food from harmful pathogens and spoilage. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes the importance of proper food chilling as a crucial step towards preventing foodborne illnesses.

But when it comes down to choosing between these two stalwarts of the kitchen, which one should you go for? A freezer or a refrigerator? And what’s the difference anyway? Can one be used as the other?

What’s a freezer?

Let’s start our journey in the coldest corner of the kitchen—the freezer. Picture the Arctic tundra, but in a convenient, kitchen-friendly size. A freezer is an appliance that’s designed to bring the temperature way down, typically to 0°F (-18°C) or lower. 

This icy environment is perfect for preserving food for extended periods by slowing down the decomposition process and preventing the growth of most bacteria. Whether it’s your favorite ice cream, leftover lasagna, or those berries you want to use in a smoothie next month, the freezer is their chill-out zone.

And what about a refrigerator?

Moving over to the slightly warmer side of things, we find the refrigerator. Think of it as a breezy spring day, compared to the freezer’s Arctic chill. A refrigerator maintains a temperature a few degrees above freezing, usually between 35°F (1.7°C) and 40°F (4.4°C). 

This cooler, but not freezing, climate slows down harmful bacteria’s growth, keeping your food safe for consumption over a shorter period. From your milk and eggs to fresh produce and leftovers, the refrigerator is like a temporary home before these items make their way to your plate.

Freezer vs. Refrigerator

Here are the distinctions between freezers and refrigerators across several factors:

Temperature Settings

The most striking difference between the two is the temperature they maintain. A freezer works at freezing point, usually 0°F (-18°C) or below, making it the perfect environment for long-term food preservation. On the other hand, a refrigerator operates at a slightly warmer temperature, typically between 35°F (1.7°C) and 40°F (4.4°C), making it ideal for perishable items that you plan to consume in the near future.

Food Preservation

Both appliances are essential for food safety. A freezer’s colder temperature halts bacterial growth entirely, allowing foods to be preserved for months or even years. A refrigerator, however, merely slows down bacterial growth, ensuring the food remains safe to eat for a shorter duration, often a week or two.

Storage Space

Generally, refrigerators offer more storage space, with distinct compartments for fresh produce, dairy products, and beverages, and a smaller section dedicated to freezing. Stand-alone freezers, though more compact, offer dedicated space for storing frozen goods long-term.

Energy Consumption

Energy consumption is a significant factor in the ongoing cost of these appliances. Larger refrigerators, especially those with extra features like water dispensers or smart technology, might consume more energy than smaller, simpler freezers. However, energy-efficient models can help balance out these costs over time.


While the prices for both appliances can vary widely based on size, brand, and features, refrigerators tend to be more expensive upfront due to their larger size and additional features. Freezers, particularly smaller models, can sometimes be a more economical choice initially.


Both appliances have comparable lifespans, averaging between 10 to 20 years. This can vary based on factors like the specific model, how well it’s maintained, and usage patterns.


Freezers require periodic defrosting to prevent excessive ice buildup, while refrigerators need regular cleaning to prevent the growth of mold and unpleasant odors. Regular maintenance of both appliances can extend their lifespan and improve their efficiency.

Design and Size Variations

Refrigerators often come with an in-built freezer compartment, offering a two-in-one solution. They are available in various designs, like top-freezer, bottom-freezer, side-by-side, or French-door models. Stand-alone freezers usually come in two styles: upright (similar to a refrigerator) and chest (horizontal) models.

Noise Levels

Both appliances can generate noise due to their compressors and fans, but this can vary by model. Generally, modern refrigerators are designed to be quieter than older models or larger freezers.

Can you use your freezer as a refrigerator? 

You might be wondering if it’s possible to use your freezer as a refrigerator. Technically, it is feasible, but it’s not as simple as you might think.

Firstly, the temperature control in freezers is designed to maintain much lower temperatures than refrigerators. So if you’re thinking about using a freezer as a fridge, you’d have to make sure you can adjust the temperature to mimic that of a refrigerator, which is usually between 35°F (1.7°C) and 40°F (4.4°C). However, not all freezers allow for such fine-tuning of temperature settings.

Food safety is another significant concern. If the temperature isn’t set correctly, you risk either spoiling your food or freezing items that are meant to be refrigerated. It’s a delicate balance that needs careful monitoring.

Another point to consider is energy efficiency. Freezers are engineered to maintain very cold temperatures, so using one as a fridge might end up consuming more energy than a standard refrigerator would. This could lead to higher electricity costs over time.

Moreover, freezers lack the different compartments and storage options that refrigerators provide. You won’t find crisper drawers for vegetables or dedicated sections for dairy products in a standard freezer.

Lastly, maintenance could be an issue. If you’re using a freezer as a fridge, you might need to defrost it more often than a regular refrigerator. That’s because freezers are made to handle frost build-up, while refrigerators aren’t.

Should you go for a freezer or a refrigerator?

Deciding whether to buy a freezer or a refrigerator for your home really depends on what you need. If you’re someone who likes to buy food in bulk, prepare meals ahead of time, or just enjoy having a stash of frozen treats, a standalone freezer could be a great fit for you.

But if you’re more into fresh fruits, veggies, dairy products, and drinks that need to be consumed within a short time, a refrigerator is likely your best bet. Plus, most fridges have a built-in freezer section, so you get a bit of both worlds.

Keep in mind, it’s not about picking one over the other. Both freezers and refrigerators have their unique uses and they actually complement each other pretty well. Ideally, having both in your house would give you the most flexibility when it comes to storing your food safely.

In the end, what matters most is understanding what your household needs, how much space you have, and what your budget is before you make a decision. Whether you end up choosing a freezer, a refrigerator, or even both, make sure it’s something that will meet your needs and make your kitchen experience more convenient and enjoyable.


  • Diane Silva

    Diane is a travel enthusiast, content creator, and master storyteller, capturing her adventures through captivating blogs and engaging vlogs. With a passion for the great outdoors and a love for literature, she brings a unique perspective to the travel world. Whether she's exploring hidden gems or discussing the latest trends, Diane is your go-to source for all things travel and beyond.