“ Brand: Essentials / Type: Under-counter freezer „
After twenty years of faithful service and a good deal of careless treatment, in a shower of plastic fragments my freezer door fell off and it was pretty obvious I needed a replacement freezer and fast. Replacing the freezer presented me with a couple of problems. When my kitchen was installed it was built around my existing under-counter fridge and freezer. The freezer was a normal size but the fridge was quite narrow in width at 48 cms which meant that I would also have to replace the fridge and the width for both the fridge and the freezer would be an issue. The second problem was that I intend to downsize in the next couple of years and the likelihood is that I will eventually replace the fridge and freezer with a single free-standing fridge/freezer when I move so I didn't want to spend a huge amount of money.
Trawling around the internet, the shop which provided answers to both my problems was Currys with their Essentials range. Both the fridge, which I'll review at a later date, and the freezer were among the cheapest on offer, were the correct width at just over 50 cms and also carried positive reviews from other purchasers. Not only that but Currys delivered free of charge, removed and disposed of all the packaging and take away old appliances as well. I ordered both the fridge and the freezer on a Wednesday afternoon for delivery on Friday morning. So far, I was impressed.
The time between ordering and delivery was taken up with defrosting both the fridge and the freezer and finding space in my second freezer for the more expensive frozen produce. When I moved my fridge and freezer out of their space, I was rather horrified at what I found. Let's just say a lot of things had rolled under there in the five or so years since my kitchen was built and I've resolved to clean behind my appliances more frequently in future!
This particular model was £129.99 but as I bought the freezer together with the matching fridge, I received a £30 discount. If bought through Quidco there's a percentage of cashback too.
In praise of Currys delivery men:
Although this isn't a general review of Currys, I have to mention their excellent delivery service. I was kept informed both by the Currys depot and the delivery men about the estimated time of arrival and they were true to their word. My new appliances were unwrapped in the lorry before being carried into the house and my old appliances duly removed and all was done in a matter of minutes. After plugging in and checking that both the fridge and freezer were working, they were switched off again and I was advised to wait two hours before switching back on to allow the coolant time to settle.
Dimensions: 504 x 514 x 845 mm
Storage capacity: 75 litres
Energy Rating: A+
Energy Consumption: 221 kwh per annum (average)
Storage Temperature: Up to -18⁰C
The Essentials freezer only comes in white and the styling is very plain (not even a logo) which suits my kitchen perfectly. The door, which can be fitted for either left or right hand opening, has a groove along the top edge for fingertip opening.
Inside are four plastic pull out drawers, three of which are 15 cm deep and the bottom drawer 18.5 cm deep. Overall, the cubic capacity is 3.3 cu.ft. (75 litres) which isn't huge and most probably wouldn't be big enough for a large family but it's certainly sufficient for my needs. Newer models of this freezer (which is shown in the picture at the top of the review) now come with only three drawers, each approximately 21 cm deep which is actually a better depth and more practicable than the four drawer model that I own.
In order to make as much use of the inner space as possible, the thermostat control dial is at the rear of the freezer which means it isn't easily accessible if it needs to be adjusted which I would definitely regard as a design flaw especially as this is a basic freezer without any separate fast freeze option.
The freezer comes delivered with a plastic scraper for defrosting, an ice tray and instruction manual.
The freezer in action:
Once I'd waited the requisite time for the coolant to settle, during which I gave the freezer a good wipe down, it was time for switch on. Currys recommend leaving the freezer running empty for 24 hours before placing any food into it. This is to ensure that everything is working properly.
The first thing I noticed was how quietly it ran. As you can imagine, my 20 year old freezer was a bit of a dinosaur and very noisy to boot. I can't honestly remember what energy rating it had but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the A+ rating that my new Essentials freezer runs at. Despite the A+ rating, however, I think the savings on my electricity bill run into pennies rather than pounds but it does mean a little less for the environment to contend with.
Currys recommend setting the thermostat to 4 on the thermostat, which is the optimum temperature to freeze food, however the dial can be higher (up to 7) or lower depending on the ambient temperature of the room and this will depend upon the time of year. I've set my thermostat to 5 which should be fine for both winter and summer as my kitchen is north facing and so remains pretty cool throughout the year. For fast freezing, it's recommended that the thermostat is adjusted to 7 for 24 hours and then turned back to normal. This is definitely a design flaw in an under-counter freezer because it necessitates moving the freezer out of its position every time fast freezing is required. As I have a second freezer, I tend to use that to fast freeze most fresh produce and then transfer it once frozen. I have, however, often just stuck things straight into this freezer and they seem to freeze very quickly though it probably means losing some nutrients during the freezing process.
The removable freezer drawers are fairly awkward to manipulate but they're clear plastic which does at least allow some degree of visibility as to what's in each drawer. The plastic construction doesn't seem to be very substantial and when lifting out drawers that are full of frozen food, I'm always afraid they may not be able to take the strain.
My overall impression is that the drawers are designed to hold ready frozen packet food and are not really deep enough to hold any large frozen items. I like to keep a loaf of bread in the freezer and a large sliced loaf when laid on its side, comes right to the top of the drawer. The deeper drawer at the bottom which is where I tend to keep my frozen vegetables doesn't have as much room as at first appears. In fact, it has about a third less capacity than the other drawers because some of the space is taken up with the motor housing.
Keeping your freezer in good condition:
To ensure the freezer works at its optimum level, it needs to be regularly defrosted, which is another negative point in my opinion and my next freezer will definitely be a frost free model. Defrosting should be done once the frost level reaches around 3 cm in depth and it goes without saying that any frost scraping should be done using the plastic scraper which came with the freezer. A tip I learned many years ago is to spray the freezer shelves with a fine mist of glycerine and then when defrosting, the ice simply falls away in sheets.
The Pros and Cons:
It's cheap to buy and run
It runs very quietly
Narrower than average so great for limited spaces
The design is plain enough to fit with any kitchen style
The thermostat is situated at the rear of the freezer making it difficult to adjust the temperature.
The freezer drawers on this 4 drawer model are rather shallow though newer models now come with 3 deeper drawers.
Plastic drawers are not very substantial
Capacity is fairly limited at only 3.3 cu.ft. making this an unsuitable model for family use.
My overall opinion:
There are really too many cons as opposed to pros for me to be able to wholeheartedly recommend this freezer. As a cheap replacement it certainly fits the bill, however, had I planned to remain in this house I would certainly have looked for a less basic model. As freezers go, this one is decidedly average. The thermostat being placed at the rear of the appliance making it difficult to access is a definite drawback, as is the fact that it has limited cubic capacity and requires manual defrosting. That being said, it has proved reliable over the few months I've owned it and the matching fridge is great.
As I'm very impressed by the Currys buying and delivery experience, I will certainly consider them first when next looking for a household appliance but would probably not buy a freezer from the Essentials range again.
Short name: Essentials CUF50W12