Top freezer? Bottom? Side by side? Size, capacity, energy consumption, and efficiency? If you’ve never bought a refrigerator before, you may not be aware that there are a whole lot of things to think about before you shell out your hard-earned cash. Here’s a quick guide on how to pick the best one for your kitchen.
STYLE AND SIZE
For something that basically does one simple thing – keep things cold – refrigerators come in a very wide variety of styles. Here are the common ones.
- Top-freezer refrigerator – This basic refrigerator style is usually the most economical choice. They tend to sport fewer features than their more expensive brethren but do come with wide shelves. Due to the freezer placement, you’ll have to bend down to reach the shelves, though.
- Bottom-freezer refrigerator – Also called over-under units, these are the exact opposites of top-freezer refrigerators; instead of bending down to reach the refrigerator shelves, you’ll need to reach down to get things out of the freezer. Think about your food buying habits. If you buy less frozen food than fresh, a bottom-freezer refrigerator may be a more practical choice since the freezer will be used less often.
- Side-by-side refrigerator – These refrigerators are great for small, narrow kitchens as their doors require less swing space. Be aware, however, that some models may be too narrow to hold wide containers such as pizza boxes. These refrigerators commonly come with built-in ice and water dispensers.
All three refrigerator styles listed above are considered standard or full-depth refrigerators. They are typically 68 to 71 inches tall with a main unit depth (not counting the doors) of 31 to 35 inches. If you can spare the space, you can have your counters be the exact same depth as a standard-size refrigerator. You get the custom built-in look minus the hefty price tag.
- Built-in refrigerator – These refrigerators tend to be smaller, shallower, and more expensive than standard-depth refrigerators, but they’re the go-to choice if you want your refrigerator to blend seamlessly with your kitchen cabinets and counters. Some models have doors that can be fitted with panels matching your cabinetry.
- Counter-depth refrigerator – Counter-depth refrigerators are a less expensive alternative (often with thousands of dollars in difference) to true built-in models. Note that only the body of the unit is as deep as the countertop; the doors still stick out a couple of inches from the countertop edge in order to be able to fully swing open.
- All-refrigerator / all-freezer models – If you have the space, you may want to purchase a refrigerator and a freezer separately. This way, you get more cubic storage space without springing for the more expensive commercial-style refrigerators. These models offer the ultimate customization and flexibility. You can keep them separate or as a side-by-side combo. For a little extra, you can also make them look like custom built-in models.
All three refrigerator styles listed above are considered counter-depth refrigerators. They typically measure 32 to 36 inches wide, 24 to 26 inches deep (not including the door), and 68 to 71 inches tall. Built-in units, however, tend to be taller, usually measuring 80 to 84 inches tall.
Another thing to remember is that “built-in” isn’t the same as “integrated”. While built-in refrigerators may be completely flush to the depth of your kitchen counters, the flange along the outside of the unit as well as the grille on top make them still identifiable as refrigerators even if they match the cabinet panel. Integrated refrigerators, on the other hand, have no reveals or breathing gaps and can be completely hidden from view.
Aesthetically speaking, refrigerator designs haven’t changed much in the past decade. It’s a totally different situation when you look under the figurative hood, however. Today’s Energy Star-qualified refrigerator models are up to 40% more energy efficient compared to non-qualified models released in 2001.
Always try to look for a refrigerator that gives you more cooling bang for your buck. They may be more expensive, but they’ll help you save money in the long run. Some cities even give rebates if you buy Energy Star-qualified refrigerator models.
Modern refrigerators come with a whole host of feature options. Adjustable shelves and door bins provide more flexibility when it comes to string different kinds of food. If you have an available waterline connection, you can get a model with a built-in water and ice dispenser. Some new high-end refrigerators also have individual cooling zones that let you store food at different temperatures. And don’t forget about the refrigerator light! Always check if the light is just right or too bright before you buy.
Always remember to measure your kitchen’s available space including areas next to kitchen cabinets. After you measure it, measure it again, again, and once more for god measure. One of the most common reasons why a refrigerator gets returned to the appliance store is because they don’t fit, so make sure you have enough space for the model you want.