Refrigerators Buying Guide

Let's Just "Chill" Out

A refrigerator is inextricably woven into our everyday life and is a major household purchase. Refrigerators nowadays offer options that go far beyond keeping your food from spoiling or getting a glass of cold water on a sunny day. They are constantly getting upgraded with new technologies and features. You have your choice of one door, two doors, three doors, four… you also have the choice of having the freezer up top, down below, have no freezer at all or have only a freezer! You also have smart refrigerators, which enable you to store your food at different temperatures. With an ever-increasing range of color and style options, or cleverly designed units designed to disappear into your décor, there are just way too many options to choose from!

But stay cool… our guide can help you narrow down your choices and get the right refrigerator for your family.

Refrigerator Size

Measuring The Space

Where do you plan to put the refrigerator? Choosing your new refrigerator is very dependent on determining what size will fit in your kitchen. Always measure the space correctly before you shop. Especially, if you are buying a new fridge which is bigger, measure the entry passage to your home and kitchen. Check if it can fit through doorways. Measure and check tight turns and angles. Ensure there is enough space for the refrigerator's doors to swing open, and always leave a minimum of one-inch clearance around the sides and the back of the refrigerator for adequate airflow. Also, keep in mind that your refrigerator will need close proximity to electrical as well as water lines (depending on the model).

Family Size

How many persons will your refrigerator support? Don’t just think about your current needs. You have to consider your future capacity requirements. Are you a growing family? Are you using the refrigerator in a commercial space? Do you frequently have guests staying over? A good baseline is that a family of four can manage well with an 18-cubic-foot refrigerator. Each additional person adds up to another two cubic feet.


Types of Refrigerators

Door Styles Available

There are many different types of refrigerators. What differentiates them are door styles and freezer placements. Let’s look at the various options available.

Door Style Features
French Door

Do you need easy access to your fresh food items? Are you looking for an energy-efficient refrigerator? French doors are now the most popular style in refrigeration.

Storage space: These refrigerators have two side-by-side doors on the top and a freezer (or two) at the bottom. The full-width, double-door refrigerator offers plenty of storage space.

Freezers (one or two): Most of these refrigerators have a single freezer at the bottom, which you can look down into from the top. Some have two freezers, which makes it even more easy to access your food.

Save kitchen space: These refrigerators are great for smaller kitchen spaces as they have narrow doors that, when open, leave more space in the front to move about. You will be eye-level with most of the foods, shelves, and crisper drawers.

Save energy: A regular refrigerator uses more energy to get the temperature back to what it was set at when you open and close the doors. The small-swing doors of a French Door Refrigerator ensure cold air is not let out as you only open half the refrigerator door for storing smaller items, thus saving energy.

Lots of choices: French Door Refrigerators come in a wide slew of options. Whether it be counter-depth or standard, door-in-door, smart- appliance features, water, and ice dispensers; there is certainly a model that will fit you and your family's lifestyle.

Advantages: All your food is at arm’s reach as the refrigerator is centered at chest height. So, there’s no need to bend to remove the food anymore. This refrigerator saves energy, and the narrow doors take up less kitchen space when they’re open. The best feature perhaps is the full-width storage shelves that make it easier to store oversized items.

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Side by Side

Side by side refrigerators offer easy access to the refrigerator and freezer sections with more segmented and organized storage in both sections. This refrigerator style is ideal for you if you need to freeze food in high volume. The through-the-door ice dispenser also uses much less space in a side by side refrigerator. These models are commonly wider than traditional units, making them less ideal for narrow kitchens.

Advantages: This refrigerator style has more organized space and freezer space. It offers equally convenient access to the refrigerator and freezer.

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Top Freezer

Just like the name suggests, Top-freezer Refrigerators have a freezer on top and a refrigerator at the bottom. On many models, the doors are reversible, which means that they have the ability to swing open in either direction. This is definitely useful when you are planning the placement of this unit into the design of your kitchen.

Advantages: This style is good for a lot of storage in a fairly tight spot. Are you looking for a second refrigerator? Then, this can be a good choice. It is also a more economical and energy-efficient option.

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Bottom Freezer

This efficient design allows you to park food and cooking ingredients that you don’t use frequently lower down in your refrigerator space. The icemaker, however, stays in the top section, allowing you to devote the center of the refrigerator for food items that you need more frequent access to.

Advantages: Bottom freezers usually have drawers that slide out and take up less room when open than the other refrigerator models. All bottom freezer refrigerators put the fresh food section on top for better accessibility. Wide door storage area gives you plenty of room for big bottles, pitchers, and tons of condiments.

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Refrigerator Storage Capacity

How big a refrigerator do you need? This depends on a lot of factors (especially the space available in the kitchen), but a general rule is to buy 4 to 6 cubic feet (cu. ft.) of refrigerator space per adult in your home. Always buy a size up to plan for extra contingency room. Full-size refrigerators range anywhere from 10 to 32 cu. ft. This essentially means that if you have a family of four, then buy a refrigerator of 20 cubic feet and above. You can also look for refrigerators with more space designed for the freezer than the refrigerator or vice versa.

 


Refrigerator Placement

You also have different types of refrigerators depending on their placement.

Placement Features
Counter-Depth

A counter-depth refrigerator refers to a regular, full-size refrigerator but in a size that doesn't jut out beyond your cabinets and kitchen counters. Counter-depth is nothing but the distance between the edge of your kitchen countertops and your back wall. This depth is generally between 24-27" as opposed to the 30" depth (and sometimes more) of a standard model.

Advantages: Balances in with the counter-top and gives you ample space to swing the refrigerator doors wide open without them bumping into something. The fact that the shelves are not deep means you have easier access to food and condiments. But you will need to be strategic about what you store in the refrigerator as it may not hold a lot.

Built-in

A built-in refrigerator blends into the surrounding kitchen cabinetry. Its custom fit hides its visage, which lends a high-end, elegant aesthetic to the kitchen. The built-in refrigerator is typically available in a bottom-freezer and side-by-side configuration.

Advantages: Most built-in refrigerators are made with upgraded materials and components. Certain models of Built-in Refrigerators are 'Panel Ready', meaning that they have the ability to have interchangeable custom front panels that can match the aesthetics of your kitchen. These refrigerators also tend to have more luxury features such as a wine cabinet compartment or a touchpad computer system to monitor food usage/expiration.

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Drawer

Similar to built-in refrigerators, drawer refrigerators (as the name suggests) look exactly like cabinet drawers. They blend into the cabinetry completely and offer supreme aesthetics and functionality.

Advantage: Superior space-utilization as these drawer refrigerators can be merged into the cabinetry. They offer ease-of-use as they can be opened like you do any other drawer. You also get a combination of a refrigerator and freezer in the drawer design.

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Outdoor

Do you like having friends over and hosting barbecues in your backyard? You might want to install a refrigerator out at the back for easier access. However, fluctuating temperatures, intense exposure to sunlight, and changing weather conditions, in general, all necessitate buying a refrigerator built specifically for the outdoors. Just like with any outdoor kitchen appliance, it is important to purchase a refrigerator that is durable, reliable and will perform well for many years to come. Keep in mind where you will place this outdoor refrigerator. Is it a part of an outdoor kitchen island? Will it be on your patio? This will help you decide if you want a compact outdoor refrigerator or a full-sized one. It is also important to make sure your refrigerator is placed in a covered area. The life span of the refrigerator and its performance is affected by direct sunlight or harsh weather condition.

Advantages: Outdoor refrigerators are specifically built to withstand the ever-changing outdoor environment. These refrigerators are usually built with a high-grade stainless-steel exterior and designed to withstand the harsh outdoor environment. These refrigerators typically feature a keyed lock on the front door, which is a useful feature to keep the contents of your refrigerator safe.

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Other Refrigerator Styles to Suit Specific Needs

Apart from the long list of options you have already explored, there are additional styles to suit specific situations or needs.

Smart Refrigerators

Many people are opting for smart home appliances these days. And, why not? They are convenient, fun, and really cool. A smart refrigerator connects to your smartphone and lets you do things like look at what's inside of it and send you shopping list reminders or view calendar entries on the refrigerator screen. It can even send you alerts if your refrigerator door has been left open.

Freezerless Refrigerators

As the name suggests, these refrigerators use the entire space inside to cool for refrigeration and not freezing. This is ideal for people who use the refrigerator only to store food temporarily and don’t need a freezer function to store food long-term.

Freezers

Do you like preparing your food beforehand? Maybe you like stocking up on bulk foods or pre-cooking all of next week’s meals. If that’s you, then the freezer in your refrigerator can get pretty crowded. Adding a stand-alone freezer gives an elegant solution to your needs without eating up too much space. You can choose between up-right freezers or chest freezers.

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Compact Refrigerators

These mini-refrigerators offer all the comfort and functionality of a traditional full-sized refrigerator in a compact way. They are ideal for adding under a bar or beverage center in your home, game rooms, home offices, dorm rooms, bedrooms, and they are even available in an outdoor avatar. Many of them also have a separate small freezer compartment. This ensures that the rest of the refrigerator maintains an even temperature throughout. They come in undercounter or built-in and freestanding avatars. The compact undercounter or built-in refrigerators can be hidden under your cabinetry. Most of the dorm room-friendly designs are freestanding compact refrigerators.

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Wine & Beverage Coolers

Do you often throw parties that require you to cool a lot of beers at once? Are you a wine connoisseur or just beginning to explore wines? Then, this cooler is certainly an essential accessory. It is vital to store your bottles of wine properly to get the most flavor. These compact specialty refrigerators often have glass doors that make them look visually appealing. The glass doors also allow you to take a quick visual inventory on what is inside the refrigerator before you reach in to pick out your choice. Wine and beverage coolers have two models, built-in or freestanding. Built-in wine coolers are usually placed under the counter in your kitchen. Also, check out our sturdier options of wine coolers for your outdoor kitchen.

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So What's the Verdict?

Premium designs and additional features are great add-ons: things like door-in-door compartments, temperature-adjustable drawers and even see-through panels that let you peer inside without opening the door.

The main question you should ask yourself is, "Which are the non-negotiable features I need in my refrigerator?"

Ask yourself the right questions, shop smart, and take home a refrigerator that will let you (and your food) chill out for years to come!