Whether you’re a college student moving into a dorm, a city-dweller moving into a small apartment or an office administrator looking for new break room supplies, you should consider the benefits of a compact refrigerator. Far from being the basic “beer fridges” with tiny freezers of years past, compact refrigerators offer numerous features, including energy efficiency, reversible hinges, thermostats and crispers. Pronto’s Compact Refrigerator Buying Guide will walk you through the confusing maze of features and specifications to help you find a compact refrigerator to fit your needs.
Think about the size of the largest items you need to store in a compact refrigerator and how cold they need to be. If you need freezer space, look for a compact refrigerator with a separate freezer compartment or top freezer that runs across the entire width of the unit.
Compact refrigerators range between 1.7 and 6.0 cubic feet in size. Outer dimensions do not indicate capacity, which is affected by wall thickness and interior design. If the weight of a compact refrigerator is a concern, look at the shipping weight and subtract 10% to get a rough idea of how much the fridge will weigh.
Look for flat, clear adjustable shelves to maximize your storage capacity. If you want to store gallon containers or soda cans, look for extra-wide or specialized shelves in the door. Reversible doors that can open to the left or right provide flexibility, and plastic interiors are easier to keep free of frost.
Look for a thermostat mounted in the front of the compact refrigerator that is easy to reach. A compact refrigerator should have at least one analog dial that controls the refrigerator’s temperature. Spending more will get you separate controls for the refrigerator, the freezer and humidity.
Look for the Energy Star logo, which indicates that a compact refrigerator is 15% more energy efficient than what is required by U.S. government guidelines. Compare the weights of similar-sized compact refrigerators; energy-efficient models generally have smaller compressors that weigh less.
A compact refrigerator interior that prevents frost from forming; typically made from plastic.
The interior storage space of a compact refrigerator. Note that capacity is a raw measurement of space that doesn’t take into account design features such as molded shelving and compartments.
The unit that provides cooling in a compact refrigerator by using pressurized gas which absorbs heat. Compressors are the heaviest part of a compact refrigerator and can be an indicator of the quality of insulation.
An enclosed compartment within a compact refrigerator that has a separate humidity control, allowing you to store vegetables in optimal conditions.
Compact refrigerator door mounts that can be set to swing the door open either to the left or the right.
An analog or digital control used to regulate the temperature inside a compact refrigerator. Most compact refrigerators have a single dial that controls refrigerator temperature. Better models offer separate controls for the freezer and humidity.
You’ll need to consider what a compact refrigerator will store in order to determine what size, design and features are best for you. Will you use a compact refrigerator just to store beverages? Do you intend to store leftovers that may come in restaurant-sized containers? Do you want to store a gallon of milk, or cans of soda? Before you even begin looking at compact refrigerators, know the size of the largest items you’ll need to store and how cold you need to keep them.
The ratio of refrigerator to freezer space is particularly important, since many compact refrigerators have very small freezers that will hold only an ice tray or one frozen dinner. If you value freezer space, look for a compact refrigerator with a top freezer or freezer compartment that runs across the entire width of the compact refrigerator.
Consider the size of your available space when shopping for a compact refrigerator. Measure the amount of floor space available for your compact refrigerator, and keep in mind that you can stack things on top of it, so your compact refrigerator can also double as a storage shelf. Unless you have particularly narrow doors, you shouldn’t have a problem getting a compact refrigerator into your home.
The outer dimensions of a compact refrigerator don’t necessarily correlate with its inner dimensions, or capacity. Compact refrigerators range in capacity from 1.7 to more than 6.0 cubic feet. Insulation thickness and design both affect capacity, and molded shelves or compartments can make it hard to fit larger items in a compact refrigerator. Compare the interior designs of compact refrigerators, again thinking about the largest things you’ll need to store.
Compare the weights of compact refrigerators, as moving into a dorm or a fourth-floor walkup may present a challenge if the refrigerator is too heavy. Most of the weight in a compact refrigerator comes from the compressor. Larger compressors weigh more, and larger compact refrigerators have larger compressors. When you’re comparing compact refrigerators online, take a look at the shipping weight and subtract about 10% for packing materials to get a sense of how much the compact refrigerator will weigh.
If you intend to store gallon containers, look for a compact refrigerator with wide shelves in the door that accommodate large containers. Many compact refrigerators contain special can storage and dispensing units in the door. While this is useful if you want to store soda, it’s a waste of space if you intend to use your compact refrigerator primarily for leftovers or food storage.
Adjustable shelves are the most useful design option to look for in compact refrigerators. Look for flat, clear shelves rather than wire shelves; they provide more storage area and allow you to easily see the contents of your fridge. Fresh veggies will keep better if you choose a compact refrigerator that offers a vegetable crisper with adjustable humidity control, but this will add considerably to the price tag.
Reversible door hinges are a good option for a compact refrigerator that will live beneath a kitchen counter. These hinges let you set the door to open to the left or right, which can keep the door from hitting drawers or cabinet doors.
If you just need to store beverages, choose a compact refrigerator built to hold drinks. These compact refrigerators have shelves and racks that maximize the number of cans and bottles you can store, and many offer glass doors that let you keep track of your beverage supply.
You won’t find fancy digital thermostats and controls in compact refrigerators unless you’re willing to spend a lot. The majority of compact refrigerators still use analog dials, which get the job done but require some tweaking to find the best setting. A compact refrigerator should have at least one dial that controls temperature. Spending more will get you separate dials for the refrigerator and freezer as well as a humidity control.
Look for thermostat controls mounted in the front of the compact refrigerator, which are easy to reach. Some fridges put the thermostat in the back, which forces you to empty an entire shelf in order to reach it.
An automatic defrost feature or a frost-free interior can be a plus in hot environments where condensation easily forms inside a compact refrigerator. This is an expensive extra, so you may prefer to choose a compact refrigerator with an all-plastic interior that makes it easy to remove frost.
An energy-efficient compact refrigerator saves money on your electric bill and reduces your carbon footprint. The thickness and type of insulation used in a compact refrigerator is the best indication of energy efficiency, but most manufacturers don’t go into too much detail about these features.
One way to spot energy-efficient compact refrigerators is to compare the weights of refrigerators of the same size. Poorly insulated compact refrigerators need larger compressors that add a lot to overall weight. The lighter a compact refrigerator is, the smaller the compressor and, generally, the better the insulation. Look for insulated freezer compartments rather than metal compartments that hang from the top of the refrigerator.
Look for the Energy Star logo, which indicates a compact refrigerator that is 15% more energy efficient than what is mandated by current U.S. government standards. To help reduce the strain on your compressor, place your compact refrigerator out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources and keep the door securely closed.
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