Refrigerators have evolved considerably from the tin-lined iceboxes used by our grandparents. Most refrigerators on the market do an admirable job of keeping your perishables from perishing, so the best way to start shopping for your new refrigerator is to consider how many—or how few—high-tech “extras” you need. Pronto’s Refrigerator Buying Guide will take you through the innovations available so you can find the refrigerator that’s right for you.
Consider how much storage space you need when shopping for a refrigerator. Think of the largest items you’ll refrigerate or freeze and remember that a smaller refrigerator means more trips to market.
Traditional freezer on top and refrigerator on the bottom design still accounts for half of the refrigerators sold. Other options include side-by-side refrigerators and freezers with smaller storage spaces, French door models that offer superior access and built-in refrigerators that hide a lot of storage space inside your kitchen wall.
Measure the area where the refrigerator will live, then measure the entry doors to your home. Compare the measurements of refrigerators to make sure they will fit.
Look for adjustable shelves and door trays that give added flexibility to a refrigerator. Through-the-door water and ice may require additional plumbing and filtration connections to work, costs to consider before choosing these features. Spending more gives you more temperature control in a refrigerator, ranging from analog dials in budget models to digital temperature and humidity monitoring at the high end.
Tech-junkies with big budgets can simplify their lives by networking their kitchens with a refrigerator that also doubles as a television set, shopping-list generator and electronic recipe repository. Weigh the value of these pricey extras before buying unless you’re building a modern kitchen for a home you plan to sell soon.
Refrigerator and freezer shelves that can be removed and remounted at different heights to accommodate varying storage needs.
A closed-off compartment within a refrigerator and freezer that holds meat, dairy or vegetables. On basic refrigerators and freezers these may simply be storage units; advanced models offer separate temperature and humidity controls in bins.
A refrigerator and freezer with a body that extends into the wall of a home, allowing greater storage space without a footprint that extends beyond cabinets.
Front door surfaces on a refrigerator and freezer that can be replaced or mounted with the same materials used in kitchen cabinets to create a seamless integration with the rest of the kitchen.
A refrigerator and freezer designed to fit flush with standard kitchen cabinets. These refrigerators and freezers have a depth of 25 to 27 inches, while traditional refrigerators have a depth of 30 to 32 inches.
A style of refrigerator and freezer that typically has the freezer mounted at the bottom beneath two doors that swing open to reveal the entire refrigerator area. These models offer the largest usable storage space and the best access to foods.
A design with a vertical refrigerator mounted next to a vertical freezer. These refrigerators and freezers offer good access to stored foods but may not offer enough storage space for larger items.
A system that delivers ice cubes, water, or cold beverages to the outside of a refrigerator and freezer. These systems can be self-contained or require additional plumbing to operate.
You may assume that all refrigerators basically serve the same purpose — keeping stuff cold. That’s true in the big picture, but you make sure you’re choosing refrigerator based on your lifestyle. If you’ve got kids, throw parties often or just like to buy food in bulk, size matters. If you mostly eat out but you’re a style maven, you may want the sleekest design with all the latest and greatest features available.
Approximately half of all new refrigerators sold today are the standard freezer-on-top, refrigerator-below single-unit models that have been found in kitchens for decades. Among the other 50% of refrigerators sold these days lies tremendous variety. A refrigerator can be a “French door” model, a “side-by-side” appliance, a “counter-depth” piece or a “built-in” unit.
A side-by-side refrigerator and freezer has two doors, each sealing off a self-enclosed, unconnected interior space—one for freezing, one for refrigeration. French-door refrigerators have two doors that each cover half of a single, extra-wide interior space. The French-door style provides more storage space than a side-by-side refrigerator and freezer—ideal for those roasts and leftover pizzas. French door refrigerators typically have the freezer on the bottom rather than the top, and some offer a pull-out freezer drawer that makes access easy.
Counter-depth refrigerators sacrifice depth to be flush with kitchen counters and cabinets. A built-in refrigerator hides a full-sized unit within the walls of your home, leaving just a door visible that can be matched to cabinet veneer. Built-in refrigerators are the most expensive option. Choose them only if you need to replace an existing built-in or your remodeling plans call for it, as you may need to make structural changes to accommodate them.
Refrigerators currently offer more choices in finish. Plastics have replaced steel at the low end, offering simple cleanup and good durability. Stainless steel and titanium finishes can be found in the most costly refrigerators. If you’re not committed to cleaning, beware: some of these materials can be very difficult to care for, requiring specialized cleaners and polishes.
In choosing your new refrigerator, there are two size-related issues to consider. First, how much storage space do you actually require? Think about the largest items you’re likely store in the refrigerator and remember that its size will determine how many trips you need to make to the supermarket.
The other size-related consideration is the amount of space available in your home for a refrigerator. Measure the space in your kitchen, pantry or basement and measure the size of your entry doors to find a refrigerator that will fit in your home. Compare size specifications before adding a unit to your shopping cart.
A refrigerator should have adjustable shelves. Higher-end refrigerators extend this flexibility to door storage, allowing you near limitless freedom in customizing the refrigerator to meet your needs.
Through-the-door water and ice dispensers are a popular choice, but keep in mind that these refrigerators may need to be hooked up to plumbing and require water filtration. Additionally, this may limit your choice of refrigerator location.
You’ll also find a surprising amount of atmospheric control available, ranging from basic temperature dials in budget refrigerators to electronic temperature and humidity monitoring at the high end.
Some manufacturers have set out to reinvent the refrigerator. For example, LG Electronics recently unveiled its LG TV Refrigerator line, which adds a television to the doors of the refrigerator. “Smart” refrigerators can keep track of what you use and generate shopping lists. Digital message boards, recipe storage, and Internet connectivity round out the innovations available in top-of-the-line refrigerators.
These features can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of a refrigerator. It’s not worth investing in them unless you’ll use them or you’re building a state-of-the-art kitchen with an eye toward selling your home. Chances are you have a television and a PC in your home, so focus on finding a refrigerator with accurate controls and enough room and access to suit your lifestyle.