Refrigerators are the marathon runners of the kitchen appliance world. While ovens and dishwashers have intense bouts of work to do, the fridge needs constantly and reliably work all hours of the day and night. With the variety of choices, picking a good refrigerator can be an overwhelming task. Here is a breakdown of size and type of fridge to help you start shopping.
The first element in picking a fridge is size. You need to make sure it fits your kitchen correctly. Remember to factor in the door swing in relation to adjacent walls, cabinets, and other appliances. And leave at least a 1-inch clearance around the unit and the surrounding cabinetry to ensure adequate air flow. The other important, though often-overlooked, size feature to consider is the capacity of food a fridge can hold. All models list the cubic space of the refrigerator, but this number does not take into account the “usable” space. We recommend checking an independent testing site which will often list the actual usable space (Consumer Reports or Reviewed.com).
Secondly, and possibly more important to your style appetite, refrigerators are categorized according to design type. This category is based upon placement of freezer in the unit and the door. Here are the four basic types of fridges with their benefits and drawbacks.
Top Mount Refrigerators
The top-mount refrigerator is the traditional type and the most affordable. Widths typically run from about 30 to 33 inches. It offers the most storage for its space and decently wide shelves make the back easily accessible. Some drawbacks include bending over to reach the bottom shelves and a wide-swinging door requiring sufficient clearance.
The bottom-freezer style offers the convenience of an eye-level refrigerator while still boasting space. Widths run from 30 to 36 inches for most models. The claimed capacity can measure up to 30 cubic feet, though usable space doesn’t quite match the comparable top-freezer units.
French Door Refrigerators
This category includes french-door models, with two refrigerator doors. The added benefit of this model is the narrow door swing of a side-by-side and the option of opening only half the refrigerator for smaller items.
The newest model, the four-door version takes a french-door configuration and adds a refrigerator or freezer drawer between the fridge and freezer compartments for even more flexibility of food storage. The general drawback to the bottom-freezer category is added cost the more doors/drawers you add to the fridge, as well as, limited width variety in the french and four-door models.
Side-by-side models refer to a vertical split with the freezer on one side and refrigerator on the other. Side-by-sides often come feature through-the-door ice and water dispensers and rapid ice-making cycles. The width typically measures 32 to 36 inches. The narrow doors are the greatest appeal to this category. It does offer both refrigerated and frozen items at eye-level. Claimed capacities can reach roughly 30 cubic feet, though typically only 65 to 70 percent is usable, perhaps the largest drawback. Most doors don’t open wide enough for wide items to fit, and tall, narrow compartments make it difficult to reahch items toward the back.
Sometimes listed as its own style, built-in models refer to the fit and installation in the kitchen. Designed to fit almost flush with cabinets and counters, they offer the sleekest look, and most can accept a front panel to match cabinets or other elements of your kitchen. They usually come in the bottom-freezer (including french and four-door) or side-by-side styles.
Price and space efficiency are the main issue with this model. They are at least 36 inches wide but relatively shallow, 25-26 inches front to back. Claimed capacities can reach around 25 cubic feet but only around 70 percent of that is usable. This style of fridge is a good option if you want a seamless look and have extra space to consider installing a separate fridge and freezer into a 72-inch-wide opening. For the same sleek look as the built-in but at a cheaper price, cabinet-depth fridges are a good choice.
Which type of fridge fits your kitchen and style best?