Your refrigerator is the single most important appliance in your kitchen, so you’ll want to make the right decision when it comes to buying a new one and you’ll want to know what are the best refrigerators on the marketplace. New refrigerator models have an abundance of designs, features, and technologies that make them smarter, greener, and more convenient than ever. All of these factors can be overwhelming, so let us guide you through the most important aspects of choosing the right refrigerator for your home. We’ve also compiled ten brief reviews of the best refrigerators from the top-rated brands. You can use this information to compare refrigerators and decide which are the best refrigerators options for your household’s needs and budget.
Our Top Picks
New Energy-Efficiency Standards
Note that as of September 2014, both Energy Star (a voluntary program) and the U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE (which sets a mandatory set of standards), raised the energy-efficiency requirements for refrigerators. The DOE’s new minimum standards require all refrigerator types to be 20-30% more efficient than previous generations.
The Appliance Standards Awareness Project estimates the energy savings between 1990 and 2014 models to be $80 per year on top freezer models, $100 per year on bottom freezer models, and $130 per year on side-by-side refrigerator models. That means you can actually save 40% on your yearly utility bill by upgrading a fridge that’s more than 10 years old to a new Energy Star-certified model.
Remember that the bigger the refrigerator, the more energy it may consume. According to Energy Star, the most energy-efficient models on the market have 16-20 cubic feet of capacity. That’s significantly smaller than the recommended size for a four-person household–19 to 22 cubic feet. You’ll have to balance your space needs with saving money on your utility bill based on your own priorities.
Most people buying a new fridge need it to fit in a predetermined spot in their house. How do you figure out what size your new fridge should be? Measuring the space’s height, depth, and width is a good place to start, but don’t forget to add up the door opening space, ventilation space behind the fridge, cleaning space, and all the doors and stairs you’ll have to navigate to deliver the fridge to the kitchen. You may have to remove the refrigerator handle or even the whole door to squeeze through. Kitchens equipped with kitchen islands should also allow plenty of space for people to stand in front of the refrigerator.
Plan to have clearance of at least 1 inch at the sides, back, and top of your refrigerator for ventilation. If you’re placing your refrigerator next to a wall, the two sides (depending on the type of fridge you have) will need at least 2 inches of clearance so the door can fully open. Don’t buy a fridge before deciding whether its door should swing left or right; examine possible obstructions like a sidewall or counter to make this choice.
How to Maintain Your New Refrigerator
Once you have picked one among the best refrigerators on the market and your new refrigerator is installed in your kitchen, you’ll want to take good care of it. A great refrigerator can cost a pretty penny, and should last you about 10-13 years. To prolong the life of your refrigerator, perform some routine maintenance and cleaning every once in a while.
First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got your fridge set to the right temperature. Keep it between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the sweet spot for storing food safely. The freezer should be set at 0 degrees. To find out if the temperature is accurate, stick a thermometer in a glass of water, then put that cup in your fridge for 24 hours. The temperature reading is the true temperature of your refrigerator.
A simple tip mentioned above can save you a lot of money. Make sure that your refrigerator isn’t pushed all the way against the wall to maximize energy efficiency. Pull your fridge forward an inch or two to reduce its energy usage by as much as 40%. On a related note, if the power goes out, keep the refrigerator doors closed and use foods from the pantry. An unopened fridge will keep food safe for four hours, while a freezer will maintain its temperature for 48 hours if full and 24 hours if half-full.
Remember to check the door seals about twice a year. A loose seal can let cool air out, which you definitely don’t want impacting your electricity bill. First, clean any food residue on the seals using a toothbrush and a combination of baking soda and water. The dollar-bill test is how you tell if your seal is, well, sealing properly. Close the bill in the door so half is inside the fridge and half is outside. If it slips out easily, you may need to get your door seals checked out by a professional. Then wipe down the rubbery gasket around the door each month, rubbing the hinge side with petroleum jelly to ensure your fridge door opens smoothly.
The coils on the bottom and back of your fridge also need regular cleaning and dusting (about once every six months–more if you have pets). Unplug and pull out the refrigerator to vacuum the space where it normally sits. Snap off the grate covering the coils to reach them. To clean the refrigerator coils thoroughly, dust the coils in the back and underneath the device. Just doing this maintenance will help your refrigerator’s condenser work more efficiently because it doesn’t have to work as hard to cool your food. It won’t kick on as often, which reduces your energy bill. It won’t wear out as quickly either, saving on repair and replacement costs.
A freezer functions best when it’s really full, since the cold items help keep other items cold and maintain the low temperature. (This same principle applies to your fridge, so use this trick there too if you don’t eat in much.) If you don’t use your freezer much, fill it with water instead of food to keep it from wasting energy. Take an empty milk or juice jug, rinse it out, and fill it about 75% full with tap water. Stick the jug in the freezer and leave it there. That’s it! The water inside will freeze and help keep the temperature in your freezer low over time, which keeps your freezer from kicking on unnecessarily all the time. You can even use these frozen jugs later on when you need a bunch of ice, either sticking it directly into a cooler or smashing it open to use the broken ice chunks however you like.
Keep your fridge clean and fresh-smelling by unplugging the unit and washing it out thoroughly with bleach. For a quick fix to eliminate food odors, you can also pour some vanilla essence on a cotton pad and rub down the plastic in your refrigerator.
How to Avoid Food Waste
The average American throws away about 25% of the groceries they purchase. For a family of four, that food waste can end up costing from $1,365 to $2,275! Here are some simple and cost effective ways to avoid tossing your hard-earned groceries.
Perhaps most obviously, you want to keep track of how old your leftovers are. Spoiled leftover meals are probably the most common cause of food waste. Develop a system to let everyone know which food is still good to eat, and which should go in the trash. Get a handful of colorful washable markers and assign a color to each day of the week—say, yellow for Monday and orange for Tuesday, etc. That way, when you glance in the fridge on Sunday, you’ll know to toss anything with a yellow dot automatically. Or you could write the date the food was prepared on a sticky note.
Keep a resealable container full of miscellaneous vegetables in the freezer. If you’ve ever made a side dish of veggies with a meal and ended up with only a handful of leftovers, don’t throw them out! Veggies go well together, so throw any leftover vegetables in a resealable container and stick it in the freezer. When the container gets full, you can boil some water, add spices, toss in some meat, and then add the vegetables to boil. Just like that, you’ve got an inexpensive soup that’s different every time you make it. If the soup is too thin, you can use water or broth with a bit of corn starch to thicken it into a stew.
Types of Refrigerators
One of the most common refrigerator configurations, this classic style is the best value–prices start at about $500. The top freezer model is ideal for people who use a lot of ice and/or frozen foods, since they’re at eye level. The large freezer space easily accommodates large pizzas, birthday cakes, or wide platters. In both top and bottom freezer refrigerators, the freezer claims about a third of the unit’s total storage space.
The average size of a top freezer fridge is about 20 cubic feet, and they’re a slimmer fridge option at just 30-33 inches wide. Top freezers are 20-25% more energy efficient than bottom freezer and side-by-side refrigerator models. Because the crisper bins are located at the bottom of the fridge, these types of models make you bend down to reach fresh produce. Look for a top freezer refrigerator with adjustable glass shelves, which contain spills and allow you to customize your storage space.
While bottom freezer refrigerators are a little pricier than top freezer models (starting at about $700), they’re more convenient for people who use the refrigerator more. The refrigerator is right at eye level, keeping the contents within easy reach. This one is perfect for fresh food lovers; no more bending to reach your fruits and veggies! These refrigerators are just slightly larger than their top freezer counterparts, and can hold large containers of food like trays of hors d’oeuvres or bulk food items.
A double-door bottom freezer model has a single refrigerator door on top, and a large freezer door on the bottom. On average, they contain about 22 cubic feet of space and range from 30 to 33 inches wide.
In the side-by-side refrigerator model, the fridge and freezer are more equal in size, since each takes up the full height of the unit. Keep in mind that the middle divider between the two doors also takes away storage from both sides. This model is for families who use the freezer just as much as the refrigerator, since you lose fridge space in comparison to the top and bottom freezer models. Watch out for convenient but space-consuming water and ice dispensers, which can quickly eat up all your freezer space. Without these features, a side-by-side averages about 24 cubic feet of space.
Look for one with adjustable shelves to maximize your storage, since shelves can be narrow. If you have a narrow or oddly shaped kitchen, you might want to opt for a side-by-side since it requires less space for the door to swing open on either side. Otherwise, look for the largest refrigerator in this style that will fit in your kitchen to get the most out of your money. Side-by-sides start at about $900.
This style of refrigerator combines the best of the side-by-side and bottom-freezer models. The French doors are located at the top of the unit, offering a spacious refrigerator compartment. Large platters and pizzas fit in this fridge easily. French door refrigerators can have three, four, or even five doors, but you’ll usually see the three-door one.
The French door refrigerator is stylish and convenient, since it allows you to customize your refrigerator based on your fridge/freezer needs. These refrigerators are loaded with a variety of compartments to keep groceries fresher for longer. The middle drawer can be used for items you reach for the most. The average capacity of a French door is 28 cubic feet. Because of its convenience, features, and elegance, this type of refrigerator will run you $2,000 at minimum.
Many models have a freezer on the bottom, while some four-door options also feature a second drawer at counter height. Some even have a bottom compartment, whose temperature and humidity can be adjusted for use as either a refrigerator or freezer. Like other fridge models, many French door refrigerators offer ice and water dispensers.
Counter-depth refrigerators are shallow from front to back, so they won’t protrude beyond standard cabinets and counters. They come in bottom freezer with French doors or side-by-side, offering about 28 cubic feet of storage in either. Many models offer compartment temperature controls and water/ice dispensers. These refrigerators are ideal for households looking for a sleek and stylish custom solution to modernize their kitchen without remodeling. This style can even be customized to match your cabinets! Keep in mind that this shallow fridge does sacrifice some storage space for style.
These miniature refrigerators are great for dorm rooms, game rooms, bedrooms, and elsewhere in the house for home entertainment, home bars, or offices. Most compact fridges come with a small freezer as well, but don’t offer a lot of space for frozen food. Because of their size, mini fridges are affordable (ranging from about $75-175) and convenient for tight spaces.
Just know that according to Consumer Reports.org, mini fridges can actually run up your utility bill significantly, since they sometimes use as much energy as a full-size refrigerator! (Unless you live in a dorm room where the electricity is paid for.) Because of their size and design, compact refrigerators have to work harder to stay cold in a warm room; hence the energy drain.
Refrigerator Without a Freezer
Freezerless refrigerators use up all the storage space for refrigeration, not freezing. For families with a separate full-size freezer in the garage or basement, a refrigerator without a freezer is perfect because it provides plenty of extra space for fresh food.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Fridge
- Size/Capacity – Not only do you need to consider the size of your new refrigerator, but you’ll also need to think of how many people will be eating out of it regularly. Will you be having kids someday, or love to host huge parties? Do you have family over often? Each adult needs a minimum of 4-6 cubic feet of space in the refrigerator, with some extra space for holidays, guests, and parties. Use these guidelines to help you pick the right size refrigerator for your needs. Note that the average, classic top freezer refrigerator contains about 20 cubic feet of space.
- A couple that doesn’t cook at home much will need about 12-16 cubic feet total.
- A couple that cooks at home often should look for at least 18 cubic feet in a fridge.
- The average family of four will require at least 20 cubic feet–likely more.
It’s also important to remember that you’ll need to get your new refrigerator into your house somehow! Don’t pick the biggest refrigerator when your kitchen doors can’t accommodate a wide model.
- Price – Refrigerators are a significant expensive, and the fanciest ones can cost thousands of dollars! Luckily, there are options for every price point. Top and bottom freezers are usually considered the best value, but your preference will depend on your household’s needs.
- Energy Efficiency – To save both the environment and your wallet, keep in mind how much energy your new refrigerator will consume. Surprisingly, compact fridges are actually one of the biggest culprits of excessive energy consumption, despite their small size. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sets mandatory standards for energy efficiency, while a voluntary program called Energy Star designates even more energy efficient appliances. In 2014, both the DOE and Energy Star introduced improved energy efficiency standards for refrigerators. New Energy Star-certified refrigerators are 10% more efficient than their predecessors, and they have to be at least 9% more efficient than the standards recently set by the DOE. Throw out a fridge that’s more than ten years old and replace it with a new model to save hundreds on your annual electricity bill.
- Design – For those who may value style over refrigeration space, the actual appearance of their kitchen matters. French door refrigerators and fridges with wood paneling to match the kitchen cabinets are pricey, but gorgeous. You can also compromise on storage space by buying a counter-depth refrigerator that’s shallow enough to align with your cabinets and give your kitchen a seamless look.
- Color/Finish – Whether you’re sticking with the traditional magnetic white fridge or opting for a more modern stainless steel refrigerator, you’ll want to consider color. Most models don’t come in bright neon colors (although some retro fridges do), but you can choose between stainless steel, black stainless steel, slate, black, white, off-white, and panel-ready. “Panel-ready” refers to custom-made refrigerators that allow you to match the refrigerator doors to your kitchen cabinets’ wood paneling.
- Convenience – The best refrigerator for you may not be the best refrigerator for your neighbor. Make your choice based on factors you determine: does it open the right way? Does it have enough storage space for frozen meals, or do you prefer more refrigerator space for fresh produce. Whether you opt for a top or bottom freezer, or a French door refrigerator, depends on where you want your storage. No matter the model you choose, prioritize adjustable glass shelves to make room for oversized items, split shelves to create room for tall bottles, and/or gallon door bins to free up interior shelf space.
- Features – Refrigerators get smarter by the year, and the list of advanced tech features they offer will only continue to grow. Humidity-controlled compartments allow you to store produce at the appropriate humidity levels to optimize freshness for longer. A refrigerator with humidity-controlled compartments starts at about $1,200. You can also look for enhanced lighting, like energy-efficient LED lights placed in corners and over bins to make finding food items easier. Many refrigerators now come with door alarms that beep or chime when the fridge door isn’t fully shut, preventing energy and food waste.
Best Refrigerators Reviewed in 2016
Use our tips and guidelines to help you compare the best refrigerators from the best brands.
Whynter 3.4 cu. ft. Energy Star Stainless Steel Compact Refrigerator/Freezer
This handy compact refrigerator features two doors, with a larger refrigerator compartment and a smaller top freezer. The 3.4 cubic feet of storage space is quite roomy for a mini fridge, and includes a bottle and can storage compartment on the door to save space. This compact fridge is slightly larger than its competitors, but makes up for it by being ultra-customizable and having a whole bunch of storage space. Unlike other compact refrigerators, the Whynter MRF-340DS has a low noise level and is ideal for workplace break rooms, dorm rooms, or home bars for entertaining. The unit’s flat back design is space-saving, allowing it to fit against the wall or into corners. This compact refrigerator has an adjustable thermostat with full range temperature control and two adjustable glass shelves for maximizing storage flexibility. The see-through crisper door and reversible doors to allow for left or right swinging are also huge pluses. Overall, the Whynter MRF-340DS is an excellent and affordable choice for a roomy but compact refrigerator. Get one for those small spaces that need a constant supply of chilled beverages and snacks.
GE GSE25HGHWW 25.4 cu. ft. White Side-by-Side Refrigerator – Energy Star
With 25.4 cubic feet of space, this white side-by-side refrigerator from GE is perfect for a practical family’s kitchen. The large ice maker supplies plenty of ice (although it takes up room in the freezer. Both the refrigerator and the freezer have a ton of extra room. This model is more expensive than your standard top or bottom freezer, but it also allows for much more storage. Because of the side-by-side design, all compartments are easily accessible. This refrigerator is a little expensive, but provides a bunch of space.
LG LSXS26366S 35-inch Side-by-Side 26 cu. Ft. Freestanding Refrigerator, Stainless Steel
This glossy stainless steel refrigerator from LG looks incredibly modern and polished. The capacity of 26 cubic feet provides plenty of room for a large family or a family that cooks often. The hybrid of the bottom freezer and two-door refrigerator styles has a bunch of refrigerator and freezer space, and it looks good! The price tag is reasonable, although not on the cheap side for a plain refrigerator. This fridge is for people who want their kitchen to look great, while taking advantage of its near silence, and that is why this option is ranked high on our best refrigerators list.
Frigidaire FFTR2021QS 30″ Top-Freezer Refrigerator, Stainless
This quiet, stainless steel top freezer refrigerator comes with gallon door storage, two full-width sliding spill safe glass shelves to help you get organized, and bright lighting to easily see what’s inside. The Frigidaire Top Freezer has 15.3 cubic feet of fresh food capacity and a humidity control crisper drawers for storing fresh produce. This unit’s optional icemaker eliminates the need to fill ice trays and ensures you always have a steady supply of ice, and its 5.1 cubic feet of freezer capacity gives you room to store all your frozen foods in every size. Use a single knob inside the refrigerator to easily manage the temperature. The dairy compartment is perfect for storing butter and cheeses, while the black cabinet and stainless steel exterior give you a stylish, modern look. The Frigidaire FFTR2021QS 30″ Top-Freezer Refrigerator provides great value for your money when you consider its sleek appearance, capacity, and convenience.
Fisher Paykel E522BRXU5 ActiveSmartTM Fridge – 17.6 cu. ft. Counter Depth Bottom Freezer with ice & water
The Fisher Paykel E522BRXU5 ActiveSmart™ Fridge is a counter-depth refrigerator that offers an integrated water dispenser for chilled filtered water and an internal ice maker for clean, crisp ice cubes on demand. The best part? Neither the ice or water dispenser takes away space from the freezer or refrigerator door, which usually happens with such features. This bottom freezer model makes for easy cleaning thanks to its removable, spill safe glass shelves that contain drips and spills. To clean the Fisher Paykel E522BRXU5 ActiveSmart™ Fridge, just give the removable storage bins and EZKleen stainless steel doors a quick wipe. This refrigerator’s uninterrupted wide-open spaces and variety of shelving options let you easily customize it for your household. Quality extension runners let you slide out trays fully for easy loading and unloading in both the fridge and freezer. The Energy Star rated refrigerator is 28 5/32” deep, so keep that in mind when trying to install a counter-depth fridge–after all, not all counters are created equal. (You should also take into account the recommended space left behind all refrigerators for cords and cooling equipment, as well as the door and handle depth.) Overall, the Fisher and Paykel 17.6 cu. ft. refrigerator is a highly customizable and reliable model with plenty of convenient features. The price is higher than on some of the other refrigerators mentioned here, but it’s still reasonable when you consider the product’s quality.
Danby DAR033A6BSLDB Contemporary Classic Compact All Refrigerator, Spotless Steel
This compact all-refrigerator (no freezer) has a spotless steel, retro-inspired curved door with a rubber-grip ergonomic handle and stylized worktop. Its 3.3 cubic feet of capacity and tall bottle shelves allow for versatile storage, while the white LED interior lighting illuminates without adding heat. This Danby refrigerator features two and a half tempered glass spill-proof shelves and is Energy Star compliant. This attractive, highly convenient mini fridge is perfect for entertaining or stocking a dorm room with snacks and drinks. The Danby DAR033A6BSLDB Contemporary Classic Compact Refrigerator costs more than the cheapest of compact refrigerators, but it’s worth the extra money for its high quality and abundance of helpful features.
Haier HC40SG42SB 4 Cubic Feet Refrigerator/Freezer, Black
The Haier HC40SG42SB refrigerator/freezer is great for those seeking more freezer space in their compact refrigerator. Its half-width freezer compartment comes with an ice cube tray and lets you use your mini fridge for refrigeration instead of frozen food storage. Personalize your storage space with three full-width glass shelves, one full-width, and two half-width door storage shelves. The dispense-a-can storage in the door fits up to six cans and allows for more space on the fridge shelves. The storage bins on the door also fit two-liter and tall bottles. The Haier HC40SG42SB mini fridge has a reversible door and a space-saving flat-back design, as well as an adjustable thermostat. This affordable compact refrigerator lets you have ice cubes on hand without sacrificing any refrigeration space, and its clean black finish looks pretty snazzy.
Samsung RF31FMESBSR 31 cu. ft. 4-Door Refrigerator with Automatic Sparkling Water Dispenser
The Samsung RF31FMESBSR French Door SodaStream Refrigerator is complete with an abundance of the latest features, and its huge capacity makes it great for large families and those who love to cook and entertain. This modern, stainless steel refrigerator delivers fresh sparkling water and still water directly from the water and ice dispenser with SodaStream’s unique capsule technology. The in-fridge ice maker even makes up to ten pounds of ice daily. The four-door refrigerator has an incredible 30.5 cubic feet of capacity. That’s room for up to 31 bags of groceries–you’ll never worry about how you’re going to fit that leftover pizza box again. This model has five tempered glass spill-proof shelves that can be adjusted to fit your household’s needs. The refrigerator’s unique middle door is ideal for storing your most-used foods, especially for children–the Easy Open handle gives them easy access. Separate air flows in the fridge and freezer help keep food fresher, while the FlexZone drawer lets you store food at four different temperature zones. With five shelves, two humidity-controlled crispers, and six door bins, you’ll never run out of room in this refrigerator. To top it all off, all compartments in the Samsung RF31FMESBSR are lit by high-efficiency LEDs designed for complete illumination. This is certainly one of the top choices on our best refrigerators list.
Avanti RA7316PST 2-Door Apartment Size Refrigerator, Black with Platinum Finish
This Energy Star rated, two-door refrigerator has a narrow profile and sleek design–perfect for apartments, townhomes, condos, or anywhere limited space–even an RV. Its reversible doors and integrated handles make it versatile, while its affordable and energy-efficient energy consumption goes easy on your electricity bill. It also happens to be counter-depth, helping to streamline your kitchen. The Avanti RA7316PST 2-Door Apartment Size Refrigerator also sports an adjustable, full-range temperature control. The adjustable-height glass shelves and door bins allow for maximum storage flexibility, and the vegetable crisper keeps produce fresh. One door rack holds 2-Liter bottles, and the fridge comes with an ice cube tray. The refrigerator is well-lit and runs quietly. For families on a budget who prefer their fridge to take up less room while being convenient for food storage, this refrigerator is an obvious choice. The affordability and features of this model simply can’t be beat.
Can I change the direction the door opens?
Depending on the refrigerator you have, probably. Many refrigerators have reversible doors that allow you to open them from the right or left, which helps if you have barriers to opening the door a certain way in your kitchen. Before you purchase a refrigerator, check which way the door opens. Reversible doors are always a plus in case you move or remodel your kitchen.
What is an apartment refrigerator?
Apartment refrigerators and freezers are just smaller version of a regular refrigerator or freezer. Apartment refrigerators are compact, allowing them to be used in smaller kitchens while still offering a lot of storage. These types of refrigerators typically range from 10 to 12 cubic feet in capacity and tend to be shorter than full-size units.
How cold should my refrigerator be?
The temperature within your refrigerator can vary throughout. Usually the bottom of your refrigerator is colder since cold air sinks. Many fridges have the cooling element in the back, which makes them colder in the back than in the front. Air circulation fans and opening or closing the door will also cause the temperature to fluctuate. As mentioned earlier, it’s best to keep your fridge temperature between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If the internal temperature gets much warmer than 40 degrees, you risk bacteria growth and subsequent food spoilage.
Does my refrigerator need annual maintenance?
Yes, consult your product manual for maintenance tips from the manufacturer. Earlier in this article, we list general maintenance recommendations to keep your refrigerator clean, energy-efficient, and long-lasting.
Do most refrigerators come with an automatic defrost function?
Some do. Many full size and apartment refrigerators come with an automatic defrost function, since it’s annoying to have to take everything out of your refrigerator to allow it to defrost. However, many mini or compact refrigerators do not come standard with an automatic defrost function. Automatic defrost refrigerators have interior coils that are heated at regular intervals to prevent frost build-up. Manual defrost refrigerators don’t have automatic healing elements, which requires less energy use. When shopping for a refrigerator, be sure to check if this feature is available, although it’s not necessary.
Can I purchase an extended warranty after I purchase my refrigerator?
Yes, and you should. We recommend purchasing an extended warranty that will prolong the manufacturer’s warranty up to five years, saving you the cost of repairs in the long run.
Do you only need automatic defrost if there is a freezer function?
No, refrigerators can also accumulate moisture that becomes frost.
What is the difference between a beverage refrigerator and a regular refrigerator?
A beverage refrigerator is typically designed to look good, and usually has sleek stainless steel trim, a glass door to display drinks, and shelves designed for can and bottle storage. Most refrigerators are also designed to hold slightly warmer temperatures than normal, between 40 and 44 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is the difference between a freestanding unit and a built-in unit?
A freestanding refrigerator is the most common type because they are designed for easy relocation. When installing this kind of refrigerator, you should allow for 5 inches of space around the sides and back of the unit. Built-in refrigerators, on the other hand, are designed to be installed flush against the cabinets on the sides and top of the unit, allowing only 2-3 inches of space between the back of the unit and the wall. Built-in refrigerators have a front vent that helps air circulate, which is why they don’t need as much space allowance in the back. If you want a fridge that doesn’t stick out as much, you may want to consider a built-in unit.
Can I put a refrigerator/freezer in my garage?
Yes, but it’s not a good idea if you live in a region where the temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Such low temperatures could cause the oil in the compressor to thicken, leading to premature compressor failure or other maintenance issues. Also, refrigerator/freezer units often won’t keep food frozen when the temperature of the garage drops below 35 degrees Fahrenheit (since the inside of the unit would actually be warmer than the outside temperature).
Okay, so now that you know everything there is to know about refrigerators, which one is the best for you? Your budget should be a consideration, of course, but so should the size of your family and your cooking habits. A refrigerator is a big investment, so make sure it’s one that fits your lifestyle. The more customized your fridge, the happier you’ll be in the end. Here’s what you should think about before selecting among the best refrigerators to buy.
Your kitchen space
Start by measuring the space where you want to put your fridge. A refrigerator needs a few inches around all sides (but especially the back) so it can operate efficiently–see the previous section on refrigerator maintenance for the exact dimensions. Think about how wide the doors can swing open; check that you have enough clearance, and if you can only have a fridge that opens a certain way, make sure you buy one on the correct side or a refrigerator that comes with a reversible door. If you like the custom look of a counter-depth refrigerator, remember that you’ll be sacrificing some food storage space for style.
Your eating habits
If you like to cook with fresh foods, you might love a bottom freezer unit, which puts refrigerated items at eye level. If you’re more of a frozen meal household, you might prefer a top freezer so you won’t have to bend down to reach frozen meals. A side-by-side unit offers the best of both models, but if you like to store large platters of food or leftover pizza boxes, its narrow compartments might not work for you. While most models have adjustable shelves, drawers with temperature settings, and dedicated spaces for certain foods, spend some time researching a model’s features and consider your household’s habits before committing. If all these terms confuse you, see the guide to each type of refrigerator listed earlier.
A side-by-side refrigerator is great for households with kids, disabled people, or the elderly because you can store items on lower or higher shelves for easy access. For those who like to stand in front of the fridge deciding what to eat for prolonged periods, a side-by-side or French-door style model lets out less cold air over time.
Top freezers are the cheapest option for no-frills food storage. The finish may affect the price, so you’ll need to choose between stainless steel, a fashion color (which is uncommon in most models), or fingerprint-resistant faux stainless (often called “spotless steel”). Consider skipping the built-in water dispenser/ice maker, since they add to the price and drain electricity, as well as taking away space from the inside of the fridge. If you’re willing to spend more on some fancy features, new high-end refrigerators offer internet connectivity, built-in sparkling water makers, four doors, and compartments that can serve either as a freezer or refrigerator as storage needs change.
Your energy bill
Did you know your refrigerator typically accounts for up to 14% of your home’s total energy usage? Read the Energy Guide labels fridge carefully. Remember that built-in water and ice dispensers guzzle electricity and aren’t included in energy use estimates–they’ll add up to 20% to the running cost. Top freezer refrigerators use 10 to 25% less electricity than other types. Energy Star models use a minimum of 20% less electricity than non-rated models, so keep that in mind as you shop and compare refrigerators.
Your cleaning habits
Be realistic about your cleaning habits. Stainless steel looks nice when it’s clean, but it can quickly get smudged by fingerprints. Get a stylish finish but save yourself the constant wiping by choosing a model with a faux-stainless finish. Glass shelves with lips to contain spills (instead of wire shelving) are also easy to wipe clean. Many models come with removable drawers too.