Here in America, we love our refrigerators.
We’re big on stocking up on food and limiting the number of trips to the grocery store, so it’s important that our fridges are the right size for our needs. (On the flip side, if our fridges are too big, they burn through energy trying to keep everything cool. Don’t believe me? Read this article from Terrapass.) And if you don’t choose the right style for your cooking regimen, you’ll waste energy searching for food or rearranging groceries every chance you get.
This makes selecting a refrigerator one of the most important decisions when planning kitchen design. To make sure you invest in the right style, begin by determining how much space you have. Measure the width and depth of the area, and don’t forget to factor in room for doors—or drawers, as is the case with some models—to open. (After all, what good is a fridge if you can’t open it?)
When you go to the store, look for a model that fits the area with room to spare. Squeezing a fridge into a tight space just won’t work! And consider what you actually need. According to Don Vandervort of Hometips.com, two people need at least 10 cubic feet of refrigerator space, not including the freezer. For each additional family member, add one-and-a-half cubic feet.
You should also look for a style that matches your cooking routine.
Top-mount. With these models, the freezer sits on top of the refrigerator. It’s often smaller than what’s available for other fridge styles, but it puts frozen items at eye level and makes storing horizontal foods like pizzas and cakes easy. (In a side-by-side fridge, the space is often too narrow to fit these items.) If you don’t own a stand-alone freezer, this refrigerator type may be the best option for you because of the more diverse freezer storage options. Bonus: Top-mount refrigerators are often the cheapest variety, and because they’ve been around the longest and all the kinks have been worked out, they’re also the least likely to need costly repairs.
Bottom-mount. The freezer in this fridge variety rests on the bottom. It’s basically a large drawer that can be pulled out for easy access to all freezer items. The refrigerator part of this model sits on top, making it easy to spot and reach more frequently used foods. Have back or knee trouble? You’ll minimizing bending and kneeling with this option. Plus, this fridge style is typically the most energy efficient.
Side-by-side. The freezer and refrigerator in this model are of equal size and directly next to each other. If you commonly need access to both freezer and refrigerator items, or if you currently own a stand-alone freezer to store more bulky items, this fridge type may make the best use of your space.
Compact. These smaller units are often used in dorm rooms, bedrooms, home offices, and home bars. If you’re looking to fill a refrigerator need for only one room, a compact fridge should meet your desires. However, choosing a unit for a dorm room can get difficult because they have to take so much wear and tear and function for a variety of purposes. Check out this buying guide from Campus Grotto for a few tips.
Built-in. Rather then being installed as a separate unit, built-in refrigerators are constructed to match the style of your kitchen or meet a particular cooking requirement. Although they’re often narrower to match the depth of your cabinets, they’re also often wider, and because they’re custom made, they’re also more expensive. Before choosing this option, consider the higher cost, wider space requirement, and necessity of a particular amenity.
From icemaker/water dispensers to alarms that sound when the door is left open, refrigerators also come with a variety of feature options. The price increases with each component, however, so it’s important to choose which flashy items are necessary. You can choose from adjustable shelves, spill-proof shelves, in-door icemaker/water dispenser, in-door refreshment center, in-door television, separate controls for vegetable/fruit crispers, door or temperature alarms, child lock, quiet operation, or fast-cooling compartments—to name a few. Some features are only available on certain fridge models because of design constraints, so it’s wise to choose features after you’ve chosen your model.
In addition to eyeing refrigerator amenities, you should also look for the ENERGY STAR® label. Considering that your fridge uses 14 percent of your home’s electricity, this decision may be the best one you make when choosing a new refrigerator.
The Home Know-It-All