Refrigerator Buying Guide - What to Know

Thinking of upgrading your refrigerator but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place. Fridges have come a long way since inception, and manufacturers have gone far and beyond simply installing a light bulb and an ice box, and putting it up for sale. There are a many great variations of designs, colors, and features to choose from, but this comes at a price. With so many different refrigerators available for sale, it may be a daunting task to find the one that fits your needs. Keep reading on to find out exactly how to find the perfect fridge for you within your limited budget.

What is the best type of refrigerator?

When it comes to style, you have 4 different refrigerator styles to choose from. There are advantages and disadvantages to each style, and no style is the absolute best. The style depends entirely on what you need.

Top Freezer Style

The top freezer style is the type of fridge you were probably most familiar with as a kid. The freezer is at the top of the refrigerator, and the bottom three fourths is the place for fresh produce. Reaching for popsicles was always a challenge and required assistance from a chair. Designs have moved away from this traditional style, and tastes have evolved to other styles, but if style is not something you care about, the top freezer types of refrigerators offer some of the best bargains.

Price: $500 – 2000
Average Dimensions: 29” (w) x 66” (h) x 31” (d)
Great for: Bargain shoppers who enjoy the traditional style and are not looking for fanciness

Bottom Freezer Style

The bottom freezer is great if you need an easier access to your produce. Having to bend down and reach down to get produce out of the fridge may be an inconvenience. This is where manufacturers finally designed a brand new style of refrigerator – the bottom freezer – which is essentially the same as the top freezer style, except the freezer – you guessed it – is at the bottom. Of course, this creates a whole new problem where every time you want to grab some icecream you need to bend down and reach down to your ankles. To compensate for this problem, majority of models now adopted the drawer style freezers to provide easier access to your frozen goodies. Bottom freezer units usually provide more space, but there is also a smaller variety of this type on the market.

Price: $1000 - $1900
Average Dimensions: 29” (w) x 67” (h) x 32” (d)
Best for: Cooks who love fresh produce and don’t fancy frozen stuff

Side-by-Side Style

It became very clear to manufacturers that the freezer is undeniably an important part of the refrigerator to most people, and the bottom freezer style is very inconvenient for that purpose. In a spark of instant ingenuity, manufacturers came up with a compromise where the freezer and refrigerator are split somewhere in the middle to provide the best of both worlds. You store frozen goods on the left side of the refrigerator, and fresh produce on the right side. This way, even though you have to reach down for products in both the fridge and freezer, you can store the products you access most often in the most conveniently accessible locations, and store the products you rarely touch down at the bottom. Whether you want to binge on some icecream or grab some celery, it’s right there at your fingertips. This doesn’t come without a drawback. The freezer in many models is very narrow, so a frozen pizza connoisseur might want to look for something less limiting. This limitation hasn’t escaped the manufacturer’s mind as this style provides the most space-saving features of compartmentalization and shelving inside the doors.

Price: $1100 - $3000
Average Dimensions: 35” (W) x 71” (H) x 30” (D)
Great for: Shoppers looking for spacious, feature-full fridge

French Door Style

The French door style combines the drawer-style bottom freezer with the doors of a side by side fridge. This provides a full width fridge with a lot of space for you to store your delicious produce, and lets you access it with either door. This prevents the cold air from escaping quickly as it does with a top freezer or bottom freezer style every time you want to grab some milk. Variations of the French door include a double freezer drawer, with one located at waist height. This allows you to store certain more frequently stored frozen goods in a more accessible place, preventing you from needing to bend down each time you need to access the freezer. The high demand for the French door style provides additional smart features that cannot be found anywhere else.

Price: $1500 - $4000
Average Dimensions: 35” (W) x 68” (H) x 29” (D)
Great for: Those desiring the maximum features and easy access to fresh storage

Choosing the correct style for you is only half the battle. There are several other things to consider before you run off to buy a fridge.

How much capacity do you need?

As a rule of thumb, you need 4-6 cubic feet of space per adult, plus a little extra space for emergencies. Fridge sizes range anywhere from 10 to 32 cubic feet, so with this wide range of spaces you need to do a little calculation. For a family of 4, you might need 20 cubic feet, in which case a top freezer style or a bottom freezer style is preferred. The side-by-side and French door style are usually 20-30 cubic feet, which may be overkill. If you get a large fridge but it turns out you don’t need all that space, you will waste money you pay upfront,  as well as the extra money you will pay to your electric company for cooling space you’re not using.

What features to look for in a fridge?

This may sound obvious, but the features you want to look for in a fridge are features you will expect to use depending on the type of food you like to cook and eat. If you are a foodie who enjoys fresh ingredients, climate-controlled compartments may be something to look for. Certain models, such as LG’s Push & Seal Crisper Drawer, will suck the air out of the compartments when you’re not using them. If your diet consists of frozen pizza you may look for advanced defrosting features like GE’s Frost Guard, which helps remove freezer burn. If you enjoy the occasional drink, you may want to look for a fridge that has a built-in wine rack.

Other features you can look for include:

  • Smart water dispensing that dispenses the exact amount of water you need, as well as detection of when your water bottle or cup is full.
  • Water dispensers that accommodate bulky or large containers.
  • Hot water dispensers, great for tea or instant cooking.
  • Seltzer water dispensers
  • Chill blaster containers designed to instantly chill cans of soda
  • Built-in deodorizers, automatically removes bad odors from the fridge
  • Ice maker, removing the need to buy/make ice
  • Quieting systems that reduce humming and buzzing
  • LED lighting
  • Steel-reinforced hinges to support storing products in the doors
  • Spill-proof shelves that prevent dripping from one level to another

Some models even come with touch-screen and built-in WiFi functionality, giving you even more control of your refrigerator, which brings us to the next question.

Do I need a smart refrigerator?

Smart refrigerators sound really cool, but don’t necessarily provide functionality you will use on the daily basis. Remote controlled temperatures and monitoring of temperatures and power use is a great feature, but for most part it won’t be worth the price. Certain models provide extra functionality such as alerting you when the filter needs replacing, when a power outage has occurred, or provide advanced troubleshooting functionality when something goes wrong, but this all comes at a price.

Certain Samsung TVs come with an LCD touchscreen built right into the door that allows you to access a plethora of apps including Twitter, Google Calendar, or Picasa. Check the weather or news headlines while waiting for your coffee to boil. Listen to Pandora radio while baking cookies. While this sounds like a complete waste of money, if you can’t survive a few minutes away from a screen, this may be a great investment for you.

The Bottom Line

Consider all the options available to you before making a final decision. Factor in the style you’re looking for, the space your household needs, the price range available to you, and the extra features you need on the day to day basis. Visit the local stores and get a feel for all the models – but don’t rush to making a purchase. Be sure you are completely satisfied with everything before committing to purchasing a brand new refrigerator.

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