Choosing Your New Refrigerator

The refrigerator is the most-used appliance in the kitchen. Its doors are opened and closed dozens of times a day, especially if you have kids. Selecting a style and design that works best for your family is critical. Choose the wrong type and you’ll fuss and fume every time you open the door.

When it is fridge-shopping time, consider your family size, how often you entertain, and your food-buying habits. If, for example, you like to buy frozen foods or meats in bulk, consider a unit with a large freezer compartment. Or, consider purchasing a separate freezer unit to store bulk purchases.

Choices in refrigerator setups are actually quite narrow. The two units are either stacked on each other or they’re side by side. But, there are advantages and disadvantages to either style:

  • Over-under or under-over: A refrigerator with the freezer compartment on top and the refrigerator on the bottom is the most common design. This over-under design allows for easy access to the refrigerator. And easy access to the fridge is important for kids and elderly folks. Your other option in a stacked configuration is to have the freezer on the bottom and the fridge on top. The under-over design is easier on the back (no more bending over and reaching way in the back for that jar of pickle relish that always seems to “walk” to the rear), plus this design reduces the chance of damaging the floor — or your toes! — if you drop a frozen item from the freezer.

    Don’t forget, too, to get your doors to swing in the correct direction for your kitchen. If you set bags of groceries on the countertop to the right of the refrigerator, then you want the door to be hinged on the left (when you face the fridge) so you don’t have to move around the door when loading items into the fridge. If there’s more counter space on the left, you’ll want the door hinged on the right.

  • Side-by-sides: The side-by-side design can also accommodate an in-door ice and water dispenser, a very popular option. And the doors on side-by-sides are considerably narrower than those of a stacked setup, which means you need less space for opening the doors.

    The drawback to a side-by-side unit is that each compartment (the refrigerated section and the freezer section) is much narrower, so storing wider items, for example party trays or even a large frozen pizza, can be a problem. Remember, too, that these units cost more because of the way the motor and cooling units have to be positioned to accommodate the side-by-side design.

Refrigerators come in two basic categories: built-in or freestanding. The biggest difference between the two types is how the cabinet is designed to accommodate the motor and cooling/refrigeration coils. But, no matter which style you choose, you must identify the space and the size of the space where the refrigerator will be positioned.

Some handy extras make using the fridge easier:

  • Adjustable door bins allow you to adjust the distance between door bins to accommodate various height bottles and containers.

  • A refreshment center built into the refrigerator door gives you access to drinks and snacks without having to open the main refrigerator door.

  • Sliding shelves allow you to move shelves from side to side to stagger the storage space on the bottom shelf and to stagger spacing between other shelves.

  • In-door ice and water dispensers give you the convenience of ice and water at your fingertips, without having to open the refrigerator or freezer doors. A built-in water filter keeps dispensed water tasting fresh with each glass.

  • Spill proof shelves designed with catch-edges and raised front and rear lips prevent spills from spreading to other shelves.

  • Child lock-out systems keep young kids (and hungry teens, too!) out of the fridge when you’re not around or when they shouldn’t be ruining their dinner.

  • Beepers let you know when a door is left ajar, and lights turn on when it’s time to change the water filter.

  • Temperature controls allow you to adjust the humidity in the crisper drawers and the temperature for the ice and water dispenser.

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