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Refrigerator Buying Guide

Every kitchen deserves a good refrigerator, and we have the best to choose from. Learn about which refrigerator types that will best suit your food storage needs, from French door refrigerators, to side by side refrigerators. You may also want to invest in a stainless steel refrigerator for a more modern appeal to your new kitchen design. Our guide will teach you the facts about refrigerators, and help you make the right decision about which refrigerator is right for you.

Why Buy a Refrigerator


Refrigerators have been a staple in kitchens since they were first introduced for home use around 1915. While the first refrigerators were expensive and used harmful gases for cooling, new models have come a long way in their nearly hundred year history and it is hard to imagine our homes without this truly modern convenience.

Whether you are replacing worn appliances or remodeling your whole kitchen, your refrigerator is possibly the most important purchase you will make. Available in both indoor and outdoor models, refrigerators are designed to meet the needs of the quiet family unit as well as the avid entertainer. And there has never been a better time to buy a new refrigerator than the present. Modern home refrigeration units are being loaded with a cornucopia of great features as the market becomes more competitive for refrigerator manufacturers. If you are on the market for a new refrigerator, take a moment to read our buying guide and learn all about the many features and benefits modern refrigerators can provide.

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Sizing Your Refrigerator

Before purchasing a new refrigerator, one of the most important considerations you will need to make is the size of the new unit. If you are looking to simply replace your existing, worn out unit, taking a measurement of your current refrigerator may be enough. If you are looking to remodel your kitchen, planning an outdoor kitchen for your backyard entertaining, or are planning a family upgrade, deciding what size refrigerator best suits your situation is very important. But don't grab that tape measure just yet. There are actually two things you will need to consider before you make a purchase: overall size and capacity.

  • Overall Size - To get a clear picture of what size refrigerator you need, you need to take a couple of things into consideration: the new refrigerators location and that locations area. Are you looking to install an under-counter model to save some space or a more traditional full-size design? Be sure to make sure the location you choose has enough room for the doors and drawers to open fully without obstructing the flow of your kitchen. Once you have determined the location of your new refrigerator in the floor plan, get out your tape measure and take accurate measurements of the areas height, width and depth.

  • Capacity - Refrigerator capacity is an important consideration that many people don't think about before they buy. If your refrigerator doesn't have enough space, you will spend a lot of time rearranging your food to make it fit. If the refrigerator is too large, however, you will end up wasting money on the extra energy it will cost to cool the empty space. Think about your existing refrigerator and consider how much more room you may need - consider not only the refrigerator itself, but also the freezer portion of the unit. If you are unsure as to how much extra space you will need, the general rule is to to provide about 6 cubic feet of usable space for each adult in your home and then add an extra cubic foot of space for each additional person in your home. It is also important to remember that the cubic feet ratings of refrigerators are often exaggerated and to be safe consider usable space to be 80% for top or bottom freezer models and 65% for side by side models.
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Types Of Refrigerators

Refrigerators come in a variety of shapes and sizes to compliment any setting, whether it is an indoor kitchen, an outdoor kitchen or a home bar. Before you choose a refrigerator, it is important to understand the difference between the different types available:
  • Indoor Refrigerators - Indoor refrigerators are specifically designed for indoor, home use. These refrigerators are usually available with more features than outdoor models but will not hold up against the elements in regards to humidity, rust-resistance and cooling capacity.

  • Outdoor Refrigerators - Created specifically for outdoor use, outdoor refrigerators are designed to keep food and drinks cold regardless of the surrounding weather conditions. Most outdoor refrigerators are UL approved for outdoor use and will hold up against harsh rains, sleet, high heat and anything else nature can throw their way. While outdoor refrigerators are available in a variety of sizes, most models are considered under-counter and are designed to compliment outdoor kitchens.

  • Under-Counter Refrigerators - The standard counter height for all kitchen counters is 36 inches. To allow easy installation, all under counter appliances range in height from 33 inches to 35 inches. It is important to check the lip on your counter top to help ensure that no modifications will need to be made when your new under counter refrigerator or freezer is installed.

  • ADA Compliant Refrigerators - All ADA compliant appliances are designed to fit within the standards created by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The ADA was created to prevent discrimination based on a person's disability. Under the ADA, all accessible counter tops must be no higher than 34 inches from the floor. ADA compliant refrigerators and freezers are designed at 32 inches tall to fit under these counter top restrictions.
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Refrigerator Styles

The style of refrigerator you buy is more an issue of personal preference than anything else. There are several door and drawer styles to consider and each have their benefits:
  • Top Freezer - The most common style of refrigerator available, freezer on top models put frozen foods at eye level. Top freezer refrigerators generally have more usable food storage space than any other style and are usually cheaper.

  • Bottom Freezer - Bottom freezer models are fast becoming a popular style among consumers. While bottom freezer models tend to be a little more energy efficient, they often cost more and offer less usable space than comparable top freezer models. However, many people still enjoy the convenience that bottom freezer refrigerators provide as the refrigerator is normally used more often and bottom freezer styles put that food at eye level.

  • Side-by-Side Refrigerators - Side-by side refrigerators can be a good choice for consumers that like to have their favorite refrigerated and frozen foods at eye level. Side-by-side refrigerators usually have an ice and water dispenser or other features in the doors. While the narrow doors of a side-by-side refrigerator are great for tight kitchens, you normally only get 65% usable space from the listed capacity and the narrow shelves make it difficult to store pizza boxes and other large items.

  • French Door Refrigerators - French door refrigerators combine the best features of side-by-side and bottom freezer models. The French doors at the top open to a full-width refrigerated compartment that easily accommodates large platters, pizza boxes and other large items. Many models sport a bottom-mounted freezer compartment, while some models are available with either dual freezer compartments or a second, counter-height drawer that is usually temperature and humidity controlled to accommodate changing storage needs. Most models offer some type of through-the-door ice and water dispensers.

  • Drawer Style Refrigerators - Drawer style refrigerators are the perfect choice for families where even the biggest freestanding refrigerator doesn't offer enough room. Drawer style refrigerators can be mounted under the counter or in an island and are perfect for storing drinks and specialty items that are often needed while cooking - saving the time of walking back and forth to the fridge. The downside to drawer style refrigerators is that even though they are inexpensive to run, they are actually very inefficient on energy and can be pricey.

  • All Refrigerator - All refrigerator models are perfect for someone who wants an extra unit for more storage space. The full height models are usually slightly narrower than other styles, and most compact and outdoor refrigerators come in this style.
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Refrigerator Features

Refrigerators are available with a wide variety of features that add to the convenience of any indoor or outdoor kitchen. It is important to remember, however, that the more features the model you want has available, the more costly it is going to be. Some of the common features available on modern refrigerators can include:

  • Water & Ice Dispenser - A water and ice dispenser is the most requested feature for refrigerators. Common on most side-by-side refrigerators and some French door models, water and ice dispensers provide a steady flow and ice and cold water whenever you need it.

  • Beer Tap - Beer taps are a great feature for outdoor kitchens and game rooms. Many compact refrigerators and kegerators are large enough for a standard keg and are able keep your favorite beer on tap and ready for your next party.

  • Glass Doors - Glass doors make it easy to see what food you have on hand without having to open the door and waste energy.

  • Built-In Ice Makers - Many modern refrigerators have built-in ice makers in the freezer compartment, that provide constant ice without the need to refill plastic trays. Door mounted ice makers save more room in your freezer compartment, and are usually found on side-by-side models.

  • Door Alarms - This great feature alerts you when the refrigerator or freezer door has been left open so you can save energy and prevent your food from spoiling.

  • Fully Extendible Drawers/Shelves - Fully extendible shelves make it easy to reach food and beverages without having to bury yourself shoulders deep in the refrigerator. These types of shelves are extra sturdy, allowing them to be fully extended - even with weight on them.

  • Water Filters - Most refrigerators with water dispensers are equipped with a built-in water filtration system to provide clean, fresh water at the touch of a button.

  • Independent Controls - Independent control systems vary depending on the model, with some refrigerators offering independent temperature controls for the freezer and refrigerator. Other models offer independent controls for individual drawers or compartments; these controls usually effect temperature and/or humidity in the drawers or compartments.

  • Digital Temperature Controls - Digital temperature controls allow you to make accurate temperature changes for your refrigerator or freezer.

  • Built-In Beverage Holders - Built-In beverage holders help keep bottle and cans organized and within easy reach. Some refrigerator models have dedicated wine racks for your wine collection.

  • Door Locks - A great feature, especially for outdoor refrigerators, door locks prevent unwanted access to your refrigerator.
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