Choosing a Kitchen Refrigerator

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If you’re remodeling your kitchen and looking to replace all of your appliances or simply in need of a new refrigerator due to the fact that your current model is failing, you’ll find that kitchen refrigerators range from utilitarian models to those that offer trendy, technologically advanced options. When it comes to performance, what should you expect from a refrigerator? What style suits your needs? What sorts and bells and whistles do you need and/or want? These are just a few of the questions that consumers should ask.

This article will give an overview of the various models from which you can choose and optional features that are available. Although refrigerators are utilitarian and necessary to modern living, they are also part of your kitchen’s decorative scheme, defining the look, feel and overall style of the room.

First we’ll consider five basic models. We’ll then look at various options and features that you’ll find. Finally, we’ll discuss how to choose the model that’s right for you.

Side-by-side Models

Side-by-side kitchen refrigerators are extremely popular due to the fact that they can fit into tight spaces. Also, of all basic refrigerator models, they offer the most features. The side-by-side aspect of these refrigerators refers to the two vertical doors, one hinged on the right side and the other on the left side of the appliance. The door on the right opens to reveal the refrigerator and the one on the left opens on the freezer.

Popular equipment found in side-by-sides includes automatic icemakers with large storage bins, through-the-door ice and water dispensers and bins with individual temperature-controls. A large amount of space, more than in other models, is allotted to the freezer compartment. High, narrow compartments make items easy to find in the front but more difficult to locate in the back of the appliance. Wide items, such as a large turkey, sheet cake, or watermelon can be difficult to fit. Side-by-sides range from 32 to 36 inches wide and have a capacity that is anywhere from 20 to 30 cubic feet. About 65% of the freezer compartment’s capacity is usable. Due to the fact that they have more features than other model, side-by-sides are usually more expensive.

Top-freezer Models

Top-freezer models feature wide shelves and bins, making it easy to store large items. They are less expensive, utilize space more efficiently and tend to be more accessible than the side-by-side types. The wide shelves make it simple to access food in the back of the compartment, and the eye level freezer readily reveals stored items. However, food can get lost in the back of these models and reaching bottom shelves and drawers calls for a certain amount of stretching and bending. Top-freezer styles have a capacity that ranges from 10-25 cubic feet with freezers offering about 80 percent of their listed capacity. Large items fit nicely on the main shelves and the compartments on the side of the refrigerator door allow for the handy storage of condiments, eggs, butter and drinks.

Bottom-freezer Models

With bottom-freezer models, you’ll do less bending and stretching when retrieving and storing food in the refrigerator section and more when using the freezer area. That means less stooping overall, as the pullout bin of the freezer is the only area that requires bending. The overall capacity of a bottom-freezer model is less than that of the top-freezer type. Also, the freezer space that you can actually use in these models is a bit less than what you’ll find in the top-freezer models and more than you’ll get in the side-by-side types. Usually widths range from 30 to 36 inches with a listed capacity of up to 25 cubic feet. Bottom-freezers are a bit more expensive than the top-freezer versions.

Built-in Models

Built-in kitchen refrigerators usually utilize the side-by-side design or the bottom-freezer style. These refrigerators, which are most often 25 to 26 inches deep, are designed to fit flush with counters and cabinets. The compressor for these kitchen refrigerators is usually stored in a cabinet above the unit. Although built-ins offer fewer features than regular side-by-sides, their wide-door design helps make access easy. Built-in models come in 42-inch and 48-inch widths, which is certainly wider than the more typical 36-inch width. Many come in a variety of finishes. This effect is achieved by using slide-in, custom-look panels that can be inserted into the exteriors of the refrigerator and freezer doors.

Cabinet-depth Models

Although cabinet-depth refrigerators are freestanding, they have the look of a built-in model. These refrigerators, which are less expensive than built-ins, are available mostly in side-by-side styles. Many offer a choice of custom-look panels. Cabinet-depth models are stylish but have less usable space than other freestanding refrigerators.

Features and Options

In terms of practicality, refrigerator manufacturers continue to focus on making the interiors of their models as flexible as possible. Adjustable shelves and door bins, mechanical elevator shelves that can be cranked up and down without removing stored items and split shelves that can be independently adjusted to different heights can be found in numerous models.

Other options include wine racks, adjustable brackets on door shelves and easy-to-clean glass shelves with raised rims to control spills. Slide-out shelves and pullout freezer shelves and bins improve access to food and drinks. See-through drawers are helpful for keeping track of food.

Digital displays and touch pad controls for temperature settings, temperature display and ice and water dispensing offer convenience and ease of operation. Many models have various types of specific temperature and humidity controls, including drawers and bins that are individually regulated to extend the longevity of fresh herbs, vegetables, fish and meats.

An automatic icemaker in the freezer can be useful, making several pounds of ice each day, but it does reduce freezer capacity by one cubic foot. Some models put the ice bin inside the freezer door rather than in the primary storage area. This feature helps expand capacity within the main unit. Ice-and-water dispensers are commonly found in side-by-side models. Some kitchen refrigerators contain a water filter that reduces chlorine, lead and other impurities in the ice and water.

Many manufacturers offer refrigerators in various colors and finishes. Just about every company includes a classic stainless-steel model, which costs significantly more than models with the standard pebbled finish. Finishes include satin, various wood looks and bright candy colors.

Those who can’t stand to live without media bombardment will want to checkout a high-tech refrigerator equipped with a built-in, cable ready, remote control LCD-TV and FM radio. The built-in media center, which can be found on some side-by-side models, is intended to save counter space while helping to keep you informed and entertained.

How to Choose Your Refrigerator

There are many factors to consider when determining which type of the many kitchen refrigerators on the market is for you. Initial cost, energy rating, capacity, features and size will all be a part of your decision-making process. Décor and style are also determining factors.

Before buying, talk to friends, relatives and co-workers who have recently purchased a new refrigerator to get insights into various models. Also read consumer reviews and performance reports related to any refrigerator you’re considering. Make an informed decision. Take time to shop around, you’re going to have to live with your new refrigerator day-in/day-out for many years.

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