Walk into any furniture store or down the large appliance aisle and you will be confronted with a wall of refrigerators and freezers each wanting a place in your kitchen. Today, fridges and freezers come in a variety of design styles, an array of colours and all boasting new and improved features. All these options make buying the right fridge all that more complex.
Gone are the days of walking into an appliance store and having two or three brands to select from with an 'either-or' colour option when it came to buying a fridge. This complete fridge and freezer buyer's guide is here to help navigate the wall of options available in order to find the right fridge for your kitchen. This guide covers the basics of fridge and freezer types, designs, features, finishes, smart fridges and a few considerations to make before buying your next fridge.
Refrigerators for home kitchens are grouped into the following three main categories; full fridges, combo fridges and beverage coolers.
- Full fridges: these are refrigerators which are completely designed to allocate all available space to cooling and do not have a freezer compartment.
- Combo fridges: these are refrigerators which are designed to have a combination of both cooling and freezing compartments.
- Beverage coolers: these are refrigerators designed specifically for the cooling of beverages like cooldrinks and wine.
It is important to know what fridge type you need before going to browse the appliance aisles. Combo fridges are the most common as they are both practical and take up the least amount of space. A full fridge is best if pigeon paired with a full freezer and mostly suited for larger kitchens. A beverage cooler is a great additional fridge for those who are frequent home entertainers but can have a relatively high price tag.
Refrigerator designs have evolved dramatically over the last 20-30 years with a standard 'two-door combo' no longer being the only option available. Fridge designs (especially combo fridges) are characterised by two key elements; door placements and compartment placements. The variations of these elements result in five design styles; top freezer, bottom freezer, side-by-side, french door and full door.
- Top freezer: These combo fridges have the freezer compartment at the top. They are generally the cheapest and most cost-efficient to run but not always the most practical to access.
- Bottom freezer: These combo fridges have the freezer compartment at the bottom. They are reasonably priced and cost-efficient to run but can be slower in freezing in some cases.
- Side-by-side: These combo fridges have a left and right split for individual cooling and freezing compartments. They are ideal for large families and entertainers but are costly and take up more floor space in a kitchen.
- French door: These combo fridges have two doors for the top cooling compartment and drawers for the bottom freezing compartment. They are convenient with more capacity but can are usually more expensive in comparison to other combo fridge designs.
- Full door: These cooling only fridges have a single full-length door. They offer maximum capacity and many extra features but are less efficient and consistent temperature throughout the cooling compartment is often a concern.
Convenience, available kitchen floor space and one's budget are the main factors to take into consideration when deciding on the design style for your next fridge.
Freezer designs are characterised by access to the freezing compartment. The two main designs are; upright and chest freezers.
- Upright: Upright freezers have either a swinging door and/or drawers. They are convenient and easy to access but are more expensive in comparison to chest freezers.
- Chest: Chest freezers have a lid design with the freezing compartment accessible from the top. Cheapest and most cost-efficient to run but less convenient in comparison to upright freezers
Freezing capacity, convenience and kitchen placement are the main things to take into consideration when wanting to buy a freezer.
Fridge and freezer features
Today's refrigerators and freezers come with a plethora of features, all adding to the effectiveness and convenience of the appliance, but also adding to the price tag. These are some of the most popular features available in fridges and freezers today:
- Reversible doors: Allows the door to hinge from either the left or from the right side.
- Water dispenser: Dispense cold water either internally or externally with some fridges including filtration and connection to the main water supply.
- Vacation mode: Efficiency feature for when on vacation and the fridge or freezer will not be opened over a long period of time, helping to reduce running costs.
- Crisper Drawer: Separate compartment within the cooling compartment of the fridge to help keep fruits and vegetables crisp and fresher for longer.
- Ice maker: Automatic ice cube maker in the freezing compartment of a freezer with some freezers connecting directly to the main water supply.
- Ice dispenser: Automatic dispensing of ice cubes into a removable container in the freezer compartment.
- Ice crusher: Automatic dispensing of crushed ice, usually in combination with a water dispenser.
- Quick-freeze: Compartment in the freezer with lower temperatures for faster freezing functionality.
Deciding on fridge and freezer features is mostly about your needs and wants and then matching them to your available budget.
Fridge and freezer finishes
You no longer need to make a choice only between white or silver for you next fridge or freezer, today the choice of colour and types of finishes are so varied it can be both exciting and daunting at the same time.
While choosing a colour to match the finishings of the kitchen cupboards, this is only advisable if you own the house you are in or do not plan on moving - that bold red may look good in a new rental home with a modern kitchen but might be an od fit in a classic wood-accented kitchen in your next rental home. White is a good standard choice for many as it is simple, clean and will match with most kitchen finishes as well as not draw too much attention, unlike a dark coloured fridge, like black or dark grey, which can be an unwanted focal point for some.
From gloss to matt, metallic to mirrored, fridge and freezer finishes add character to the unit, each finish with its own set of pros and cons. Gloss and mirrored finishes are usually easy to clean but have a tendency to show up fingerprints and streeks. Many metallic finishes scratch easily but look fantastic if matched with other appliances. Mirrored finishes look expensive but are challenging to keep clean and not always easy to match with other kitchen finishes and appliances.
Some fridges allow for the door to be removed and then fitted with the same doors as those of your kitchen cupboards, which some kitchen cupboard design units allow the fridge door to attach to the cupboard door. This allows your fridge to seamlessly integrate into your kitchen. Another option to customise the finish of a fridge is to have it vinyl wrapped in any colour, pattern and texture much like you would a car. These options have higher price tags but are the ultimate in personalisation or for seamless integration.
The latest development and biggest trend in appliances is the integration of connected technologies, commonly known as 'Internet of Things' or IoTs.Fridges and freezes are amongst those appliances which have had a smart update. These added technologies add new features and functionality to fridges and freezes, these include;
- Notifications: Messages sent to your mobile phone when a door or drawer is left open, the temperature rises above a specific temperature or there is a power failure.
- Remote access: Control functions like temperature control, ice maker or vacation mode from anywhere in the world via your mobile phone.
- Display: Some smart fridges have large touchscreen displays that allow the displaying of messages, calendars, shopping lists, notes etc, which then sync to your mobile phone.
When buying a new fridge and/or freezer there are a few additional things to consider in addition to those mentioned above. Here are a few as final considerations:
- Opening space: Make sure the doors of your new fridge will be able to swing open without hitting other appliances, blocking entrances and walkways, or hitting a wall or counter. Fridge doors need to be able to open past 90 degrees in order to remove shelves and bins for cleaning.
- Narrow kitchens: If your kitchen has an island or has a narrow galley-style, you may not have enough room for a full-width door, like those found on larger top-freezer or bottom-freezer designs, to open completely. If so, a french door unit might be a good consideration as the doors are narrower than other designs.
- Handle style: Not something most fridge or freezer shoppers consider when at the showroom, but the style of the handle (or lack thereof) is worth considering. Integrated handles may look sleek and modern but can be impractical when your hands are full and need to place something into the fridge. Large handles might be more practical but can a frustrating obstacle in small, narrow kitchens.
Before purchasing any fridge or freezer, it is always a good idea to consult with a qualified salesperson or brand representative about the unit you are wanting to purchase.
We hope this basic buyer's guide helps you consider the options you have when shopping for your next fridge or freezer and will help in finding the perfect fridge for your kitchen and your pocket.