July 22, 2014

Refrigerator Drawers Handy and Expensive

Many of us could use the space an extra refrigerator in the kitchen would provide. I have a spare freezer in the garage, but when I’m cooking for holidays or other large gatherings, my large fridge bursts to overflowing. I have even stored food for neighbors who have the same dilemma.

If you don’t need a lot of storage space and can spare a cupboard or two, a refrigerator drawer might be right for you. A refrigerator drawer is just what it sounds like- a fridge that fits under the counter and pulls out like a drawer. They can be installed near a prep sink, making them just right for fresh produce.

At consumerreports.org , they offer a complete look at some brands, pointing out both pros and cons.

Refrigerator drawers provide not only additional storage space but also some conveniences. If you have young children, for example, you can stow snacks in an easy-to-access spot. Or, when you’re prepping for that big dinner party, you can keep your fresh ingredients at hand. And on the KitchenAid Superba ($2,500), you can place one drawer at a standard refrigerator temperature and the other at a “pantry” setting of up to 60° F. This would allow you, for example, to chill beer, white wine, and other beverages for your gathering in the bottom drawer and store root vegetables in the top. (All five tested models have two drawers.)

Other upsides are on the design front. Refrigerator drawers don’t eat up much floor space: On average, the units we tested are 35 inches high (they’ll fit below a standard-height counter) and 24 inches deep (matching the standard depth of base cabinets). Three models are 24 inches wide (same as a typical dishwasher), the other two, 27. And, as with many other fridges, they can fit in with the kitchen décor. All five models are available with a stainless-steel look, and the Sub-Zero 700BR ($3,200) can be fitted with a panel to match the finish of cabinets.

But you’ll pay dearly for those limited benefits. The tested models cost an average of $2,500 (prices range from $1,800 to $3,200) for what we measured as only about 4 cubic feet of usable fridge capacity (none of the models has a freezer). What’s more, while fridge drawers cost little to run (about $32 to $42 a year), they’re far less energy-efficient than any type of full-sized refrigerator in our Ratings, scoring poor in our calculations. Some other drawbacks: The Marvel 60RD ($2,500) has no bins, dividers, or shelves, and its controls are inside the top of the front frame, requiring you to open the top drawer much of the way to access them. And the U-Line Echelon ($2,500) is not equipped with an on/off switch. To unplug the unit, you need to pull the fridge out from the wall. So far, we lack repair data for refrigerator drawers.

A different solution to the problem, though possibly not as attractive, is to purchase a small freestanding refrigerator, or even a portable one that can be plugged in on an as-needed basis.
Or, there’s always the neighbors…