July 24, 2014

Refrigerator Shopping Guide

Be sure you get the refrigerator you need – one that will serve your household well for years. Ask yourself these questions before you set out to buy a new fridge.

What configuration of refrigerator do I want?

There are three types to choose from. The most popular model is the two-door, top-freezer design which offers a wide range of models and tremendous storage versatility. Side-by-side models have doors opening in the center, generally have more storage capacity, and offer easy access for people in wheelchairs. Bottom-freezer units put the fresh food at eye level, and the freezer below for those who don’t use it frequently.

How much space do I have for a refrigerator?

Refrigerators vary in size and in the clearance space they require. Measure the height, width and depth of the space for your refrigerator, and take the dimensions with you shopping. Most models are 30-36″ wide. Depth is important to avoid purchasing a model that extends into the kitchen, blocking traffic flow or a doorway.

What size refrigerator do I need?

Capacity ranges between nine and 30 cubic feet. The average household refrigerator in 1992 was 20 cubic feet and is getting larger. As a rule of thumb, a family of two needs eight to 10 cubic feet of fresh food space in a refrigerator. Add an extra cubic foot for each additional family member. Refrigerators can last 10 to 15 years or more, so remember to plan for expansion or contraction of your family.

How much freezer space do I need?

As a rule of thumb, a family of two needs 4 cubic feet of freezer space. Add two more cubic feet for each additional person. Freezer needs vary widely, so increase the freezer space if you buy a lot of frozen products. Top and bottom mounted freezers offer the most storage flexibility. Side-by-side models may offer more storage space, but sometimes have difficulty holding a pizza, a turkey or other large items.

What features are important to me?

Features vary across refrigerators. Use catalogs, flyers and the Internet to identify the two or three features that are most important to you. Popular features include adjustable glass shelves, large adjustable door bins, and spacious crispers.

Do I want an ice maker?

Ice makers are a popular, convenient feature for your freezer. Some models already have ice makers built into the freezer. For other models, ice maker kits are widely available and can be quickly installed.

Do I want an ice and water dispenser in the door?

Through-the-door ice and water dispensers offer easy access to cubed or crushed ice and chilled water. They are especially useful for children or people who are frequently getting ice from the freezer.

What color do I want?
White and almond are the most popular colors. Black is offered for a limited selection. Trim kits and decorative panels are available for some models. Also remember that panels matching the cabinets can be used to create a custom look for your refrigerator in your kitchen.

Ask these questions when you are in the store to help you quickly and confidently identify refrigerators that meet your needs:

How flexible is the storage space in this refrigerator?
Look for adjustable shelving in the refrigerator and freezer which makes food storage much easier. Check how much storage space is available in the door and if the door shelves are adjustable. Consider whether this refrigerator can store the kinds of groceries that you buy — will it hold your milk cartons, vegetables, apple pies?

Is this refrigerator easy to use?
Check to see if you can reach products at the back of shelves — pull-out shelves can be particularly useful. Look for clear drawers and shelves so that you can quickly see everything. Make sure you can easily reach the temperature controls. Does the door swing open the right way? If not, ask the salesperson if it can be changed.

Is this refrigerator easy to clean?
Glass shelves may be spill-proof to reduce the amount of cleaning necessary. See if the shelves can be pulled out to be easily cleaned in the sink. Some models have adjustable rollers on the bottom of the cabinet, so it’s easy to pull out the whole refrigerator and clean behind.

How energy efficient is this refrigerator?

Check the bright yellow Energy Guide label attached to the refrigerator. Look at the kWh per year and use that to compare the energy efficiency of different models — make sure the models you are comparing are the same size, as larger models do use more energy than smaller ones.

How quiet is this refrigerator?

Refrigerator technology has changed over the years, so your new refrigerator will probably not sound like your old one. Ask the salesperson if they can turn refrigerators on to hear the sounds of different models. Remember that the noise will be quieter in your tiled or carpeted kitchen compared to the large, cement sales floor.

How reliable is this brand of refrigerators?
Consult consumer magazines to hear how other people rank the performance of different brands. Try calling the manufacturer’s 1-800 number and ask for information about their service reliability.

What is the warranty on this refrigerator?

Most refrigerators come with a one-year warranty on everything and a five-year warranty on the sealed system. Ask the salesperson for the warranty terms on the refrigerator. Look for quick, convenient in-home service rather than pickup and delivery warranty service.

What are the delivery and installation terms on this refrigerator?

Ask the salesperson for delivery and installation details. Will they take away your old refrigerator? Will they install the water line to the ice maker?

Good luck and enjoy your new refrigerator!