September 30, 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…

Choosing Kitchen Appliances – Refrigerators

Continuing now with refrigerators, we bring you part two of our series on choosing kitchen appliances.  The features that most people consider when looking for a new fridge are storage capacity, ease of use, price and hopefully energy usage.  One of the first things you can do to save energy when purchasing a new appliance of any kind , is to buy one with the Energy Star seal.  A 2007 Energy Star refrigerator uses at least 15 percent less energy than a standard one. 

HowStuffWorks.com, Consumer Reports and Appliance.net have some tips we’d like to share with you that will help clarify your refrigerator needs.

While you’ll find an array of refrigerator brands, only a handful of companies actually make these appliances, with essentially similar models under several names. Frigidaire, General Electric, Kenmore, and Whirlpool account for some 75 percent of top-freezer sales and, with Maytag, more than 80 percent of side-by-side purchases.
You can still get the basic 18-cubic-foot, freezer-on-top model with wire shelves, but the most popular style offers 20 cubic feet of storage; adjustable glass shelves; meat keeper with temperature control; vegetable crisper with humidity control; ice-maker; and door bins.   These typically cost the least and offer more space than comparably sized side-by-sides. Widths typically range from about 30 to 33 inches. Fairly wide refrigerator shelves make it easy to reach the back, though you must bend to reach bottom shelves and drawers. Usable capacity is typically about 80 percent of what’s claimed (about 10 to 25 cubic feet), which brings top-freezers closest to their claims. Price: $400 to $1,200.

Bottom-freezer brands include Amana, Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, Kenmore, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, Samsung, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Whirlpool. Mainstream companies have introduced high-end brand lines such as Electrolux Icon, Frigidaire Gallery, GE Cafe, Monogram and Profile, Kenmore Elite and Pro, and Whirlpool Gold. These brands cover built-ins: GE (Monogram and Profile), Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Viking. You can also get built-in-style, or cabinet-depth, models from Amana, Bosch, Electrolux, Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, Kenmore, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, and Whirlpool among others. These put refrigerator items at eye level on wide shelves that provide easy access. You’ll have to bend to find items in the freezer, but you’ll typically open the refrigerator much more often. Bottom-freezers tend to cost more than top-freezers and offer less space for their size, however. Widths typically range from 30 to 36 inches. Claimed capacity is up to 26 cubic feet, though usable space is typically a bit less than for top-freezers.

While most French-door models are 36 inches wide, some are 33 inches, and some offer through-the-door ice and water. Price: $700 to $1,500; $1,600 to $2,000 for French doors. French door fridges, are side-by-side on top with freezers on the bottom and are one of the newer options on the market.

Side-by-sides are split units that have a freezer on one side and a refrigerator on the other. They’re typically equipped with through-the-door ice and water—among the most requested features—along with temperature-controlled bins and rapid ice-making cycles. Narrow doors that fit tight kitchens are another plus, though most don’t open wide enough to fit pizza boxes and other wide items. High, narrow compartments also make it hard to find items at back. Side-by-sides are typically 32 to 36 inches wide, with claimed capacity of 20 to 30 cubic feet, though we’ve found that only about 65 percent of that space is usable. They’re also pricier than top-freezer models. Price: $800 to $2,000.

Built-ins are pricey refrigerators that are designed to fit nearly flush with cabinets and counters, and typically comprise bottom-freezers and side-by-sides. Most can accept extra-cost front panels that match other elements of your kitchen. You can even buy a separate refrigerator and freezer mounted together in a 72-inch opening. On the downside, built-ins are wide (36 inches or wider), yet relatively shallow (25 to 26 inches, front to back), making them least-efficient overall. They’ve also been repair-prone in Consumer Reports’ surveys. And at roughly a foot taller than conventional models, they could be hard to fit beneath overhead cabinets. Price: $4,000 to $7,000.

Cabinet-depth refrigerators are less-shallow, freestanding and offer the look of a built-in for less money. They are available mostly in side-by-side styles, with some top- and bottom-freezers and French-door models available. Many accept extra-cost panels for a custom look, but cabinet-depth models have less usable space than deeper freestanding models and cost more. Price: $1,500 to $3,200.

Under cabinet refrigerator drawers are among the latest luxuries for kitchens where even the biggest refrigerator simply isn’t enough. But refrigerators drawers tend to be large on price and small on space. They cost little to run because of limited capacity. Price: $1,800 to $3,000.

How much refrigerator do you need? One rule of thumb says plan on 12 cubic feet for two people and 2 more cubic feet for each additional household member, but other considerations also matter. If you like to stock up during sales, or cook often for crowds, the more room the better. Side-by-side models are easiest to organize, but the smaller models have relatively narrow freezers.  In all cooling sections, look for pull-out, roll-out bins and baskets that make it easy to see everything without having to dig around, squandering energy (yours as well as the refrigerator’s!).  If you’re a serious entertainer, you may want to look into ice makers that fit into the space of a trash compactor and produce large quantities of ice daily.

Consumer Reports offers this extra advice:

HOW TO CHOOSE

Size is usually more important than style, since most new refrigerators must fit in the same space as the old one. Begin by measuring the available space, particularly the width. Include the space you’ll need to open doors, and check that the new fridge you’re considering can fit through halls and doorways.

Once you’ve chosen a type that fits your space, needs, and budget, keep these tips in mind:

Look for space-stretching features. These include split shelves and cranks for adjusting shelf height. Pull-out shelves provide access to the back of the fridge and freezer. In bottom-freezers, full-extension drawers help you find items in the rear.

Consider efficiency. Despite advances, refrigerators still use more electricity than other kitchen appliances, since they’re always on. Top- and bottom-freezers are typically more efficient than side-by-sides. Choose a model that scored well for energy efficiency in our tests.

Think twice about multimedia models. More brands are also pushing $3,000-plus models that include TVs, DVD players, and other features as kitchens become the new living room. But we’ve found you can save hundreds and get better performance by buying a separate refrigerator and flat-screen TV.

Don’t jump at package deals. While buying a refrigerator with other appliances from the same brand can save you money and help coordinate styling, you’ll probably have less choice, and you could sacrifice refrigerator performance and reliability.

Choosing Kitchen Appliances – Refrigerators

Continuing now with refrigerators, we bring you part two of our series on choosing kitchen appliances.  The features that most people consider when looking for a new fridge are storage capacity, ease of use, price and hopefully energy usage.  One of the first things you can do to save energy when purchasing a new appliance of any kind , is to buy one with the Energy Star seal.  A 2007 Energy Star refrigerator uses at least 15 percent less energy than a standard one. 

HowStuffWorks.com, Consumer Reports and Appliance.net have some tips we’d like to share with you that will help clarify your refrigerator needs.

While you’ll find an array of refrigerator brands, only a handful of companies actually make these appliances, with essentially similar models under several names. Frigidaire, General Electric, Kenmore, and Whirlpool account for some 75 percent of top-freezer sales and, with Maytag, more than 80 percent of side-by-side purchases.
You can still get the basic 18-cubic-foot, freezer-on-top model with wire shelves, but the most popular style offers 20 cubic feet of storage; adjustable glass shelves; meat keeper with temperature control; vegetable crisper with humidity control; ice-maker; and door bins.   These typically cost the least and offer more space than comparably sized side-by-sides. Widths typically range from about 30 to 33 inches. Fairly wide refrigerator shelves make it easy to reach the back, though you must bend to reach bottom shelves and drawers. Usable capacity is typically about 80 percent of what’s claimed (about 10 to 25 cubic feet), which brings top-freezers closest to their claims. Price: $400 to $1,200.

Bottom-freezer brands include Amana, Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, Kenmore, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, Samsung, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Whirlpool. Mainstream companies have introduced high-end brand lines such as Electrolux Icon, Frigidaire Gallery, GE Cafe, Monogram and Profile, Kenmore Elite and Pro, and Whirlpool Gold. These brands cover built-ins: GE (Monogram and Profile), Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Viking. You can also get built-in-style, or cabinet-depth, models from Amana, Bosch, Electrolux, Frigidaire, GE, Jenn-Air, Kenmore, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, and Whirlpool among others. These put refrigerator items at eye level on wide shelves that provide easy access. You’ll have to bend to find items in the freezer, but you’ll typically open the refrigerator much more often. Bottom-freezers tend to cost more than top-freezers and offer less space for their size, however. Widths typically range from 30 to 36 inches. Claimed capacity is up to 26 cubic feet, though usable space is typically a bit less than for top-freezers.

While most French-door models are 36 inches wide, some are 33 inches, and some offer through-the-door ice and water. Price: $700 to $1,500; $1,600 to $2,000 for French doors. French door fridges, are side-by-side on top with freezers on the bottom and are one of the newer options on the market.

Side-by-sides are split units that have a freezer on one side and a refrigerator on the other. They’re typically equipped with through-the-door ice and water—among the most requested features—along with temperature-controlled bins and rapid ice-making cycles. Narrow doors that fit tight kitchens are another plus, though most don’t open wide enough to fit pizza boxes and other wide items. High, narrow compartments also make it hard to find items at back. Side-by-sides are typically 32 to 36 inches wide, with claimed capacity of 20 to 30 cubic feet, though we’ve found that only about 65 percent of that space is usable. They’re also pricier than top-freezer models. Price: $800 to $2,000.

Built-ins are pricey refrigerators that are designed to fit nearly flush with cabinets and counters, and typically comprise bottom-freezers and side-by-sides. Most can accept extra-cost front panels that match other elements of your kitchen. You can even buy a separate refrigerator and freezer mounted together in a 72-inch opening. On the downside, built-ins are wide (36 inches or wider), yet relatively shallow (25 to 26 inches, front to back), making them least-efficient overall. They’ve also been repair-prone in Consumer Reports’ surveys. And at roughly a foot taller than conventional models, they could be hard to fit beneath overhead cabinets. Price: $4,000 to $7,000.

Cabinet-depth refrigerators are less-shallow, freestanding and offer the look of a built-in for less money. They are available mostly in side-by-side styles, with some top- and bottom-freezers and French-door models available. Many accept extra-cost panels for a custom look, but cabinet-depth models have less usable space than deeper freestanding models and cost more. Price: $1,500 to $3,200.

Under cabinet refrigerator drawers are among the latest luxuries for kitchens where even the biggest refrigerator simply isn’t enough. But refrigerators drawers tend to be large on price and small on space. They cost little to run because of limited capacity. Price: $1,800 to $3,000.

How much refrigerator do you need? One rule of thumb says plan on 12 cubic feet for two people and 2 more cubic feet for each additional household member, but other considerations also matter. If you like to stock up during sales, or cook often for crowds, the more room the better. Side-by-side models are easiest to organize, but the smaller models have relatively narrow freezers.  In all cooling sections, look for pull-out, roll-out bins and baskets that make it easy to see everything without having to dig around, squandering energy (yours as well as the refrigerator’s!).  If you’re a serious entertainer, you may want to look into ice makers that fit into the space of a trash compactor and produce large quantities of ice daily.

Consumer Reports offers this extra advice:

HOW TO CHOOSE

Size is usually more important than style, since most new refrigerators must fit in the same space as the old one. Begin by measuring the available space, particularly the width. Include the space you’ll need to open doors, and check that the new fridge you’re considering can fit through halls and doorways.

Once you’ve chosen a type that fits your space, needs, and budget, keep these tips in mind:

Look for space-stretching features. These include split shelves and cranks for adjusting shelf height. Pull-out shelves provide access to the back of the fridge and freezer. In bottom-freezers, full-extension drawers help you find items in the rear.

Consider efficiency. Despite advances, refrigerators still use more electricity than other kitchen appliances, since they’re always on. Top- and bottom-freezers are typically more efficient than side-by-sides. Choose a model that scored well for energy efficiency in our tests.

Think twice about multimedia models. More brands are also pushing $3,000-plus models that include TVs, DVD players, and other features as kitchens become the new living room. But we’ve found you can save hundreds and get better performance by buying a separate refrigerator and flat-screen TV.

Don’t jump at package deals. While buying a refrigerator with other appliances from the same brand can save you money and help coordinate styling, you’ll probably have less choice, and you could sacrifice refrigerator performance and reliability.