Choosing the Best Refrigerator

Choosing the Best Refrigerator

 Are you beginning your kitchen remodel?  Or only need a new refrigerator?  There are many things to consider before you buy.  But first, let me just say – forget all the hype and think about what you actually need.

Refrigerators fall into six categories. 

  1. Top Freezer
  2. Bottom Freezer
  3. Side by Side
  4. Built-In
  5. Compact
  6. Drawer


Here are some pros and cons about each category.

Top Freezer

Pros-Good eye level for freezer. Good price point, generally. Great for small spaces-usually 30” -33” widths.

Cons-Wide swinging doors. Have to bend down to reach frig compartment. Not too many have water dispensers.

Bottom Freezer

Pros-Fridge compartment at eye level. Some come with French door configuration with two doors for fridge and a drawer freezer below. Typical width is 30” – 36”

Cons-Freezer items harder to reach. If not a French door variety, may have too wide of a door swing for your space.

Side by Side

Pros-Great when your kitchen does not have room for a wide swinging door. Most offer icemakers and water dispensers. Higher proportion of space allocated for freezer. Typical width is 33”- 36”.

Cons-Not as energy efficient. On the pricey side. More repair prone.

Built-In Refrigerators

Pros-Create a more unified look. Can be integrated to look like the cabinetry by using special fascia panels. Counter depth models generally protrude a little bit more than counter depth but offer the look of custom built-ins for a lot less cost.

Cons-True built-in will be pricey and require custom installation. Usually has less usable space than other models.

Compact Refrigerator

Pros-Good when space is at a premium such as an apartment, office or dormitory or Man Cave. Inexpensive, energy efficient. Plug and Play installation.

Cons-Will not hold large items.

Drawer Refrigerator

Pros-A second space to store prepped food, chill wine, snacks for kids. Works into any room, not much floor space needed.

Cons-Expensive. Not as energy efficient as its counterparts.

Practical Considerations

  1. Consider the size of your family also.  How much food will you need to store at one time?
  2. Do you really need that water dispenser on the door?
  3. Is this freezer going to be your only freezer for the household?  If so, will you need to get into it often?
  4. How much ice will the model you are considering make in a day?  Models can vary from as little as one pound to as much as nine pounds of ice per day.
  5. What’s the traffic pattern in your kitchen going to be like?  If you have two to three people preparing food at one time, will the frig door get in the way?
  6. What’s your overall budget for your new appliances/kitchen remodel?  Is the refrigerator high on your priority list or is there another item where you would rather splurge?
  7. How about the drawers and pull out shelves?  Are they convenient and spill resistant?
  8. Is your model rated well for noise?
  9. Is it Energy Star rated?
  10. When researching your new fridge, consider the efficiency of humidity and temperature control for the drawer spaces.  The better the drawer holds the humidity, the longer your veggies will last.  The colder the meat drawer, the longer you will be able to store your meats and cheeses.

Capacity vs. Usable Space

You may find that  “usable space” plays a very important part in your decision.  One of the features that tend to cut into that space is the water dispenser/ice maker on side-by-side models.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that the model you love holds more than you think by the number of frozen pizza boxes in the display model!  Take your time to ask questions, check the labels and do your own comparisons.  There is a difference between “Capacity” and “Usable Space”.


  1. Use plastic or glass storage boxes which are stackable for leftovers.  You will save yourself a lot of headache, especially when it comes to counter depth or side-by-side models.
  2. Remember to replace that old garage model too.  It may be claiming the lion’s share of your electric bill!
  3. Call your local utility company to find out if they offer a rebate program for your new Energy Star rated appliances.  They may also pick up the old ones free of charge.