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Refrigerator Buying Guide

Chances are you haven't shopped for a refrigerator in a while, so you may be surprised by today's features. Our buying guide helps you find the best fridge for your kitchen.

Refrigerator Buying Guide.

Refrigerator Types

door-in-door refrigerator
  • Top-freezer / bottom-freezer: These traditional models have a freezer on top and refrigerator on the bottom or a refrigerator on top and a freezer on the bottom. Reversible doors swing left or right to accommodate tight spaces.
  • Side-by-side: Similar-size refrigerator and freezer compartments run vertically from the top to the bottom of the unit. This is the best bet for a kitchen with limited space, like a galley kitchen, as it takes up the least room with the doors open.
  • French door with bottom freezer: French door configurations open from the middle to reveal a top refrigerator compartment with a door or drawer to access the freezer, located on the bottom of the unit. Allows for easier accessibility to the fresh-food compartments and main refrigerator area.
  • 4-door French door: French doors open from the middle of the top refrigerator compartment with a freezer located on the bottom of the unit. Between these two sections is a fourth refrigerated door / drawer. It's essentially the same configuration as the French door with bottom freezer but with an additional middle refrigerated pantry drawer.
  • Door-in-door: French doors open to an upper refrigerator compartment to reveal a door inside the door. A door-in-door saves energy because you only open one panel to access frequently used items in an in-door bin.
  • Counter-depth: A stylish option that sits flush with the cabinet fronts, providing a built-in look without a built-in price.
  • Compact: A scaled-down version often used in dorm rooms, basements or family rooms. There's usually little to no freezer.

Refrigerator Size and Capacity

fully stocked refrigerator

Measure the height, width and depth of the space your new fridge will occupy. Make sure there's extra space to allow proper airflow around your refrigerator once installed. An easy tip to visualize size - a bag of groceries equals roughly one cubic foot.

Next, consider your food-buying habits. If you purchase more fresh foods than frozen, you'll want easy access and storage space in the refrigerator. If you buy more frozen foods, you'll need more freezer space.

Finally, make sure the refrigerator you choose will fit through your doorways for delivery.

Organization Features

Stocked Pantry Drawer

Have you ever wished the interior of your refrigerator could look like the advertisement? Smart compartments and organization aids make it easy to keep food fresh and neatly displayed.  Look for:

Adjustable glass shelves: Shelves that slide in and out within the refrigerator cavity and shelves that flip vertically from hinges on the outside edges of the shelf create customized space.

Pantry drawers: Refrigerator-width pantry drawers create a separate temperature zone for party trays and snack foods.

Humidity-control drawers: These display fruits and veggies clearly while keeping them fresh with customized humidity settings.

Oversize door bins: Gallon-size door bins efficiently store milk, juice and 2-liter bottles of soda, making them easier to grab while taking up zero shelf space.


Program Pad

Consider the needs of your kitchen to determine if the following features are nice-to-have or must-have:

  • Dual-cooling system: This system allows freezers to circulate cool air separately from the fridge to help keep your ice from tasting like garlic bread.
  • Air filtration system: A built-in carbon filter keeps air in the refrigerator fresh.
  • Programmable control pad: Set the temperature, lock the ice and water dispenser, check filter condition and pre-set the amount of water to dispense with the push of a button.
  • In-door ice storage: These systems free up more freezer space by moving the ice bin from the freezer interior to the door. On some models, the ice bucket can tilt out or be removed with one hand for bulk dispensing.
  • Dual ice makers: These create ice for the door and ice for the party in a separate bin, usually in the pull-out freezer drawer.
  • Energy-saving models: ENERGY STAR® qualified refrigerators use a minimum of 20% less energy than nonqualified models — saving you money on utility bills. You may also be eligible for rebates from your city when buying ENERGY STAR qualified models.
  • Connected refrigerators: Smart models offer a plethora of conveniences including advanced climate controls, shopping lists, memos and integration with a variety of home automation systems.
  • Smudge-proof models: A special exterior coating makes these refrigerators resistant to fingerprints.

6 Ideas for Improving Refrigerator Efficiency

Refrigerator Efficiency and Maintenance .
  1. Shield your refrigerator from heat sources. By keeping your refrigerator away from heat vents, the stove, the dishwasher and direct sunlight from a window, you’re reducing compressor usage to account for external temperature extremes.
  2. Mind your leftovers. Let items cool to room temperature and wrap or cover them tightly before storing in the refrigerator. This reduces heat inside of the appliance, meaning the compressor runs less.
  3. Use in-door water and ice. Sounds simple, right? By opening the refrigerator or freezer door less often, you automatically improve your refrigerator’s efficiency.
  4. Warm things up. Sound counterintuitive? By adjusting your refrigerator’s temperature to between 36 and 38 degrees F and the freezer between 0 and 5 degrees F, you will improve efficiency. This is usually the mid-point setting on the temperature dial.
  5. Organize, organize, organize. Put those organizer ideas to good use and create a tidy refrigerator. When items are easily accessible, you reduce open-door time, which translates into energy savings.
  6. Clear clutter. Keep the top of your refrigerator free of cereal boxes, bread, serving dishes and other “stuff.” These things trap heat inside of the appliance, causing your compressor to work overtime.
Good to Know

It can take up to 24 hours for temperature changes to take effect inside the refrigerator and freezer. Exercise patience.

5 Tips to Increase Your Refrigerator's Lifespan

Increase Your Refrigerator's Lifespan.
  1. Protect the plastic. Avoid using scratch-causing abrasives when cleaning drawers, shelves and handles. Simply wipe clean with a soft cloth, a mild detergent and a little baking soda.
  2. Give your food some elbow room. A full refrigerator and freezer operates more efficiently, but not when it’s crammed. Make sure there is enough space for air to circulate.
  3. Keep your cool. By cleaning the refrigerator door seals regularly with soap and water, you eliminate dirt and grime that prevent proper sealing. To test your seals, slide a piece of paper in the closed refrigerator door. If it falls out, it’s time to replace the seals.
  4. Banish mold and mildew. Wipe the inside of your refrigerator with pure white vinegar to prevent bacteria growth. After applying the vinegar, wipe surfaces clean and dry thoroughly.
  5. Clean your coils. Unplug the refrigerator and gently remove dust from the condenser coils. To find your condenser coils, check your owner’s manual.


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Good to Know

Remember to recycle your old refrigerator.