What style refrigerator is right for you?
Full-size refrigerators generally measure 70 inches in height, 32 to 36 inches in depth, and 31 to 36 inches in width. Storage capacity ranges from 22 to 26.8 cubic feet.
French-door: The French-door refrigerator features double doors side-by-side that open on the full width of the fresh food compartment. Below that, there is a freezer and sometimes a separate “snack drawer.” This drawer is perfect for popular groceries and snacks you want to encourage your children to eat.
Exterior ice and water dispensers are the standard. Most French-door refrigerators have a water reservoir coil in the fresh food compartment chilling 12 to 24 ounces of water. If you entertain often, this is the appliance for you, as the full-width compartments can easily store party platters, sheet cakes or full-size pizzas. This design is also great for families with more items displayed at eye-level.
Side-by-side: The side-by-side refrigerator has two doors: fresh-food compartment on the right and freezer on the left, both running the entire height of the appliance. The exterior water and ice dispenser is on the freezer door. Water comes out chilled as most side-by-side refrigerators contain a reservoir in the main compartment that holds approximately 15 to 33 ounces of water.
This style of refrigerator provides easier access to more of your groceries and helps avoid digging and searching. You gain more freezer space, but you are sacrificing the storage width of the French-door.
Bottom-freezer: The bottom-freezer refrigerator has a single-drawer freezer housing the ice maker at its base and a single-door fresh food compartment above. If there is a water dispenser, it is a button and small nozzle located just inside the main compartment door. Some bottom-freezer refrigerators with water dispensers also contain a reservoir coil in the fresh food section that chills 12 to 24 ounces of water.
The bottom-freezer is more compact for smaller spaces, has a clean exterior and offers no outside buttons for children to play with.
Apartment-size: An apartment-size refrigerator is about 10 inches shorter and 7 inches less deep and wide than the full-size and has approximately 7 to 10 cubic feet of storage. With the freezer on top and no ice maker or water dispenser, this style requires much less maintenance. It is more suitable for a single-person in an apartment, an office lunchroom or anywhere space is limited.
Compact: A compact refrigerator is usually 30 inches tall with a height and depth of approximately 19 inches each. Its capacity is around 3.2 cubic feet. Portable and highly flexible in function, it is perfect for a dorm, office or common room.
Important features to consider
Flexible and removable glass shelves are more adaptable to different-sized food items and make for easier cleaning. Split shelves make the layout more adaptable. Most shelves in newer models have raised edges to limit any spillage. Door bins can also be adjustable, though many freezer bins are fixed in place.
A few models feature a separate “snack drawer” beneath the fresh food compartment for your most popular food items. Bottom freezers come in a deep bin, sometimes with interior sliding shelves and dividers.
Ice and water dispensers
Most full-size refrigerators have exterior ice and water dispensers, which are convenient and help maintain the refrigerator’s internal temperature. Some brands have an interior ice maker in the freezer and a water dispenser inside the main compartment door, which causes you to let your fridge warm up if you try to fill a large pitcher with water. Separate push-tabs for ice and water dispensing eliminate the need to toggle between functions on a control panel.
Generally, choice of finishes is limited to white, black, stainless steel and black stainless steel. More whimsical colors — such as red, pink, mint green or cream — are available but they tend to come in refrigerators with a retro design. These days, the most popular finish is stainless steel for its modern appearance and durability. Certain finishes, such as clear-coat, textured and heavy-brushed stainless steel are smudge and fingerprint resistant.
Thanks to the demand for energy efficiency, Energy-Star certified products no longer cost more than non-certified products. The Energy-Star certification is federally regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. It guarantees that a refrigerator is at least 10% more efficient than the standard set by the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act.
Replacing an older appliance with an Energy-Star rated refrigerator could save you more than $300 in electric bills over the next five years. The Energy-Star website offers a Flip Your Fridge Calculator to better gauge your savings.
Pretty much every warranty is limited in that it excludes normal wear and tear, alterations, maintenance and cleanliness. When installed and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, defects in materials and workmanship and parts and labor tend to be covered for a year. For a complete view, we would suggest going to the manufacturer’s web site.
As for purchasing extended warranties, the rule of thumb is to make sure the seller of your appliance has a service department in-house and that repairs aren’t contracted to outside parties.
Best French-Door: Whirlpool - WRX 735SDHZ
Though more expensive than other refrigerators we recommend, this Whirlpool model’s design is the highlight. The separate snack drawer prevents your fresh food compartment from being exposed to warming air and is ideal for more frequently used items.
The main compartment features four adjustable glass shelves and two crisper compartments, as well as a clear panel that displays the contents of the snack drawer. The Whirlpool’s exterior ice and water dispenser has separate tabs for each, so you don’t need to push buttons when switching between functions.Read more…
The fingerprint-resistant finish comes in black, white and stainless steel. This Whirlpool model is Energy-Star certified and is the best-designed refrigerator we reviewed. With all the bells and whistles, this is the perfect family refrigerator.
Best Side-by-Side: Frigidaire - FFSS2615TS
This side-by-side model is reasonably priced, runs quiet and is quite roomy at 25.5 cubic feet. It features a two-tab exterior water and ice dispenser. The ice maker is highly efficient and has a large reservoir to hold plenty of ice. Frigidaire’s PureSource 3 water filtration system guarantees a steady flow of clean, good-tasting water.
Very flexible in design, the main compartment features two crisper drawers, three adjustable shelves and four adjustable door bins, two two-gallon size and two two-liter size. The freezer offers a basket, three adjustable wire shelves and four fixed door bins. When considering cost and capacity, this appliance gives you the best bang for your buck. It is available in black, white, stainless steel and black stainless steel, but it is not Energy-Star rated.
Best Apartment-Size: Danby DFF070B1BSLDB-6
The economical Danby is a very basic apartment-size refrigerator that does not have an ice maker or water dispenser. If you need ice faster, you could pair this with a portable ice maker, but an ice tray will also do. The upside is a simpler, more reliable refrigerator — those components are usually the first to fail. It has 7 cubic feet of storage and the fresh food compartment features a crisper drawer, three adjustable shelves and three adjustable door bins.
This Danby model isn’t Energy-Star certified, but due to its size, it will still use less electricity than a full-size refrigerator. Easy to maneuver and designed with recessed door handles, this refrigerator makes for a sleek addition to an apartment or office. It’s only available in a smudge-free stainless steel look. This was the most streamlined and functional apartment-size we reviewed.
Best Compact: Danby - DCR031B1BSLDD
This two-door compact refrigerator has interior lighting and a large freezer that could easily store several quarts of ice cream. These features weren’t found in the other compacts we reviewed. Its fresh-food compartment is frost-free; however, the freezer is manual defrost.
Recessed door handles and a reversible door make it an excellent fit for lunchrooms, dormitories or smaller kitchens. Inner-door storage, a crisper drawer and a removable shelf provide plenty of room for drinks, groceries, and a smaller lunch box too. It comes in a stainless or white finish. Very affordable and Energy-Star certified, this unit is a money-saver.
There is an ample 25.4 cubic feet of storage in this side-by-side model, which also features a factory-installed, in-door ice-maker for ease of access. A frequent complaint about this GE model is that the ice-maker can be noisy. The superior water filter is one of the top-rated in the industry. The finish is available in black, white, stainless steel and fingerprint-resistant slate.
Adjustable shelves with raised edges minimize mess from spills and two of the shelves slide out, making food items more accessible. Two of the four doors bins and two of the three freezer shelves are also adjustable. This GE model is not Energy-Star qualified, but it features AutoEnergy Saver cycles geared to minimize energy lost to frequent door openings.
With a 26.8 cubic-feet capacity, this higher-end French-door refrigerator is the most spacious of the models we reviewed. It has adjustable wall-to-wall shelving, two half-width crisper drawers and one full-width crisper drawer, which allow for storage of all sizes of goods. For easier access, the drawers in the bottom freezer glide out.
The in-door ice and water dispenser employs the top-rated PureSource 3 water filter to remove contaminants and impurities. There is also the option of adding a second ice maker for those who entertain frequently. The water dispensed, however, is not chilled. Energy-Star rated, this Frigidaire model is available in black, white, stainless steel and black stainless steel.
Flexible frameless shelving with two crisper bins and a full-length dividerless drawer, make this French-door refrigerator ideal for storing wider items. Gallon-size door bins further extend storage options. The water dispenser is located just inside the reversible door, and the ice maker is in the freezer below, so you’ll warm up the interior of the fridge when you get water and you’ll have to crouch to get ice.
The fingerprint-resistant finish comes in stainless steel and black stainless steel. It is also available in black or white without a fingerprint-resistant finish. This appliance is Energy-Star rated and carries a superior warranty. In addition to the standard one-year limited warranty, there is a five-year warranty on the cavity liner and sealed refrigeration system.
Priced on the higher end, this bottom-freezer refrigerator is suitable for a smaller space in your kitchen. Measuring only 33 inches wide, it still has 22 cubic feet of storage capacity. A sizable bottom freezer that slides out offers ample room for frozen food, and though it has a large, built-in ice maker, there is no water dispenser.
The adjustable split-glass shelving and door bins are highly versatile, offering multiple configurations to suit different sizes of groceries. Offered in black, white, stainless steel or fingerprint-resistant black stainless steel, this appliance is Energy-Star rated.
This spacious side-by-side is only available in black, but it’s the least expensive of the side-by-side refrigerators we reviewed. It features dual-pad ice and water dispensers, adjustable shelving with gallon door bins and bright LED lighting. There are two crisper drawers and three shelves in the main compartment and in the freezer.
This appliance is not Energy-Star compliant, and we found some issues with motor noise and the maintenance of even temperatures in both the freezer and the fresh food compartment. While we like the dual-pads, placing the ice tab directly in front of the water tab can be frustrating and risks spillage.