The Beginner’s Guide to Choosing a Refrigerator

If you’re in the market for a brand new refrigerator, it’s not always easy to know which one will work for you, your kitchen, and your lifestyle. Maybe you just moved into a new home and it didn’t include a fridge, or maybe you’re designing your kitchen from scratch and aren’t sure how to begin the shopping process. No matter why you need a new refrigerator, we can help you choose the style, system and configuration that best fits your home and budget!

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Styles of Refrigerators

The first step on your shopping journey will be to decide what style works best in your space. There are basically 4 refrigerator styles to choose from: Free-Standing Full Depth, Free-Standing Counter Depth, Built-In and Integrated.

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

Free-Standing Full Depth

A free-standing full depth refrigerator has a case up to 30″ deep, not including the door and handles, and a width between 30″ to 36″. This is a typical fridge that rolls into the opening created for it, but it extends past your counters. This can create choke points in narrow spaces. You’ll get the most amount of space for the money with this one, but it might not fit your vision for a streamlined space.

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

Free-Standing Counter Depth

This is also a regular fridge that rolls into the opening created for it, and fits in at counter depth with a case that’s 24″ deep and 30″ to 36″ wide. You’ll lose six cubic feet of capacity as compared to the full depth model, but it installs with a cleaner look and leaves more room in your kitchen.

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

Built-In

A built-in refrigerator is the kind that’s actually drilled into your cabinets, making it feel more high-end and customized. These are 24″ deep, have the compressors on top, and widths can range from 30″ to 48″. They can be installed either standard (sticking out from cabinets) or flush with the cabinet. In this case you’ll need to make the cabinet wider. They look great in stainless or with panels, but be aware that there will be thumb-sized gaps between the panels.

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

 

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

Integrated

These install absolutely flush with your cabinets and can either be stainless or paneled. Usually, they’re done in columns ranging in width from 18″ to 36″ so that you can customize the configurations. You can incorporate wine storage if that’s something you’re looking for as well. Integrated refrigerators can be paneled nearly perfectly and blend into cabinets seamlessly with only fingernail sized gaps around the panels.

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

Refrigerator Systems

Once you decide what style fridge works best for you, you’ll need a bit of knowledge about its inner workings. A refrigerator’s job is not just to keep food cold – it’s all about food preservation. Keeping food fresh has three elements: temperature control, retaining moisture, and purifying the air. To get this job done, the fridge has a compressor and an evaporator. The evaporator is what cools the air and the compressor pushes heat out through the heat exchange coils. The compressor and evaporator combined are called the cooling system. Various models and brands have different ways that these parts work together to determine how long food stays fresh.

two Evaporators, two Compressors

High-end refrigerators have two complete systems for both the fridge and freezer. This means that your food only loses moisture when you open the door, allowing your leafy greens to last as long as a month.

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

two Evaporators, One Compressor

In this type, one compressor alternates between cooling two evaporators, one for the fridge and one for the freezer. Because the refrigerator and freezer don’t share air, your refrigerator air will remain cool and moist, and your leafy greens should stay fresh for two to three weeks.

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

One Evaporator & One Compressor

These refrigerators cool the fridge by blowing air through the freezer. This is the norm for all top freezer models, nearly all side-by-sides, and most French door models under $2,000. Your produce will lose more moisture as the freezer dehydrates the fridge air, so your leafy greens will last four to six days.

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

Refrigerator Configurations

Now that you know your style and systems, it’s time to choose the configuration. This refers to how the refrigerator and freezer portions of your appliance are arranged.

Top Freezer

This is the least expensive type of fridge and the least convenient. You’ll have to lean down to look inside the refrigerator portion, which is the part you’ll be using the most. Because the freezer and fridge share air, your food will not stay as fresh as with the other configurations.

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

Side-by-Side

If you see the freezer and refrigerator portions next to each other, both taking up the entire length of the appliance, you’re looking at a side-by-side. With one of these, you’ll get a good amount of cubic feet for your money, but it’s designed around the idea that you use your refrigerator and freezer equally, which usually isn’t true. Research shows we are in and out of our refrigerators eight times more frequently than our freezer.

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

 

Bottom Freezer

With this type, the freezer is a drawer that pulls out at the bottom and the top is the refrigerator. Most commonly you’ll see this with French doors – although it can be a single swing door. You’ll give up some convenience with the freezer, but it’s a great trade-off for the better refrigerator experience.

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

Refrigerator Brands

Taking all of this into account, here’s a general idea of where to look for the refrigerator in your price point.

• Value: Single evaporator models by GE, Whirlpool, Amana, & Hotpoint.
• Good: Dual evaporator models by GE, KitchenAid, LG, Samsung, Maytag, Bosch, Bertazzoni, & Whirlpool
• Better: Monogram, Leihberr, & Viking
• Best: SubZero

Best guide to choosing a refrigerator! Need! | Duerden's Appliance & Mattress

 

Choosing Your Refrigerator

Armed with all of this information, you are now prepared for choosing a refrigerator that’s right for you. If you have questions, concerns, or want someone to help guide you in the process, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Duerden’s or stop by our showroom!

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