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How to Choose the Best New Refrigerator

Updated on September 26, 2014
Photo courtesy of free range stock
Photo courtesy of free range stock

A refrigerator is one of the most indispensable appliances in the average American household. It can also be one of the most expensive items in the home, due to purchase price and cost of ownership. According to the Department of Energy, a refrigerator uses more energy than any other appliance – besides the air conditioner. Therefore, when choosing a new refrigerator, energy efficiency should be one of the most important factors in a consumer’s decision.


Efficiency

Fortunately, many newer refrigerators are much more energy-efficient than their predecessors, and a modern refrigerator consumes less than 60% of the energy that a 20- year-old refrigerator would. Less energy usage means a lower utility bill. However, energy efficiency levels vary depending on the make and model of the appliance. Energy Star-qualified refrigerators consume at least 20 percent less energy than non-Energy Star qualified refrigerators. When comparing appliances, keep in mind that the Energy Star designation is not the same as the yellow EnergyGuide label; however, the EnergyGuide label will indicate whether the refrigerator is an Energy Star appliance or not.

There are other factors to consider when choosing a new refrigerator based on energy efficiency. The California Energy Commission states that refrigerators in which the freezer is located either on the top or the bottom are at least 13 percent more energy efficient than side-by-side refrigerator freezer models.

Size

The size of the refrigerator should be determined by the consumer’s needs. Purchasing a refrigerator that is larger than needed may result in wasted space and energy. On the other hand, a refrigerator that is too small and does not provide enough space to adequately meet the consumer’s needs will require frequent trips to the grocery store – which wastes time, gas, and physical energy.

Convenience

Refrigerators that dispense ice and water while the door is closed are convenient and also diminish the number of times the refrigerator door has to be opened, which in turn reduces energy costs. However, this must be balanced against the fact that in-door ice and water dispensers also increase the overall energy consumption rate by almost 14 percent, according to the California Energy Commission.

Consumer Reports overwhelmingly recommends refrigerators with the freezer located on the bottom. Since most people use the refrigerator much more than they use the freezer, this style of appliance ensures that refrigerated items are within easy reach of the consumer without the inconvenience of bending over or squatting.

Consistent Temperature

The refrigerator’s ability to maintain a consistent temperature is another important factor. Consumer Reports measures temperature settings to determine if they are consistent throughout the individual compartments, and also if they are constant regardless of room temperature fluctuations. The rest of the factors that should be considered in choosing the best refrigerator are actually personal preference decisions like the design and layout of the refrigerator, whether the shelves pull out or not, where the appliance controls are located, and how they are displayed.

Price

Price comparisons are also important in selecting the best refrigerator for a consumer’s individual needs. Higher-priced refrigerators have more bells and whistles, but lower or moderately-priced refrigerators can also have the same basic features. Stainless steel refrigerators

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