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What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Refrigerator

Updated on September 11, 2014

What You Need to Know Before You Shop for a New Refrigerator

So, you think you are in the market for a new refrigerator. Ask yourself, What things are important to know in order to make an informed decision? I am going to guide you through the thought process of buying a new refrigerator, so when you walk out of your house to start your shopping experience, you will be "armed and dangerous" with knowledge. Sadly, many people start their shopping and don't even know the size of their refrigerator space. There are lots of options out there, and I am going to give you the information you will need to help narrow down your choices, before you even walk out your front door.....................or back out of your garage, whichever the case may be.

Know Your Space

If You Don't Do This First, Stay in Your House

Sadly, many people do not know what the size of the opening is where their new refrigerator is going to go. #1. MEASURE YOUR SPACE!!!!! That does NOT mean measure the size of your current refrigerator. No one cares how big or small your current refrigerator is. What you need to know is the size of the opening that your new refrigerator is going to be placed. If you don't know this, don't even walk out of your house, because you are wasting both your own time and the time of any sales people you may encounter. If you walk into an appliance showroom, and a salesman knows that you don't know the size of your opening, you will not get any helpful information, and as a matter of fact many appliance salespeople will tell you that you shouldn't be shopping until you know what you are shopping for. The brutal reality is that lots of refrigerators that look to YOU like they will fit in your space, WON'T!!!! You brain does not KNOW how big your space is unless you measure it accurately. BTW-You also need to know the sizes of the doorways that your new refrigerator is going to need to fit through to get to its final landing place in your kitchen.

Narrow Your Style Options

What Style Will Best Serve the Needs of You and Your Family

Now that you know the size of your space, you can get down to some serious business. Now, is the step where you decide on what style of refrigerator is going to best serve the needs of you and your family. Your basic choices are top mount freezer, side-by-side, or bottom freezer. Once you have decided on which of these three basic choices is going to meet your needs best, you also need to know what color will best be utilized in your living space. In most cases your choices are going to be Stainless Steel, Black, White, or Bisque (although you will severely limit your options if you choose bisque). Also, many companies are now offering a fingerprint resistant version that looks like brushed stainless steel. This is a good option for people who have young children, or who have a lot of people roaming in and out of the kitchen. Ok, now you finished with the two easiest steps. You've decided on your style and your color, now what??

Sub-Zero Side-by-Side
Sub-Zero Side-by-Side

Consumer Ratings

Weeding Out the Runners

Before you decide on a brand, check out consumer ratings. You can find lots of relevant information on the Internet and also from Consumer Reports and J.D. Powers. Don't make a decision based on your next-door neighbor's bad experience that he'll ramble on about for hours if given the chance. Just because one person had one bad experience with one brand of refrigerator, doesn't mean that it is a bad brand. EVERY company that makes appliances is going to have some glitches along the way. Unfortunately, there is no way to know WHICH one is going to be the one. The problem might be as simple as they guy who made your neighbor's fridge had a fight with his wife on Friday morning, and all he wants to do is get done work and go out with his buddies, get a load on, and vent some steam. Now, on the other hand, if a company has a HUGE amount of negative feedback about one refrigerator they make, or all of their appliances in general, then you are probably well advised to steer clear of that product or that company.

Choosing Your Brand

Finding the Best of the Best

Now, that you've got your size, your color, your style, and your consumer reviews out of the way it's time to decide on a brand. Consumer reviews should give you a few good choices that will meet your needs. There are tons of choices out there, but some of the most well-known brands are Kenmore, Kenmore Elite, GE GSHL5KGXLS 25.4 cu. ft. Side by Side Refrigerator - Clean Steel Look

LG, LG : LSC27910ST 26.5 cu. ft. Side by Side Refrigerator - Stainless Steel

Samsung,Samsung RF4287HARS 28 cu. ft. 4-Door French Door Refrigerator - Stainless Steel

, Whirlpool, Whirlpool : GI7FVCXWY 27 cu. ft. Bottom Mount Refrigerator - Stainless Steel

Bosch, Bosch B26FT70SNS 25.9 cu. Ft. 800 Series Standard Depth French Door Refrigerator - Stainelss Steel

KitchenAid Architect Series II KFIS25XVMS 36 24.9 cu. ft. French Door Refrigerator - Stainless St

and Frigedaire, Frigidaire FFTR1814LW 30 18.2 cu. ft. Top Freezer Refrigerator - White

. If you going for the Professional Kitchen, then you might be thinking about Electrolux, Electrolux : EW23BC71IS 36 22.6 cu. ft. Counter-Depth French-Door Refrigerator - Stainless Steel

, Sub-Zero, Viking, VCSF136DSS Viking Professional 36" Side-by-Side Refrigerator with Ice and Water Dispenser - Stainless Steel



Options

Picking Out the Bells and Whistles

Wow!!!! We've got a lot accomplished so far. Now, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. It's time to pick out the bells and whistles that are going to maximize your new refrigerator's usability for you and your family. There are needs and wants, and you'll need to prioritize now. Most of the previous stuff was cut and dry, but this is not quite so. You might have to make some comprimises here too, because not everyone in the family will have the same priorities.

First option: Water and/or ice. Most top freezer refidgerators come with the option of having an ice maker or not. Some have the option of having a water dispenser inside the refrigerator. A very few, have a water dispenser on the door. Personally, I don't think a water dispenser belongs on a top freezer refrigerator and it just looks dumb. MOST side-by-sides have water and ice in the door. There are a few models available that don't. French Door Bottom Freezers have a nice balance of one's that do and one's the don't have ice and water in the door. Single door bottom freezer usually don't offer any option for ice and water in the door, but some have water dispensers in the 'fridge and some an ice maker in the freezer is optional. Most refrigerators that give you the option of water, have filtered water. That means you will have a filter that requires replacement every-so-often. Expect to replace the filter about every 6 months, at a cost of between $40-$60 each time.

Counter Depth or Standard Depth, that is the question? If you have limited walking space between where your fridge is going to go, you might want to consider a Counter Depth fridge. A Counter Depth fridge is usually only about 29" - 30" deep from the back to the front of the door, some maybe even as little as 27". The downside of a Counter Depth, is that because it is not as deep as a standard depth refrigerator, you are going to lose a significant amount of storage space. For example, a Counter Depth that has the same width and height as any other 25.4 cubic foot French Door Bottom Freezer, may only give you 20 cubic feet of storage space. You can fit a lot of food into that additional 5.4 cubic feet.

If you don't have any obstacles that are going to inhibit the use of a standard depth refrigerator, you are going to get a lot more useable space. Also, Counter Depth Refrigerators are usually more expensive, because they are designed to look as if they are built in. Again, it is important to weigh your priorities.

Some French Door Bottom Freezer models have the option of a Deli Drawer. This is a nice feature if you are a party person, who if you frequently purchase pizzas, which fit nicely in a Deli Drawer. Some also have Temperature Controlled Crisper Drawers, which is a great feature because meats and vegetables should be stored at different temperatures to maximize their storage life.

Check out your main shelves and your door shelves. Are they adjustable? Can you fit a gallon milk carton in them? Are any of the main shelves convertible to a half-shelf, so you can store taller items in the front? Are any of the shelves, filp-ups, so you can move them out of the way if needed? Are the shelves glass or wire? Are the shelves spill-proof (or resistant)? In other words, if your milk carton springs a leak, will the leak be contained on the shelf where the spill occurred, or is the milk going to drip down on the fresh batch of cookies you just put in the fridge right underneath the milk?? Oh, well milk and cookes are always a good combo anyway, right???

If you're going with a bottom freezer model, do you want one or two bottom drawers? Some models with two drawers are designed so that both drawers are freezer drawers, and some are designed so that the bottom drawer is freezer space and the upper drawer is refrigerator space. If you have young kids that are in and out of the fridge frequently, having a small refrigerator drawer where you can keep kid's stuff in easy reach can cut down on your energy consuption because not as much cold air escapes, so it takes less energy to get the drawer cold again. If you're using both drawers for freezer space, consider how you shop (what kinds of packages do you normally put in your freezer?), to dtermine whether a one or two drawer freezer is the better option for you? You can fit more stuff in a one drawer freezer, but you'll have to put more things on top of each other. In a two drawer freezer space, you lose a little bit of space, but things can be better organized. Also, many two drawer fridges allow separate thermostats for the drawers.

Ice Caddy or No Ice Caddy. Many of today's new refrigerator designs in side-by-sides and bottom freezer refrigerators give you an ice-caddy option. The ice caddy on the door gives you some extra space in the freezer and also allows you to remove the ice-caddy take it to wherever you may be entertaining guests. Some also give you an acceler-ice or fast-ice option which allows you to make a signifcant amount of ice in a short period of time. Along with this option, many new fridges now also have a rapid cool option, so you can get your groceries down to the proper temperature faster when you return from the supermarket.

Other additional options that are available with some refrigerators are wine racks and soda or beer can racks. Another thing to think about is incandescent lighting versus LED lighting. Incandescent lighting is less attractive and costs more to operater, but it is easier and cheaper to replace when a bulb burns out. LED lighting is usually brighter, more attractive, and you'll be spending less in operating costs. But, when it comes time to replace a bulb, they can be somewhat pricey.

These are the major choices as far as options go, so I suggest you make a list of which ones are most important to you before you begin shopping. You might not be able to find all the options you want on one refrigerator, so might have to make some compromises.

Warranties

What's Covered and What Isn't Covered

Hey, II'm really happy for you when you tell me about how your last refrigerator which you inherited from your grandmother lasted 35 years. Guess what? Thirty-five years ago refrigerators didn't have electronic controls, computer circuitry, LED ligthing, automatic ice makers, and a plethera of other things that today's fridge's have. Fridge's today are made to last 8 to 10 years. We live in a different society today, and probably most of the bells and whistes on the fridge you buy today will be obsolete in 5 years. Oh, yeah, so what about that warranty? Well, the first thing I'm going to tell you is that manufacturers aren't stupid. Their warranties cover the things that are LEAST likely to go wrong. So, let me tell you what isn't covered by most warranties that is MOST likely to go wrong.

Alll that electronic gadgetry is great, right? You can scroll up and down to pick your fridge and freezer temperatures, have beautiful LED displays, and some of them even colored graphics for you and can even connect to the internet and get sattelite weather. That little circuit board that runs everything is going to cost you several hundred dollars to replace if it gets fried by an electrical power surge in your house. And guess what? Most manufacturer's warranties don't cover power surges. Yeeh, sure your homeowoner's insurance will probably cover it, but you'll undoubtedly have a deductible. Plus, now not only did you lose your circuit board, your fridge doesn't work and you've also lost several hundred dolllars worth of food, because you just went to the supermarket yesterday. Now, you have a fridge that doesn't work and no food, so I guess you'll be eating in resturaunts, because most warranties don't cover rental reimbursement either, if you need a temporary replacement. One retailer that I'm aware of offers a Master Protection Agreement that covers all these things, not to mention free annual maintainence and a No Lemon Guarantee if fridge needs to be repaired a certain number of times. You may ask, "Why do I need annual maintainence?" Well, because of the fact that fridges aren'at designed to last as long, if you have annual maintainence performed by a skilled and trained technician, you'll maximuze the return on your inventment. Also, each trip they make to do you r annual maintainence is worth about $140.00 that you don't have to pay, if you have a Master Protection Agreement. Oh, and with this plan, if you sell your house, the Protection Agreement is transferable to the new owner. You're manufacurer's warranty isn't . Now, I suppose you are going to want me to tell you which retailer offers this, but I'm not going to do that. You didn't expect me to do EVERYTHING for you did you??? You have to be responsible for some due diligence of your own, before you take the plunge into this investment. Other than your house, your car, and your kids, your kitchen is probably where you are going to spend the most money on your house,.

And, before I forget there are lots of retailers who will offer you an extended warranty. An extended warranty is just like your original manufacturer's warranty. It covers the same stuff, just for a longer period of time. Peronally, I would never recommend an extended warranty, because it doesn't come anywhere near close to providing the coverage that the Master Protection Agreement mentioned above. Now, I think I've given you the tools that you need to lay the ground work to making an informed decision for yourselves. Good luck on your mission.

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      wilkin 5 years ago

      French door refrigerator is a perfect addition to your home appliance. Check out my lens to learn more about french door refrigerator.

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