October is when you can get the absolute best deals on a new fridge (and other major appliances). This is the time new models are introduced – therefore current inventory will be discounted to make room for the new. Great news for anyone needing to replace their fridge but they may find things a bit overwhelming once they hit the store. Fridges have changed a lot over the last number of years and there are now many more features and options available. As with all things, some features actually turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth, others add cost without providing any real value.
Of course, the very first thing to consider is will the fridge fit where you want to place it. Oddly enough this is often overlooked. To be sure you need to measure the space – width, depth and height – making sure you add 2 inches (about 5cm) to the depth and height to allow for proper air circulation.
Don’t rely on memory but start a notebook to keep track of all the information – such as the dimensions – and to list the questions you will have about the features and options you’re interested in.
Things to note:
- Do you need extra room for the door to swing open?
- What way do you want the door to open?
- Can the door be reversed? If this needs to be done then it should be done before it’s delivered.
- How about bringing the fridge into the house? Will it fit through the doors – exterior and interior? Does it needs to go down (or up) stairs, and if so, can this be done?
- Is there an electrical outlet available?
The type and size of fridge will also depend on what you want it for – kitchen, garage, family room.
Next come the fridge choices:
- Freezer on Top. This is the standard fridge that has been around for quite some time. This is a good reliable fridge which will have the best price. No extra features so fewer things to go wrong. The biggest disadvantage of this type of fridge – especially for seniors and disabled – is having to bend over to see what’s at the bottom and at the back of the fridge and in the crisper bins. This could lead to food waste since items that aren’t in plain view could be forgotten.
- Freezer on the Bottom. Personally I think this is the biggest improvement to have come along.
- The fridge contents are at eye level, which means less bending over and easier to keep track of the contents, including leftovers, which in turn means less waste.
- For the freezer part choose one that pulls out like a drawer and that easily lets you see all the contents. There are some that open like the fridge door which will turn out to be a real hassle. You’re almost going to have to get down on your knees to see what’s inside.
- Getting one with baskets will be a plus – they’ll help a lot with keeping food organized and easy to find.
- Disadvantage. Some of these units tend to be a bit noisy so this is something to make note of and check before buying.
- Second Freezer Drawer. Some of these fridges come with a smaller freezer drawer, at counter height, which can hold those frozen goods used most often. I like this idea too – convenient and energy saver.
- French Door – Bottom Freezer. This is the one I like best of all and when the time comes to replace my fridge I’ll be seriously considering one of these. By having the two fridge doors, you can use one side to keep those products used most often; and keep the other side for the less often used items. The pros of this type are:
- Energy Savings – less air escapes when the door is opened.
- Less Room Required – Doors are narrower so need less room to swing open.
- Side by Side Doors. These look nice, but I can tell you from personal experience that they aren’t the most practical. The shelving in both the freezer side and the fridge side are narrow which really limits what can be stored. If you do decide on one of these, choose the largest unit you can afford, and that your kitchen can accommodate, to gain the widest shelves.
- Counter Depth Fridge. Some of the new models are shallow so they sit flush with the counter and don’t stick out. The problem with these are that the fridge ends up with less storage space. The question here is – does that matter? For a family probably yes, for a single person probably not so much.
- Refrigerated Drawers. I really like this idea for convenience and for saving energy. These drawers replace one (or more) of your kitchen cabinets drawers and hold things like cold drinks, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, basically all those often used products.
Other important considerations to make note of:
- Lighting. All compartments should be well lit with the light placed in an easy to change location.
- Thermostat Controls. Both the controls for the fridge and freezer should be clearly visible and not tucked away somewhere at the back. This is especially something to watch for in the freezer section.
- Energy Star Label. Read the energy guide label and compare to other models or brands. This way you will get a clear idea of how much the annual operating costs will be and maybe you’ll decide to choose another, more energy efficient model.
- Frost-free. This sounds like a given nowadays but that is not necessarily so. Double check to be sure.
- Ice-Water Dispenser. Consider both the pros and cons:
- Pros – Convenient, children can help themselves, ice always available.
- Cons – Increases the purchase price, susceptible to breakdowns, needs a plumbing hookup which adds to the expense.
- Cons – If in a fridge/freezer with side by side doors it takes away more space from the already limited freezer compartment.
- Visibility. You should be able to see everything in the fridge – there should be no hidden spots.
- Strong Crisper Bins. These control the humidity required for fruits and vegetables. Since these foods need different levels of humidity there should be two crisper bins – one for fruits and one for vegetables. The bins should have little vents in the front so you can control the humidity levels. Remove the bins to make sure they’re good and strong and don’t wobble. They should have a clear front so you can easily see what’s in them and they should be easy to remove and put back in place.
- Adjustable Shelving. Choose glass shelves – they contain spills and are easy to clean. You should be able to adjust them to a position that best works for you. Don’t be afraid to try them out in different positions, after all, you’re the one that will be stuck with it if you find it’s not convenient once you get it home.
- Removable Door Bins. This is also something you’re going to appreciate for several reasons. First, you can set them to hold those different size items – condiments, juice, etc. Second, having them removable means you can just pull them out and throw them into the sink to wash. So easy. Little side note: Even though this is a common practice, do NOT keep milk, cream, eggs, butter or other perishables in the door bins. That exposes them to hot air every-time the fridge is opened. They’ll keep much longer if placed on a shelf inside the fridge.
- Meat Keeper. Since meat is probably the most perishable food product in your fridge, the meat keeper bin is kept – or should be – in the coldest part of the fridge closest to the freezer section.
- Freezer Shelving. This is a must if you don’t want to have everything all jumbled together. The shelving keeps things neat, organized and easy to reach.
- Self-leveling Feet. This is something my fridge doesn’t have and boy, do I wish it did. Every time we pull it out to vacuum the coils at the back we have to keep moving it around and/or find shims to put under the feet to balance it. And that nicely leads to the next consideration:
- Enclosed Back Coils. This is becoming more standard with new fridges and I like the idea. No more pulling the fridge out to clean – the coils remain dust-free since they’re enclosed. The fridge will also be more energy efficient, since being dust-free it doesn’t have to work as hard.
- Exterior Finish. This is definitely one to consider. Stainless steel ones are nice but I imagine they would be a nightmare if you have children. There is a new faux stainless steel finish that resists prints so that may be something to check. The old white pebbled finish is still probably the best bet for a busy family. That’s the one that is easiest to clean and keep looking clean. Note re the stainless and faux stainless finishes. Each manufacturer’s finish differs from others so if you buy a certain brand fridge and a different brand stove they probably won’t match.
There are just two other items that may be nice to have but not really necessary. You can get fridges with pull out shelves but to me that doesn’t sound all that practical. It’s definitely going to need extra room for the door to swing wide open. The other optional feature is the quick cool compartment. This one makes more sense but mainly if you do a lot of freezing.
A fridge is a major investment so the better prepared and knowledgeable you are, the more satisfied you will be over the long-term. Consumer Reports has a great write-up of the Best Refrigerator Brands. Before going to the store it would be well worth while to check them out. Head to the store only after you have decided on one or two brands/models, with notebook in hand, to get answers to all your questions. Don’t forget to also find out everything about the warranty (think twice about taking out an extended warranty – they tend to be quite pricey and are seldom used). Also find out about the delivery – cost, when and if they’ll take your old fridge away.
Well, there’s the rundown on what you can expect to find when shopping for a new fridge. I hope this list will help you find the perfect fridge, one that will serve you well for many years.
Talk to you again next week,
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