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Refrigerator Buying Guide

A comprehensive refrigerator guide that will give you all the information you need to know when shopping for a new refrigerator.
Getting Started
The refrigerator is the most important appliance in any kitchen. From keeping your food fresh to displaying family photos, your fridge is the center of attention, in both form and function. Here's what you'll need to consider when buying a new fridge.
The capacity of a fridge is the most important factor to consider when shopping for new models. You can have all the bells and whistles, but if the fridge can't hold all of the food you'll need for your family, then nothing else matters. Your storage needs will vary depending on your family's eating and shopping habits. Fridge capacity is measured in four categories: overall space, fresh food storage, freezer storage, and creative storage.

Overall Space
The total storage space within the fridge. Represented in cubic feet, this is the most important number to consider because it represents the entire amount of storage available.

Fresh Food Storage
Another way to describe the refrigerated, non-freezer section of a fridge. The area where you'll keep all of your produce, meats, beverages and other perishables.

Did you know?
The perfect temperature for storing meat is 32 degrees Fahrenheit

Freezer Storage
This is the amount of storage space available in the freezer portion of the fridge. If you store a lot of frozen vegetables, pizzas, dinners and other goods, make sure you have enough freezer storage for it all, or consider an all-freezer as a complementary appliance.

Creative Storage
Creative storage are the specialty storage spots within a fridge. These may be pizza slots in the freezer, a special gallon-depth storage bin, or a soda can dispenser. While not critical, these creative options make storing and retrieving your favorite items quick and easy.

How do I know how large of a fridge I need?
A good guideline is to aim for 4 to 6 cubic feet of storage for each adult in the household.
Top Freezer Refrigerators
Top Freezer Refrigerator
The top-freezer refrigerator keeps the frozen food at eye level and the fresh food compartment below. These fridges will offer some of the widest shelves possible in both the fridge and freezer sections which are ideal if you store lots of frozen pizzas, trays of food or anything large that must be stored flat. Traditionally, this has been the most common type of refrigerator. This is also the most affordable and a great selection for someone who lives in a smaller home, or only needs to store food for one or two people.

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Bottom Freezer Refrigerators
Bottom Freezer Refrigerator
The bottom-freezer refrigerator is a good option for households that want fresh food at eye level. Also known as a bottom-mount freezer, with the freezer at the bottom of the fridge, less energy is used to keep the section cold, and temperature is more consistent. This design also works well because it keeps your important items that you use frequently at eye-level.

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Side-by-Side Refrigerators
Side-by-Side Refrigerator
The fridge and freezer compartments are adjacent to one another for easy access to both compartments. Look carefully at the capacity and flexibility of the interior. In many models, the shelves are narrower than those found in top or bottom mount models, and may not accommodate larger items as easily. If possible, select a model with adjustable bins and shelves so you can customize the layout to suit your needs. Another really nice feature is the amount of extra space on the back of the doors. Here, you can keep a variety of extra condiments and additional small items.

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French Door Refrigerators
French Door Refrigerator
A popular style of refrigerator with dual refrigerator doors, and a pull-out freezer drawer for convenient fresh and frozen food storage. This style combines the best features of the bottom freezer and side-by-side styles. This is a great selection for the energy conscious users because you only need to open a small portion of the fridge to get what you need.

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Compact Refrigerators
Compact Refrigerator
Compact refrigerators are perfect for master suites, dorm rooms, media rooms, and anywhere else you need to keep food and drink cool but, have limited space. Excellent selection as an additional fridge in your garage or basement.

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Wine/Beverage Centers
Wine/Beverage Centers
These specialty refrigerators are designed to keep your favorite drinks chilled. Whether it's to add some quick storage to a popular room or save some space in the main refrigerator. These units can store over 100+ bottles of wine and have special shelves designed to fit cans, bottles, and more.

A good wine refrigerator is essential for maintaining your wine collection at its optimum temperature. Wine refrigerators are available in a variety of sizes and styles. Determine how much wine you want to keep on hand and choose a storage capacity that will accommodate your current collection and any additional bottles you might add to your collection. Wine should be stored at an angle no greater than a 45°; however, it's best stored at an angle of 0°. If you are storing many bottles, think of an adjustable shelve unit for easy viewing. Also consider an internal light if you would like to view your collection without opening and closing the door.

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Freezerless Refrigerators
If you like to maintain a large inventory of perishable or frozen foods, a dedicated all-refrigerator or all-freezer will give you tons of space to store everything you need.

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Counter Depth Refrigerators
Counter Depth Refrigerator
Counter depth refrigerators give you that built-in look without the hassle and installation costs of a built-in model. A bit shallower then a traditional free-standing refrigerator, counter depth models offer a cleanly integrated look with a slightly smaller capacity.

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Counter Depth vs. Standard Depth
Counter Depth vs Standard Depth
Depending on the design of your kitchen, you may want to look into the differences between counter depth fridges and standard depth fridges. Counter depth fridge will be more shallow, so it fits nicely into your cabinetry. You do, however sacrifice depth in your fridge, but give your kitchen a more integrated look. Standard depth will be deeper, but it will come past your cabinetry.

Once you determine what your capacity needs are, and your preferred style, it's time to prioritize the features available. Remember, the features in this list may not be available on all models.

Customizable Shelves & Bins
Shelves that slide in and out or fold in half make it much easier to store oversized items, like 2-liter bottles. There are also moveable bins to adjust to your needs and shelves with spill-proof lips to prevent spills from spreading throughout the fridge.

Chill Compartments
These special compartments allow you to quickly thaw, freeze, or chill items.

Ice Maker
Never wait for ice again, internal ice makers use filtered water to make perfectly iced cubes throughout the day. Depending on your needs, you may look desire a machine with a larger ice maker or even two ice makers to keep the drinks cold during parties.

Filtered Ice/Water Dispensers
The most popular feature on any fridge, they dispense filtered water and (whole or crushed) ice cubes created in the fridge's ice maker. Some will allow extra space to fill taller bottles or, have "quick fill" options where the size of the pour is set and the dispenser takes care of the rest.

Learn how to locate and replace a refrigerators water filter with Abt's Refrigerator Water Filter Replacement Guide.

Refreshment Center Door
This is an in-door feature that gives thirsty family members access to their favorite drinks through a separate door. This cuts down on the amount of time the fridge is open.

Temperature Display
Usually located near the ice/water dispenser, a temperature display has (touch) controls to adjust interior temperatures, type of ice dispensed, child locks, and more.

Dual-Cooling Systems
This allows for the freezer to circulate air separate from the fridge, so your ice doesn't taste like last night's leftovers.

Energy Efficiency
Choose an ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator, and you will use a minimum of 20% less energy than other models and save you money on utility bills.

You may also be eligible for local rebates from your city when buying ENERGY STAR qualified models. This rating is earned when products meet energy-efficiency requirements established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Energy Saving Tips for Your Refrigerator
  • Don't keep your fridge too cold. The recommended temperature for your fridge is 37° - 40°.
  • Keep freezer between 0 degrees and 5 degrees. If you keep items for long periods of time, keep it at 0°.
  • Seal properly all liquids and wrap food stored in the fridge. If they are open, they will release moisture and the compressor will work more aggressively.
  • Think before you open. Know what you want to grab in your fridge before opening, try not to open and stare as you are letting out that all-important cold air!