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Refrigerator Sizing & Buying Guide

A comprehensive refrigerator buying guide with all the information you need to shop for a new fridge.

Getting Started

The refrigerator is the most important appliance in any kitchen. From keeping your food fresh to displaying family photos, it's the center of attention in both form and function. But with so many different types of refrigerators, it can be hard to know what size or style best fits your needs.
Refrigerators: What To Know Before You Buy
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Is it worth spending $10,000 on a top-of-the-line built-in model, or will an entry-level unit suffice? Only you will know for sure. But if you keep reading we can help you make an informed decision.

Refrigerator Sizes

First, decide which size of refrigerator will best suit your needs. A good rule of thumb is to choose a model with roughly 5 cubic feet of capacity for each adult in your household. The total capacity of a refrigerator will include both the fridge and freezer sections. Most units also list the individual capacities of each section within their specifications.
Next, measure the space in which you plan to install the refrigerator. If it will be installed into a space surrounded by cabinets, make sure you factor in room for ventilation and opening the door. It's also important to verify that the fridge you choose will fit through your front door, and through any other doorways, hallways, and tight corners on the way to the kitchen.

How To Measure For a New Refrigerator

  1. 1. Make sure to measure the height, width, and depth of space the unit will occupy:
    Diagram showing how to measure the height, width, and depth of the space the unit will occupy.
  2. 2. Also remember to measure any entryways, doorways, stairs, or walkways leading to the unit's final destination:
    Diagram showing how to measure any entryways, doorways, stairs, or walkways
It's also important to understand how far your new fridge will stick out from the wall or the surrounding cabinets. Choosing a counter-depth or built-in fridge helps keep walkways clear and opens up your kitchen space. Learn more about these types of refrigerators below.

Types of Refrigerators

Top-Freezer Refrigerators

Top Freezer Refrigerator
A top-freezer refrigerator keeps the frozen food at eye level and the fresh food compartment below. These fridges offer some of the widest shelves possible in both the fridge and freezer sections. This makes them excellent choices for storing large or awkwardly shaped items like frozen pizzas and deli trays.
Traditionally, this has been the most common type of refrigerator. It's also the most affordable and a great option for folks with basic refrigeration needs. You won't find many special features in this type of refrigerator. But with smaller models starting around $400, top-freezer refrigerators provide excellent value. Plus, they tend to use 10 - 25% less energy than bottom-freezer fridges, helping you save year after year.

Bottom-Freezer Refrigerators

Bottom Freezer Refrigerator
A bottom-freezer refrigerator is a good option for households that want fresh food at eye level. Also known as bottom-mount refrigerators, these units are slightly more expensive (starting around $700) and less efficient than top-freezer models. However, by keeping important food items like drinks and produce in clear view, they provide a more ergonomic design.
The freezer compartment of these models is typically a drawer that pulls out for easy access to your favorite frozen goods. Many bottom-freezer refrigerators include wire baskets or storage bins to help keep your frozen goods organized. As a result, they provide less usable space but make it easier to keep things tidy.

Side-by-Side Refrigerators

Side-by-Side Refrigerator
Side-by-side refrigerators place the fresh and frozen sections adjacent to one another. Doing so offers easy access to every kind of food. Because neither section stretches the full width of the appliance, this type of refrigerator can struggle to accommodate larger items. So look carefully at the capacity and flexibility of the interior.
Selecting a model with adjustable shelves and storage bins can help you customize the layout to suit your needs. This kind of versatility often makes up for the narrow width. Plus, side-by-side refrigerators have tons of door storage space that serves as the perfect home for condiments, drinks, and other smaller items. Just be aware that you'll probably have to sacrifice a few door storage bins if you want a model with an external ice and water dispenser.
Side-by-side fridge prices typically range from $1,000 - $3,000. While this type of refrigerator might be more expensive than top- or bottom-freezer models, they often include more advanced features. Many sport glass shelves as opposed to plastic ones. Stainless steel finishes are more common. And innovative designs including touch screens and transparent door panels are available.

French Door Refrigerators

French Door Refrigerator
French door refrigerators are a stylish variant of bottom-freezer refrigerators. They feature double doors that swing out from the center in place of the single door that opens to the left or right. The half-width doors allow these models to squeeze into tighter spaces.
If you have a kitchen island near your fridge, selecting a French door design can help keep walkways clear even with the doors open. Plus, when you only open one of the two doors to the fresh section, the other helps keep cool air in, lightening the load on the cooling system.
Typically the freezer section will be a drawer, just like in bottom-freezer refrigerators. That said, 4-door French door refrigerators occasionally include double doors for both the fresh and frozen sections. However, 4-door models usually complement the two refrigerator doors with two freezer drawers. It's common for one of the two freezer doors/drawers to be capable of fresh or frozen temperatures, allowing you to adjust as needed.
French door refrigerators start at around $1,000. The most advanced units can cost several times that. Like side-by-side refrigerators, higher-end French door models often include useful innovations in addition to their precise temperature controls. From transparent glass panels on their doors to Wi-Fi capabilities, if you're looking for modern features, French door fridges are a good place to start.

Mini Fridges

Compact Refrigerator
Mini fridges, or compact refrigerators, are perfect for master suites, dorm rooms, offices, and countless other areas where only a small amount of refrigeration is needed. Just because you're short on space, doesn't mean you can't have a cool drink or a tasty snack an arm's reach away.
The smallest models are roughly 18" cubes. This limits their capacity to around 1.5 cubic feet. But if you're just looking to keep a few drinks nearby, they have room for plenty of cans and even 2-liter bottles. Plus, their small size keeps electricity costs to a minimum.
Larger compact refrigerators can have capacities of 6 cubic feet or more. As you might expect, they'll take up a larger footprint. But compared to full-sized models they still save a ton of space. With more interior space available, high capacity mini-fridges often include a freezer section or customizable storage solutions. As a result, making room for whatever you have to store couldn't be easier.
Mini fridge prices range from about $100 to several thousand dollars. The more advanced models often provide multiple storage compartments, more precise temperature controls, and other premium touches.
You can choose from panel ready models to match your surrounding cabinets, opt for a glass panel door for a clear view inside, or go for something simpler. Stainless steel is always a popular choice. Simpler still, a plain black or white model can provide the refrigeration you need at a price that's hard to pass up.

Wine Refrigerators and Beverage Centers

Wine/Beverage Centers
Wine refrigerators and beverage centers are designed to provide the perfect climate for your favorite drinks. Whether you're looking to add some no-fuss storage to a popular room or need to store your cherished wine collection, these units can help. Choose from models with storage for less than 10 to more than 100 bottles.
To maintain the quality of your wine collection, it's essential to store it in a temperature controlled environment. Reds should be cooled around 60° - 65° F. Whites, on the other hand, need cooler temperatures, around 45° - 50° F. Learn more about the perfect temperature to store wines.
Wine should be stored at an angle no greater than 45°. However, it's best stored at an angle of 0°. If you are storing a big collection, think about a unit with adjustable shelving for easy viewing. You might also consider an internal light if you would like to view your collection without opening the door.
Basic beverage centers can run $300 or less. However, several models jump into the $1,000+ range. And the largest, most advanced models can reach five figures. The less expensive models are similar to mini-fridges but often include specialized shelving for cans, 12 oz bottles, and/or wine bottles. As you climb the price scale, the focus shifts almost entirely to wine. These units often include multiple cooling zones, touch screen control panels, and more.

Freezerless Refrigerators and Upright Freezers

 Refrigerator
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. These units can supplement your existing kitchen fridge or replace it altogether. Like top- and bottom-freezer models, freezerless refrigerators and upright freezers provide the benefit of full-width storage. While most models are smaller than 36 inches wide, they still provide ample storage for large or awkwardly shaped items.
Upright freezers start at around $500 and can reach $1,500 or more. Features like automatic defrost and highly accurate temperature controls complement the premium build quality of pricier models.
Freezerless refrigerators start a bit higher at around $700. And while a select few models can cost several thousand, most sit within the $700 - $1,500 range. Advanced models add features like ion air purifiers to eliminate bacteria, mold, and odors without the need for a filter. Entry-level models stick to more familiar options, like door storage bins and adjustable shelving.

Built-In Refrigerators

Built-In Refrigerator
If you're looking for a top-of-the-line fridge, you'll want a built-in model. These units are installed flush into your cabinets, providing a truly refined look. They provide exceptionally precise temperature controls as well as more refined, stylish versions of features found in freestanding fridges.
One of the biggest advantages of built-in refrigerators is their build quality. They're typically made with commercial-grade materials. As a result, most include 2-year parts and labor warranties, twice that of a standard fridge. Many also warranty specific parts, like the refrigeration system, for 10 years or more. Given how expensive service calls can be, that kind of coverage clearly demonstrates manufacturers' confidence in these models.
But that level of dependability comes at a price. Smaller models start around $2,000. Larger, more featureful built-in fridges can run $10,000 or more. You'll have to decide if their reliability, style, and cooling capabilities are worth the extra cost, given your specific needs and budget.

Counter-Depth Refrigerators

Counter-Depth Refrigerator
Counter-depth refrigerators provide built-in looks at a fraction of the cost. They're typically 24 - 25" deep, compared to the typical 30" depth of most standard refrigerators. Counter-depth fridges are designed to line up evenly with the surrounding cabinets. This helps keep your kitchen open and can be especially helpful if you're short on space.
Virtually every type of refrigerator is available in a counter-depth design. So whatever your taste, there's an option you'll love. Just be aware that their shallow depth limits capacity slightly. So make sure to find a model with enough storage space for your family's needs.
Because of their smaller size, counter-depth fridges are often slightly less expensive than full-depth models. However, you'll get a better sense of pricing by looking at the above sections on the different types of refrigerators.

Features

Once you determine your capacity needs and your preferred style, prioritize the features that matter most to you.

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. Some fridges also include moveable bins that adjust to your needs, or shelves with spill-proof lips to prevent spills from spreading.

Multiple Temperature Zones

Most refrigerators include two temperature zones. One for fresh foods. One for frozen. However, some models include additional compartments. Chilling compartments are one such example. These typically sit between the fridge and freezer and maintain temperatures just above or below the freezing point. Learn more about how cold a refrigerator should be.
Other models feature zones that you can adjust to provide fresh or frozen storage depending on your needs at any given time. Samsung calls this feature a FlexZone™, while LG's version is the Full-Convert™ drawer. Different refrigerator brands use different names for these compartments, but they all serve the same function.

Ice Maker

Never wait for ice again! Internal ice makers use filtered water to make ice cubes throughout the day. Depending on your needs, you may want to consider a fridge with an extra-large ice maker or even dual ice makers to keep drinks cold during parties.
Ice connoisseurs should consider a model with a craft ice maker, like those provided in select LG refrigerators. These round, slow-melting ice spheres are perfect for cooling drinks without diluting their taste.
While ice makers and dispensers are a must-have for many homes, be aware that the process requires a fair amount of electricity. As a result, your utility bill will almost always be slightly higher using a refrigerator with an ice maker when compared to models without one. If ice is especially important to you, consider a stand-alone ice maker. You can learn about them in our Ice Maker Buying Guide.
Ice Maker Buying Guide
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Filtered Ice/Water Dispensers

One of the most popular features on any fridge is the ice and water dispenser. It provides easy access to filtered water and crushed or cubed ice. Some dispensers accommodate tall bottles or have "quick fill" options to deliver the precise volume of water that you select. External dispensers allow you to fill your cup without even opening the door. Internal dispensers are usually limited to just water.
Learn how to locate and replace a refrigerators water filter with Abt's Refrigerator Water Filter Replacement Guide.

Door-in-Door Storage

Door-in-door refrigerators allow you to quickly access drinks or condiments stored on the door without opening the whole fridge. This cuts down on the amount of time the fridge is open, lightening the load on the fridge's cooling system and reducing energy costs.

Multiple Cooling Systems

Standard refrigerators feature a single cooling system that pumps cold air into the freezer. This air then funnels into the fridge as needed. More sophisticated fridges often feature separate cooling systems for each section. By cooling compartments individually, these units provide better temperature and humidity control.
Fresh foods stay fresh longer with a bit of humidity. With a single cooling system, this humidity can make its way into the freezer. As a result, ice build-up can become a problem. By isolating their cooling areas, these refrigerators also keep odors from drifting from fridge to freezer. So your ice won't taste like last night's leftovers ever again.

Energy Efficiency

Choose an ENERGY STAR® qualified refrigerator and you'll use at least 9% less energy than other models. You may also be eligible for local rebates from your city when buying ENERGY STAR qualified devices.

Freshness Features

From basic air filters to more advanced ion air purifiers, there are a handful of features that can work to clean the air inside your refrigerator. Vacuum-sealed crisper drawers are another great way to preserve freshness.
Some fridges even include systems that absorb ethylene gas which some fruits release as they ripen. This gas accelerates the ripening process. By removing it, the fridge will maintain the taste and texture of your produce significantly longer.

Refrigerator Finish and Aesthetic Appeal

From basic black or white models to stylish stainless steel or panel-ready units, there's sure to be a refrigerator finish that will match your kitchen's design. Panel-ready models accommodate custom panels that you can have made to perfectly match the look of your existing cabinets. Stainless steel and black stainless steel look great in almost any setting and are generally easy to maintain. Look for fingerprint resistant models for easier upkeep.

Wi-Fi Enabled/Smart Fridges

By connecting your refrigerator to your home network you can open up a new world of possibilities. Most Wi-Fi enabled fridges allow you to monitor or adjust temperature settings from the convenience of your smartphone, or even with voice commands.
Some models include internal cameras so you can see what's inside while you're shopping for groceries. Others can store grocery lists, find recipes, display digital notes, show weather forecasts, or mirror your TV screen. If you're looking for the latest and greatest model you can find, you'll want a smart fridge.

In Summary

You'll have lots of choices to make when buying a new fridge. Most importantly, you need to decide what capacity you need. Next, select which style or type of refrigerator best fits your budget and tastes. Consider counter-depth or built-in variants of any of these styles for a more refined look. Finally, select the features that matter most to you.
With all of this information in mind, selecting your next fridge should be a piece of cake. But of course, feel free to reach out to our experts at 800-860-3577 if you have any questions at all. We want to make sure you're satisfied with the model you bring home and will do all we can to help make sure you are.
Last updated: September 22, 2020

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