This guide explains how to choose the best fridge for your home.
Firstly, decide where you are going to put the new fridge so that you can decide how big it can be. Then consider how much food you expect to keep in it. Household fridges are generally measured in litres (L), and range in size from small fridges of less than 170L to 850L giants. For an average household of two people, a storage capacity of about 300L should be enough; however, if you like to do big shops you'll need a larger fridge!
When you work out how much room you have for the fridge, include a gap of about 50 to 100mm at the top, back and sides for proper ventilation. Also, make sure the fridge will fit through any entrances, doorways or stairwells into your house. If you have limited space, try playing around with different dimensions. A tall, narrow fridge, for example, could provide the same amount of storage space as a shorter one that needs more floor space.
Designs and styles
Shelving layout can do wonders for how much a fridge will hold. Maximise the storage capacity of your fridge by considering what it will need to store, and how items are usually organised. If you are a fan of frozen pizzas, for example, a very narrow freezer unit may cause problems. Adjustable shelves are a common feature that will make the task of organising your groceries a little easier.
There are different types of fridges that may suit individual needs better than others. Top-mount fridges are generally the cheapest and most common type. In this configuration, the freezer sits at about eye-level, with the fridge compartment underneath, which allows both the fridge and freezer sections to house reasonably wide shelves.
Another variation that is becoming popular is the bottom-mount fridge. Bottom-mount fridges are similarly dimensioned to top-mounts, except that the fridge section sits above the freezer. This configuration puts the fridge section at eye-level, which allows easier access to foods that are used most frequently, although the freezer can affect the temperature of the crisper tray immediately above it.
A third type of fridge is the side-by-side design, in which the appliance is split vertically with tall, narrow fridge and freezer sections located beside each other. As a rule, side-by-side appliances tend to be the most costly to purchase, and are a little wider than top- and bottom-mounts to make up for overly narrow shelves. They are also considered less efficient at maintaining their temperature and therefore less energy efficient. On the flip side, narrow compartments can be useful, since narrow fridge doors require less floor space to open and close. Many side-by-side fridges also come with additional features, such as water and ice dispensers. Note, however, that such dispensers may require the help of a plumber to install.
Other variants of the side-by-side fridge include the French door-style, a three-door design where the fridge is accessed by a double door, allowing the shelves to be considerably wider. Those with larger storage needs may want to look at Pigeon Pair fridge/freezer combinations. Pigeon Pairs are designed to stand next to each other, but are physically separate. You can also look into chest-style fridges, which are accessed via a lid on top. Chest fridges maintain their temperature the best, but aren't as efficient for storage or ease of access.
Your new fridge is likely to be a vital part of the household, so it is probably worth investing in a model that is efficient. Look out for the standard Energy Rating label on each fridge that rates the energy efficiency of each appliance, and tells you how much energy it is likely to consume in a year. Labels that display more stars and lower kilowatt hours (kWh) will cost less to run.
Freezers need to be defrosted every so often. Generally, any ice build-up should be removed once it reaches a thickness of 5mm. Frost-free fridges and freezers eliminate the need for defrosting by using a fan to circulate dry, cold air throughout the freezer compartment. This process can be noisy and requires energy; however, it also saves some energy by avoiding temperature fluctuations caused by icy patches in the freezer.
Depending on the types of food stored in your fridge, you may need to adjust temperature levels. This is easier if each compartment has a separate control. Some newer models have moved from temperature control dials to digital controls, and some side-by-side models even include drawers that can be controlled separately.
Finally, when considering a fridge exterior, note that while a white painted vinyl finish is the cheaper option, stainless steel lasts longer, as there is no chance of rust. However, stainless steel can be marked by fingerprint and grease marks. Cleaning the inside of your fridge can also be made a little easier with shelves that are made from smooth moulded plastic or better still, safety glass, instead of wire. Safety glass shelves help contain spills and should preferably be in the freezer as well as the fridge. One-piece shelves will help confine spills and can be easily wiped down. Note also that shelves can have a tendency to crack, so it may be worth looking into shelves that are easy to remove and replace.
If you're willing to spend a little extra money there are technologies that you might consider investing in. Some fridges can include anti-bacterial treatments to make food last longer and prevent mould or mildew build-up. Many fridges use Multi-flow or other patented systems that circulate the air more evenly. Some fridges even have an LED display, which allows you to control the settings of the fridge and freezer.