Fridges

Image Credit: domani on stock.xchng (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/76532)

Image Credit: domani on stock.xchng (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/76532)

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

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.

Operation

Operation

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.

Features

Features

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.

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Shopping Checklist: Fridges

Shopping Checklist: Fridges

  • Fridge size Fridges are measured in litres (L), and range in size from 850L to less than 170L. For an average household of two people, a storage capacity of about 300L should be enough. Don't forget to measure the available space in your kitchen before you choose your fridge size.

  • Frost-free Frost-free fridges take away the hassle of removing ice build-up by using a fan to circulate dry, cold air throughout the freezer compartment.

  • Replaceable shelves Make sure there are easy fixes for glass or plastic drawers and shelves, in case of any breakage or cracking.

  • Delivery Transporting a fridge is hard work, so it's usually worth getting someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. Ask the store about their delivery fees.

  • Installation Some fridges have additional features such as water and ice dispensers that may need to be installed by a plumber—which could be costly. Find out whether specialist installation is required.

  • Warranty and return policy This information is useful in case there are any faults—or if the fridge simply doesn't fit through your front door!

  • Temperature In most fridges, operating the thermostat will let you adjust the temperature to suit your groceries. 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.

  • Noise Find out how much noise you can expect from internal fans, motors, automatic timers, and water and ice dispensing units before you make your purchase.

  • Energy efficiency The Energy Star rating system is a government-backed program that alerts buyers to energy efficient products. Labels that display more stars and lower kilowatt hours (kWh) will cost less to run.

  • Special features Many special features are available including cooling systems, digital controls, anti-bacterial coating and ice dispensers. Find out what extras are available, what the benefits are and what they cost.

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FAQ - Fridges

FAQ - Fridges

What exactly does energy efficient mean?

Fridges use energy (electricity) to keep food cool. If there are two fridges of the same size, the one that uses less energy to keep cool is more energy efficient. The Energy Star rating is a guide to how a fridge is energy efficient; the more Energy Stars the more energy efficient it is.

It's important to remember that the Energy Star Rating does not tell you how much energy a fridge will use. It just tells you how good the fridge is at taking electricity and turning it into cooling. It is quite common for a large fridge to be more energy efficient than a small fridge. However, a large fridge will use more energy (electricity).

Which Energy Star Rating will help decrease my energy bill?

To decrease your energy (electricity) bill you must buy a fridge that uses less energy than your current fridge.

The Energy Rating label provides an energy consumption number in kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. This is the amount of energy a fridge will use under set conditions, and can be used to compare how much energy (electricity) different fridges will use.

The smaller this number, the less energy the fridge will use. The kW-hours used per year will differ based on the size, type and energy efficiency of the fridge.

Your new fridge must have a smaller energy consumption number than your old fridge to decrease your energy bill. To maximise the decrease you should also buy the most energy efficient fridge by selecting one with more Energy Stars.

Does a fridge with a greater capacity use more energy?

As a rule, larger fridges will generally use more energy than smaller fridges. However, it is possible for a larger fridge that is more energy efficient to use less energy than a smaller fridge which is less energy efficient.

So make sure you look carefully at the energy consumption number in kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year on the Energy Rating label. The fridge with the smaller number will use less energy.

Does a side-by-side fridge use more or less energy than an upright fridge/freezer?

As a rule, a side-by-side fridge will generally use more energy than upright fridge/freezer of a similar capacity. However, it is possible for a side-by-side fridge that is more energy efficient to use less energy than an upright fridge/freezer which is less energy efficient.

So make sure you look carefully at the energy consumption number in kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year on the Energy Rating label. The fridge with the smaller number will use less energy.

Is there a way to reduce running costs and save energy?

Aside from choosing an energy efficient and low energy consumption fridge, there are some simple things you can do day-to-day to reduce running costs and save energy.

Install the fridge away from direct sunlight and away from hot areas like ovens, dishwashers and heaters. Make sure the recommended gaps are left around the fridge.

Try to minimise the number of times the door is opened, and also don't leave the door open for a long time.

Keeping the fridge and freezer reasonably full will also help reduce the temperature loss when the door is opened, saving energy.

Can I place my fridge next to my oven or dishwasher?

Placing a fridge next to an oven, dishwasher or other hot appliance is not recommended as the fridge will need more energy to keep cool. This will increase the cost of running the fridge.

What is a frost-free fridge?

A frost-free refrigerator is one that does not need manual defrosting.

How does an ice cube maker in a fridge work?

Water is added to an ice tray and then frozen over time. The ice tray is then emptied and the process repeated.

How long will my fridge last?

Years. The actual length of time a fridge will last will depend on the specific model. For normal domestic use, a fridge can last up to 20 years.

Does my fridge require regular maintenance?

Most fridges do not generally require maintenance. If the fridge is not frost-free, it will require defrosting at regular intervals.

Can I use a double adaptor on my fridge? Does it affect my warranty?

Double adaptors or power boards should not be used. They may affect the warranty if it can be shown the fault was caused by these items.

What should the temperatures be in my fridge/freezer?

The temperature should be 2 to 6 degrees Celsius in your fridge, and -16 to -20 degrees Celsius in your freezer.

What is the best way to transport my refrigerator and how long should I leave it before turning it back on?

A refrigerator should be transported upright. Different manufacturers may recommend leaving the fridge off for different times. If the fridge is transported upright and treated gently, this may be as little as an hour.

If the fridge is not transported upright, leaving it off for 8 hours or overnight is advisable. Check your fridge manual for exact instructions.

Does my fridge have to be level?

Yes. Your fridge needs to be level so that the door will close properly.

Why does my fridge stop and start?

The fridge runs long enough to reach the right temperature. It then turns off. When the temperature in the fridge rises slightly it turns back on until the right temperature is reached again.

This stopping and starting will happen more often on hot days, and when the fridge is being opened and closed a lot.

Do I need to leave space around my fridge?

Yes. The amount of space depends on the model. Check the fridge manual.

What is Mastermind electronic control?

Mastermind electronic control is a Westinghouse name for a technology designed to keep a fridge cool during busy times. According to the Westinghouse Web site, by "recording and memorising refrigerator door opening times, the Mastermind electronic control is able to learn the times of day the refrigerator is used most, and automatically provides additional cooling capacity during those peak times. This keeps food fresher, longer. This feature also includes a door alarm to indicate if the door is not properly closed."

Can I reverse the doors on my refrigerator RH to LH?

Some models may allow you to reverse the side the doors open from left to right, or vice versa. Ask the sales person for guidance if you require this feature.

How do I choose between an upright or chest freezer?

Chest freezers are usually more energy efficient, however, it is harder to load and unload food.

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Jargon Busters: Fridges

Jargon Busters: Fridges

Anti-bacterial coating: An antibacterial coating that helps prevent mould and mildew build-up, helping to keep food fresh for longer.

Bottom-mount: A model of fridges in which the freezer is located below the fridge compartment. Bottom-mounts have the ergonomic benefit of keeping the most commonly used items at eye-level.

Crisper: A section (usually a drawer) in the fridge compartment that is designed to provide a humid environment that is best for storing fresh fruit and vegetables. Some fridges have two crisper drawers so that fruit and vegetables can be stored separately.

Dairy compartment: A section in the fridge compartment that is designed to maintain the best temperature for storing dairy products such as cheese and butter.

Egg compartment: An egg-tray section, usually on the door of the fridge that is designed to securely store eggs at a suitable temperature.

Frost-free: Frost-free fridges prevent ice from building up, eliminating the occasional need to defrost. The lack of ice build-up also makes temperatures within the freezer more evenly spread, which improves food quality and the energy efficiency of the appliance.

LED display: Light emitting diode (LED) displays are like simplified computer screens that display information, in this case the fridge and freezer settings.

Multi-flow: A cooling system that circulates cold air more efficiently around the fridge, helping to prevent hotspots.

Side-by-side: A model of fridges in which the freezer is located beside the fridge compartment. Side-by-side models can come with narrow doors that are useful in areas of limited space. They generally also include the most features, but do tend to cost more.

Thermostat: A device that is used to determine and regulate temperatures in the fridge and freezer. The thermostat usually comes in the form of a dial, slide or digital controls.

Top-mount: A model of fridges in which the freezer is located above the fridge compartment. Top-mounts are generally the cheapest and most commonly available option, and have reasonably wide shelves.

Ventilation gap / Minimum air clearance: The minimum amount of empty space that must be left at the top, back, and sides of the fridge. This allows the hot air that is produced on the outside of the fridge to properly disperse.