While you can still find a rather basic model, refrigerators in general have undergone a dramatic change over the past decade with more emphasis placed on food storage and humidity control, as well as features to organize and make retrieving foods much more convenient.
Since a refrigerator purchase can be a sizable long-term investment, you'll want to carefully consider the various refrigerator styles, and features to ensure that it meets your family's needs now and for the next few years. Whether you're buying a refrigerator for the very first time or replacing an older fridge model, these tips will help you be better prepared to shop for a refrigerator.
While you may want to choose a capacity that suits your needs - and that's essential - available space will most often dictate the maximum capacity of refrigerator you can install. The available space also sometimes impacts the style of refrigerator that you can buy.
First, measure the allowable space including width, height and depth, then decide on capacity before you go any further. And review the physical size specs of the model you want before buying, to confirm a good fit. It's also a good idea to confirm that the size you buy can be easily brought into your home. Some entrance doors and basement apartments may have smaller doorways or narrow hallways to consider.
Some models are available in standard depth or counter depth, which may influence the capacity you need. Keep in mind that a counter depth refrigerator actually has less overall food storage space compared to a same width standard depth model. That's because it's not as deep. If you like this style that integrates nicely with cabinetry, consider a slightly larger capacity if space permits.
→ What's a Counter Depth Refrigerator?
Door swing influences convenience and how effecient your kitchen workflow is. To decide which door swing is best, consider the flow-through traffic area, overall workspace and proximity to the range, counters or cabinets to allow sufficient and convenient space for a full door swing.
To save steps and provide quick and easy transfer of food in and out of the refrigerator, always install the appliance with the door opening to the counter, workspace or range.
For those tiny kitchen triangles, a side by side or French door refrigerator may be the best choice, as long as there's enough width to accommodate it. Also, some two door fridges allow reversing the door swing, which may better suit your kitchen space. Always review the product manual or confirm this with the dealer before buying.
Height clearance is especially important if there are overhead cabinets. If you own your home, you might want to consider removing those cabinets for a higher refrigerator, which will give you more food storage space.
Onboard Water/Ice Dispensing:
Features like through-the-door ice and water dispensers considerably increase the cost of this major kitchen appliance. There are things to consider when choosing a model with this feature to ensure that the convenience will outweigh the additional cost and trade-offs of this particular design feature. Here are a few things to consider:
A refrigerator with water or ice dispensing requires plumbing installation. Can you locate the appliance where it can be plumbed in to a water line? You may want to budget or consider who will or can do this work to complete the installation.
An ice dispenser reduces the freezer capacity of the refrigerator. This trade-off is probably worth the convenience of ice cubes on demand especially if you live in a hot climate, entertain often, and have more freezer storage elsewhere in the house.
A through-the-door water or ice dispenser reduces even further, the amount of freezer space in a side by side model or refrigeration compartment in a french-door refrigerator, because you lose the door shelf/bin storage space. If this is not a concern, water dispensing can be very convenient and can even encourage your family to drink more water.
Water quality may need to also be considered. Do you currently need to filter the quality or improve the taste of your home's water supply? You may want to consider water dispensing refrigerators that have added filtration features. Otherwise, if you tend to use bottled water due to the taste or quality of your local water, you may not reap the benefits of on-board refrigerator water dispensing.
If your local water supply comes from a lake or well source, filtration may be required not only for water quality but to prevent ground sediment accumulation which can cause problems in your dispensing unit.
Although there are a few, most refrigerator water dispensing units do not allow sufficient room height to accommodate single-sized water bottle filling, but are designed generally for that quick glass of water.
Having easy-to-reach quick water dispensing on the outside of your refrigerator can reduce the risk of pouring spills.
These features will increase slightly the energy use of your refrigerator, but since there is no need to open the refrigerator door to retrieve a water pitcher, you can actually save on energy costs in the long run.
If you pay for water by the gallon, a water dispenser will eliminate running the faucet for several seconds to draw cold water, reducing the amount of water you use in your home.
Once you've considered all the benefits as well as the trade-offs of on-board water and ice features, you'll be better equipped to start shopping for your new refrigerator, and ready to enjoy all its features.