Last Updated 11/30/21
Buying a new refrigerator is a big investment. It’s the central hub of your home, the place you go for everything from family gatherings to midnight snacks, and you want one that’s perfectly suited to your lifestyle and your space. With so many models, features, and styles to choose from, it can be hard to know which fridge is the right one for you. Grand’s teams of experts put together this helpful Buying Guide breaking down all your options, and providing some basic guidelines for what to keep in mind when looking for a new refrigerator.
In This Article:
- Counter Depth
- Energy Use
- Food Preservation
- Smart Home Connectivity
- Additional Features
They’re on the internet, so they must be true! But seriously, reviews should always be considered. It’s important to maintain the right perspective, however. A customer that has had a bad experience is far more likely to write a review than a person that has had a good experience. On the negative side, a bad review is a bad review - there’s no sugar-coating it. On the positive side, however, it indicates that items with great reviews exceeded customer expectations to the point that the customer felt compelled to leave a favorable review of the product.
There are a number of different door styles on the market and each comes at their own price points and with their own specialties. Here is a convenient breakdown on the different types of refrigerators.
Top freezer refrigerators are just what they sound like, a fridge with the freezer section stacked on top of the body of the fridge. This is the most common type of fridge and typically falls on the lower end of the pricing scale. You can, of course, find high-end top freezer models, but most of your low-budget options will fall into this category. Top freezer refrigerators are great if you’re looking for simplicity, convenience, and a variety of options, but typically don’t often include the more modern space-saving and high-tech features other fridge options have to offer. Note that if an icemaker is desired, check if the unit has a manufacturer icemaker included. Otherwise, most units will have an “optional” icemaker available to purchase.
If you’re all about frozen food, you might want to consider a bottom freezer model. These have a similar level of ease and simplicity as the top freezer models, but with a larger freezer section at the bottom of the fridge. The freezer on these models are typically drawers rather than cabinets, which allow for easier access to your frozen meats and treats. Bottom freezers elevate your refrigerator by a few feet, making commonly used items easier to reach.
One of the more popular refrigerator styles is the French door model which have a refined look and convenient layout that just about everyone can appreciate. French door refrigerators fuse the benefits of side-by-side door configuration together with accessible chest freezer capacity below, which raises the refrigeration compartment to eye level. As a result, users get easy access to the most used areas of a refrigerator with convenient freezer access below. These refrigerators styles are typically wider providing more storage space, but because the doors require less clearance to open, they can still be a perfect fit for smaller spaces.
With a narrow freezer on the left and a wider fridge on the right, side-by-side models are popular for offering easy access to both fridge and freezer with a simple, user-friendly layout. Similar to French door refrigerators, side-by-sides require less clearance on each side of the unit because the doors are slimmer, but this ends up coming at the cost of the horizontal shelf space you might find in other models.
Compact or apartment size fridges are great for supplementing an existing fridge or saving room in smaller living spaces. They’re typically found in dorms or bedrooms, but can certainly be a convenient addition to any kitchen. Compact fridges fit perfectly in a kitchen island or mini bar, while taller compact models, often called “apartment-sized” fridges, can work as primary food storage spaces in small studio apartments.
Sleek, chic, and custom-made, built-in refrigerators come in at the top of the pricing scale and do so with good reason. Built-ins can be made to fit seamlessly with your kitchen, fitting flush against counters and even paneled to match existing cabinetry. Available in a variety of widths, a built-in fridge is a perfect option when aiming for a more streamlined and uniform kitchen profile.
The style of your kitchen is important to keep in mind when deciding on the perfect fridge to fit your needs. Whether you are looking for a sleek, standout fridge in gleaming stainless steel, or a fridge to melt right into the background of an immaculately-styled kitchen, there are options for all kitchen styles, but a decision this big requires some planning first. Different finishes can give the same fridge a very different effect in your kitchen. Take your time choosing between bright metallic, black stainless, or painted matte to find a finish to perfectly match the rest of your appliances.
Most refrigerators range from 24 to 36 inches wide, with wider options available with built-in or column refrigeration. Full-sized freestanding refrigerators are typically 36”, customary for 2-5-person households. Common freestanding widths range from 28, 30, 33, and 36 inches
Conversely, families who live in smaller-footprint environments or urban communities typically utilize a top-freezer fridge, which ranges from 22 to 33 inches. If that comes as a bit of a surprise, remember that you don’t always need a large living space to benefit from a refrigeration appliance bigger than a compact model.
Large built-in refrigerators measure in at 50 inches and above are more about the price and the overall visual appeal. If you’re considering this size model, the status of owning an appliance this large may weigh into your consideration more so than finding a model to best suit your family size.
Consider a refrigerator that fits both the available kitchen space and your household’s needs. Kitchens don’t always allow for the available refrigerator space needed to fit every household, but supplementing with a compact fridge, or even a slim built-in made to fit a narrow kitchen nook, are options to consider.
Get a thorough showroom experience with this tiered Guide to Accurate Refrigeration Measurement, which our experts consider with shoppers in-store when purchasing a new refrigerator.
You must ensure the fridge style you’re considering will also fit through the path to the kitchen. Measure ceilings, hallways, doorways, surrounding cabinets, light fixtures, and anything else that could prevent your appliance from a smooth transition into your home.
Be sure to also leave plenty of space for the doors to swing open and shut, and account for the space needed for the waterline and power line to connect to the back of your appliance.
In addition to the standard freestanding models, there are a variety of counter-depth fridges to choose from. Counter-depth fridges are about the same width as most fridges but are several inches shallower, allowing them to not extend too much past your existing countertops. Counter-depth fridges seamlessly integrate into your kitchen without the higher price tag of built-in options while helping save space in a cramped kitchen. The downside to these models is the sacrifice of storage space in exchange for a smooth, built-in look. A counter-depth fridge is a great option if style on a budget is the ultimate goal.
Whether you’re committed to eco-friendly living or hoping to save some money on your electricity bill, an energy-efficient refrigerator is the way to go. Energy Star certification is the best way to know whether your fridge will save energy and money over other similar models. Energy Star certified fridges must meet rigorous requirements set by the EPA, and each comes with a label indicating their annual energy usage and operating cost compared to similar fridge models. Many fridges use between 1,000 and 2,000-kilowatt hours of energy every year, so if you can find a model that’s only in the triple digits, you’ll be saving big bucks in no time. An Energy Star certification can bump the refrigerator’s sticker price a bit higher than comparable models, but investing into the initial expense will ultimately save you money in the long run. Top freezer refrigerators tend to be more energy-efficient than many other models, but you should always check the Energy Star sticker to be sure of a refrigerator’s energy use.
You may not realize it, but your refrigerator can have a big impact on the longevity of your produce and other fresh foods. The most premium models we carry combine a variety of features to get the most life out of your refrigerated foods. For example, models featuring dual compressors can independently cool a sealed system in both the refrigerator and freezer to maintain optimal preservation environments in both chambers.
Smart appliances are gaining popularity in homes around the world, and many companies now offer top-of-the-line refrigerators with highly customizable functions and internet connectivity. Though not strictly necessary for a stylish and highly functional fridge, smart home connectivity means the modern appliance shopper can enjoy a product that works and “thinks” just like its users. As a result, smart appliances enhance the experience while also preserving time and money. Here are a few features gaining traction in the smart refrigeration market:
Tracking inventory of foods with interior cameras
Assigning expiration dates and reminders
Integrated recipe apps based on available ingredients
Creating a live calendar
Shopping for ingredients
Connectivity Is Convenience And Control
Most connected refrigerator models allow smartphones remote control access. This means you can easily make temperature changes from your phone. This can come in handy to boost cooling as you are returning from the grocery store. Interior cameras can offer intuitive features to track produce and even help with meal planning with popular chef assistance apps like Yummly and HestanCue. Some smart fridges even feature a “vacation mode,” allowing you to switch the whole device into low power mode while you’re away from home.
Similar to connectivity features, fridges are available with a variety of physical features that add ease and convenience to your lifestyle. Here is a list of a few common features to consider when deciding on the right fridge for you.
In-door ice and water dispensers are nothing new, but they’ve become so common in the decades since they were first introduced that many shoppers simply can’t get by without them. If looking for a built-in water dispenser in your next fridge, focus on the styles of fridges that more commonly have them.
Side-by-side and French door models typically include dispensers, while top and bottom freezer fridges rarely if ever have them. Some models also offer modern upgrades to the classic dispenser, like hot and sparkling water dispensers and a setting that boosts ice production for parties, so you never have to purchase ice again.
Shop Dispensing Refrigerators (ice and/or water)
**Note: Dispensing refrigerators all function with replaceable filters. To ensure you always enjoy clean crisp water, our experts recommend replacing filters every 6 months.
This one is a relatively new innovation. More and more high-end fridges are offering a function called door-in-a-door, which is an additional panel built into one of the fridge doors that allows you to access smaller items like snacks and drinks without opening the whole refrigerator.
This feature is meant to save energy and provide extra convenience between meals. Some even have a transparent window that illuminates when touched, so you can see inside your fridge without having to open anything at all. Less expensive than the smart fridges with built-in cameras and smartphone access, this is another way to save time when you want to check your supplies at a glance or need a quick reminder of what you need to buy before heading out to the store.
A riff on the French door model, some manufacturers have introduced refrigerators with an additional, climate-controlled drawer above the freezer drawer. An extra drawer lets you cater to foods with special temperature needs, like veggies or frozen meat, and store them without compromising the temperature of your entire refrigerator.
Adjustable Racks And Shelves
Adjustable shelves are a life-saver for busy households with overflowing fridges, and for anyone who’s ever felt like putting groceries away was more like an especially frustrating game of Tetris than a household chore. Many fridges now come with foldable, retractable, and rearrangeable shelves, and even adjustable racks for the door. This lets you maximize your fridge space and customize it to your family’s needs.
Refrigerators come in all various shapes and sizes. You can find economical top freezer fridges starting at $600 and custom built-in columns for upwards of $12,000 (and beyond if you’re looking for premium features). Basic models will get the job done, but may not be as intuitive or spacious, while more expensive models are intelligently designed to be feature-rich with smart home connectivity and higher quality food preservation. Your refrigerator budget should be reflective of your lifestyle and what you find an important part of your everyday refrigerating needs.
Refrigeration prices are feature-dependent until you reach about $5,000. After that, we enter the area of luxury brands and built-in refrigeration with larger sizes scaling in price. When you’re comparing the price point versus the size of the appliance, note that larger counter-depth built-in models may offer a similar capacity to common full-sized 36-inch freestanding options. If you prefer the style and design of built-in refrigeration, the premium price for this category is also based on its high-end, superior construction, food preservation, cooling features, and seamless installation into custom cabinetry.