Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Found in almost every North American home, a refrigerator keeps your food from spoiling. But it also accounts for nearly 15% of your electricity bill. Fridges these days have tons of features to choose from, but dependability is a must. We go in search of the perfect fridge.


The Basics

  • A few different styles of fridges are commonly available:

    • Top-freezer models are the most common and generally less expensive to buy and run than others. They’re also more compact. The freezer is at eye level and the shelves are nice and wide, but the bottom shelves are low and less convenient. Capacity ranges from 10-27 cubic feet and widths from 24-36”

    • Side-by-side models have a freezer on the left and the fridge on the right. The fridge part is usually larger than the freezer. These models often have an ice/water dispenser on the freezer door. The narrower doors are good for small areas with limited swing space. This model is typically more expensive than top-freezers and also less energy-efficient. Capacity ranges from 19-30 cubic feet and 30-36” wide. Note: a frozen pizza will not fit flat in this type of freezer.

    • Bottom-freezer models are gaining in popularity because the upper part is the fridge, so most commonly accessed items are at eye level. They are generally more expensive than top-freezer models and have a slightly smaller capacity.

    • Custom fridges are available as built-in or built-in style (i.e. have the look of a built-in but are freestanding). These are usually side-by-side models that fit flush with cabinets, counters, etc. but can be taller or wider and have panels that match the décor. Built-ins can be quite expensive. Built-in style will be more expensive than the regular ones, but less than a real built-in.

  • Many fridges come with a variety of features, but they’re not all necessary, and some can really drive up the price. Features to consider are:

    • Capacity, which should be 16-20 cubic feet for 2 people, plus 1 cubic foot for each additional person.

    • Temperature controls should be at the front and easy to reach rather than on the back wall. Extra temperature features include humidity-controlled vegetable crispers and temperature controlled meat/deli drawers.

    • Some new models now come with digital controls that can even act as diagnostic center to identify problems.

    • Wire racks should be of heavy gauge wire, closely spaced with a centre support to ensure durability, and a rust-resistant finish that’s easy to clean. Some models have an extra rack that hangs from the shelf above to be used for eggs or wine.

    • Shelves should be sturdy, flexible and easy to clean. Glass is generally easier to clean, and also lets you see through to the next shelf easier.

    • Shelves that adjust separately using a crank are helpful. Shelves that slide out on rollers are handy for accessing items at the back.

    • There should be at least 3 separate compartments: two vegetable/crispers, and one meat/deli drawer. See-through fronts on the drawers make it easier to find what you’re looking for.

    • Ice/Water dispensers are common on side-by-side models. Remember to factor in the cost of filters for models that have this impurity-removal feature.

    • All models have inside lights in the fridge. Some have lights in the freezer. Make sure they’re in an easy spot to reach so you can replace them without a hassle. Also be sure there’s some type of cover over the bulb because it can easily break if bumped by a carton or jug.

    • A fast-freeze shelf is an extra feature that is handy for doing just that. It can add a bit of cost to the overall price, however.

    • Look for a machine that is relatively quiet and has good insulation to dampen the sound of the compressor.

  • When it comes to buying a fridge, shop around for the best price, or wait for sales. Large department stores and chains offer good prices but salespeople aren’t as knowledgeable. Specialty appliance stores are good to shop at since the staff are better experts. Most specialty stores can also offer competitive prices.

Other Considerations

  • Many energy-efficient models cost more to purchase, but will cost less to operate over time so you’ll save money in the long run.

  • Aesthetic choices like finish (stainless steel or panels) raise the price considerably. Remember that stainless steel, even though it looks fantastic, shows fingerprints very easily.

  • Don’t forget to check the warranty and guarantee. Find out what is covered, for how long, and who is responsible: the manufacturer or the dealer. A reputable manufacturer and dealer are your best guarantee of service.

  • Be sure to find out about any additional costs for delivery.

  • After your purchase, fill out the warranty card and mail it immediately. Many manufacturers let you do this online now.

  • Take good care of your fridge by cleaning it regularly, avoiding overcrowding or blocking air circulation vents, and keep liquids covered to avoid releasing moisture into the fridge, which will make the compressor work harder.

When buying a big ticket item like a refrigerator, research is important. Ask friends and family what type of fridges they have and what the like and don't like about them, or what they would have done differently when purchasing their own fridges. This will help you narrow down your choices and find your very own perfect fridge.




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