As the most-used appliance in the kitchen, it is an important and worthwhile goal to get the refrigerator that best fits your actual kitchen use. One of the benefits of the broad variety of refrigerator configurations now available is that achieving that goal has become much easier, even for those kitchen remodelers working on a tight budget.
A typically sized freestanding refrigerator for a residential kitchen measures up as 36” wide by 65-72” high. Box depths range from 24” (standard cabinet depth) to 30”, and then the doors and handles protrude approximately 3” to 4” farther. Within these dimensions, the fridge and freezer can be arranged in a variety of ways.
With the freezer on top, this design prioritizes making the frozen foods accessible over the bottom shelves and vegetable drawers. The full-width freezer and fridge allows for wide items like trays or rib racks to be stored horizontally. This is an economically priced design.
Common box sizes are 24”, 30”, 33”, or 36” wide by 65-69” high, with a more expensive, European style around 80-84” high and 24” wide.
Side by Side
For the past 30 years, this has been the preferred configuration, but it is giving way now to the French door design. Because it has a divided width, the storage is highly subdivided, making it difficult to store large items. However, this design does not slight either the fridge or the freezer in favor of the other, height-wise.
Common box sizes are 36” wide by 68-72” high, and usually 24-30” deep.
With the freezer on the bottom, this appliance design prioritizes access to the refrigerated foods over the frozen foods. However, bottom-mounted freezers can come in drawer- instead of door-models.
Common box sizes are 30-36” wide by 65-70” high, and usually 27-30” deep.
This appliance design has rapidly replaced the side-by-side as the configuration of choice. There are a few options for opening the freezer, including one or two sliding drawers, and an internal door, which is available on fewer models.
Common sizes are 33-36” wide by 68-70” high, and usually 24-30” deep.
These configurations are built into the cabinets, and they fit with a more high-end, commercial style of decoration. The appliance fronts are generally manufactured with stainless steel doors, but your cabinet manufacturer may be able to custom-match them to the material of the cabinets to achieve an “integrated” look. They are installed with side panels that match the cabinets so as to give an appearance of having been custom built. To fit flush with the cabinets, the appliances are built to the standard cabinet depth, 24”. Because they are integrated into the cabinetry, built-in appliances are generally regarded as a feature of the home and are thus sold with it, just as the cabinets would be. Because of that, built-in appliances have the advantage that they increase the resale value of a home.
Available sizes are 24”, 30”, 36”, 42”, or 48” wide by 84” high. Generally speaking, the units are in the side-by-side configuration, except the 24” and 30” models, which have bottom mount freezers.
Under Counter Configurations
Usually used in a bar or island area, refrigerators, freezers, icemakers, and wine coolers are all available in sizes designed to fit under a counter, just like a modular cabinet unit. These appliances can be great for entertaining, storing alcohol away from children’s snacks, or even just to keep beverages from clogging up the space in the general-use fridge. These models are usually 34” high, taking up all of the space between the counter and the floor.
Another new under counter product on the market is the fridge, freezer, or wine storage drawer, which is a miniaturized appliance that fits in a drawer slot and rolls out on full-extension drawer guides. These models can serve as overflow or specialty areas, perhaps fulfilling the old role of the deep freeze or beverage refrigerator that once stayed in the garage. They are great for an island, and can keep children looking for a snack out of the way of a busy cook.
Just as important as the way the refrigerator fits into the kitchen is the way the fridge helps you keep the food inside it organized. Look for these features on any new fridge you consider for your remodeled kitchen.
Sturdy Shelves and Racks
Lower-end models have wire racks, but mid- to higher-end models will have glass shelves that help the keep small messes and spills contained to their immediate area. Some models have full-width shelves, while others are split for ease of removal and cleaning. But don’t forget the supplemental, space-saving hanging racks. These can hold often beverages, casseroles, and egg cartons, and they can go a long way toward maximizing your fridge’s space.
The quality of the drawers ranges similarly to the quality of the shelves. In lower-end models, the drawers simply open and close, while higher-end models have functions such as temperature and humidity controls that can create ideal environments for storing fruits and vegetables.
Water and Ice Dispensers
In recent years, water- and ice-dispensing features on higher-end models have grown to include filters, temperature controls, and child locks that can help save your kitchen from messes and puddles resulting from curious little fingers playing in the new kitchen.
Removable and adjustable bins and compartments designed to hold beverages and condiments can help to keep the smaller items from cluttering up the bigger spaces in your fridge.
Higher-end models will have controls for both the target temperature to be maintained, but also how hard the fridge should work to get back to it, which can be important if yours is frequently opened throughout the day.
Nicer models have accordingly nicer door seals, as well as mechanisms to ensure that the door does eventually seal, no matter how well it gets closed.
Energy Star Rating
Since refrigerators consume more energy than any other appliance in the house, making sure that your new purchase is an efficient one can go a long way toward lowering your energy costs and your household’s carbon footprint. Be sure to ask your salesperson about the Energy Star rating for any appliance you consider buying.
The classics dominate your choices in today’s selection, but they do give a very clean look to your kitchen: White, black, stainless steel, and bisque, a light tan cream tone. Appliances can also be finished to match the cabinets in what is called an “integral” look. A few manufacturers have models available in specialty colors like blue, yellow, and red.