Well, it’s happened: Refrigerators and other appliances have run into the challenges of the pandemic, hitting shortages just like toilet paper and Chromebooks before them. The already complicated search for the right fridge is now even more fraught, since the one you like may not be in stock. To help reduce your stress and make sure you get the refrigerator that’s right for your space (and for the number of ice-cream sandwiches you prefer to always have on hand), we asked seven repair experts, salespeople, and appliance-store owners for advice. And then we made sure their recommendations were actually in stock — for now, at least.
The first step, they say, is to know what space you’re working with. “Don’t even leave your house if you don’t have your dimensions with you,” says Shirley Hood, appliance specialist at Abt in Glenview, Illinois. “Measurements are the key.” That includes the exact dimensions of the space where you hope to put your fridge, your counter depth, and your cabinet height if you’re hoping to slide the new fridge under the cabinets.
Next, you have to choose a style. “Top freezer is the most basic style, and it’s thought to be one of the most reliable configurations,” says Eugene Pallas, owner of Lorain Furniture & Appliance in Cleveland. If you want similar reliability but with more shelves to help you organize, Pallas recommends the side-by-side. “It’s a tried-and-true technology, and you could really expect that to last a really long time.” There is one drawback, however. According to Ben Schlichter of Ben’s Appliances in Circleville, Ohio, “You lose a lot of space to that internal divider.”
The most popular style right now is the French door, a setup that typically has two doors that open to either side on the top and a freezer on the bottom. “They tend to be higher capacity, and you can get one that’s a smaller profile with a larger internal space,” Schlichter says. Many models also offer extra drawers (to get to your frequently used items quickly) and flex zones that can be either fridge or freezer.
Also consider if you want features like ice or water dispensers in the door. While these are a great convenience, our experts do warn of drawbacks. “You lose space in your fridge, and in the hot summer months, you’ll have ice sticking together, clumping,” Hood says. Plus, “your ice-maker is probably going to have an issue within the first four or five years,” says Rob Clark, assistant manager of Jetson TV & Appliance in Stuart, Florida.
Finally, there are the gadgets. During the past few years, manufacturers have been adding fancy new features and screens. New fridges from LG and Samsung let you search and pull up recipes right on the refrigerator door. They can also alert you when you’re running low on certain foods so you know to buy more. If you’re an early adopter, go for it. You’ll love the convenience. But our experts also warn that these features will affect your refrigerator’s reliability and life span. In fact, “I would avoid them,” says Christopher Zajic, president of Zajic Appliance in Sacramento, California. “You’re likely to run into parts obsolescence with that type of thing very quickly.” Schlichter agrees: “The golden rule is: The more features you have, the more problems.”
Here, our experts’ favorite picks.
The best top-freezer refrigerator
“I always recommend buying G.E. products,” Pallas says. “They make the best top freezers that ever existed. And it can run for decades.” This unit has a built-in ice-maker, glass shelves, and LED interior lights.
The best side-by-side refrigerator
If you want similar reliability but don’t like the idea of stacking all of your stuff in a jumbled mess in a freezer with only one shelf, a side-by-side has more racks and organizational potential. “You can save a lot of money by going with Amana. Their components are made in the same place as KitchenAid,” Schlichter says. This unit has easy-to-clean glass shelves, offers crushed and cubed ice, and has door bins that adjust to multiple heights.
The best French-door refrigerator
If you’re looking for a feature-packed French-door-style fridge, this Frigidaire has a bunch of versatile features to make your refrigerator as useful as possible, starting with two different-size doors. “The left-hand door is very slim — it barely has enough room for water and ice dispensers — but when you open that larger right-hand door, you can access 70 percent of the refrigerator,” says Robert Maguire of Rutland Appliances in Rutland, Vermont. That way, you can open the small door to keep more cold air in the fridge, or the large door to access the entirety of the fridge’s contents. “The other thing they have is a middle drawer, which can be a fridge or a full-fledged freezer. Competitors go to 28 degrees, but this one goes to -6,” Maguire says. Other smart features include automatic moisture control in the crisper drawer and humidity control.
The best energy-saving refrigerator
This is a great refrigerator for big families that are always opening up the door to find something to eat, thanks to an innovative door-in-door feature that allows you to open only a small portion of the fridge to access essentials. “If you have kids and they’re always grabbing little snacks, you can put them inside the door-in-door and save energy,” Clark says. He also points out that the drawer lights change colors, which can be fun for kids but also useful, since you can use a particular color to light up the drawer they should be going to. Plus, with nearly 28 cubic feet of space, you’ll have room for everything.
The best column refrigerator
If you have the space and are willing to spend the money, there is a new trend toward refrigerators that are designed without freezers to maximize their capacity. (A separate freezer, presumably, is placed somewhere else.) These fridges have the added benefit of being fully customizable. “It can be 24, 30, or 36 inches wide. You can make them as small or as big as you want,” says Robert Wolfe of Jetson’s premium-appliances team. They can also be made to match your kitchen: “You can put a cabinet front on it, and it completely disappears. You wouldn’t know there was an appliance there.”
Editors’ note: Because of the customizable aspect of these refrigerators, you’ll need to call the distributor for more information.
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