Refrigerators have come a long way since they were first introduced to consumers in the early 1900's. Now, more than 100 years later, these can’t-live-without-them kitchen appliances come in a vast variety of sizes, styles, colors and finishes — and some now even incorporate smart technology for storing groceries, managing households and entertaining guests.
Sizes and styles
Whether its standard or counter-depth, top freezer, bottom freezer, French door, side-by-side or built-in, selecting the best refrigerator for your lifestyle starts with determining your budget and your capacity needs. What’s more, it’s important to note that many experts recommend buyers first choose their appliances before designing the kitchen.
Why’s that? “The size of the refrigerator will ultimately determine the cabinet layout,” said Dennis Webb, vice president of operations at Fulton Homes.
Traditional top freezers tend to offer the most space for their size, typically 30 to 33 inches wide, according to Consumer Reports, as do bottom freezers which are slightly larger but also offer full-width refrigerator and freezer storage.
Side-by-side refrigerators are ideal for smaller kitchens and those who prefer more freezer space.
"This style offers refrigerator and freezer storage at eye level which helps to keep food more organized than other configurations," said Julia Burke, a design expert at Whirlpool Corporation's Institute of Home Science.
Space-saving French door refrigerators are great for those who want more refrigerator storage and
the ability to quickly grab food at eye level.
“The French doors give consumers quick access while providing full-width storage inside,” Burke said. “Some French door refrigerators have multi-drawer options that let you quickly access items like snacks for the kids or beverages for a party, along with a freezer that offers a large pull-out drawer.”
The pantry-inspired layout such as the Whirlpool® Door- Within-Door French Door refrigerator, allows flexible organization for greater access and better visibility. Featuring infinity-slide shelves, families can move small items to the edges and make room for big, high-use items within the center of the refrigerator.
Built-in refrigerators, often the most expensive option, are great for those seeking a more integrated look. “Since these are shallower, they also keep items naturally within easy reach and line of sight," Burke said. "The premium refrigerators often use high-end materials such as metal walls, come in multiple styles and have top-of-the-line performance."
Colors and finishes
While stainless steel has been a long-time popular trend, experts say there is a growing demand for additional alternatives.
“Consumers are looking for colors and materials that have the same quality and durability of stainless steel, but are more modern looking,” said Eloise Hale, head of corporate communications, North America, at Electrolux.
Electrolux recently introduced the Frigidaire Gallery Smudge-Proof™ Black Stainless suite which adds an
upgraded finish that makes preparation, clean-up and organization quicker and easier. “The new suite was created with consumer preferences for color choices and surface properties in mind, offering a neutral clean palette while helping to streamline household tasks,” Hale said.
Other manufacturers like Big Chill and Northstar offer retro-style refrigerators featuring bright colors like Candy Red and Mint Green for consumers who are looking for something bold and unique.
Today’s busy families have access to new time-saving techniques thanks to advances in technology.
Featuring a Wi-Fi-enabled touchscreen, the Samsung Family Hub™ refrigerator lets consumers manage groceries with three built-in cameras that can be accessed by smart-phone for more efficient food
shopping. Meanwhile, the Whirlpool® Smart Appliances allow families to use automated cooking to control meals from freezer to fork, with a few simple taps on the Whirlpool® mobile app.
|Expert appliance - purchasing tips|
When most folks buy a new home, they often will purchase a new refrigerator, either from the builder via their design center, or from an after-market retailer. Eloise Hale, head of corporate communication, north America, at Electolux, offers some helpful appliance-purchasing tips for new-home buyers.
- Space: Ensure that the new appliance you’re planning to purchase fits into the pre-existing space in your kitchen. If you’re not sure, measure the space ahead of time to avoid costly mistakes.
- Features: See the appliance in action. Many retail appliance showrooms offer cooktop and oven demonstrations that highlight key product features. It's a good idea to see the appliances in person to help you determine which models are best for your needs.
- Budget: Look for appliances that offer a combination of durability and features that fit within your budget. Make sure to choose appliances from a reputable manufacturer and understand what is covered by the warranty prior to buying.