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by Debra Gelbart on Sep 4, 2015

The good news: Purchasing a new home often means purchasing a new refrigerator, either from your builder’s design center or on your own.

The bad news: There are so many options — counter-depth or standard depth? French doors or side-by-side? Water and ice dispensers or not? 

To help you make an informed decision on your new fridge, we talked to a few experts about the latest style options as well as what’s next when it comes to refrigerator technology.

Hot coffee — from your fridge

One of the spiffiest features we found relates to your morning cuppa joe. That’s because within a couple of months, you’ll have another way to get a great cup of coffee when GE Appliances introduces a new refrigerator model featuring a brewing system built into the refrigerator’s water dispenser. The manufacturer already offers a model featuring a hot water dispenser with a pull-out tray able to accommodate any size container including large pots and pitchers. 

The new model, called the GE Café™ Series refrigerator with Keurig® K-Cup® Brewing System, comes with an accessory to facilitate dispensing a fresh cup of steaming 190-degree coffee. 

“GE invented the technology and has partnered with Keurig to regulate the temperature, flow rate and water pressure,” said Dan Goldstein, director of marketing for GE Refrigeration. GE produces six brands or series of refrigerators: GE, GE Artistry, GE Café, GE Profile, Hotpoint and Monogram, Goldstein said.

Plenty of style options

Along with numerous optional amenities, refrigerators are also available in many styles, explained Mike Perrelli, senior director for Frigidaire, whose parent company, Electrolux Appliances, manufactures Frigidaire and Electrolux refrigerator brands.

For example, a built-in “all” refrigerator is typically paired with a built-in “all” freezer, he said. This option allows maximum fresh-food storage and offers up to 38 cubic-feet of combined refrigerator and freezer space. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price, often referred to as the MSRP, for Electrolux’s built-in “all” refrigerator is $2,449, Perrelli said.

The top freezer style features the fresh-food compartment underneath the freezer compartment, a common configuration found in “urban settings where space is at a premium,” Perrelli said. Goldstein said this remains the most popular option among consumers. Prices range from about $500 to around $2,200, depending on the finish (stainless steel or an enamel-like surface) and features selected, such as additional shelves or an aluminum can dispenser.

The side-by-side refrigerator model is manufactured with the fresh-food compartment on the right and the frozen-food compartment next to it. “By far the biggest selling point of this style has been the water and ice dispenser in the freezer door and the organizational flexibility it provides,” Goldstein said. Prices range from about $1,200 to around $3,100. 

Though as recently as 10 years ago side-by-side refrigerators were the most popular style, today they are the least popular, Goldstein said, because of the narrowness of the freezer compartment. “Customers have told us they worry about fitting a pizza box in the freezer compartment,” he said. 

The bottom freezer style is configured with a drawer or door for frozen food beneath the fresh-food compartment, Goldstein said. Prices range from about $1,000 to around $1,900.

A fifth type of refrigerator is a French door style, featuring two doors that open to the fresh-food compartment and a drawer underneath for frozen foods. The water and ice dispenser can be included on the door of the fresh-food compartment. Prices for these models generally range from about $1,600 to around $4,000 and even up to $8,000-ish for a model that looks like a built-in.

Separate climate environments

“Consumers expect food to taste its best,” Perrelli said, “so manufacturers are offering customizable settings to keep food stored at the ideal temperature.” 

Goldstein said refrigerators can include a dual evaporator that keeps fresh-food and freezer-food in completely separate climate environments, with drier air circulating through the freezer compartment and more humidity in the fresh-food compartment. This keeps fresh-food fresher longer, he said.

Increased energy savings

Goldstein said that the U.S. Department of Energy standards for energy-efficiency have increased by 25 percent in the past year, so most refrigerators manufactured in the past year save consumers even more in energy costs than they did prior to 2014.

“The model with the Keurig coffee brewer, for example, will use less energy than a cell phone that charges all night.”

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