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How To Choose a Refrigerator

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Another element of both form and function is the exterior configuration. Do you prefer a side-by-side model, freezer-on-top, freezer below or French door model?

Side-by-side models generally have larger freezer storage sections than other models. Both fridge and freezer sections are narrower than other models and may impact your storage. Some models have equal size refrigerator and freezer sections while others give more space to the refrigerator side. One important advantage of side-by-sides is that the doors are only about half the width of the refrigerator which means they don't extend as far into the room when open. If you have an island or other obstacles in the kitchen the smaller door width can be an important consideration. With few exceptions, side-by-side models are the only style that offer through-the-door ice and water.

French Door models are similar to the side-by-side style except that the split doors extend only halfway down the appliance and open only to the refrigerator. The bottom of the appliance is the freezer section and uses a pull-out drawer. Like the side-by-side, this style has the advantage of narrow doors, but without the problem of narrow storage inside. Some French-door models offer through the door ice and water.

Freezer-on-top has been the classic configuration since the introduction of the refrigerator. This provides easy access to the freezer section but requires bending to reach the drawers or shelves in the bottom of the refrigerator. Doors on this type of fridge are typically reversible, to open on the left or the right as needed. Water and ice service through the door is rarely offered on this style refrigerator, although a very few water only models are available.

Freezer-on-bottom changes up the classic style refrigerator by swapping the refrigerator and freezer. The freezer section at the bottom is always a drawer. The storage may consist of sliding baskets or it may have a system of pull-out drawers within the main drawer. Like the classic model, this style fridge rarely offers water and ice service although there are some water only models. The door on this style fridge is often reversible allowing the door to either open from the right or the left.

Mini-fridge / Beverage Centers can serve a variety of needs. These small refrigerators are available with and without freezer sections. The freezer section is so small it usually can store only a tray or two of ice. The refrigerator can be useful in dorm rooms, basements, or anywhere you need a small amount of cold food storage. We particularly like the idea of using a mini-fridge as a way to free up room in the main refrigerator. By storing soda, beer, water or whatever drinks you prefer, in an auxiliary refrigerator you make room for more storage in the main refrigerator. An auxiliary refrigerator doesn't have to go in the kitchen either. Closets and other out of the way locations are a great way to maximize your kitchen space.

Finally, selection will affected by your preferences for finish type and whether you want a built-in, counter-depth or free-standing appliance.

Built-in refrigerators are usually the most expensive choice. They are typically the same depth as cabinets and can be comprised of a group of separate components. The separate units allow a lot of versatility in the layout of your refrigeration. The units can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including refrigerator or freezer drawers.

Counter-depth refrigerators have a similar appearance to built-in units except they are a single unit, no separate components. The chief advantage to counter-depth refrigerators is their built-in appearance. A second benefit of their shallow shelves is it makes it easier to see and access food and drinks.

Free-standing refrigerators are still the most popular choice and usually the least expensive. They come in four basic configurations, discussed above. They are deeper than other refrigerators, which allows for more cubic feet of storage without giving up cabinet space. However, the added depth can cramp a kitchen and make access to the back of the shelves difficult.

The finish you choose is primarily a matter of personal preference. The most popular colors are white, bisque and black, while stainless steel or simulated stainless are also very popular. Stainless steel tends to show fingerprints and requires more frequent cleaning. The texture of simulated stainless and non-stainless refrigerators is easier to keep looking clean. Some refrigerators offer "trim kits" or will accept custom panels to create a unique look. You can use this feature to create panels to match your cabinetry or you could go wild with the vast array of colored and patterned laminates on the market.

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