How to buy a new fridge?
January 7, 2013 6:28 AM   Subscribe

We need to get a new refrigerator. So which of the new refrigerator features are worth it? And how bad is bisque color really?

Our original to the condo early 80's refrigerator is on its way out. The door won't close well, the drawers are cracked, and it's just small.

So we go to Home Depot and look at them, and there is a huge variety of features and prices nowadays, from $500-2000. We know most of the features are just to have something new to sell this year (a pizza drawer?). And we've heard conflicting things from friends over whether the big "new" features like french doors and bottom freezers are good at all, or just trading old problems for new. Anyone with a recent fridge have experience here?

Also, choosing a finish is a big dilemma. All our appliances now are "bisque" which is appliance-speak for tan. A lot of the mid and high-end models only come in stainless / black / white, and we don't want black and don't think stainless is a good match with our kitchen cleaning practices. White is OK but is white any better than bisque in future buyer's eyes, or is it stainless vs not? And what is next after stainless, it seems like its been the high-end choice for 10 years now.
posted by smackfu to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I love the French door/freezer on the bottom models, but only in the larger sizes. I got a French door/freezer on the bottom model for my Mom, and it's huge and can hold everything to make a big dinner for the whole family at Christmas, but my smaller freezer on the bottom model doesn't have quite enough freezer space, and the basket (as opposed to the whole drawer in larger models) that holds frozen foods is chintzy.
posted by xingcat at 6:40 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is a debate about smart fridges, but they are sufficiently far off mainstream it's not worth bothering with.

The biggest big new feature is efficiency. Fridge technology hasn't changed massively. They're still very reliable. They still have the same features. Their form factor has barely changed. But efficiency will matter more going forward.

Another new feature is rather than having shelves, having pull out drawers (but this is more commonly seen in built in kitchens, rather than freestanding fridges).

Although it is UK centric ("American style fridges"), Which?'s guide is a useful one to get a sense of how to buy.

If you want to make white a bit more fun - and I personally love this in my kitchen - then fit it out with some cow decals.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:41 AM on January 7, 2013

I don't love bisque, but if the rest of your appliances are bisque (And bisque matches the kitchen), you should just stick with it. I don't know where the trend is going after Stainless - I keep hearing bronze/copper, but I'm not seeing any of those stick. (We just redid our kitchen a couple years ago.)

Our fridge was actually the oldest part of our kitchen by the time we were done with it. It is a side-by-side. I think if we had to buy another one, we'd get freezer on the bottom, and the french doors... anything wide doesn't really fit in the fridge (and forget about the freezer).
posted by getawaysticks at 6:43 AM on January 7, 2013

I bought a new fridge about 2 years ago. My absolute number 1 priority was energy efficiency.* Number 2 was that it HAD to have a bottom freezer with pull-out drawers.

Bottom-mount fridges cost a little more, but they're sooo worth, because then you have the part you access more frequently (i.e. the fridge part) at a more comfortable height. Even more so if you're tall (I am).

I think white is better than bisque. In fact, I think the trend may be turning around, and stainless is going to look dated in a few years, with white coming back 'in'.

(*In Australia, all electrical appliances are sold with energy-efficiency ratings prominently displayed on a sticker. One star = least efficient. My fridge is 5-star.)
posted by Salamander at 6:46 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

We got our Maytag "freezer on the bottom" from Home Depot about 5 years ago and haven't had any problems with it. I really love having the freezer on the bottom because it puts the stuff you use everyday at eye-level and within easy reach with no stooping. Ours just has the one top door and I don't know if I'd pay the extra for the two doors because it just seems like more opening and closing for no good reason. One thing I would probably spring for when (and if) I have to buy a new fridge is having access to juice and milk through a small door in the front versus having to open the entire fridge. I also might spring for an ice maker in the door if you like iced drinks.

Re: color - I'd take a cold hard look at your remaining appliances to gauge how much life is left in them and also consider how long you're planning on staying in your condo before you commit to bisque in the long term. If you don't plan on moving and you don't hate bisque...then maybe just stay with what you have. If you're thinking of upgrading other appliances or selling your condo in the next few would be the time to make the move to a new color/finish.
posted by victoriab at 6:56 AM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'd take a cold hard look at your remaining appliances to gauge how much life is left in them and also consider how long you're planning on staying in your condo before you commit to bisque in the long term. If you don't plan on moving and you don't hate bisque...then maybe just stay with what you have. If you're thinking of upgrading other appliances or selling your condo in the next few would be the time to make the move to a new color/finish.

Yes, this, exactly.

I work in consumer and market research (take that for whatever it's worth, I do) and it is predicted that white appliances are coming back into vogue. They look much nicer than they used to, though - brushed silver handles and such.
posted by anderjen at 7:05 AM on January 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had a fridge with a bottom drawer freezer and I hated it. If you don't get all the broccoli squished back down perfectly, the freezer door stays a teeny bit open and everything gets warm. My friend has a freezer drawer model with an alarm (mine didn't have an alarm) and, more than once, someone has grabbed a water bottle or something out of the freezer and run out of the house before the alarm sounded. They've had to pitch a lot of food. If you don't have kids, you might not have that problem.

I like stainless. When I had a white fridge, it would get black dirt smudges on it. They cleaned off easily. Black always had my hair and cat hair stuck to it. Then I'd wipe it with a dishtowel and have dishtowel lint all over it. The stainless gets fingerprints, but to me, as a crap housekeeper, that looks expected and less gross than cat hair or black smudges. Everybody knows stainless gets smudges, it's not just messy me. This may be really dumb logic. I don't think the stainless is hard to clean, when I get around to it. (I've owned all the refrigerators in the past 15 years. We had Hurricane Katrina, a house fire, and two just crap out on us. I think we're on the fifth one. I am not worried about trends, though, because I'm not selling my house ever and I'm not really in a crowd where anyone would have the new cool thing in kitchen design. Besides that, everyone in New Orleans pretty much redid their kitchen since 2005 and when stainless is out of style, we'll all be lame together. All the granite countertops are probably making the city sink faster. YMMV obviously.)
posted by artychoke at 7:16 AM on January 7, 2013

We have a very recent (<6>
I can also confidently tell you from the eleventy-billion design blogs that I read that stainless and white aren't going anywhere, black is a somewhat distant second in terms of appliance color. The only other thing that sometimes surfaces is paneling over your fridge with stuff so it looks like your cabinets, and that just makes me giggle.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:19 AM on January 7, 2013

Before you buy a larger fridge: if there are stairs between the street and your kitchen, check that the new fridge can get into your condo. Been there, done that, had to return the awesome fridge and get a much less awesome one.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:21 AM on January 7, 2013 [6 favorites]

This is obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many people fail to measure the available space before they go out and look at fridges. Be sure to measure in all directions and allow for air space behind.
posted by mareli at 7:23 AM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

I lost part of my comment above - weird. Our fridge is an LG french door/freezer on the bottom, and I really like it. I like the adjustable shelves, having everything at eye level, and generally just having more space - it fits in the same footprint as our old side-by-side fridge, but the layout makes the thing seem so huge! We got the model with ice/water in the door, and LG does a great job of not letting that eat too far into your interior space - the ice bin is small, but it works for us.

The only thing I don't like is that there's this one drawer that is fridge-width where we keep deli meats, cheese, etc, and you have to open both the french doors to get to it.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:24 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

We went from a wee, crappy, 80's condo-sized refrigerator in bisque to this brand new, french-door, bottom freezer with ice dispenser.

It's amazing.

It's amazing.

I love every part about it, even the parts that I didn't think I cared about, like the ice dispenser, or the bottom freezer, or the cold cut drawer that you don't have to open the french doors to get to and keeps cold cuts for almost two weeks when they used to get slimy in the old fridge after five days. And if you actually do some comparison shopping/catch a good sale/use the price match that every large appliance seller has these days, you can get it for $1,000-$1,500 off the sticker price.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:28 AM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I love my new fridge with freezer-on-the-bottom and french doors. The French doors do aid efficiency because you don't need to open the whole thing to get what you need.

When I moved into my old townhouse it was all bisque appliances. I wound up replacing the oven and the dishwasher, and bisque wasn't available in the models I wanted, so by the time I left only the fridge was bisque. If you think other appliances are going to get replaced then start now with the fridge.

Stainless is hard to clean and looks SO dated to me (I have stainless because that's what was in the new place we got.) I would switch to white in a heartbeat.

One thing nobody has mentioned: fridge dimensions, as listed in their product info, are NOT reliable. You need to bring your own tape measure to the store if you have a space issue (like a cabinet opening with only so many inches available.) It's an ugly scene when they deliver a fridge that doesn't fit and you're stuck calling around to see if any local carpenters can shave down your cabinets.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:41 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

What sold us on our awesome KitchenAid freezer-on-the-bottom French door fridge? The fact that you could tell the in-door water dispenser how much water you wanted, and it would dispense exactly that much. Need a cup of water for a recipe? No problem, you don't even have to use a measuring cup. It stores three presets, so we put in 0.85L for the SodaStream and it fills the bottle perfectly every time.

It's the little things...
posted by kindall at 7:53 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

artychoke: If you don't get all the broccoli squished back down perfectly, the freezer door stays a teeny bit open and everything gets warm.

That sounds to me like the sides of your freezer drawer are open (like this one), but that's a very poor design for a freezer. If the sides are closed, cold air should remain in the drawer much longer, and you'd need to leave it open for a very long time for things to become warm enough to be endangered (cf. every open-topped freezer section at your local grocery).
posted by hanov3r at 8:25 AM on January 7, 2013

We, too, just replaced our 30-year-old fridge with a new one. Here's some of the things that affected our decision...

• Shape of kitchen space and your work routine. Basically, this eliminated double-door (french) doors from consideration, as the door of the fresh-food side would always be opening against the workspace, requiring us to always have to walk around the door to get inside.

• We opted against freezers on the bottom. We looked at them and decided that foods would end-up buried under each other and be a huge pain to extract. Yes, we know one can be very methodical about stacking and arranging things, but we also know..."best-laid-plans" and all that. We knew it would just become a pile after awhile.

•Ice maker. We're on a well and no amount of filtering will make the water fit for ice. So, we deleted that option. Ditto for a door dispenser. Unnecessary for us. ymmv.

•Climate controls with more than two dials/sliders and/or computerized controls for silly things. Nope. Too much complexity to go wrong. It's a fridge, not mission control. If you can repress the urge to drool over gadgets, buttons, and blinky lights, you will be able to keep the price down greatly.

•Color. Both our dishwasher and stove are black. The outgoing fridge was biscuit. Though we were hesitant to get a black fridge, my fellow MeFites convinced me to do it, and we're very happy we did. Having all the appliances a single color really pulls things together. Satainless was never an option for us.

•Lights. We saw some high-end fridges that featured LED lighting. It was ghastly. The LEDs cast this sickly blue cast over everything. I can't imagine it makes your food look at all appetizing. Luckily, those fridges were wayyyyy over our budget.

•Shop fridges with your current usage in-mind. Be aware of all the big things and special things you keep in there. For instance, we get drinking water from dispensers at the grocery store, using gallon jugs. Having door shelves with spaces meant for large jugs was big plus for us.

If you can avoid piling-on the bells and whistles, you can get a really good, large fridge for well under $800.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:26 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I rent an apartment with a fairly new GE french-door-fridge-on-top, drawer-freezer-on-bottom model. (It was new when I moved in 18 months ago.) I really really dislike it, and when it comes time for me to buy a fridge of my own, I'll probably avoid this style.
  1. The drawer freezer is an incredibly awkward use of space given the way I want to use the freezer. The model I have basically consists of a laundry-basket-sized basket in the door, and a small cookie-tray-sized pull-out basket above it (along with the ice-maker, which isn't connected in my apartment.) The basket would work well if all I was doing was tossing frozen pizzas in it, but I like to make chicken stock and freeze it, freeze fresh fruit from the farmer's market and use it in the winter, make batches of pesto and freeze them, etc. Since the compressor is in the back of the unit at the bottom, the big freezer basket has to taper towards the bottom to fit it. It makes for an incredibly awkward space to stack and organize the things I'm keeping in the freezer, and inevitably it all ends up in a big jumble in the freezer.
  2. As mentioned above, the french doors don't always close properly; on my model, it's possible to close the doors so that they look superficially closed, but one of the doors is still open by about 1–2". (As far as I can tell, this is inherent to the sealing mechanism on the door in question.) There's a door alarm that'll go off if the doors are wide open for more than a minute, but leaving the door slightly ajar as mentioned above doesn't trigger the alarm. There have been multiple instances where I've inadvertently left the door like this overnight, and found the fridge compartment in the high 40s Fahrenheit in the morning.
So in my opinion, the french doors and drawer freezer do nothing but create problems. What's worse, I can't for the life of me figure out what problems these design features were trying to solve, and what was wrong with an old-fashioned single door on the fridge and on the freezer. It seems like the only reason to go this route is style, and it ends up being an impediment to utility.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:30 AM on January 7, 2013

I can't go back from having the freezer on the bottom. When the old fridge crapped out 3 years ago, I puchased an LG, stainless, freezer on bottom. Not french door, but I still adore it. I actually purchased it because it didn't have one enormous pull out bin, but an actual door, and two shelves, one of which is fixed (top) and a bin which can pull out beneath it.

But the main thing is, the fresh food is at eye level, and that means things don't get lost and hidden and go bad and have to be tossed (as much). My veggies are where I can find them.

We've been replacing one appliance at a time, as they crap out, moving from white to stainless. It's been a five year process as old age has taken three of them so far (they were really old when we moved in.) Go with the color you eventually want to have.
posted by instead of three wishes at 8:31 AM on January 7, 2013

Stainless is so easy to clean! Unless your current cleaning practice is to never clean the fridge, you'll be fine. Much easier to clean than any other fridge.

I really like having an ice-maker/water dispenser on the door. If you live in a hot climate, it's nice to always have ice.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:40 AM on January 7, 2013

FWIW, we bought the least expensive A-rated (highest energy efficiency) appliance we could find that filled the criteria of bottom freezer and the correct colour.

I prefer the bottom freezer but ours doesn't have the laundry baskets; it just has two drawers and a hatch. The hatch is for ice and bits and bobs (like herbs). The drawers are for frozen goods. The whole thing has a standard side-swing door, like this. We paid under $800 for ours and I'm still very happy with it five years on. It has zero features other than, you know, freezing and cooling.

And unless you're planning to never move, do not buy bisque!
posted by DarlingBri at 8:40 AM on January 7, 2013

Magnets don't stick to most stainless fridges. We also noted that most stainless fridges only have stainless on the front. The rest of the case is painted either gray or black (usually gray.) So, unless your fridge is entirely enclosed, you will always see a two-tone fridge.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:47 AM on January 7, 2013

Best answer: I would recommend that before buying a fridge that you look at the Sears Outlet. They have outrageous deals on stuff.

One recommendation is to buy the appliance with a terrible appearance issue, a gouge in the side, or a scratch or something like that. Just make a note of where the flaw is, and if it will be covered by a wall or cabinet, and get that one.

Some units are reconditioned. We bought a treadmill that came with a 12 month warranty, so we're happy with that.

Also, measure your space. The dimensions of fridges 30 years ago, and what they are today are vastly different.

We wanted a "counter-depth" fridge and discovered that there was only one in the whole wide world that would fit in our space. $2,500 worth of very specific fridge.

Matching Bisque is going to be a chore. In the late 90's early oughts, the color changed to Biscuit, and was a bit paler. I used to be "Almond". You might want to get a paint chip and match it to your existing appliances, and then match it to any prospective appliances.

Another option is to go for White, and then have your other applicance painted to match.

If you check your dishwasher, the other color choices will be under the front panel. Just remove the little screws along the outer edge, usually this is chrome or metal, then there will be a couple of other panels there, one black, one white, just swap them out.

If you plan on replacing your other appliances some-time down the road, buy your fridge in the color you like. Other appliances are dirt cheap compared to fridges, and you can update them when you get an extra few bucks.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:11 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just got a new refrigerator and went with a Samsung. Here are things to consider:

* size of the existing area for your refrigerator -- we had a weird small sized refrigerator and had built cabinetry around that size so no new refrigerator would fit in the space that we wanted. I had to bring in a cabinet maker to create a bigger cavity and make sure that my refrig would fit;

* the weakness of a lot of refrig/freezer was the ice maker such as, clogged lines and leaks. We decided not to have an ice maker just to avoid fragility in the system;

* if you REALLY want an ice-make water dispenser get all the plumbing taken care of before you buy and install;

* Having my meats cold was real important so temperature controlled deli tray has been great and is a feature that I enjoy having;

* ease of cleaning;

* noise;

* lighting

* ongoing costs for water filtration and ease of change

I have a freezer on the bottom with French doors. I like it, but then again I also have a generous sized standing freezer so the refrig freezer is used for immediate freezables that are going to be deployed immediately.
posted by jadepearl at 9:12 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

i have a subzero. it's stainless. normal magnets don't stick. rare earth do. not enough to hold up anything big, but most stainless is a LITTLE magnetic. really strong magnets can exploit that.

don't buy a subzero. mine came with the house. $8,000 is too much to spend on a fridge.

get an ice maker. all the other stuff is user-choice. your preferences dictate.

i do like freezer on bottom. best form factor, i think.
posted by FauxScot at 9:13 AM on January 7, 2013

I bought my fridge @ 3 years ago, and the nicer models were only shown in stainless. I love crushed ice on the door, so that was a requirement. If you have old appliances that are bisque, think twice about buying new ones to match. My fridge is a side x side, had good operating efficiency, and was on sale. done.
posted by theora55 at 9:32 AM on January 7, 2013

I asked a similar question a few months ago and go some very helpful answers. As far as color goes, I think it really depends a lot on the color of your cabinets. While I love white appliances with white cupboards, i don't particularly like white appliances with stained wood cupboards, unless the wood is very, very pale. For wooden cabinets that are a typical brown stain, bisque looks very nice even though it's a bit dated at this point, it's still a nice combination. If bisque is really not an option, and certainly don't mismatch the other bisque with a new and slightly different bisque, perhaps stainless steel will work, it's just a matter of cupboard color. Clearly, replacing all appliances would be ideal but not necessary.

I opted for the Whirlpool White Ice fridge and dishwasher because I have white cupboards, a stainless steel hood, and a vintage white range; I think the white with brushed metal looks good with this combination. I'm happy with the quality of the appliances so far, and they weren't really all that expensive. The side by side fridge is perfectly fine for me; I do love the ice maker and water dispenser. I imagine all new fridges have this but the ice maker is all sealed off from the freezer so the ice stays fresh. The ice maker does take up a fair amount of space on the freezer door, though.
posted by waving at 10:31 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love having the freezer on the bottom -- my 6 year old likes it far less. She only recently was able to reach the bottom shelf of the fridge and it'll be awhile before she can reach more reasonable parts of the fridge, though she's been able to fix herself simple food for a few years now. So if you have small kids (or will) it's worth considering how self sufficient they can be.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:33 PM on January 7, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all. That Whirlpool White Ice that waving linked really gives me a sense of how white with stainless fittings could be the next big thing. We definitely will check out the Sears Outlet too.

As far as bigger picture, we are probably only staying here a couple of years. The other appliances are fine: the dishwasher would be nice to update for quietness and such, the stove is electric and I don't see any compelling new features.
posted by smackfu at 6:19 AM on January 9, 2013

Response by poster: Small update: We hit the Sears Outlet as suggested and would highly recommend it if you have one near you. You have a lot of models available in front of you, organized by type and color, and you can see them in every color, instead of seeing it in stainless with a sign that says "also available in black and white". Surprisingly, they don't seem to price based on how damaged things are, so a small scrape on the hidden side and a dent in the stainless front still both get 40% off of retail. We are planning to head back a few more times.

And while I do like white, we decided to go with black because it will look better if we don't end up replacing the other appliances before we move. Black and tan vs white and tan.
posted by smackfu at 10:27 AM on January 15, 2013

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