What's cool in the refrigerator market?
September 18, 2017 4:47 PM   Subscribe

We are in the market for a new fridge to replace our aging one. What should we look for, and what should we avoid?

We want to replace our old refrigerator with a new one. We don't think we need any bells and whistles—we just want stuff that keeps our food cold. We don't feel any need for a video feed of the contents of our fridge, or wi-fi connectivity, or anything like that. Even a water dispenser seems unnecessary for us—we're fine with a jug in the fridge and making ice cubes in a tray (and I question my ability/ability to remember required to keep the internal hoses etc clean).

Our main priority beyond fitting in the space we have for a fridge is capacity (I'd especially like a bit more freezer space than we have now for buying meat in bulk and/or making and storing freezer meals). And, of course, we want a reliable appliance that will last a long time. We don't have strong feelings about the arrangement of the doors. Our current one is a freezer-on-top model, and it's fine. But, as I said, capacity is the priority.

Are there any makes or models that are especially great value for the money? Any that should be avoided? Things that are worth paying for, and things that aren't? Is it worth spending a bit more on a fridge, or all they all pretty much the same? Anything else we should know?

(Additional data point, if it matters: we are in Canada.)
posted by synecdoche to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Fwiw, I was really skeptical of the freezer-on-bottom models (I don't know why now). My parents got one and I have to say it is GREAT. There are all these little slider bins inside so it's easy to see what you have and keep it organized. And no more risk of smashing your toes when something frozen unexpectedly falls out.
posted by purple_bird at 4:52 PM on September 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

We followed the advice from Sweethome and are happy with our fridge (it's about a year old now).

I really like the freezer on the bottom. I never before had a water dispenser or an icemaker and I enjoy both. I like having those on the inside, not through the door.
posted by vunder at 4:56 PM on September 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I can tell you I haaaaaaaaate the side-by-side we bought 3 years ago. Our previous fridges had been side-by-side and I loved them, but new technology means the walls are much thicker than they used to be, and you just cannot fit a fucking thing in the new ones. If I go straight in perfectly, I can get a large pizza box in, but it's pressed wall to wall. I cannot get a large frozen pizza flat in the freezer. The door bins aren't as deep as they used to be. The back 4-6 inches of shelf space are dead zones because you can't see and it's difficult to reach.

I eventually bought a 5cuft chest freezer, and I think I'm about to buy a 4cuft mini-fridge and move all the drinks and grab-and-go snacks and packed lunches to there. There's only two of us! Granted, we eat almost entirely at home but it's just a constant source of irritation.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:11 PM on September 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

I love the freezer on bottom, and I vote clear drawers, so you can see and feel bad about the rotting produce.
In Canada, we went to sears (if they didn't disappear?) and got a kenmore knockoff of a GE I think. If you don't care about colour, white tends to be cheap.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 5:25 PM on September 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

We got this Kenmore Elite fridge last year (the model is slightly revised, main difference being it has two drawers in the freezer where ours has one).

So far we've been happy with it. The French doors are more convenient than one large door, mostly because of the relatively limited space our kitchen has for a swinging door. The air filter does an excellent job at managing funky food, we should know since there are usually a couple jars of kimchi and sometimes homemade hot sauces too. It seems to be reasonably power efficient as well. It has an ice maker but I disabled it, and it hasn't been a problem.

Most of Sears' Kenmore Elite line is manufactured by LG, and ours definitely is.
posted by ardgedee at 5:34 PM on September 18, 2017

I don't mind the freezer on the bottom but I far prefer the new doors on instead of drawer style.
posted by beccaj at 5:37 PM on September 18, 2017

I find that I really like having a counter depth fridge. Everything is so easy to find. I no longer have a bunch of crap festering in the back. There's plenty of room for everything I need and very little pulling-stuff-out-to-get-to-other-stuff.

I would never get a side-by-side ever again. You can't see anything in those deep, narrow shelves.

Icemakers are nice but their trays can take up a lot of room and they get noisy. I turned mine off, reclaimed the freezer shelf space and am happy.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:37 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

boxing day sales are great for getting appliances, if you can wait that long you'll save a bunch of dough
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:11 PM on September 18, 2017

I haven't had to buy a new fridge for nearly 20 years, so I can't speak for any of the new features that are available--but the reason I haven't had to buy a new fridge in nearly 20 years is because my Hotpoint fridge is still going strong. Never had to have it repaired and have never had a problem. (If I've just jinxed myself I'm going to be so mad!)
On the other hand, I will NEVER buy any appliances (or anything) from Sears ever again because of their absolutely horrible customer service when I had to recently replace my washer/dryer.
posted by bookmammal at 6:23 PM on September 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

oh, btw I had an absolutely horrible experience with my GE Profile counter depth fridge. Paid a premium price and it was absolute garbage, died twice in the five years I had it, astonishingly bad customer service, was unrepairable the second time (even after every motherboard was replaced), to be avoided like the plague.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:38 PM on September 18, 2017

Frigidaire makes absolute junk -- I have a Frigidaire fridge that got repaired with popsicle sticks and a glue gun in the first or second year that I had it; popsicle sticks were stronger than the garbage they used for critical shelving. It replaced a 20yo Whirlpool and I wish I still had the 20yo fridge. My Frigidaire dishwasher died in two years, the washer had problems, the dryer shreds stuff, and the customer "service" just...it's worse than non-responsive; they were actively full of shit (never got mail that had been sent registered and signed for, etc). Even if it is 80% off and looks lovely, not Frigidaire.

Also: I think stainless steel will soon be the modern equivalent of avocado and mustard in the 1980s, and, a small chest freezer is a fabulous thing to have, especially if you are a Costco-er, a stock-up-when-on-sale person, someone who wants loads of different ingredients on hand at all times, etc.
posted by kmennie at 7:10 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'll be the dissenting voice on freezers on the bottom--I currently live in a place with one of the drawer-style freezers on the bottom, and I'm constantly having to dig around in there to find something that inevitably is on the bottom, things fall into cracks, and I can never close the damn thing on a first attempt because inevitably whatever I moved around to get the thing I wanted out now means that half an inch of a box is sticking far enough up that I can't close the freezer. Ugh.
posted by Automocar at 8:01 PM on September 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you get French doors, look for internal bins that are half-width. We have a deli drawer that is full-width and it's a constant source of irritation because you have to open both refrigerator doors to access the lunch meat and cheese.

We originally thought the water dispenser was frivolous. No longer. It's very convenient and it reminds us to drink more water. Plus, it tastes really good.
posted by DrGail at 8:10 PM on September 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

The worst thing about replacing our fridge this past summer was learning that they no longer make fridges that just sit in silence. Energy-efficient fridges counter intuitively tend to have the compressor or fan running more often than old fridges, so while the volume may be softer than the clunking and groaning of old fridges, the noise can be unbearably constant and higher pitched. We bought a counter-depth French door Samsung that I knew within an hour of plugging in would quickly drive me insane; the pitch was awful, and it revved up and down like an airplane taking off. It was returned to Home Depot (if you call within 48 hours the manufacturer will take it back as defective). We ended up buying a counter-depth French door Fisher & Paykel fridge without a water line/ice at a scratch & dent outlet, and it is OK.

I miss the long silences of our old Amana and have yet to get used to the pitch of the compressor in our new fridge. We have an open floor plan and no cabinets around the fridge to block the sound, so noise really has been an issue. This fridge has less freezer space than our old side-by-side, and I don't like rummaging around in the bottom of the freezer drawer. But, unlike our old Amana, the fridge holds its temperature very constant, and I appreciate the digital temperature display. That said, I miss the Amana, even though the water dispenser was broken and moldy, the shelf mounts had to be repaired with Sugru, and the side-by-side width sucked - it was just too risky to keep with the random temperature problems.
posted by Maarika at 8:53 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, we found that white fridges were often more expensive than stainless steel, which was a surprise (and a bummer).
posted by Maarika at 8:55 PM on September 18, 2017

There's a very wide price range in fridges. They've become a status item, it seems. I bought one of the cheapest ones available (about 6 years ago), which is freezer on top, with no features, and it's fine. It's a Whirlpool. I don't remember the price but it was about $600. I would say the only reason to buy a more expensive fridge is if you plan to sell the house and are hoping it will be attractive to buyers. The other issue to look at would be energy efficiency.

Make sure you are very careful about the dimensions. The first one I ordered did not fit through the door.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 9:38 PM on September 18, 2017

I'm voting no on counter depth fridges. I hate ours, it doesn't hold enough. Also, if you do get an icemaker, check for capacity. Ours only makes enough for about four glasses at a time so when we have folks over, we have to make it ahead or buy a bag of ice.
posted by raisingsand at 12:51 AM on September 19, 2017

Avoid Samsung. The shelf bins on mine kept on breaking on me, which was not cheap. I felt that for all the money paid it was poor build quality. I went with freezer on the bottom, French doors with the capability of ice and water. For my family of five we did a standing freeze and drinks refrigerator in addition to the main refrigerator. I bought meat in bulk, Costco and did a lot of cooking/baking/preserves.
posted by jadepearl at 7:52 AM on September 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

We have a freezer on the bottom, with French doors on top with water and ice dispenser on the outside. I like everything about it. It is an Electrolux/Frigidaire, and it has been pretty much perfect since we got it. The size is nice, 27 cu, really big enough for two of us. We keep a lot in the freezer, it has two slide out drawers that are very convenient. It is also stainless smudge proof, so just a wipe once in a while and it looks great. The upper inner shelves slide out too, so you can see what is on them, in the back.
posted by chocolatetiara at 7:58 AM on September 19, 2017

we bought a french door/freezer on the bottom samsung model about three years ago. i don't like the freezer on the bottom as stuff gets lost (even with the bins). it's much harder to keep organized than a side-by-side or top freezer.
posted by noloveforned at 8:07 AM on September 19, 2017

It's true the bottom freezers are a pain. If your kitchen setup can handle it, life is easier with a freezer on the top. (It's a tradeoff of course, as with the bottom freezer you have the fridge stuff right up where you're looking at it, which is very nice. But there's no doubt the bottom freezers suck and I'd be surprised if most large households with a bottom freezer don't also have an auxiliary freezer somewhere else.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:51 AM on September 19, 2017

We have a perfectly fine side-by-side model and I *dream* about the day it dies so that I can justify getting a bottom freezer. The freezer on the side is so narrow that it makes storing and accessing anything an exercise in Jenga-Tetris frustration, but with really cold things that drop on your toes.
posted by barnone at 10:26 AM on September 19, 2017

We just moved to a place with a newer fridge. I personally hate the bottom freezers; I can't find a bloody thing in there. Also, the door beeps when you leave it open too long (which is almost every time I open it), it's very annoying.

If I could justify it, I would buy a new, less fancy and cheaper top-freezer model with no bells and whistles. Consumer Reports has a kitchen issue out right now - you might want to grab it. I got mine at home depot.
posted by kitcat at 10:56 AM on September 19, 2017

Bottom freezer is great because you no longer have to bend down to find things in the fridge. Not as convenient for finding things in the freezer, but that gets less use than the fridge anyways. French doors on the fridge are amazing as you no longer have a giant door in the way when it is open. It made a big difference in our tiny kitchen. Look for shelves with metal brackets that hook onto metal adjusters in the fridge. The ones that are all plastic will fall apart within a couple years.

With two young kids, I like the open-door alarm. I used to always find the old fridge hanging open. I also like having a temperature display for the fridge and freezer, although it drives me crazy that you can't switch it to °C. Why they only sell fridges with °F in metric Canada is beyond me.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:17 PM on September 19, 2017

We got this Samsung (model RF28HMEDBSR) from Lowes last December and we love it. We never needed or wanted an ice/water dispenser, but now we use that all the time!

Also, it lists for US$2,600 retail, but Lowes will price match Amazon, and at the time, Amazon had it listed for $1400!

posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 9:03 AM on September 23, 2017

I have hated the Whirlpool wrf535smbm00 bottom freezer I got in 2016 for exactly the reason Maarika mentions above--I find it incredibly loud most of the time. I've lived in several apartments with cheap, old fridges and don't remember any of them being terribly loud. It angers me every day, even more so because I realized too late that it could have been returned, in my understanding, 30 days from purchase from Home Depot.
Additionally, it seems insane to me that refrigerators that actually have a thermostat with thermometer display are generally considered and priced as high end. I consider keeping a steady temperature, or at least one below the FDA recommendation of 40F but above freezing to be the sole function of a refrigerator. Sure, you can buy a digital thermometer for $10, but why isn't a true thermostat part of a refrigerator? Why a dial or digital setting of arbitrary numbers from 1-7 where the manual tells you to turn it up if your food rots and turn it down if it freezes? Mine tends to range from 30-45F and I don't do a lot of door opening/staring. It also froze a bunch of stuff during the recent Bay Area heat wave for some reason.
The "stainless" steel has also developed some small rust spots along the grains of the steel that have so far come off with a careful acid treatment, but that isn't my idea of stainless steel.

If anyone has any recommendations for a quiet fridge I'd love to hear them. I realize that several sites like The Sweethome recommend the Whirlpool model I got and not everyone finds it insanely loud, but I do. I've measured it at 65 dB at its loudest, which I think most people would find loud. Mine could be a dud. My main advice to you would be to be aware of return policy and be prepared to use it if your appliance constantly irritates you.
posted by ...tm... at 2:31 AM on September 26, 2017

If you want a completely silent fridge, you could always get a gas fridge. They have no moving parts so are completely silent and generally last a very long time. However, they cost much more than an electric fridge and require venting.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:38 AM on September 26, 2017

« Older So am I vegetarian now?   |   Recipes with jalapenos for novice pepper-eater Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.