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Finding the best refrigerator for your home is highly personal. For some, refrigerators with a top freezer will prove to be the best since they fit into small spaces. For others, refrigerators with a bottom freezer (whether standard or french door) mean that they don’t have to bend down frequently to reach vegetable and fruit drawers. Side-by-side refrigerators tend to be larger, so they take up more space in your kitchen but also offer more space for your food.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out our refrigerator buying guide below. We’ll walk you through each type of refrigerator — and why you might or might not want a french door or a top freezer — then help you figure out the right questions to ask in your search.
SpillGuard glass shelves
Most food is easily stored at eye level
Poor freezer layout
Fashionable and feature-heavy
Because French door refrigerators are trending right now, even a basic model will be more expensive than a great quality top-freezer model. French door refrigerators are also typically more expensive to run, as they frequently use more electricity than refrigerators of a similar size but different design.
This might matter less if you live in a state with a low cost of energy, where the difference between running our best French door ($67) and our best top freezer ($44) refrigerators over a year is only $23. However, if you live in Hawaii (or another state with high energy costs), that difference might climb up to an extra $100 you’d have to spend annually.
If you tend to keep your freezer well-stocked, a side-by-side refrigerator is likely the best style for you — they offer the most freezer space of any style.
The GE Side-by-Side Refrigerator has more than 30% more freezer space than our picks for the best top or bottom freezer, and it still outcompetes the French door refrigerator for freezer space. Additionally, these refrigerators provide shelving units for your freezer, helping it stay more organized than any other style.
Side-by-side refrigerators don’t give exactly even amounts of space to the refrigerator and the freezer — the refrigerator section will still be larger. However, while there is more freezer space in this style of fridge than any other, this space is tall and skinny. Depending on the height of the shelves in your freezer, you might struggle to store a full-size pizza box.
Plenty of usable space
Fewer high-tech upgrade options
Top freezers are a popular design for good reason: They offer some of the best usable space. Many of them carry their simplistic design into their interior, with only a few shelves and a couple of drawers to help sort your groceries. This means that top freezers have some of the most usable space out of any refrigerator design. Manufacturers measure a refrigerator’s total cubic feet by calculating all of the space inside of a fridge when it is completely empty of shelving and food. So, by having fewer drawers, top freezers have less plastic and glass and more space for your food.
Fridges vary by height, width, and depth, and it’s important to know exactly what size you need to be looking for. Too large, and you risk not being able to fit your new fridge through the kitchen door, let alone fit it inside your kitchen. Too small, and it might look out of place.
Depending on the amount of space available, you might find that certain types of refrigerators won’t work for your space. If you are working with a small space, your most likely option will be a top freezer. If there is only a narrow gap between your refrigerator and your kitchen island, however, a refrigerator with two doors will make it easier to reach in and grab the carton of milk without hitting the door on the cabinetry.
After factoring in physical constraints, choose your fridge based on the features that are most important to you.
When it comes to refrigerators, bigger is not always better. Your ideal fridge size depends first on your available kitchen space, and second on your household size and cooking preferences.
In general, you should estimate between 4 and 6 cubic feet of storage for every adult in your home, or around 20 cubic feet if you have a family of four. If your family makes a lot of home-cooked meals, or keeps a large stockpile of frozen or fresh food, err on the larger size rather than figuring out where to house a second freezer later on.
One of the most important aspects of purchasing a major appliance is determining where you can repair it. We hope that our fridges will run smoothly for at least 10 years without repair; however, if your fridge won’t stay cold or your circuit breaker trips frequently, having a repair shop handy can be the difference between a $130 service call and replacing your fridge entirely. Most manufacturers have refrigerator service centers across the country, and each company maintains a search page to help you find the one closest to you.
You’ll want to especially keep an eye out if you’re looking at either a LG or a Samsung refrigerator. These brands started in South Korea, which means that they have been slower to set up service centers in the U.S., and many repair technicians will refuse to work on them if they lack the expertise.
You can estimate how much money you could save in energy bills with the Department of Energy’s Energy Star Refrigerator Calculator. If you know the year your current refrigerator was made and the approximate size of your refrigerator, you can see an estimate on how much energy a refrigerator of that age uses and how much it costs to run. The calculator works using the national average price for electricity, but you can specify either by selecting your state’s average electricity price or checking your utility bill for your home’s specific cost.
To stand out against the crowd of stainless steel appliances, manufacturers try to add cool features to their refrigerators. In addition to picking out the style or two that would best fit in with your kitchen, keep an eye for features that are must-haves or absolutely-nots in your search.
Every time you open the door to your refrigerator and cold air rushes out, your fridge uses power to reach a cold temperature again. You can help your fridge stay cold by keeping it full. Each item in your fridge means there’s less air that is exchanged with the warm air in the kitchen — and your orange juice stays cold enough to help chill the new air, meaning your fridge doesn’t have to work as hard to stay cool. This can help you save on your electricity bill and help preserve food if you ever lose power — a full freezer can keep itself cold longer than even a partially empty one, since the food itself works as an insulator.
To keep your fridge under warranty, we recommend hiring a professional. However, it is possible to DIY installation. You’ll want to start by unpacking your fridge outside, holding onto the packaging (in case you need to make a return), and removing all of the inner shelves and drawers of the refrigerator to prevent them from falling out as you install your refrigerator. Then, use a dolly to wheel your refrigerator inside and into its designated location – if it’s too large for your doorway, remove the refrigerator doors before maneuvering the open refrigerator inside, and then reattach them.