Different types of refrigerators explained

A lot of us Aussies don’t really pay much attention to the fridge. It’s the humble soldier in the household, just humming away without demanding much attention. To a lot of us fridge-owners, a fridge is just a fridge. We’ve probably had the same one for the best part of a decade and it’s nothing more than the big white (or silver) box that keeps our food cold.

However, a fridge is an expensive appliance, so if you’re looking for a new one, it’s a good idea to know a thing or two about what’s on offer, and the differences between them. So whether you’re a newly moved out young’un buying your first fridge, or a grown-up looking for an upgrade, this is your guide to different types of refrigerators. Chances are, you might find you much prefer another type of fridge than the one you’ve got, so read up and shop around!

What types of refrigerator are there?

To start with, there are five basic types of refrigerators:

  1. Top-Mount
  2. Bottom-Mount
  3. Side-by-side
  4. French Door
  5. Bar and drinks fridges

Now the last type isn’t exactly a category, more another type of fridge to consider. Let’s dive in with more detail.

Top-Mount Fridges

This is the model that most of us will instantly visualise if someone says the word ‘fridge’ to us. It’s a single column refrigerator, with the top third lg-gt-442bwl-442l-fridge-med(approximately) dedicated to a separate freezer compartment. This type of fridge is the most common, meaning it’s also generally the cheapest, and has the widest range on offer.

The downside of this is that top freezer models are generally rather low on features, and less thought is given to their appearance. However, if you don’t care about features and don’t really mind how your fridge looks, this type of fridge is a good option.

Also definitely worth noting is that these types tend to be the most energy-efficient type of fridge, being about 10-25% more efficient than fridges with bottom or side-mounted freezers. So if electricity bills are a concern, this could be the fridge for you! So, in summary, top-mount fridges:

  • Are generally cheap but no-frills
  • Have an easy-access top-mounted freezer
  • Are generally more economical to run than other types

Take for example the LG 442-litre fridge (GT-442BWL). It’s of an adequate size to suit a medium-sized family or household. It retails for $1,249, which is about the average spend identified in our Customer Satisfaction Ratings. It boasts four-star energy efficiency, and uses 334kWh a year, meaning it’ll cost around $110 (based on 33c/kWh) annually to run.

Bottom-Mount Fridgeslg-gb-450uwlx-450l-bottom-mount-fridge-hero-image-high

As the name suggests, a bottom-mount fridge is just like a top-mount fridge, with the obvious exception being that the freezer compartment is at the bottom. That’s all there is to it. Generally speaking these models are less common, which means less variety/range, and as mentioned earlier, they tend to be less efficient or more expensive than a top freezer model, meaning they could cost you more to run in the long term. Though, that’s not to suggest that all models are bunk.

The LG 450-litre fridge (GB-450UWLX) is a bottom-mount fridge that packs a punch. It’s suitable for a mid-sized family and is quite similar to the LG top-mount featured above. Retailing for about $1,500, it boasts a 4.5-star energy-efficiency. It uses 299kWh, which means it costs about $98.67 a year to run. Bottom-mount fridges:

  • Can be more expensive but you pay for energy-efficiency
  • Less variety and range than the top-mount types
  • Freezer on bottom for easier access to fridge section

Side-by-side Fridges

These fridges are essentially wider-than-usual fridges split in half, with one half being the fridge side and the other the freezer side. hisense-hr6sbsff610sw-610l-side-by-side-fridge-hero-image1-medFor those who tend to freeze leftovers in high volume, or exist on freezer food, this type of fridge may be ideal. Some side-by-side fridges allocate slightly more room for the fridge section, however the freezer will still be larger than that of any top or bottom freezer model. The doors open from the centre rather than the side, meaning less spatial clearance is required to swing the fridge door(s) open.

Also worth noting is that side-by-side models often come with features such as water, ice dispensers, and external user interface panels, which some may view as desirable features. The downside of this is that these features can also mean a higher price tag.

There aren’t likely to be any ‘cheap and cheerful’ side-by-side fridges, but some can be had for reasonable amounts. Take for example the Hisense 610-litre unit (HRTSBSFF610SW). With a massive 610 litres it’s suited for a large family. The split between the freezer and fridge is 240L to 370L respectively. It is rated at 2.5-stars for energy-efficiency and uses 603kWh, costing around $199 to run annually. In summary, side-by-fridges are:

  • Handy with easy-access to fridge and freezer
  • Usually larger but more energy-consuming
  • Boast features such as ice makers but can be more expensive to buy

French Door Fridges

Possibly the most versatile (and most expensive) type of fridge, French door fridges are similar in width to side-by-side models, and have the entire 620l-electrolux-4-door-fridge-eqe6207sd-hero-image-medbottom third devoted to freezer space, just like a bottom freezer model. As with side-by-side fridges, the fridge door is split into two, opening from the centre for the fridge section. Some French door fridges have a single door for the freezer section, but some split the freezer section the same way as the fridge section, making for a grand total of four doors on your fridge.

The main advantage to this slightly elaborate door configuration is that opening one of the half doors lets less cold air out than if you’d swung open both. The other advantage is the fact that as with a side-by-side model, the split doors mean less clearance is required between the fridge and your bench/other kitchen installations.

French door fridges are becoming more popular today for their innovative approach to refrigeration. One such handy feature is a drawer-freezer, so you can plonk your Christmas hams in easily. However, at the cost of this innovation usually comes a higher price, and higher power consumption.

One such French door model is the LG 620L unit (GF-B620PL). Retailing for around $2,400, it boasts a massive capacity suitable for a larger family, and it has an anti-fingerprint coating perfect for those with little kids with curious fingers. It boasts three-star energy efficiency and consumes 519kWh, costing about $171 a year to run. In summary, French door fridges are:

  • Feature-packed and a pleasure to use
  • Usually more expensive than simpler units
  • Usually more power-hungry, but their bigger size lends itself to this

Bar Fridges

barfridgeThough not strictly a category unto its own, bar fridges are handy to mention as a lot of people are undoubtedly looking into buying one as the summer season
rolls around. Bar fridges benefit
from being very cheap to purchase, easy to transport and they basically get the job done when it comes to keeping drinks cold.

Many are under 100L, and some are even smaller in capacity than 50L. However a good idea they might seem, bar fridges are rather energy-inefficient relative to their size. In fact they often use similar amounts of electricity as regular-sized fridges, but at less than a quarter of its capacity.

The Hisense 120L bar fridge (HR6BF121) is a relatively large example for a bar fridge, perfect for those who love sinking back a drink at the end of a long day, or for those who entertain a lot. It features handy door shelves for those single tinnies, and a small crisper bin. Its door is also reversible, meaning you can adjust it so it’s hinged on either side you wish. It’s rated two-stars for energy-efficiency, and uses 225kWh, which equates to around $74 to run a year. In summary, bar fridges are:

  • Useful for drinks and entertaining
  • Cheap to purchase, but can be inefficient for their size
  • Easy to pick-up and move around

What type of fridge is right for me?

To sum up, what fridge you’ll end up going with will generally depend on a few factors. If you:

  • Want a cheap fridge, choose a top-mount, bottom-mount or bar fridge for drinks
  • Have a larger family, choose a French door fridge
  • Want energy-efficiency, choose a top or bottom-mount fridge
  • Want great features, choose a side-by-side or French door fridge
  • You want great usability, choose a side-by-side fridge

There are no real disadvantages to high-end fridges that would dissuade you from buying them, save the price, which is why many of us tend to go with the classic top or bottom freezer models. But if you’ve got the cash and fancy a high-end fridge with more space and some flashy features, a side-by-side or French door fridge may fit the bill. When buying a new fridge, you’re likely to stick with it for a while, so look at a lot of different fridge types to determine which one is right for you.

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