Different types of refrigerators explained

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. But 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.

To start with, there are four basic types of refrigerators – top freezer, bottom freezer, side-by-side and French door. Let’s quickly go over the basic details of each.

Top freezer

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 (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 this is usually 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!

Bottom freezer

A bottom freezer fridge is just like a top freezer 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 than a top freezer model, meaning they could cost you more to run in the long term.


These fridges are essentially wider-than-usual fridges split in half, with one half being the fridge side and the other being the freezer side. For 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.

French door

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 bottom 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.

Which type of fridge is best?

To sum up, what fridge you’ll end up going with will generally depend on a single factor, and that’s your budget. 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, we’re not going to be the ones to stop you! Happy fridge hunting.

Refrigerators compared

Share this article