Refrigerator Buying Guide

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A refrigerator may not be able to tell you when to put that third piece of chocolate back where you found it, but there are models that can now tell you where your secret stash of junk food is hidden in the fridge.

Buying a new refrigerator is not as simple a task as you might think. You’ll need to do your homework on a range of considerations, with size, weight and power being among a few. Do you need a freezer? Would you prefer extra features like a built-in television or water dispenser? If you’re finding these choices hard to make, let us walk you through some of the basics to buying a fridge.

Things to keep in mind

  • Consider who will be using the fridge. Are they old or physically impaired? You may need to consider a fridge with easy access.
  • Make sure you measure the space in which the fridge will stand. There’s nothing worse than buying the perfect model, returning home and finding that it doesn’t fit.
  • Take a good look at the warranty attached to your purchase. Are you adequately covered in the event of damage? For how long?

Types of Fridges

It’s also important to understand the difference between the types of refrigerators you could purchase. Here’s a rundown of the main fridge varieties:

  • Standalone fridges
  • Top mount and bottom mount fridges
  • Side-by-side fridges
  • French Door fridges
  • Wine fridges
  • Bar fridge
  • Fridge drawers
  • Freezers

Liebherr Upright Fridge

Standalone fridge units (and standalone freezers)

These units consist entirely of a single fridge or freezer. Dedicated refrigerators can be useful for large families or shared houses where large amounts of food need to be stored, but you’ll be caught short if you ever need to freeze anything. You can also buy standalone fridge units for additional storage space, or as one half of a pigeon pair.

455L samsung bottom mount fridge

Top & bottom mounted units

Top mount and bottom mount refrigerators consist of a smaller freezer section placed either above or below a larger fridge section, with each being accessed by a single door hinged on the same side. They provide a useful compromise between the outright space of standalone units and the versatility of smaller, more specialised models. Top mount and bottom mount fridges can also be useful for adding extra convenience or improving accessibility in the kitchen.

620L Westinghouse side by side fridge

Side-by-side units

Side-by-side fridges are half fridge, half freezer, with the separate compartments placed adjacent to each other. The doors of these units provide easy access to either side, and their size means you’re unlikely to go hungry.

825L samsung french door fridge

French Door fridges

French Door refrigerators are essentially a side-by-side unit, with a bottom mount freezer below the swiveling fridge doors. These tend to be large as well, and traditionally the most expensive type of fridge to purchase.

Liebherr barrique wine fridge

Wine fridges

Wine fridges are designed to provide bottles of wine the ideal environment for storage, according to many appliance brands. Temperatures of these fridges are carefully controlled and monitored to ensure optimum storage for certain wines.

There are a few types of wine fridges, including:

  • Single Zone
  • Dual Zone
  • Multi-Zone
  • Lockable Door

Refrigerator drawers

fisher paykel integrated fridge drawer

Refrigerator drawers are especially popular with interior design aficionados. In short, you can have specialty refrigerator units installed as drawers in your kitchen. Keep in mind this can be quite expensive to install, and you may find that space is lacking in comparison to conventional units.

47L Hisense bar fridge

Bar fridges

These are a much smaller model refrigerator than the ones above. They draw very little power, but are only really suitable for keeping your drinks cold, as their storage capacity is quite limited.

190L Chiq upright freezer

Freezers

It’s easy to overlook the usefulness of a freezer, given you spend most of the time digging through the fresh food in your fridge. However, it’s a wonderfully versatile tool for planning meals for your week. You can whip up a big batch of soup on the weekend and freeze it in portions for work lunches. Don’t think you’ll use that chicken breast for a few days? Move it into the freezer until later in the week.

Whether you’re buying a standalone unit or an integrated freezer with your fridge, consider the following. As with a fridge, freezers that have removable drawers and racks will be easier to clean, so consider this when making your purchase. Also look for a frost-free model – which circulates dry, cold air in an even manner – to avoid having to manually dispose of frost and icicle build up inside your unit. Make sure you also consider the noise and size of the unit.

Capacity: How much fridge do you need?

This is arguably the most important thing you need to determine when buying a fridge. Did you know that the volume of food that sits inside your fridge affects how well the appliance functions? An over-packed fridge won’t be able to circulate cold air at peak efficiency, which means your food will suffer! On the other hand, if you buy a larger model than you need, it’ll use excess power and cost you more in the long run.

Appliances Online offers this guide for picking your new fridge’s size:

Household size Combined fridge & freezer size
1-2 people 200-380 litres
3-4 people 350-530 litres
5+ people 440 litres+

Energy rating

Another important aspect of your new fridge purchase is the amount of power it draws – especially since it’s plugged in and turned on all day, every day. Happily, choosing wisely is as simple as looking at your potential fridge’s energy rating (usually printed on a sticker and stuck to the appliance in-store) and giving due consideration to five-star products.

Refrigerator features

It’s amazing what refrigerators can do nowadays. Some models come with built-in televisions so you have something to watch while you cook, while others have proper touchscreen displays to keep track of expenditure and grocery stock levels. Here are some of the extras you could have bundled with your fridge purchase.

Smart/internet capability

Samsung 825L French door smart fridge

Smart fridges can do more than just keep your food fresh. Similar to smart washing machines, this type of refrigerator typically connects to your Wi-Fi to run specific functions or sync with other smart appliances. Depending on the model, some things you might be able to do can include:

  • Peaking inside the fridge via the screen on the door fridge
  • Buying groceries
  • Music streaming
  • Checking your calendar
  • Remote access to your fridge via your smartphone

Auto-defrosting

Frost-free fridges and freezers are now fairly common, removing the need to manually scrape out ice and defrost the appliance. These feature an auto-defrost function, which is essentially an automatic cycle whereby the cooling element of a fridge or freezer is periodically heated to melt the frost which has accumulated on it; this then drains away through a dedicated drainage port. The auto-defrosting cycle usually takes between 15-30 minutes to minimise the rise in the fridge’s internal temperature, and the cycle is repeated anywhere from every 6 to every 24 hours depending on the model. Auto-defrosting means better air circulation, no stickiness or mess on fridge shelving from condensation, and it saves you the laborious task of having to do it yourself.

Climate monitoring

Most smart fridges, for example, come with inbuilt temperature and humidity sensors that constantly monitor the internal conditions of the fridge, and adjust conditions accordingly.

Built-in water and ice dispensers

Westinghouse 600L French Door fridge with ice maker

Built-in water dispensers and ice makers are convenient features that give you ice and cool water on tap, literally! But keep in mind that you’ll likely need to look for a plumber before installing your refrigerator – or even selecting a model.

Adjustable shelving

Almost all modern refrigerators have removable glass or plastic shelving, which can be slotted in at different heights to create larger or smaller spaces depending on your needs. More expensive models often have rolling or retractable shelving for even greater flexibility, as well as stacked drawers in some bottom mount freezers for better accessibility.

Produce storage

Another universal feature of modern fridges is a separate drawer (or drawers) for fresh fruits and vegetables. These compartments contain an inbuilt ‘crisper’, which maintains humidity to keep produce fresh. Many vegetable crispers are claimed to provide the optimal environment needed to keep food fresh for as long as possible, typically with the help of the brand’s supposedly ‘special’ technology.

We hope this primer has given you an introduction on what to look for, now head over to our refrigerator ratings and compare brands before hitting the stores.

Fridge Reviews & Ratings

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