How to Choose a Refrigerator

Choosing the right refrigerator for your home is an important decision that requires careful consideration. With so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming trying to determine which fridge is best suited for your needs and budget. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about choosing a new refrigerator.

Consider the Type of Refrigerator

The first step is deciding what type of refrigerator is right for your home. There are several main configurations to choose from:

Top Freezer Refrigerators

This traditional style has the freezer compartment located above the refrigerator. Top freezer models are typically more budget-friendly. However, since the freezer is at eye-level, it may be inconvenient to reach.

Bottom Freezer Refrigerators

In this style, the freezer is located below the refrigerator compartment. Because the fresh food sections are at eye-level, bottom freezer models are more ergonomic. However, they are usually more expensive than top freezer fridges.

Side-by-Side Refrigerators

Side-by-side refrigerators have the freezer and fridge compartments next to each other. This style offers easy access to both fresh and frozen foods. However, the compartments are narrower than other configurations.

French Door Refrigerators

French door fridges have double doors that open to reveal the refrigerator section, along with a separate freezer drawer below. This style combines expanded fresh food storage with a more ergonomic design.

Counter Depth Refrigerators

Counter depth models are designed to sit flush with standard depth countertops. This streamlined look blends seamlessly into kitchen cabinetry. Just be aware that the storage capacity is less than full-depth fridges.

Consider Size Based on Your Needs

When choosing a refrigerator, it’s important to select the appropriate overall size and storage capacity. First, measure the space in your kitchen to ensure the appliance will fit. Standard refrigerator depths are around 30 inches.

Next, consider how much fresh and frozen storage you need. Look for models with adjustable shelves, bins, and drawers to customize the configuration. If you regularly shop in bulk or cook for a crowd, prioritize generous fridge and freezer capacities. Allow for some open space for air circulation.

For small spaces like apartments, compact mini fridges under 4 cubic feet could suffice. For most households, a high-efficiency unit between 18 and 22 cubic feet is ideal. Large families may prefer 25+ cubic feet capacity. Counter-depth fridges sacrifice about 9 cubic feet compared to full-depth.

Choose an Energy Efficient Model

When shopping for a new refrigerator, energy efficiency should be a top priority. Buying an ENERGY STAR® certified appliance will save you money on utility bills over time.

Check the yellow EnergyGuide label displaying the model’s estimated yearly operating cost. Compare this among units of similar size to identify the most energy efficient options.

Look for features like dual evaporators, variable speed compressors, and insulated doors and panels. Refrigerators with the lowest kWh per year are your best bet for maximizing efficiency.

Decide on Key Features

Modern refrigerators come equipped with a variety of features and conveniences. Consider which attributes are must-haves versus nice-to-haves when choosing your fridge:

  • Adjustable shelving/door bins – Prioritize models with spill-proof, adjustable glass or wire shelves and bins. Having flexibility to customize the configuration is key for fitting items of all shapes and sizes.
  • Specialty drawers – Convenient pull-out bins for fruits, veggies, deli items, and beverages allow you to easily access what you need without rummaging around. Integrated temperature controls keep produce fresher longer.
  • Interior lighting – Look for interior LED lighting to brightly illuminate contents without generating lighting casts a noticeable glow.
  • Advanced cooling technology – Options like dual evaporators prevent flavor transfer between fridge and freezer compartments. Inverter compressors efficiently adjust cooling power as needed.
  • Smart capabilities – Many new refrigerators can connect to Wi-Fi and integrate with smart home platforms. You can control temperatures remotely, get usage reports, alerts for maintenance, and more.
  • Through-door dispensers – Integrated water and ice dispensers on the exterior refrigerator door provide easy access without opening it. Just be aware that these can be prone to leakage.
  • Alternative door finishes – While stainless steel is popular, refrigerators are also available with unique finishes like glossy white, matte black, or even wood paneling for a built-in look.

Select Reliable Brands Known for Quality

When investing in a major appliance, it pays to choose from reputable brands known for performance and durability:

  • GE – This trusted American brand offers fridges to meet a range of needs, from smart connected models to budget-friendly options. Many include advanced features like built-in Wi-Fi and voice control compatibility.
  • Samsung – Known for innovation, Samsung fridges boast ultra-modern designs and the latest smart home integration. Their Twin Cooling Plus technology minimizes temperature fluctuations.
  • LG – LG refrigerators combine sleek looks and reliable performance with advanced features. They offer customizable storage, linear compressors for quiet and consistent cooling, and DOE Energy Star certification for efficiency.
  • Whirlpool – For a solid mid-range refrigerator, Whirlpool is a safe bet. Their fridges offer ample storage capacities and features like spill-proof shelves and humidity controlled crispers at affordable prices.
  • Bosch – This German brand is renowned for precision-engineered appliances. Their refrigerators offer ultra-quiet operation, European styling, counter-depth options, and vacuum sealing drawers to extend produce shelf life.

Compare Prices and Models Online

Once you’ve considered the key factors and narrowed down your preferred refrigerator type and features, the next step is comparison shopping. Check major retailers like Lowes, Home Depot, Best Buy, and AJ Madison for their available selection and pricing.

Be sure to search using the exact model number to compare apples-to-apples. Look for any sales, coupons, or additional discounts being offered. Don’t forget to calculate tax and delivery fees if applicable.

Online sites likeConsumer Reports and CNET provide helpful side-by-side comparisons and customer reviews to further evaluate refrigerators of interest. Taking the time to research thoroughly will help you find the best refrigerator for your budget and needs.

Inspect in Person Before Buying

While online browsing gives you a general idea, it’s advisable to inspect potential refrigerators in person before making a final decision. Visit warehouse retailer showrooms to view models up close.

Open doors and drawers to check ease of use and smooth operation. Assess the overall fit and finish quality. Examine the interior layout and storage capacity. Does the refrigerator feel spacious enough? Bring a tape measure to validate dimensions.

Listen for excessive noise when compressors cycle on. Test water dispensers and note freezer temperature. If issues are identified, reconsider that unit and model. Make sure you are fully satisfied before purchasing what will likely be a 10+ year investment.

Consider Delivery Logistics

Once purchased, you’ll need to coordinate delivery and installation of your new refrigerator. Most retailers offer optional haul-away of an old appliance for an added fee. Measure doorways, stairs, and hallways to ensure the fridge will fit during transport.

For standard kitchen openings, refrigerators require a width of at least 33” to pass through. French door models need even more clearance. If access is tight, look into increasingly popular delivery options like threshold drop-off.

When scheduling delivery, ask what COVID protocols are in place to protect customers. Look for carriers that utilize lift-gates, provide white glove installation services, and will remove all packaging debris after setting up your appliance.

Follow Proper Installation Steps

While most retailers include basic installation with delivery, you’ll want to ensure proper setup for optimal refrigerator performance. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Allow 24 hours for the compressor oil to settle before plugging in a newly delivered unit. Failing to do so can damage the compressor.
  • Ensure the floor is clean and level. Use shims to stabilize if needed.
  • Leave proper clearance space around back, sides, and top for ventilation. Avoid direct sunlight or heat sources.
  • Use a level to double check alignment of doors. Adjust legs/rollers if uneven.
  • Turn on ice maker and give 24 hours for cubes to generate before loading with food.
  • Wipe down interior with a disinfecting cleaner and vacuum condenser coils if accessible.
  • Dispose of packing materials properly. Recycle cardboard and foam whenever possible.

With careful shopping and proper setup, your new fridge can provide many years of reliable cooling performance. Just don’t forget to stock it with all your favorite foods and beverages to enjoy ice cold!

Frequently Asked Questions About Choosing a Refrigerator

What are the best refrigerator brands?

Some of the top refrigerator brands include GE, Samsung, LG, Whirlpool, and Bosch. Key factors when selecting a brand include reputation, reliability, energy efficiency, design, features, and budget.

What should I consider when buying a refrigerator?

Important factors to consider are type, size, configuration, energy efficiency, key features, brand reputation, price comparisons, reviews and proper installation. Measure your space, determine storage needs and choose options aligned with your budget.

How much does a good refrigerator cost?

Prices for a good midsize refrigerator range from $1,000-$2,500. Budget models under $1,000 are available. Larger high-end refrigerators with premium features can cost over $4,000. Focus on energy efficiency and needed storage capacity when budgeting.

Should I get a refrigerator with a water dispenser?

An integrated water dispenser provides convenient access to filtered water and ice. However, units with water/ice dispensers cost more, are prone to leakage, and take up interior storage space. Decide if those trade-offs are worthwhile for your needs.

What features do the best refrigerators have?

Top refrigerator features include adjustable storage like spill-proof shelves, specialty drawers, interior lighting, energy efficient cooling technology, integrated controls, and smart connectivity. Look for options that best suit your usage.

What refrigerator size do I need?

Standard refrigerator sizes range from 18-22 cubic feet for most households, but units are available from under 4 cubic feet up to 30+ cubic feet. Measure your kitchen space and consider how much fresh and frozen storage your home requires before selecting a size.

How long do refrigerators last?

With proper maintenance, today’s refrigerators have an average lifespan of 10-15 years. Higher-end models from reputable brands lasting upwards of 20 years are not uncommon. Regular cleaning and following use/care guidelines will maximize the life of your refrigerator.

Should I get a counter-depth refrigerator?

Counter-depth models provide a built-in look that aligns with cabinets but sacrifice storage space compared to full-depth units. They are a great choice for small kitchens but may not provide adequate capacity for large households.

What temperature should a refrigerator be?

The ideal refrigerator temperature is around 37°F (3°C). Freezers should maintain 0°F (-18°C). Check settings using an appliance thermometer, adjusting as needed. Allow temperatures to stabilize for 12-24 hours after installing or loading with items.


Choosing the perfect refrigerator for your kitchen involves a number of important considerations from configuration to dimensions to special features. Take the time to thoroughly assess your household’s storage requirements and usage. Carefully compare options across trustworthy brands that fit both your lifestyle and budget. Investing in a high quality, energy efficient refrigerator that adequately meets your family’s needs will provide lasting value and reliability for years to come.