What Type of Refrigerators Are Best for Your Kitchen?
As a huge foodie, I can tell you that one of my most prized appliances is the refrigerator.
Actually, it’s fairly shocking that most people don’t respect their refrigerators more.
After all, your fridge is where you hold your food and can act as a huge focal point of your home.
If you’re currently updating your home, chances are high that you will need a new fridge.
What you might not realize is that there are several different types of refrigerators out there—and not all fridge types will work well with your kitchen’s layout.
To help you make the most of your shopping time, we’re going to walk you through the full spectrum of refrigerator types, how they work, and why people prefer having each type in their home.
Deciding Which Refrigerator is Right for You
- Refrigerators come in a variety of configurations: top-freezer, bottom-freezer, French-door, side-by-side, column, and four-door.
- Many refrigerators today offer high-tech features such as see-through doors, camera views, smart technology such as screen hubs and wifi-syncing, as well as door-within-doors and specialty drawers.
- Besides shopping by style, you can also look for a refrigerator by installation, which includes counter-depth, full-size, or custom built-in.
- Specialty refrigeration is also available such as kegerators or beverage coolers, wine refrigerators, mini-refrigerators, and ice makers.
- When shopping for a fridge it's important to consider your refrigeration needs, your budget, space available in your kitchen, along with color, finish, and detailing.
Traditional refrigerators are a large umbrella category of refrigerators that are typically categorized by the way their doors open up.
They are probably the type of fridges you grew up with—simple, low-tech, and capable of storing food.
The Perks And Pitfalls Of Traditional Fridges
This category of refrigerators are appliances that can be moved from apartment to apartment.
They are simple, easy to plug in, and also happen to be the most affordable on the market.
If you need a basic model, this is it.
Not only that, but refrigerators come in so many different styles, configurations and models these days.
If you're going with the most conventional type of refrigerator, you won't be able to take advantage of some advanced features that may be offered with, say, smart refrigerators or see-through refrigerators.
The Different Types of Traditional Refrigerators
With this type of refrigerator, you will need to choose a style that ensures your fridge doors don’t bump into other parts of your kitchen.
The most common sub-categories include top-freezer, bottom freezer, column, side-by-side, french-door, and four-door.
This is the classic refrigerator model that has been offered for decades.
You can get a refrigerator with two doors, one for the fridge and the top for the freezer, or just a one-door option with an inner-door for the freezer.
Because it's a classic, most manufacturers sell some form of this model.
However, it's not seen as the sexiest option these days so some top brands like Fischer and Paykel don't even make a top freezer refrigerator.
One advantage it does offer is that that you can find plenty of retro-style refrigerators in this configuration.
Brands like Smeg, Kenmore, Chambers, and Galanz offer these trendy refrigerators in a variety of fun colors, and mostly in the top-freezer configuration.
Shop for Top-Freezer Refrigerators
This style if top-freezers polar opposite.
Besides side-by-side refrigerator style, bottom-freezer refrigerators are also emerging as a very popular model.
In fact, bottom -reezers are increasingly more popular than top-freezer styles and some manufacturers don't even make a top-freezer model.
If you love retro-style refrigerators, choices are a bit more limited with bottom-freezer configurations, but you should still be able to find some options.
The side-by-side is one of the most common refrigerator styles.
These models have a freezer on one side of your model, and a refrigerator on the other side.
The freezer tends to be extra generous, making them great for frozen food enthusiasts.
Another convenience is that there is no need to bend over to open up any of the doors.
Even though this style was introduced in the early 1950s, they didn't become truly popular until the '70s and '80s, when water and ice dispensers were added as a feature.
Today's side-by-sides are a far cry from yesteryear's. Many now come with sleek straight lines that radiate a vibe of luxury rather than convention.
However, a potential downside could be energy loss due to the opening of a very large door to the freezer side, making it easy for more cold air to escape.
Shop for Side-by-Side Refrigerators
The french-door refrigerator features three doors. The top portion (the refrigeration portion) has two doors, which open from the center.
The freezer is in the form of a pull-out drawer. The freezer can feature just one compartment or multiple drawers.
Some french-doors offer an extra drawer in between the freezer and the top doors.
This style of refrigerator was introduced in the 1990s and has now become the most popular style out of all the conventional types of refrigerators.
One of the benefits of this type of fridge is that it saves energy.
The two-door feature allows the user to just open up a small portion when accessing the contents, meaning less cold air escapes.
This same feature also makes it friendlier for tight spaces, since having two doors means less clearance space needed in your kitchen to open a door.
Lastly, the french-door refrigerator allows for maximum storage customization. It's the only refrigerator (besides the 4-door), where the shelves are split in half.
These are individual single-column freezer and fridge units that are purchased separately and can be placed side-by-side, but other kitchen configurations are possible.
These refrigerators tend to be sleek and sexy with clean lines and have a professional appearance, which also means they tend to be more expensive.
They often have offerings for different door types, such as glass doors which are not commonly offered for other types of refrigerators.
Column refrigerators and freezers are often offered as the highest-end or most luxurious option for kitchens.
As a result, they usually come in more finishes, hardware options, and customizable features than other refrigerators.
Shop for Column Refrigerators
Quad or Four-Door Refrigerators
This is the latest offering in refrigerator configurations. It's a variation on the french-door model.
There are actually two different types of configurations available for a four-door.
The first configuration has both the top (refrigeration) portion and bottom (freezer) portion as french-doors.
The second has french doors on top but then has two drawers below that instead of split doors. The middle drawer is usually a specialty drawer.
Think of all the benefits a french-door refrigerator adds and extend that to the freezer as well.
The freezer doors have storage space in addition to the split internal drawers.
Some brands also have the added feature of being able to use the lower freezer compartments as refrigeration.
Innovative Refrigerator Features
With all the focus on tech these days, it’s not surprising that refrigerators are starting to show a little bit of geek chic, took.
Lately, there have been several different ways companies have made their fridges smarter than before.
The Perks And Pitfalls Of Innovative Features
Innovative refrigerators, as a whole, are meant to help preserve food for longer periods of time while also delivering a new level of convenience to the kitchen.
If you’re looking for easy food storage or just want a statement piece, this is a great pick for you.
For many people, the biggest drawbacks are the price...and the tech, if it doesn’t work the way you want it to.
Sometimes, it backfires or requires more maintenance than you want it to.
Other times, it just fails sooner than you expected.
Between that and the price tag, it’s easy to see where things go wrong.
The Different Types of Innovative Refrigerator Features
There is a slew of different ways companies have been including tech into their fridge design methods. The most common ways are mentioned below.
Smart refrigerators are the wave of the future. If you want a refrigerator that offers more than simply cooling and actually interacts with your smartphone, then this might be for you.
Samsung made a huge splash when they first added mobile and Bluetooth capabilities to their refrigerators.
However, these refrigerators have evolved to include a touch screen on the door on some Samsung models and other nifty features like shopping lists, playing music, and looking up recipes and much more.
Currently, there are only three manufacturers who make a line of smart refrigerators. These are Samsung, LG, and Cafe Appliances (GE).
LG's models offer the see-through doors instead of camera views like the Samsung models.
Both LG and Cafe models offer syncing with Alexa and Google Assistant, but features are relatively limited compared to Samsung models.
You might, however, reconsider smart refrigerators because of the extra cost. They do come with hefty price tags.
Separate Specialty Drawers
Some models now offer a versatile drawer separate from the fridge and freezer. You have options with these drawers.
They can function as an extra cripser drawer, a drawer for meats, or as an extra freezer.
Think of these compartments as a neutral zone, to be designated by you.
This might be a good option for people who sometimes buy groceries or products in bulk.
Nowadays, some manufacturers are either putting windows in refrigerator doors or offering glass doors, altogether.
One of the main goals is to allow the consumer to easily assess what they do or don't have in the refrigerator.
However, this can go beyond windows and glass doors.
You can get a smart version of this that has a camera inside your refrigerator, whose image you can access through an app.
LG InstaView Doors even allows people to literally knock on their fridge door to see the contents inside.
This gives the consumer the best of both worlds--you can instantly look inside your fridge without having to keep it extra tidy as in the case with glass doors.
Perhaps one of the most common ways to incorporate tech, these doors have a door inside the door specifically for frequently-used items.
Think of it as a mini door inset into your main door.
This lowers the amount of air that gets let out of the fridge.
Choosing Your Refrigerator Type By Installation Method
There are three different types of refrigerators when you categorize them by installation method: counter-depth, full-depth, and built-in.
Choosing the right fridge for your layout comes in handy here, so let’s talk about what you get from each type, shall we?
A counter-depth fridge is meant to be installed in a way that lines up with the depth of your counters.
This fridge will be flush with the counters in your kitchen, meaning the doors will be flush with your counters.
This gives your kitchen a unified and streamlined look but still gives you the ability to move it around as you see fit.
This category has a drawback of being smaller than a typical fridge since it will be shallower than normal.
This is fine if you don’t store a lot of food.
However, if you rely heavily on your food storage, this may be a major drawback.
If you have more width, you can remedy this by opting for a counter-depth refrigerator that's on the wider side such as 36" and up.
They are often cheaper than other types of refrigerators. A smaller size usually means a smaller price tag.
Shop for Counter-Depth Fridges
Shop for Counter-Depth Refrigerators
Full-depth refrigerators are deeper than a typical counter, which means that they will jut out a little bit in most cases.
So, while the actual refrigerator should be flush with the counters, once you add the doors it will be noticeably deeper than your counters.
Full-depth fridges usually look best at the end of a line of cabinets, such as in a corner, or in an independent spot from your counters.
Another design trick used is to create a boxed-in area attached to your kitchen cabinets, just for the refrigerator.
Even though these are fairly large and spacious refrigerators, most people would consider a full-depth fridge to be standard.
This category has the most variety as far as refrigerator models go.
If you are a picky buyer, going with a full-depth fridge will maximize your chances of having a machine that works with your standards and the features you want.
Shop for Full Size Refrigerators
If you have a custom kitchen, you might choose to get a customized refrigerator that’s built into your cabinetry.
These pricey, but increasingly popular, choices have the following important features:
Built-in refrigerators have custom widths and depths.
They are often tailor-made for a custom kitchen setup, with the maximum width being around 48 inches. You will need to talk to a specialist about these if you want one simply because of that fact.
They are made to be as spacious as possible. However, they're still not as deep as a full-depth fridge as they are normally counter-depth.
These refrigerators are meant to look sleek and are made with aesthetics being a primary focus. Buyers normally opt for custom cabinetry for the doors as well.
You won’t find many “smart refrigerators” in this category either.
Because this type of refrigerator is essentially built into your cabinetry, removing it might require a specialist.
This makes moving your fridge a major no-go.
Along with the traditional refrigerators, many different types of specialty refrigeration is offered on the market to regular homeowners.
While they aren't the usual kitchen appliances, these aren't just for professionals anymore and can add value to your kitchen as well as your lifestyle.
Beverage coolers usually come in small sizes, meant to fit neatly under a kitchen or bar counter.
They specifically configured to hold beverages and cool them to an optimal temperature.
They also come in larger sizes, but because they tend to be an eyesore in larger sizes, they more commonly purchased as under-the-counter appliances.
A beverage cooler might be ideal for someone who likes to keep lots of drink cold, but don't want to overcrowd their refrigerator.
Kegerators look like mini-refrigerators (in which the keg is placed) but have taps at the top. You have the option of having more than one tap in some models.
These can be integrated beautifully into a kitchen or bar countertop.
Kegerators can make any beer lover look like a serious aficionado and add a luxury factor to your home.
Mini or Compact Fridge
Another staple of college life, mini-refrigerators are meant to hold small amounts of food and soda, with space-saving to be the most important facet of their design.
They are affordable and are typically used in college dorms and hotel rooms.
That being said, today many homeowners keep mini-fridges right in the kitchen to supplement their cooling needs.
Many manufacturers offer beautiful sleek counter-depth models that integrate seamlessly with countertops and furniture.
Another recent model offering is under the counter drawer refrigerators. As suggested, they fit perfectly under any kitchen or bar counter, sit flush with cabinets, and pull out for convenience.
Shop for Compact Refrigerators
If you have a lot of food you want to store, but don’t want to deal with more refrigeration, a chest freezer may be a better option.
Most frequently found in grocery stores, these open up from the top and allow you to store everything at a uniform, freezing temperature.
However, people will typically keep these in their basement or garage for extra food storage.
It's important to note that freezers don't just come in chest form anymore. Not only do they come in chest and column, but also compact form.
Wine refrigerators aren’t like a typical bar fridge, primarily because bar refrigerators tend to be geared towards keeping soda and beer frosty cool.
With a wine refrigerator, the objective isn’t to keep wine extremely cold.
Rather, it’s about storing wine at the optimal temperature and having the wine kept at the right serving temperature.
Wine refrigerators can be an add-on to a bar or to any kitchen or can be added in as a built-in cabinet. In addition, some people opt for full-length refrigeration.
They can add a true "wow-factor" to anyone's kitchen or wet bar.
Since these tend to be viewed as status symbols, expect them to be pricier than other options on this list.
Shop for Wine Coolers
Though not a refrigerator in the traditional sense of the word, ice makers are highly utilitarian for people who really love their ice.
It's sure to impress your guests when you serve them unlimited ice-cold drinks.
They are usually compact and low-cost unless they’re made especially for professional bartending purposes.
With ice makers, you may need a connection to your water line and a drain to make them function.
So choose wisely and make sure to read the specs before you get into it too much.
Many models fit nicely under the countertops and flush with your cabinetry.
You can even choose between a design looking more like a mini-fridge with a door, or in a drawer or double-drawer form, or even by ice cube shape.
Walk-In Freezer or Refrigerator
Walk-in refrigerators or freezers, or "walk-ins" as they more commonly known, are most commonly meant for people who are dealing with a professional setup.
They are in food storage warehouses, restaurants, and grocery stores.
However, it's not just for professionals or people who live in mansions or have kitchen staff.
As a matter of fact, it's not unusual for homeowners to convert their walk-in pantries to walk-in refrigerators.
Walk-ins are also used by people who have catering kitchens in their homes.
While the idea sounds glamorous, it's important to remember the extra energy consumption that goes along with walk-ins.
Which Refrigerator Type Is Right For You?
Honestly, we can’t always tell which refrigerator will be correct for you to use.
If you are in the market for a new fridge, the best way to tell which will be the right type for you is to look at your available space, your budget, as well as the needs you want to have met.
Assessing Your Refrigeration Needs
Also, important to evaluate is how much food you actually shop for and what your priorities are.
Do you cook a lot or use a lot of fresh ingredients? Do you buy mostly frozen foods or prepped meals?
As far as your budget goes, do you have $1,500 or $15,000 set aside for your new refrigerator?
What's Your Budget?
Your budget is also going to either close or open different brands for your kitchen.
For example, if your budget is $3,000, you're probably not going to be looking at any Sub-Zero or Viking refrigerators.
Luckily, most brands out there do sell refrigerators in that price range and lower.
Not only that, many stores offer discounted prices for refrigerators that are already out of the box (called "open box") or display models.
You can one at a great price if there are any slight damages or imperfections on the body or doors.
Sometimes, you can get a luxury brand like Jenn-Air or Dacor for thousands less just on account of it being open-box.
How Much Space Do You Have?
Determining how much space you have in your kitchen for a refrigerator will also determine how you shop for one.
Even if your space is limited, refrigerators come in all kinds of depths, heights, and widths, making almost anything possible.
Just remember that something like a french-door or a four-door might make more sense if you don't have a lot of passing space in your kitchen.
If you've got a lot of space, maybe you need to fill that with a column refrigerator and a column freezer.
Another important aspect you need to consider besides functionality, which is first and foremost, is how your refrigerator will look in your kitchen
These days so many refrigerators come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and finishes.
Retro Vs. Modern
Is your refrigerator a kickback to the 1950s? Is it a rustic or country-style kitchen, or perhaps super modern is your thing?
It's not hard to find vintage-look refrigerators, as mentioned earlier because so many manufacturers now offer retro lines.
However, if it's modern you want, you'll want to stick to a refrigerator model that offers straight clean lines.
While stainless steel has been the most popular option for appliances in the past ten years or so, and still work well as a versatile finish for any color scheme, matte-finish appliances are recently all the rage.
Stainless steel looks shiny, sleek, and professional, but fingerprints are easily left behind and unsightly.
The matte finishes use a type of technology that easily hides messy smears and handprints.
Many brands now offer matte finishes in a variety of colors.
Panel-ready refrigerators offer the ability to put your own panel in lieu of a conventional door.
This means you can have the door match the rest of your kitchen cabinetry, giving your whole kitchen a seamless look.
The panel-ready option is often considered a high-end look.
Paying attention to detail can pay off when completing your kitchen with the perfect refrigerator.
That means considering details like the hardware on your refrigerator. Your kitchen can look extra chic with matching hardware.
Some brands offer hardware kits so you can change the door handles to a different finish or color.
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With a little careful observation and planning, you'll find a refrigerator that works for you, even with a limited budget.
The number of choices today are astounding and even can be overwhelming.
Besides researching online or asking friends for recommendations, you might be best served visiting a major appliance center or showroom.
That way you can see the models, colors, and finishes in person, compare features and get help from a sales rep who might more knowledgeable about features and reliability.