Refrigerators come in three basic versions: freestanding, built-in, and under-counter. Which you choose depends on space, aesthetics, and budget. You'll want to take a close look at available features. Think energy, too: every refrigerator should come with an energy guide label that tells you just how that model rates.
Standard refrigerators measure from 27 to 32 inches deep, so they stand out from 24-inch-deep base cabinets.
Consider these features: number of shelves, humidity drawers, meat storage compartments, temperature controls, defrosting method, ice-maker and water dispenser, convenience door, and energy-saving devices such as a power-saver switch.
Popular two- or three-door, side-by-side refrigerator/freezers permit easy visibility and access to food, but their relatively narrow shelves make it difficult to store bulky items. Their opposing door swings can block countertop access on both sides.
Other double-door models have the freezer positioned at the unit's bottom or top. The bottom-mount design has a handy freezer pullout drawer and makes it easier to reach the more often used refrigerator section. The top-mount style comes in the greatest number of sizes and options.
Though single-door refrigerators are smaller and more economical, they typically offer little freezer space, and that space may not get cold enough. Many of these units must be defrosted manually.
As a rule of thumb, figure 8 cubic feet of refrigerator space for two people; add 1 cubic foot for each additional family member and 2 extra cubic feet if you entertain frequently. A refrigerator runs best when it isn't stuffed to the gills.
Two cubic feet per person is the rule for a freezer compartment.
Gaining in popularity are relatively expensive 24-inch-deep built-ins, which fit right into a standard run of cabinets. Most models offer inter-changeable door panels to match surrounding cabinet doors. Others flaunt the "commercial" look, matching stainless steel with glass doors.
Because these units have compressor and condenser units mounted on top, they don't require dust-gathering gaps for ventilation; they also can be cleaned and serviced in place. One minus (besides the high price) is the relatively shallow interior.
Standard under-counter refrigerators, traditional choices for very small kitchens or separate entertainment areas, are 33 to 34 inches high, 18 to 57 inches wide, and 25 to 32 inches deep, with a 2.5- to 6-cubic-foot capacity.
Now there's also a new generation of trim built-ins that slide into 24-inch-deep base cabinet runs, offering interchangeable refrigerator, freezer, and even wine-cooling compartments. Some models feature handy pullout drawers for easy low-level access. Not only do these "modular" units blend into sleek modern kitchens, they can be positioned just where they're needed in multitask, several-cook layouts.
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