Choosing the Right Refrigerator Size

Most refrigerators on the market today do a more than adequate job of keeping perishables fresh. When it comes to shopping for a new refrigerator then, the best place to start is with refrigerator size, followed by the design that meets your lifestyle needs and finally, how many (or how few) extra features you want.

How Big is Big Enough?
It's true that refrigerators all serve the same basic purpose-keeping food cold-but you do want to be sure that you choose a model that can hold what you need and provide you with easy access to its contents. If you have a larger household with children, entertain often or buy food in bulk, the size of your refrigerator matters.

When you start to do your research, there are two size-related issues to consider: how much storage space you actually require, and how much space you have available in your home to house the refrigerator. First, think about the largest items you're most likely to store in your refrigerators and freezers and be aware that the size of each component may dictate how often you make a trip to the supermarket.

Next, you want to measure the space in your kitchen, pantry or basement as well as the all doorways leading to the room where you'll situate the refrigerator. Finding the perfect model does you no good if it doesn't actually fit in your home. Shop with a notebook at your side and compare size specifications across brands and models to narrow selections down to your best options and avoid disappointment upon delivery.

Selecting a Style
Approximately half of all new refrigerators and freezers sold today embody the standard configuration of freezer-on-top, refrigerator-below you've seen in kitchens for decades. Among the other half of new refrigerators, you'll find a variety of configurations to choose from including French glass door refrigerators,  side by side refrigerators, under counter refrigerators and even built ins.

Side by side refrigerators have two doors, where each seals off a self-enclosed interior space (one for refrigeration and one for freezing). French glass door refrigerators also have two doors, but each covers half of the whole, extra-wide interior space (freezers are typically placed at the bottom of the unit).  If you're torn between the two styles, let storage space be your guide: French door styles offer more storage space than side by side models.

Under counter refrigerators sacrifice depth to be flush with kitchen counters and cabinets. A built-in refrigerator and freezer hides a full-sized unit within the walls of your home, leaving only the door(s) visible. Built-in refrigerators and freezers are the most expensive option, so may consider choosing them only if you're replacing an existing built in or you're doing a full remodeling of your kitchen (you may need to make structural changes to accommodate the unit).

No matter which style you choose, your new refrigerator should have adjustable shelves. Higher-end models may offer adjustable door storage shelves as well, allowing you near limitless freedom in customizing the storage space to fit how you shop, cook and live.

When it comes to sheer looks, you'll have a variety of refrigerator finishes to choose from.  Plastics have replaced steel at the low end, offering simple cleanup and good durability. Stainless steel and titanium finishes can be found in the most costly refrigerators and freezers. If you're not committed to cleaning, beware: some of these materials can be very difficult to care for, requiring specialized cleaners and polishes.

Convenience Features
Through-the-door water and ice dispensers are a popular choice, but keep in mind that these refrigerators and freezers may need to be hooked up to plumbing and require water filtration.  Additionally, this may limit your choice of refrigerator location.

You'll also find a surprising amount of atmospheric control available, ranging from basic temperature dials in budget refrigerators and freezers to electronic temperature and humidity monitoring at the high end along with sub zero refrigerators.

Next Generation Refrigeration
Some manufacturers have set out to reinvent the refrigerator and freezer. For example, LG Electronics' LG TV Refrigerator line adds a television to the doors of the refrigerator and freezer. "Smart" refrigerators and freezers can keep track of what you use and generate shopping lists. Digital message boards, recipe storage, and Internet connectivity round out the innovations available in top-of-the-line refrigerators and freezers.

These features can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of a refrigerator and freezer. It's not worth investing in them unless you'll use them or you're building a state-of-the-art kitchen with an eye toward selling your home. Chances are you already have a television and a PC in your home, so focus on finding a refrigerator and freezer with accurate controls and enough room and access to suit your lifestyle.

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If you need extra storage space for your food and your refrigerator freezer can't do the job, it may be time to purchase a separate freezer. You'll want to consider the freezer type, energy efficiency, features like freezer shelves, size and access of the appliance. With a little research, you'll find the right freezer for your budget and household needs.

When you're shopping for a compact refrigerator, base your decision on its intended use and placement first. Then consider quality of construction and thermostat accuracy. Do your research and you'll find a model that meets both your budget and storage needs.

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