Types of Refrigerators
Traditionally the most popular style (largely due to its economical price), this is likely the refrigerator configuration you grew up with. The freezer compartment is positioned atop the fresh-foods compartment and typically claims about a third of the unit's total volume.
Advantages: Familiar design; lower price than more feature-rich styles.
Disadvantages: Among the least flexible configurations (along with bottom-freezer); items in back of freezer may be difficult to reach for children and shorter adults; requires wide, deep space to allow doors to swing fully open.
This style inverts the more traditional top-freezer configuration, placing the freezer compartment at floor level and raising the fresh-foods area to a more convenient height. The freezer compartment may be accessed via a drawer or a swinging door.
Advantages: Economically priced; offers easier access to fresh foods than with a top-freezer refrigerator.
Disadvantages: Among the least flexible configurations (along with top-freezer); access to frozen foods may be less convenient (especially with a swinging door) than with top-freezer models; requires wide, deep space to allow doors to swing fully open.
In this style, the refrigerator and freezer compartments are more equal in size, with each taking up the full height of the refrigerator. The compartments are narrower, as a result, so are the doors. Adjustable shelves are a must for optimal flexibility. Some models offer amenities like through-the-door ice and water dispensers.
Advantages: Convenient access to both fresh and frozen foods; abundant freezer capacity; ideal for narrow or galley-style kitchens because less space is required for door swing than with full-width-door models.
Disadvantages: Narrower refrigerator compartment may not easily accommodate large platters; less overall fresh-food space than top- and bottom-freezer designs; pricier than top- and bottom-freezer models.
French Door ($1,200$3,500)
This style combines the advantages of side-by-side and bottom-freezer configurations. The French doors at the top open to reveal a spacious, full-width fresh-foods compartment that easily accommodates large platters of hors d'oevres, pizzas and the like. 3-door models sport a bottom-mounted freezer compartment; 4-door models are also available that offer dual freezer compartments, and advanced models offer a bottom-mounted freezer and a second, counter-height drawer that's temperature- and humidity-adjustable to accommodate changing needs. Through-the-door ice and water dispensers are offered on most French door refrigerators.
Advantages: Elegant aesthetic and functional design; highly versatile to efficiently hold a wide variety of different types of foods; narrow refrigerator doors allow more flexible installation; advanced 4-door models deliver variable cooling zones for optimal food freshness.
Disadvantages: Great looks and versatility come at a price.
Counter Depth (full-size) ($1,500-$3,900)
Available primarily in side-by-side and French door styles, counter-depth refrigerators offer a shallower profile than their standard-depth counterparts. This allows them to blend seamlessly with kitchen cabinetry for a built-in look. Some models are designed with wider dimensions to compensate for their reduced depth.
Compact ($110 to upwards of $1,500 for deluxe and designer models)
These miniaturized versions of traditional refrigerators are ideal for dorm rooms, bedrooms and home offices. Most compact refrigerators feature little or no freezer capacity — and in most, the freezer is located inside the refrigeration compartment. Boutique designer models are available with separate freezer compartments, similar to a full-size refrigerator.
As the name implies, freezerless refrigerators use the entire volume of the cooling compartment for refrigeration, not freezing. They're ideal if you have a full-size chest freezer for frozen goods or if you just have little need for freezing.
Wine & Beverage Coolers ($100 to several thousand dollars for large-capacity designer models)
Designed especially for beverages, wine & beverage coolers (also sometimes known as "cellars") range from compact-refrigerator size units to elaborate, full-size models with room for hundreds of bottles and shelving systems designed for easy organization and access. Deluxe models offer multizone digital temperature regulation to maintain the optimal drinking temperature for red, white and sparkling wines.