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Guide to Refrigerators

By Staff Writer



Refrigerator Buying Guide



Buying a new refrigerator is a major purchase. So, before making a buying decision it's worthwhile to know the different refrigerator types and features available in order to determine which model's best suited to your lifestyle, your kitchen and your budget.

We'll help you consider many of the most important aspects of buying a new fridge such as type, size, features, performance, warranty and price, in order to assist you.



Refrigerator Types

What are the different refrigerator types?

Basic Refrigerator styles or "types" include conventional Top-Freezer, Bottom-Freezer, Side-by-Side, French-Door, Counter-Depth and Compact models.

How much will a new refrigerator cost?

Full-size refrigerator prices range from under $500 to well over $5,000. Compact refrigerator prices range from under $100 to over $1,000.

As you can see, refrigerator prices span a vast range, depending upon type, brand, size, features and performance factors. However, the following general pricing guidelines may help in your assessment: top-freezer models are typically the least expensive per cubic foot of capacity, followed by compacts, side-by-side, bottom-freezer, counter-depth and french-door models.

Since there are so many variables affecting refrigerator cost, we recommend that you first determine the right type, size and features to fit your needs before comparison shopping for the best price.

What size do I need?

Refrigerator sizes range from as little as 2 cubic feet all the way up to 30 cubic feet or more. Refrigerators with capacities between 18 and 26 cubic feet are considered average. For a typical family of four, a 19-22 cubic foot refrigerator will usually prove sufficient.

But your own needs may be very different depending upon a host of family-specific factors including number of children, any special dietary needs, variety of foods you like to have on hand, how often you entertain guests, etc. Therefore, when deciding refrigerator size, we recommend you check the capacity of your current refrigerator and consider how well it accommodates your household in deciding whether to increase or decrease or keep your fridge size the same.

For sheer storage space, side-by-sides and french-door models typically provide the largest capacities, followed by top-freezer and bottom-freezer models. For frozen storage, Side-by-Sides generally provide the largest freezer compartments, followed French-Door and Bottom-Freezer designs.

What else do I need to know?

Glad you asked. A footnote about refrigerator size: The #1 reason for refrigerator returns is that the new refrigerator will not fit within the available space. And, since the size of your new refrigerator will be limited by the space you have available, be sure to carefully measure the width, depth and height of your available space. Also, be sure to consider the width of any doorways the refrigerator must pass through en route to your kitchen.

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    Top-Freezer Refrigerators


    Pros and Cons
    Top-freezers are the most common type of refrigerator available. As the name implies, the freezer compartment is located on the top with the fresh food section located beneath. Top-freezer refrigerators feature a full-width shelf design that easily accommodates extra-wide items such as large pizza boxes, birthday cakes and deli platters.

    Most adults will find that top-freezers provide them the easiest access to frozen foods — perfect for fans of pizza or frozen treats. But freezer access may be difficult for small children or persons in a wheelchair. Top-freezer models have the most extensive selection of sizes, features and prices and are generally the least expensive refrigerators per cubic foot of storage space.

    Size and Capacity
    Available sizes and capacities vary significantly. Typical widths range from 23-36"; depths from 27-33", including the door handles; heights from 60-69". Doors can usually be converted to swing toward either direction. Top-freezer models have a wide range of internal capacities, from 10 to 22 cubic feet or more.

    View all Top-Freezer Refrigerators

    Bottom-Freezer Refrigerators

    Pros and Cons
    With the fridge on top and the freezer on the bottom, the bottom-freezer design gives you easy, eye-level access to the fresh-food compartment without bending, while providing you with a large, slide-out freezer compartment beneath. Bottom-freezers make it easy for youngsters to access frozen treats, but fresh food access may be difficult for small children or persons in a wheelchair.

    Like top-freezers, bottom-freezer models feature a full-width shelf design that easily accommodates extra-wide items such as large pizza boxes, birthday cakes and deli platters. Bottom-freezer refrigerators offer good value in a wide range of sizes, but typically cost somewhat more than a top-freezer model of comparable capacity.

    Size and Capacity
    Available sizes and capacities vary. Typical widths range from 29-36"; depths from 28-33", including the door handle; heights from 67-70". Internal capacities range from 18 to 25 cubic feet. The refrigerator door can usually be converted to swing toward either direction.

    View all Bottom-Freezer Refrigerators

    Side-by-Side Refrigerators

    Pros and Cons
    Side-by-sides are both spacious and stylish, featuring full-height doors with the freezer on the left and fridge on the right. They offer large capacities, ample door storage and abundant freezer capacity. A wide selection of side-by-side models come with through-the-door ice and filtered water dispensers. In some models, shelving is narrower than that in top- or bottom-freezer models, and may not accommodate wide items such as bulky pizza boxes, deli platters and sheet cakes.

    Side-by-sides may include full-length door handles making it easier for small children or those in a wheelchair to access both fresh food and freezer compartments. Side-by-sides typically cost slightly more than comparable capacity top-freezer models.

    Size and Capacity
    Available sizes and capacities vary. Typical widths range from 31-36"; depths from 28-34", including the door handle; heights from 66-69". Side-by-sides generally require more kitchen space than other refrigerator types because of their overall size and the additional clearance required to open doors in opposite directions. Side-by-side refrigerator capacities typically range from 20 to 28 cubic feet.

    View all Side-by-Side Refrigerators

    French-Door Refrigerators

    Pros and Cons
    The French-door refrigerator is the latest type of design. These 3-door models feature a refrigerator compartment with side-by-side doors atop a slide-out freezer drawer compartment. French-door models offer contemporary styling, abundant refrigerator space and wide fresh food and freezer sections. Other advantages include a design that places the fresh food compartments at or near eye level for easiest access, along with abundant refrigerator-door storage space.

    As the newest design type, French-door refrigerators typically cost more than other types, though most models come with many of the latest high-end features. Some French-door refrigerators are also counter-depth models which, as the name implies, means they are designed to be approximately the same depth as most countertops.

    Size and Capacity
    Available sizes and capacities vary. Typical widths range from 32-36"; depths from 28-36", including the door handles; heights from 68-70". French-door models range in capacity from about 20 to 25 cubic feet.

    View all French-Door Refrigerators

    Counter-Depth Refrigerators

    Pros and Cons
    Counter-depth refrigerators feature a slimmer design in order to fit flush with your kitchen counters, as an alternative to conventional-depth models which may protrude as much as 6-10" beyond your countertops. The main advantage of the counter-depth design is the stylish appearance it provides, by sleekly integrating the refrigerator between kitchen cabinetry. Also, because they are less deep, counter-depth refrigerators will occupy less floor space in your kitchen but will provide somewhat smaller capacities than conventional refrigerators of the same width and height.

    Since counter-depth refrigerators come in a variety of types, including side-by-side, French-door, top-freezer and bottom-freezer configurations, additional pros and cons include those inherent to each respective refrigerator type. Counter-depth refrigerators typically cost somewhat more than conventional models of comparable capacities.

    Size and Capacity
    Available sizes and capacities vary. In order to achieve a flush fit with your countertops, be sure to measure your available depth; counter-depth refrigerator depths vary by up to 5" between models. Typical widths range from 35-42"; depths from 25-30", including the door handles; heights from 67-72". Counter-depth refrigerators range in capacity from about 19 to 25 cubic feet, though models as small as 10 cubic feet and as large as 30 cubic feet or even more are available.

    View all Counter-Depth Refrigerators

    Compact Refrigerators

    Pros and Cons
    At one-quarter to one-half the size of conventional refrigerators, compact refrigerators are designed to fit in spaces where a full-size refrigerator will not. Compacts typically include a small freezer compartment and refrigerator compartment with shelving and door storage. These space savers are ideal when you need a refrigerator, but don't have the room for a full-size model, such as within a rec room, office, dorm room or small apartment.

    Today's compact models are much more advanced than they once were. Many brands offer stylish exteriors and interior storage options such as adjustable door storage, full-width freezer compartments and crisper drawers with see-through covers for better visibility. Most compacts are inexpensive to purchase and operate and their compact size makes them relatively lightweight and easy to move.

    Size and Capacity
    Available sizes and capacities vary substantially. Sizes range from 2 to 6 cubic feet for true compact refrigerators and from 9 to 12 cubic feet for the smallest top-freezer refrigerators.

    View all Compact Refrigerators

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Refrigerator Features

Today's refrigerators are available with a good many new innovations. Counter-depth and French-door designs, high-efficiency compressors, more precise temperature control systems and through-the-door filtered water and ice are just a few of them. And today's models are significantly more energy efficient than those made even just a few years ago.

Below, we've listed many of the refrigerator features you'll find available. You may want to use this list to assist you in creating a shopping checklist of the features and options that are most important to you.

Actual features vary by brand and model. See individual product detail pages for a full description of features available on any given model.

Refrigeration Features:

ENERGY STAR qualification — U.S. Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency rating given to highly energy-efficient home appliances, including refrigerators. See our Refrigerator Performance section to learn more.

Twin cooling systems — Utilizes separate refrigerator and freezer evaporators to maintain at optimal temperatures and efficiency.

Multi-vent cooling — Utilizes multiple cooling vents to maintain more consistent temperatures throughout the refrigerator.

Advanced temperature control systems — Systems that precisely monitor and adjust cooling, maintaining optimal temperatures while minimizing fluctuation for maximum food freshness.

Adjustable-humidity fruit and vegetable bins — Optimize freshness by allowing you to set independent humidity levels for fruits and vegetables.

Temperature-controlled bins and compartments — Save energy by allowing you to reduce the temperature within individual compartments without reducing the temperature of the entire refrigerator.

Custom cooling bins — Independently controlled compartments that accommodate special needs, such as rapid chilling of drinks or quick, safe defrosting of meats.

Digital temperature controls — Permit more precise regulation of temperatures.


Organizational Features:

Adjustable bins and shelves — Allow you to easily organize space to accommodate your storage needs.

Adjustable door bins — Allow adjustment of bin heights to accommodate bottles and containers of varying sizes.

Gallon-size door compartments — Shelves and bins designed large enough to accommodate gallon-size containers on the door for easier access.

See-through meat and crisper bins — Allow you to inventory contents without opening storage bins.

Spill-proof glass shelves — Contain spills, are easier to clean and provide more usable space than wire shelves.

Slide-out shelves — Make it easier to access contents on the backs of the shelves.

Split-glass adjustable shelves — Allow independent adjustment of the left or right side of shelves in order to accommodate large and tall items.

Quick-adjust shelves — Shelves that can be raised or lowered without removing the contents from atop the shelf.

Quick-freeze shelf — A special shelf in the freezer compartment that rapidly freezes food.


Convenience Features:

Automatic ice maker — Replenishes supplies so you always have ice on hand.

Through-the-door ice and water dispensers — Provide added convenience and energy efficency by allowing you to obtain ice or water without opening the fridge or freezer doors.

In-the-door ice maker — Space-saving feature that positions the automatic ice maker in the door, freeing up additional shelf space for frozen food storage.

Water filtration system — Removes impurities from water for cleaner, clearer, better-tasting water and ice.

Child lock — Prevents young children from playing with water and ice dispensers.

Door sensor systems — Systems that automatically monitor opening of doors and regulate cooling and auto-defrost cycles to minimize cold air loss and freezer burn.

Door alarm — Audible alarm that alerts you if a door has been left open or ajar.

Filter status light — Indicates when the water filter needs to be replaced.

Base grille filtration system — A design that places the water filtration system directly behind the base grille for easy filter replacement.


Appearance Features:

Stainless steel or stainless-look exterior — Sleek and contemporary finishes that are easy to clean, show little wear and require minimal maintenance.

Smudgeproof finish — Textured or low-sheen finish designed to minimize appearance of fingerprints, grease, etc.

Custom colors and trim kits — Optional colors and kits designed to coordinate with your kitchen. Trim kits allow you to insert custom panels provided by the manufacturer or your cabinetmaker, in order to match the front of your refrigerator to your kitchen cabinetry.

Note: Custom colors and trim kits are typically available only by Special Order.

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Refrigerator Performance

Not only do refrigerators need to run non-stop, they also account for as much as 12% to 20% of total household electrical consumption. Therefore, it's in your best interest to have an energy-efficient fridge. Yet many models produced before 1999 do not even meet current Department of Energy power usage guidelines. In short, an old, inefficient refrigerator could be costing you a lot of money in increased energy usage.

The good news is that new refrigerators are significantly more energy-efficient than those manufactured just a few years ago. And, as the most energy-efficient models, refrigerators that have earned the Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR qualification use at least 15% less energy than required by current federal standards and 40% less energy than the conventional models sold in 2001. Compact models (with volumes less than 7.75 cu. ft.) use at least 20% less energy than required by current federal standards. That kind of difference can add up to substantial savings on your electric bill. Learn more.


Energy-Efficient Features:
  • For the most significant energy savings, look for an ENERGY STAR-qualified refrigerator to ensure it exceeds current federal energy-efficient standards by 15% or more.
  • High-efficiency compressors and precise temperature and defrost mechanisms.
  • Improved insulation and double-tub construction that allow compressors to run less frequently.
  • Adapative defrost control — adjusts compressor time and prevents frequent freezing and thawing of foods.
  • Independent temperature controls save energy by allowing you to reduce the temperature of individual compartments without reducing the temperature of the entire refrigerator.
  • Through-the-door ice and water dispensers — save energy by allowing you to get ice or water without opening the refrigerator or freezer doors.

Energy-Saving Tips:
  • Minimize the amount of time the refrigerator and freezer door open.
  • Position your refrigerator away from all heat sources, such as ovens, dishwashers, heating ducts or direct sunlight.
  • Allow air to circulate around the condenser coils by leaving a space between the wall or cabinets and the refrigerator and keep the coils clean.
  • Make sure door seals are airtight.
  • Keep your refrigerator set at 35-38°F and your freezer set at 0°F.
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Refrigerator Warranties


Manufacturers' Warranties

A manufacturer's warranty is provided as part of the purchase price of new consumer electronics products. Manufacturers' warranties provide for repair and/or replacement of defective parts for a specified time. Length of warranties vary by manufacturer and model. See the Product Details section of individual product pages to determine the exact warranty of any particular product.

Best Buy Warranties

We offer an extended warranty: The Best Buy Performance Service Plan (PSP) that extends the warranty period above and beyond the manufacturer's warranty. You can purchase this plans either online or instore. PSP plans feature 24/7/365 service and involve no deductibles or hidden charges.

Performance Service Plan (PSP)

This fully transferable plan includes prompt, professional product service. Coverage begins the day of your purchase, and includes:
  • Protection from dust, heat and humidity
  • Failures due to normal wear and tear
  • Failures due to power surges
  • Full parts and labor
  • No-lemon guarantee
How do I buy a Performance Service Plan (PSP) on a product purchased online?

When you add a product to your Cart that has a PSP available, "Performance Service Plan" will be noted directly under the "Don't Forget" section. Simply "Add" the PSP to your order.

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Refrigerator Installation

Which do I need — Delivery or Installation?

Your choice will depend on what type of refrigerator you purchase and how much assistance you require.
Refrigerator Delivery

This is our basic service. It's all you need to connect refrigerators with no ice or water dispensers or to connect refrigerators with ice and water dispensers, provided there is an existing refrigerator water line in place.
    Our Basic Delivery Includes:

  • Delivery, unpacking and placement of your new refrigerator where requested, if accessible.
  • Connection of refrigerator to existing electrical outlet and turning on to mid-range setting.
  • Connection of ice maker and water to an existing waterline.
  • Free recycling of your old appliance on a 1-1 basis.
Refrigerator Installation

Professional installation service is available for refrigerators that require installation of a new waterline.

    Our Standard Installation Includes:

  • Professional Installers, fully-licensed and insured according to state regulations.
  • Unpacking and preparation of appliance(s) for installation.
  • Installation and connection of waterline.

      Parts Included:
    • Basic plumbing fittings, electrical connectors, sealants and fasteners will be provided at no extra charge.
    • Up to 20 feet of waterline will be supplied with refrigerator waterline installations.
    Additional Benefits Include:

  • Performance — We ensure the maximum performance from your appliance by installing it right the first time.
  • Confidence — Our technicians are qualified and insured. We will install your appliance according to all local codes and regulations.
  • Satisfaction — We guarantee our workmanship for a period of one year. If, during this time, you are not satisfied with any aspect of our workmanship, we will fix it free of charge.
  • Convenience — We offer pre-measurement services to ensure your new built-in appliances fit properly into your home.
To schedule basic delivery or professional installation, simply call Best Buy's 24/7 Appliance Help Line toll-free at 1-800-624-4434.

Refrigerators requiring waterline hookups (those with ice makers, water dispensers or water filtration) typically require professional installation if there are no existing waterlines.

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Refrigerator Shopping

Know Your Available Space

Don't purchase a new refrigerator without taking the time to measure your space. Measure the height, width and depth of the space for your new refrigerator. Be sure to measure the width of any entryways, doorways or halls your new fridge must pass through, to ensure it will fit.

If you are installing your refrigerator adjacent to any walls or cabinetry, be sure to select a model with doors that can open freely, relative to your floorplan. Depending on the model, you will need to allow 2 inches or more for door-swing clearance. If you choose a refrigerator with an ice maker or ice and water dispenser, you will need a couple inches additional depth for waterline access. Be sure to record all of your measurements for easy reference.

Special Order Information
  • Service includes product delivery, basic setup and recycling of the existing refrigerator.
  • Delivery is available in 48 contiguous states.
  • Once your product is available for delivery, a delivery agent will contact you to coordinate the delivery details.
  • Due to the nature of special order, delivery timelines may be longer than usual.
  • Returned items may be subject to a 25% restocking fee.
Shop our extensive online selection by clicking any of the links below:
Top-Freezer Refrigerators French-Door Refrigerators
Bottom-Freezer Refrigerators Counter-Depth Refrigerators
Side-by-Side Refrigerators Compact Refrigerators


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