What Refrigerator Is Best for Your Family?

Your refrigerator represents a major investment, a big part of your kitchen and a focus of your mealtime activities, so you want to make sure you find just the right match for your family. Narrowing down the choices takes a focus on basic features and a look at options that can enhance your use of this essential appliance.

Style & Design

Doors, drawers and freezer placement define refrigerators. Some designs place a full-width freezer with a hinged door at the top or bottom of the appliance, hence the designations "top mount" and "bottom freezer." Split the width of the appliance almost in half vertically, with door hinges on the outer edges of the casework, and you're looking at a side-by-side unit. Put the freezer in a drawer at the bottom of the appliance, below side-by-side doors that both lead to refrigerated storage, and the result takes the designation "French doors." Which style you choose depends on a combination of personal preference, kitchen layout and what you need to refrigerate. Bottom freezers require more stooping to reach stored foods. Doors need space to open fully. Full-width freezers tend to hold more food than side-by-side alternatives. Look at your alternatives with a practical eye focused on fit and family needs.

Dimensions

Unless you reconfigure your kitchen to add more space for a refrigerator, you can't fit in more appliance than your current layout allows. Before you fall in love with the features and benefits of a model that won't fit, size up your refrigerator alcove or inset and compare appliance measurements to the space you need. Manufacturers post complete specifications on their websites, including dimensions, so you can assess suitability without a wasted trip to a retail store. Once you narrow down the field of options to the prospects you like and actually can use, you can make better decisions about which to buy.

Capacity

Refrigerator capacity takes into consideration more than just the raw cubic footage inside the appliance. You'll find varying formulas that estimate appropriate appliance capacity per family member, calculating refrigerated- and frozen-food compartments separately. The real test of how big a refrigerator you need comes when you align what you eat with its cooling needs. If you make up meals in advance and freeze them for reheating, you may need more freezer space than if you focus on fresh produce. If you entertain often and need to accommodate party food, you may want to isolate your guest offerings in a separate compartment. These considerations inform the amount of storage space you need and the options that enhance its usefulness.

Flexibility

Beyond the basics of refrigerator performance, manufacturers include interesting, useful options that may make the difference between an acceptable and an outstanding choice for your family. Some units feature side-by-side designs that split horizontally into four doors, with one quadrant assignable either to freezer or to refrigerated duty. Some include Wi-Fi® touchscreens with access to apps, social media, temperature control, the Internet and family reminders. Ice dispensers, along with chilled and filtered water service through the freezer door, appear on many side-by-side models. French-door units can include extra drawers that provide special refrigerated storage with customized temperature control.

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