- Fridge Buyers Guide
Fridge Buyers Guide
Size and layout are your main considerations if you are buying a fridge.
Freestanding or built-in
If you have an integrated kitchen with a space for a fridge inside a cabinet, you will need a built-in model. These are hidden behind a cabinet door and are more expensive than freestanding equivalents. They are also smaller as they have to fit within a cabinet. So generally, it is best to go for a standalone one if possible unless you prefer the sleek tidy look of a fridge behind a cabinet.
Fridges come in a range of different heights and widths. When working out what size fridge you have space for, allow 25mm space at the back, top and sides of the fridge to allow for ventilation. If choosing a built-in model, you must allow enough space for the housing. Although you may be restricted by the space in your kitchen, you should ideally choose a fridge that is appropriate for the size of your household. For example, a compact or worktop fridge is appropriate for small households while a tall fridge might be a better option for larger families. Running a fridge that is rarely more than half full is a waste of energy.
The capacity of a fridge is less important than the amount of usable internal space it has. Look at the ergonomics of different models. Think about the type of things you put in the fridge and where you would store them. Does it have enough racks at the right height and enough compartments, drawers and door shelves? If you store lots of bottles, does it have a bottle rack?
Due to much improvement by manufacturers in the energy efficiency of refrigeration appliances, most models are now very efficient and are rated A++ or A+*. Fridges are large users of energy as they are left on all the time, so it’s important to get an energy-efficient model.
This gives you an indication of the room temperature that the fridge can operate in. Models with an N-rated climate class should be in a room with a minimum temperature of 16°C and a maximum temperature of 32°C. SN models can cope in temperatures of between 10°C and 32°C. Other classes are ST and T. Fridges in these classes operate best at a minimum temperature of 18°C and a maximum of 38°C for fridges in the ST class and 43°C for those in the T class.
Some fridges have ice boxes which are only worth having if you don’t have a separate freezer as they reduce your storage space. The star rating is an indication of how long you can freeze food in them. A one-star ice box can freeze pre-frozen food for one week, while a four-star ice box can freeze fresh food and store it for up to 12 months.
Antibacterial coating: A coating that is meant to keep your fridge hygienic by killing any germs. It should not be a substitute for regular cleaning.
Auto defrost: This removes the need for defrosting by forcing air through the freezer cabinet to remove moisture that would otherwise build up as ice over time.
Bottle grip: This helps prevent bottles from falling over in the door trays.
Can holders: A space-saving device which is useful if you do store lots of cans of beer, for example.
Chill compartment: This is a drawer that is designed for storing meat, fish and poultry or ready meals. It is usually colder than the rest of the fridge (around 0°C).
High-temperature warning: If the thermostat is not set correctly and the fridge gets too warm, an alarm will sound or a light will flash or both.
Humidity-controlled compartment: You can adapt the humidity in this compartment. Increasing the humidity helps to prolong fresh fruit and vegetables while lowering it can prolong the life of meat, fish and dairy food.
Rollers or castors: It is best to have these to make it easier to pull the appliance out in case you need access to the plug or you want to clean behind it.
Super cool: This is a fridge setting that you use when you put a lot of food in the fridge. It cools the fridge compartment for a set period of time usually around six hours which not only cools the food but prevents the fridge from warming up which can happen when you put large loads of warm food in.
Temperature gauge: All models have these so you can check the appliance is running at the correct temperature.
Wine and bottle racks: These are a good way to store bottles and are removable if you need the space for other items. Some racks have a holder designed especially for champagne bottles.
What temperature should fridges operate at?
Between 0 C and 5 C. If the temperature gets warmer, food can go off. If it gets colder, it can destroy the texture and nutrients of food.
What sort of internal layout is best?
It depends on what you want to store in your fridge but anything that will help save you space is good. For example, bottle racks, can racks, egg holders and so on. Compartments for meat, cheese and vegetables are useful too. Not only do they make it easier to find food but they are good from a food hygiene perspective. Flexible shelves that can be inserted at different heights and removed for cleaning are best. You should also get solid glass shelves instead of wire shelves as these are easier to clean and they prevent any spills from dripping onto food below.
Can I keep a fridge in an outdoor building such as a garage?
All fridges have a climate class which tells you the minimum and maximum room temperature they should be placed in to work properly. For most models the minimum temperature is 10°C and most sheds and garages are colder than this in winter. When the temperature is lower than this, the fridge will use more energy to maintain the right temperature. If it is kept in an outdoor building and it does break down, it may not be covered by the guarantee.
Is it worth buying a model which has an antibacterial coating?
This is meant to kill nasty bacteria from growing inside the fridge but there is no substitute for regularly clearing out your fridge of old food and cleaning it with bicarbonate of soda and water. If you follow basic food hygiene rules – keeping cooked meats and raw meats separately, making sure that foods are wrapped or contained, and throw anything out after its use-by date, there should be no need for an antibacterial coating.
Which types of fridge are best for the environment?
Fridges with an A++ rating are the most energy efficient. Also, those with a cooling agent or refrigerant called R600a are better as it is not harmful to the environment. Those with a different refrigerant called R134a are more harmful as the refrigerant is a greenhouse gas and if it leaks it can contribute to global warming. Pricier models that have door-open alarms, automatic door-closing mechanisms and thicker insulation are also better for the environment as you waste less energy with them.
How should I dispose of my old fridge?
Ask your retailer to take it away when it delivers your new one. Otherwise you will either have to pay your Council to take it away or you’ll have to take it to your local civic waste disposal site yourself.
What maintenance do fridges need to continue working well?
Regularly clean the inside and remove the shelves for washing. Make sure you also clean the door seals to ensure that no heat can get in.
How can I work out the running costs of my fridge?
The cost of running an appliance is normally shown in kilowatts per year. This means you can multiply the number of kilowatts used per year by the cost per kilowatt hour that you pay for your electricity, which will give you an idea of the running costs of the model. But this will only ever be approximate as fridges use more energy at different times depending, for example, if the door has been left open for a while or if the super cool button has been pushed.