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Fridge reviews

We put refrigerators of all shapes and sizes through their paces in our laboratories.
 
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01 .Introduction

fridges lead november 2012

We review more than 50 fridges priced from $499 to $3699.

Through our rigorous testing we reveal which fridges perform the best. You can use this report to: 

  • find the best fridge for you out of more than 50 models tested
  • discover the ones we recommend
  • check the performance of fridges from big brands such as ElectroluxFisher & PaykelKelvinator, LGSamsung and Westinghouse
  • choose from a selection of the latest top, bottom, french door and side-by-side fridges
  • find the cheapest fridge using our compare price tool.

On this page:

For more information about Fridges and freezers, see our Kitchen section.

Video: Fridges - what to look for

CHOICE explains some of the key things to keep in mind when purchasing a fridge, especially with regard to temperature settings.

Fridge brands and models tested

Less than 300L

  • Fisher and Paykel E249TR
  • Haier HRF 224FW
  • Haier HRFZ-213
  • LG GN-205VW #
  • LG GN-253VW
  • Samsung SR254MW
  • Westinghouse WTB2800WC #
  • Westinghouse WTM2000WC

Small (300-380L)

  • Daewoo FR360
  • Fisher and Paykel E331T
  • Fisher and Paykel E381TRT2
  • Kelvinator KBM3800WB-R
  • LG GC-306NP

Medium (381-450L)

  • Beko DN143120
  • Electrolux EBM4307SC
  • Fisher and Paykel E402BRE3
  • Fisher and Paykel E442BRE3
  • Kelvinator KTM3900WB
  • Kelvinator KTM4200WB
  • LG GN-422FW
  • Midea HD-496FWS
  • Westinghouse WBE4300SB
  • Westinghouse WBM4300WB
  • Westinghouse WTM3900WB

Large (451-525L)

  • Electrolux EBM5100SC
  • Electrolux EBM5100SD #
  • Electrolux EBM5107SC
  • Fisher and Paykel E522BRE4
  • Fisher and Paykel RF522WDRX1
  • Kelvinator KTM5200WB
  • LG GN-515GS
  • Panasonic NR-BW465VWAU
  • Westinghouse WBE5100SC
  • Westinghouse WBM5100WC

More than 525L and French door

  • Electrolux EHE5107SB
  • Electrolux EQE6007SB-NAU
  • Fisher and Paykel RF610ADUX3
  • Haier HTD647RSS #
  • LG GR-L219CSL
  • LG GR-L730SL
  • Mitsubishi MR-C405C-W-A1
  • Samsung SRF527DSLS
  • Westinghouse WHE5100SA-D #

Side-by-side

  • Daewoo FRS-U20ICW
  • Kelvinator KSM6100WF
  • LG GC-P197DPSL
  • Westinghouse WSE6100WF
  • Westinghouse WSE7000WF

Fridge-only

  • Fisher & Paykel C270R
  • Fisher & Paykel E450R
  • Westinghouse WRM3700WB-R

# Newly tested models.

Discontinued models

  • Bosch KAN56V10AU
  • Bosch KAN58A40AU
  • Bosch KAN62V00AU
  • Bosch KGN53X70AU
  • Bosch KGN53X125A
  • Changhong CHRF310
  • Daewoo FR-4501W
  • Daewoo FR-4501W
  • Electrolux EBM4300SC
  • Electrolux EHE5107SA
  • Electrolux ESE7007SE
  • Electrolux ETM4407SC
  • Electrolux ETM5207SC
  • Fisher and Paykel E249T
  • Fisher and Paykel E372BRE
  • Fisher and Paykel E381T
  • Fisher and Paykel E402B
  • Fisher and Paykel E406B
  • Fisher and Paykel E411T
  • Fisher and Paykel E440T
  • Fisher and Paykel E442B
  • Fisher and Paykel E521T
  • Fisher and Paykel E522B
  • Fisher and Paykel E522BRE2
  • Fisher and Paykel E522BRE3
  • Fisher and Paykel E522BRXFDU
  • Fisher and Paykel RF610A
  • Fisher and Paykel RF610ADUX2
  • Haier HSBS562IS
  • Haier HSBS582A
  • Haier HTD647AS
  • Haier HTD647ASS
  • Haier HTMR315SS
  • Kelvinator KBM4300WB
  • Kelvinator KBM5100MB
  • Kelvinator KSM6100WB
  • Kelvinator KTM3900WB
  • Kelvinator KTM4200WB
  • Kelvinator KTM4400WB
  • Kelvinator KTM5200MB
  • LG GC-305PS
  • LG GC-L197STF
  • LG GN-R466FW
  • LG GR-L247DPSL
  • Miele KFN 12823 SD-1
  • Mitsubishi MR-260B-W-A
  • Mitsubishi MR-385B-W-A
  • Mitsubishi MR-420U-W-B
  • Mitsubishi MR-420U-W-B
  • Mitsubishi MR-BF390B-W-A
  • Mitsubishi MR-C375B-ST-A
  • Samsung SR215MW
  • Samsung SR216NME
  • Samsung SR364MW
  • Samsung SR388MW
  • Samsung SR394NW
  • Samsung SR432NW
  • Samsung SR434MNP
  • Samsung SR511ENW
  • Samsung SRF801GDLS
  • Samsung SRL322MW
  • Samsung SRS585HDIS
  • Samsung SRS600NLS
  • Samsung SRS684GDHSS
  • Samsung SRS691GDIS
  • Sharp SJ-222S-SL
  • Sharp SJ308S-SL
  • Sharp SJ-339S-SL
  • Smeg SR650XA
  • Westinghouse WBE5100SB-R
  • Westinghouse WBM3700SB-R
  • Westinghouse WBM3700WB
  • Westinghouse WBM5100WB
  • Westinghouse WSE 7000SA
  • Westinghouse WSE6100WA
  • Westinghouse WTB2300WB
  • Westinghouse WTB2500WB
  • Westinghouse WTM2800WB (2012)
  • Westinghouse WTM2800WB (2013)
  • Westinghouse WTM3000WB (2012)
  • Westinghouse WTM3000WB (2013)
  • Westinghouse WTM3300WB (2012)
  • Westinghouse WTM3300WB (2013)
  • Westinghouse WTM4200WB (2013)
  • Westinghouse WTM5200WB
  • Whirlpool 6WSC21N4XY00
  • Whirlpool WRI21UW
  • Whirlpool WRI24UN
  • Whirlpool WRI27UG
  • Whirlpool WRIBP41WC
  • Whirlpool WRID41TW

How we test

Overall score
  • Temperature performance (broken down below): 80%
  • Energy efficiency: 20%

A good temperature for a fridge is 3°C, and for a freezer it's -18°C. The temperature performance score is a measure of the fridge’s ability to manage basic cooling temperatures in all compartments, and is based on the following factors:

  • Temperature fluctuations Do temperatures fluctuate too much due to the compressor running and stopping? (30%)
  • Temperature range Is there an adequate range of temperature combinations to satisfy the needs of most users? (25%)
  • Ambient change Can the fridge and freezer cope with changes in the outside temperature? (20%)
  • Temperature uniformity Are compartment temperatures generally uniform, without warmer or colder areas? (20%)
  • Recommended settings Is the temperature for both the fridge and freezer appropriate when the controls are set to the manufacturer's recommended or 'mid' setting? (5%)
Energy consumption / energy efficiency score

This test assesses the comparative energy consumption, and gives an indication of the amount of electricity used over one year of normal operation. The energy efficiency score is based on the measured energy consumption and is adjusted depending on the volume of the fresh-food and freezer compartments. For side-by-side fridges, the energy used is measured with any icemaker off, as the standard requires. Icemaking will use a little extra energy, and if you make a lot of ice you can expect a slight increase in energy consumption and running costs.

Quietness / noise

New fridges, particularly frost-free ones, make a combination of noises that some people may find annoying. More noise is produced when the compressor starts up and also during the defrost cycle. Some models have an external fan system to help keep the compressor cool, which can add to the noise level. Also, plastics inside the fridge can make loud noises as they expand and contract with temperature changes. The design of your kitchen and the fridge’s location will affect what you’ll hear. Our test tells you which models are noisier during normal running, but some of these more unusual noises can be more noticeable with models that are quieter during normal running.

Claimed total volume

The gross volume quoted by the manufacturer tells you approximately how much air space the fridge has to cool, which includes spaces you can’t put food into. Taking this into account, use the volumes to get an idea of how big the freezer is compared with the fresh-food compartment so you can choose a fridge that meets your storage needs. For side-by-side fridges with an icemaker, the usable freezer volume is approximately 30% less than claimed, due to space taken by the icemaker, so the claimed total volume is overstated too.

Running costs over 10 years

The running cost is calculated from the energy used over 10 years, using a rate of 26 cents per kilowatt hour. A 10-year period provides a useful indication of the long-term differences between high and low energy usage.

Price

This is a recommended retail price unless otherwise specified. You can probably get a better price by shopping around.

Defrost system

All the listed fridges are frost-free (unless otherwise noted). This means the refrigerator/freezer automatically defrosts around every 12 hours or so, but it depends on the model and how hard it's been working.

Dimensions

These are claimed dimensions for the smallest box that will fit around the fridge, that is, it includes hinges, door handles and any protrusions at the back, such as the compressor.

The installation space is the minimum total space recommended to allow air to circulate around the fridge for optimum energy use and performance. If there is no gap at the rear of overhead cabinets, then the recommended space above may increase by about 40mm. Many fridges are designed to sit proud of the cabinetry, so you will often find that the required depth is less than the depth of the fridge.

Door hinge position

This is the side of the fridge on which the door hinge is positioned, as well as the direction that the door opens. With many models you'll have to pre-order it on either the left or right, and it isn't reversible after purchase. Some are reversible: while you can do this yourself with some models, manufacturers recommend getting a service call. Reversible doors are useful if you move house and/or need to position the fridge differently.

Save money on your new fridge

Our report will save you money for years to come and goes beyond the sales hype to reveal:

  • Which of the smaller fridges perform best.
  • How to save hundreds of dollars on running costs every year.
  • Which brands need the least repairs.

Choose the right fridge for you

No need to rely on a salesperson. Use this report to decide:

  • What type of fridge will suit your needs: top freezer, bottom freezer, side-by-side?
  • What optional features you need and what you can do without.
 
 

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Buying a fridge?

Here's some tips on what to consider.

9

Controls

A single control may seem easier to use, but as it sets both the freezer and the fresh-food compartment, you can't adjust one without affecting the other. Look for intuitive, simple controls and labelling that offer:

  • Maintain steady temperatures
  • Maintain even temperatures throughout compartments
  • Offer a good range of temperature options
  • Have optimum temperatures on their recommended or factory settings
  • Stay cool in summer and winter
  • Automatically defrost
10

Dairy compartment

A dairy compartment is convenient for keeping butter and hard cheeses slightly soft.

11

Shelves

Check that the shelves (and door shelves) are easy to remove and replace, and that the range of shelf positions suit your needs. For example, can you stand soft-drink or wine bottles in the door shelves? Split shelves can be handy for this.

Some shelves are made from moulded plastic or safety glass, which helps confine spills. But some plastic shelves may not be as durable as those made from other materials.

12

Anti-bacterial surfaces

You may have come across some brands that promote their fridge as having plastic surfaces or door seals that are "anti-bacterial", which is claimed to inhibit the growth of bacteria on treated surfaces for the life of the fridge. These surfaces contain Microban, an antibacterial pesticide with the active ingredient triclosan, registered by the US EPA to inhibit bacterial growth in plastic. But it doesn’t protect you from food-borne illness — just the plastic — and it isn't a substitute for good hygiene practices

13

Crisper drawer

Look for a well-sealed crisper drawer to keep vegetables fresh; check that the fridge's air outlets don't blow onto it, as this will dry food out faster. A good crisper means you don't have to put your fruit and vegies in plastic bags.

Also, food should be seen easily. Wire baskets in the freezer are better than ones with opaque plastic fronts.

14

Freezer position

Think about your typical fridge and freezer usage and whether the type of fridge you're considering matches it. The fresh-food compartment is used more often than the freezer, so having it on top or at the side improves accessibility.

Bottom-mounted freezers tend to have slide-out baskets instead of shelves, making contents easy to get at. But there can be a disadvantage: the crispers in fridges with the freezer at the bottom are sometimes too cold.

Buying a fridge?

Here's some tips on what to consider.

Buying a fridge?

Here's some tips on what to consider.

1

Energy rating

A good fridge/freezer should do more than keep your food safe — it should also be energy-efficient. As it’s working non-stop, the energy it consumes adds up — think of the long-term running costs as part of the purchase price of the fridge.

2

Warning Beep

Some electronic fridges sound a warning alarm if they're left open too long, which can be a useful reminder. Some fridge models allow the alarm to be turned off.

3

Water/ice dispenser

A water and ice dispenser on the outside of the door means it isn’t constantly opened for cold drinks.

4

Water filter

You may also want to consider a water filter for your water dispenser and ice-maker, which will also need to be plumbed in. If possible, try to connect your fridge to an existing water filter — it'll save you additional costs for filter cartridges.

5

Roller

Rollers are useful for easy moving — when cleaning behind the fridge, for example. It should also have adjustable feet (or rollers) for levelling the fridge. Four rollers are better than two, provided they have brakes or adjustable feet to secure the fridge in place.

6

Doors

Manufacturers like to tell you their fridges purr like a pussy cat. Don’t be fooled: some machines are loud. If your fridge is close to your living or bedroom areas this can be a big deal.

7

Doors

Do the handles allow easy door opening and closing? Note that in most cases, the level of difficulty will increase when the fridge is working (as opposed to a display model that's not operating). Make sure the handles aren't too high or too low and that the door opens in the right direction for your kitchen. On some models the doors are reversible but you may have to call in a service person and/or buy a kit to set this up.

8

Freezer position

Think about your typical fridge and freezer usage and whether the type of fridge you're considering matches it. The fresh-food compartment is used more often than the freezer, so having it on top or at the side improves accessibility.

Bottom-mounted freezers tend to have slide-out baskets instead of shelves, making contents easy to get at. But there can be a disadvantage: the crispers in fridges with the freezer at the bottom are sometimes too cold.

Buying a fridge?

Here's some tips on what to consider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Efficiency and energy labels

A good fridge/freezer should do more than keep your food safe — it should also be energy-efficient. As it’s working non-stop, the energy it consumes adds up — think of the long-term running costs as part of the purchase price of the fridge.

For some years now Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) have been in place, which every new fridge sold in Australia must meet. These are mandatory standards and the tougher MEPS that came into force in January 2005 have brought significant improvements in energy efficiency.

The latest MEPS became manadatory as of 1st April 2010 (MEPS 2010), which makes 2007 testing standard mandatory. The actual MEPs 2010 requirements haven't changed significantly, but one noticible change is the energy label star rating system.

The new energy star rating label was introduced in April 2010. It uses a different star rating algorithm to allow further improvement in energy efficiency. This means a fridge previously rated four stars will now only have two stars. It doesn’t mean it’s less efficient – the star ratings have just been calculated differently, so be sure to also compare the kWh/year too.

Fridges_EnergyLabels-400

All fridges manufactured or imported from 1 April 2010 must carry the new label and be registered to the latest testing standard. Stock made or imported before this date can continue to be sold. Over the transitional period, both labels will be displayed in stores. The new labels will not have a green bar on the bottom, and they can accommodate super energy efficient machines up to 10 stars by adding a four-star crown above the label.

Freezer position

Think about your typical fridge and freezer usage and whether the type of fridge you're considering matches it.

  • The fresh-food compartment is used more often than the freezer, so having it on top or at the side improves accessibility.
  • Bottom-mounted freezers tend to have slide-out baskets instead of shelves, making contents easy to get at. But there can be a disadvantage: the crispers in fridges with the freezer at the bottom are sometimes too cold.
  • Each compartment of a side-by-side model tends to be narrow and deep. This can make them difficult to reach into — slide-out shelves can help — and can also restrict storage options (we couldn’t fit a frozen pizza flat in some). But the narrow doors can be less intrusive into passage space in the kitchen when open.
  • Generally, the tall compartments of side-by-sides can make the even distribution of cold air difficult, so you'll get variations in temperatures throughout the fridge and freezer, particularly at the top.
  • The two cabinets of a side by side tend to twist, so it can be difficult to aligned the doors perfectly.
  • Check that the fridge can fit through your home's doorways before you buy — particularly if you're considering a side-by-side fridge.
  • Pigeon pairs are separate-but-matching fridge and freezer. These give you more options for storage than a side-by-side combined fridge/freezer, but will take up more space and have a much wider footprint.
  • With pigeon pairs, you have the option of not putting the two components next to each other — you can put the freezer in another room — unlike side-by-sides.

Also, bear in mind that all fridges need at least a few centimetres of air space around them. Measure your available space, and brochures in the shop or the fridge’s manual will tell you how much space to allow — as does our Compare fridges feature.

Controls

  • A single control may seem easier to use, but as it sets both the freezer and the fresh-food compartment, you can't adjust one without affecting the other. In most fridges with two controls, one is the thermostat and the second is usually a baffle — a flap that directs the cold air more to either one or the other compartment.
  • Having two controls doesn't always make adjusting the temperature any easier, but may increase your chances of getting the right temperature balance between the fridge and freezer.
  • Some electronic fridges have relatively independent temperature management of the two compartments, which better addresses the problem.
  • Some have a 24-hour memory that monitors door openings and precools the fridge before a period of heavy use — such as when the kids get home from school or you're preparing dinner.
  • And some automatically manage the defrosting to suit the conditions.

For ease of use

  • Reversible door: Make sure the door opens in the right direction for your kitchen. On some models the doors are reversible but you may have to call in a service person and/or buy a kit to do it.
  • Do the handles allow easy door opening and closing? Note that the level of difficulty, in most cases, will increase when the fridge is working (as opposed to a display model that's not operating). Make sure the handles aren't too high or too low.
  • Check that the shelves (and door shelves) are easy to remove and replace, and that the range of shelf positions suit your needs. For example, can you stand soft-drink or wine bottles in the door shelves? Split shelves can be handy for this.
  • Some shelves are made from moulded plastic or safety glass, which helps confine spills. But some plastic shelves may not be as durable as those made from other materials.
  • If the fridge has to be positioned with the door hinge next to a wall, shelves should be removable with the door open at only 90 degrees.
  • Rollers are useful for easy moving — when cleaning behind the fridge, for example. It should also have adjustable feet (or rollers) for levelling the fridge. Four rollers are better than two, provided they have brakes or adjustable feet to secure the fridge in place.
  • Look for smooth, easy to clean surfaces with no awkward corners or dirt-trapping crevices.
  • Some fridges have a warning beep if you leave the door open too long.

Features

  • A chiller is important if you often store meat, fish and poultry (fresh or cooked), to keep it at a safe temperature and for longer. If you're choosing a fridge with a chiller feature, the chiller’s temperature should be close to zero and ideally it has a separate temperature control.
  • A quick-chill zone close to the cold-air outlets is handy for cooling drinks quickly, but food left there too long can freeze. Some CHOICE readers have told us that far from being useful, they find this zone reduces the amount of usable space.
  • A dairy compartment is convenient for keeping butter and hard cheeses slightly soft.
  • Look for a well-sealed crisper drawer to keep vegetables fresh; check that the fridge's air outlets don't blow onto it, as this will dry food out faster. A good crisper means you don't have to put your fruit and vegies in plastic bags.
  • Ice trays with a dispenser or other special containers are available on some models.
  • A water and ice dispenser on the outside of the door means it isn’t constantly opened for cold drinks.
  • Some water dispensers and ice makers/dispensers need to be connected to a water tap — important to consider before installing or moving your fridge. Also, they can take up almost 30% of your freezer space. With others, water can be dispensed from a container inside the door.
  • You may also want to consider a water filter for your water dispenser and icemaker which will also need to be plumbed in. If possible try to connect your fridge to an existing water filter — it'll save you additional costs for filter cartridges.

Refrigerants

Energy efficiency aside, in order for a fridge to be environmentally friendly, it should contain gases that won’t contribute to ozone depletion or global warming. Gases inside a fridge are used as refrigerant (part of the cooling mechanism), and for blowing (making air bubbles in and distributing) the insulation, which keeps the compartments cool.

In the past, fridges and freezers used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) as refrigerants and blowing gases, both of which are ozone depleting gases. CFCs aren’t allowed in modern fridges, and while HCFCs aren’t scheduled to be phased out till 2020, it’s now uncommon to find them in fridges on the Australian market.

Manufacturers predominantly use the hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant R134a. HFCs don’t deplete the ozone layer but are still active greenhouse gases. A more environmentally sound refrigerant used by some manufacturers is R600a, a hydrocarbon (HC). More manufacturers are gradually turning over their fridge ranges to incorporate the refrigerant R600a (a hydrocarbon called isobutane), a more environmentally friendly refrigerant than R134a. R600a also claims better energy efficiency. One of the downsides of R600a is that it’s flammable, unlike R134a; however the small quantities used in refrigeration make this a very low risk. Our conversations with manufacturers regarding this changeover come with assurances that both the design of the cabinets and the training levels have improved to cope with this change. 

Opening your fridge door

When it comes to fridges, CHOICE tests energy usage to the Australian standard, which means testing at 32°C ambient temperature. While most kitchens don’t get this hot, this harsh test offsets the amount of times some users open a fridge door.

But what happens to the fridge temperature whenever you do just that? The answer is that much of the cold air that has been building up inside the fridge gradually falls out. Think of the fridge as being full of water, and each time you open the door, the water falls out onto the ground. Then, when you close the door, the fridge needs to build up that cold air again. 

If you have a teenager or someone who loves to just open the fridge and stare into it for ages, wishing a particular food was there or slowly making up their mind about what to plunder (every home has one!), they’re making it that much harder for the fridge to fill up the cold again, costing you money.

As part of our latest round of fridge reviews, we opened and closed three fridges of various sizes to see what kind of fluctuations would occur and get an idea of just how much more energy you use when you open the fridge door. Using conservative experiments, we found an increase of 5-14% in running costs. Some manufacturers have also carried out similar experiments claiming a 40% increase in running costs.

While this isn’t a case for chaining up the fridge, remember when you’re planning your meal or thinking about getting something from the fridge, do it quickly and efficiently, especially with energy costs now on the rise.

Energy

Fridge energy efficiency has improved dramatically over the past decade. Unfortunately, in some cases, these gains have led to poor food storage. Some fridges save on energy by having longer “compressor-off cycles”, which cause the temperature inside to fluctuate. Ice-cream is a good indicator of temperature fluctuation, as it can partially melt during the off cycle and then form gritty crystals when it refreezes.

While you have some control over temperatures setting, you have no control over large temperature swings - as the compressor stops and starts - or poor temperature uniformity.

  • Poor uniformity may mean an average 3°C in the fresh food compartment but more than 5°C in other parts, such as the door shelf. This can result in milk going off much faster than you would expect.

To put the spotlight on a fridge’s fundamental function – keeping food fresh – our testing method and rating scale's main focus is on temperature performance.

We put all fridge brands tested through their paces in our specialised laboratories. Our applicance reliabilty survey also gives a good indication of how our members rate the reliability of major fridge brands over time. Also consult our fridge and freezer buying guide before hitting the shops.

To make the smallest greenhouse emission’s impact over time, the most important aspect is the fridge’s energy efficiency rather than the type of refrigerant/blowing gas used. But if you want to check which refrigerant your fridge uses, all models have this information on the fridge specification plate in the cabinet.

Fighting germs?

You may have come across some brands that promote their fridge as having plastic surfaces or door seals that are "anti-bacterial", which is claimed to inhibit the growth of bacteria on treated surfaces for the life of the fridge. These surfaces contain Microban, an antibacterial pesticide with the active ingredient triclosan, registered by the US EPA to inhibit bacterial growth in plastic. But it doesn’t protect you from food-borne illness (just the plastic), and neither is it a substitute for good hygiene practices — you still have to clean your fridge.

Recycle your old fridge

If you’re upgrading to a sleek new model, what do you do with your old fridge? While it might be tempting to keep it in the garage to store cold drinks, it could be costing you an extra $130 a year to run — and producing an extra tonne of greenhouse gas emissions per year. If your old fridge is over 15 years old, it may also contain ozone-depleting refrigerant (CFCs), which can leak out.

If your fridge is still in relatively good condition, contact your local Salvation Army or similar charity, which can send it to a good home. Otherwise, contact your local council or the Australian Refrigeration Council (1300 884 483) to find out about any local recovery schemes. The refrigerant will need to be recovered and recycled by an appropriately licensed person.

You can also go to the Planet Ark/Sensis recycling website and search under 'white goods'.

In NSW you can get a rebate by recycling your fridge (or second fridge) - collection is free and you will get a $35 'rebate' for your efforts, visit Fridge Buyback for details.

When disposing of your fridge, make sure you remove the doors so it poses no potential hazards to children.

Fridge working hard, or hardly working?

Blaming your grocer for your food going off too soon? What if it’s not the grocer’s fault but your fridge that’s not keeping things fresh? Supermarkets have high turnover and strictly regulated health requirements for food handling and quality, but who checks your fridge regularly – or whether it was damaged during transport?

Our recommended fridges have better cooling capacity and steady temperatures, but can’t be guaranteed to work perfectly if they have a manufacturing fault or get dropped somewhere between the production line and your house. It’s quite difficult to tell if this has happened unless you see something obvious such as a broken ice tray or large dent on the side.

Over a testing period of 30 new fridges, four turned out to have a fault of some kind – a 13% strike rate. But you can’t tell if you have such a fridge unless you get it checked by an expert – a costly exercise. If you keep your fridge closed as much as possible (difficult for those with teenagers) and you start noticing food going off sooner than it should, this is another sign that temperatures aren’t as they should be. You can try adjusting the controls to refine the temperature – you can measure this with a fridge thermometer over time. But really, you shouldn’t have to bear any of these costs.

We’d like to see a more accurate way for consumers to quickly check their fridge is keeping the correct temperatures. Accurate thermostats on a digital reading and/or simple error messages are two ways for this to happen. Other digital display suggestions such as “Close door for better temperatures” would help keep both better food quality and your energy costs down. 

Few fridges on the market do this well, aside from simple alarms to close the door. We look forward to seeing manufacturers improve the quality of their fridge from production to end of life, helping prevent food wastage along the way. In the meantime, check your fridge carefully on delivery, just to make sure there is no obvious damage that should raise alarm bells.

Is your new fridge really new?

When shopping for a new fridge, many people assume it is exactly that – new. However, it’s not unheard of to have a fridge sit in a warehouse or on the shop floor for months or even years at a time before it’s sold. Who knows how many times it has been moved around, knocked about and possibly even damaged in that time? It’s not impossible to check the manufacture date of a fridge before buying it, but it can involve a bit of sleuthing as it’s often encoded for manufacturer use.

For instance, out of six newly tested fridges, three have the dates inside their door in the format of a serial number. The first digit represents the year and the next two the week in that year the fridge was manufactured. Most people are unlikely to look for the label of the fridge to check it. Even if the coding can be clearly seen, that’s only going to help if you’re purchasing the floor sample. So what guarantee do you have when buying a new fridge that it’s not a few years old?

One solution would be to put the date of manufacture in an obvious and easily accessible area, or at the very least to simplify the coding so consumers can easily read it. This would mean that with a quick glance at the label, you could be assured the fridge delivered has the same date as the one you ordered, or newer if possible. If a floor sample has an older date, you could bargain for a lower price.

If you are unhappy with the date on the model delivered, you may want to query the retailer and ask for a model with a more recent date. Many products purchased require a date of manufacture. It can be argued that the older a fridge is, the more likely the deterioration of elements such as seals. For the benefit of consumers, CHOICE would like to see all appliances clearly labelled with the year of manufacture to ensure that new really means new.

Noise

When we measure fridge noise, first we take a background noise reading and it must be below 20 dB. Then we measure the noise when the compressor is running and with a hard wall behind it. We measure with the measuring device mounted, at a point 1 m high and 1 m away from the front of the fridge; this gives you a reasonable idea of the relative noise of the compressor, but a fridge will make some really odd and sometimes very loud sounds when it undergoes a defrost - pops, gurgles etc. We do not measure those.

If the compressor is not running, then the main noise would be from the fans which assist the circulation and the various noises that happen during a defrost (some of which can be quite alarming). Noise measurements are impacted by a lot of different external factors including background dB and vibrations.

It's worth asking a couple of questions if you have a loud fridge. Does your fridge have enough room around it to dissipate heat from the compressor? Look at our installation recommendations in the table. If your fridge installation manual doesn't come with its own recommendations, consider leaving at least 5-10cm at the sides, rear and top of the fridge.

Is the fridge leveled on the floor? An unleveled fridge can give out some odd sounds. Is it on a hard floor or carpet? Vibrations from the fridge can compound depending on your floor type. Is it situated in an open space or enclosed in cabinetry? An open-plan environment means any noises will travel, whereas an enclosed kitchen or fridge alcove will most likely dampen noises from the fridge.

Does it have things placed on top or stuck to the front? These can vibrate when the fridge goes through a compressor cycle. Where, how, and at what distance is the noise measuring device? Is it mounted or held in hand? We use a calibrated noise meter at 1 meter in front and in height from the fridge. While your everyday smart phone app won't be as accurate as possible, it can give you an indication of noise, both background and fridge.

What are ideal temperatures?

Keeping food cold slows down the rate at which most bacteria and mould grow, and helps to keep food fresh for longer. It's widely agreed that 3ºC is an ideal temperature for the fresh-food compartment, but between 0°C and 4°C is OK — check the temperature with a fridge thermometer.

Crispers shouldn't be much colder than 4°C, because some fruits and vegies (such as lettuce) will be ruined if they freeze.

How cold should your freezer be?

The warmer it is, the faster your foods' taste and appearance will deteriorate. Many manufacturers recommend keeping their frozen foods at –18ºC, which is easily achievable in a good freezer, though some will go colder.

Ice cream can be a rough indicator for checking the temperature of your freezer: at –18ºC it'll be hard, and keep its texture and appearance. If your freezer's temperature varies, you'll find ice crystals start to form, the ice cream becomes gritty and eventually yellows. The warmer your freezer is, the quicker this will happen.

Some fridges have a chiller, which may have its own temperature control. This is in fact just a baffle (an adjustable flap), not a thermostat: adjusting it to allow more cold air in will decrease the temperature. A chiller is good for storing fresh meat at around 0°C, keeping it safer to eat for longer than if stored in the main fridge compartment.

To check whether your fridge is cooling as it should, buy a food or fridge thermometer (from a kitchen or catering supply shop, hardware or electrical store) — or one for each compartment — and monitor temperatures in the fresh-food and freezer compartments. A fridge should be able to achieve –18ºC and 3ºC simultaneously in the freezer and fresh-food compartments respectively in cool to warm environments. If your fridge has problems reaching or maintaining these temperatures, contact the manufacturer.

Conventional controls — thermostat and baffle

Many conventional fridges have two controls, but that doesn't mean one controls the freezer and the other the fresh-food compartment. Though you'll often find one control in each compartment, adjusting either of them can in fact affect the temperature in both. This is because one of the controls is usually a thermostat, while the other's a baffle.

  • The thermostat senses the temperature (sometimes in the freezer, sometimes in the fresh-food compartment, and sometimes in both — it varies from model to model) and, if it gets too warm, the compressor (the motor unit) kicks in, producing cool air. When the temperature is right, the compressor turns off.
  • The baffle control dictates how much of the cold air is directed to the freezer, and how much to the fresh-food compartment, and so dictates the relative temperatures of the two compartments.
So how do you know which is which?

Ideally they'd be properly labelled, perhaps as 'Temperature' and 'Balance control'. Often, though, they're both just labelled 'Temperature control', giving the false impression that the temperatures in the fresh-food compartment and freezer are independent.
Check the instruction manual that comes with your fridge — the better ones do explain which control does what, and it's worth reading it carefully to get your fridge's performance right.

Alternatively, when the compressor is running try turning one of the controls to the warmest setting — if it's the thermostat control it will turn off the compressor. If it doesn't, it's the baffle.

If you still can't tell, call the manufacturer for the information.

Electronic fridges — better control

Some — though not all — electronic fridges use a different system, which can be much easier to use. These fridges have separate controls, sensors and fans, allowing the temperatures selected for the two compartments to be relatively independent.

Should I alter the settings?

When I've put in fresh groceries?

Once you've got your fridge temperatures right, you shouldn't need to fiddle with the settings to cope with a load of warm groceries. If a fridge does its job properly, turning the temperature control to colder when you put a large load in won't speed up the cooling process — it'll just mean your food ends up colder.
If your fridge doesn’t seem to react to a warm load by starting the compressor running to cool it down, you can try setting it colder for a while, but don’t let the food get too cold before turning it back. Alternatively, have it checked by a service person — or, if it’s old, consider buying a new fridge.

From summer to winter and vice versa?

You may find your freezer gets warmer — not colder as you might expect — during the winter months. It's a good idea to keep an eye on temperatures using a fridge/freezer thermometer — or two — particularly in the height of winter and summer.

Tips

  • Opening the fridge door means lots of cold air can escape. By keeping your fridge moderately full, you'll help prevent the fridge from warming up too much (and reduce any food safety risks). This also keeps the temperatures more even throughout the compartments.
  • It's often difficult to get both the fresh-food compartment and the freezer at the right temperatures. Buy two good thermometers — one for the freezer and the other for the fresh-food compartment to help you get the temperatures right. Go to our Fridge/freezer thermometers article for which ones to buy.

Compartments

Which foods should you put where?

The crisper The enclosed drawer(s) you’ll find at the bottom of most fresh-food compartments — is designed for keeping fruit and vegetables fresh. A good crisper should be cool and well sealed, which means it won’t be as dry as the rest of the fridge, so your vegies should stay fresh for longer. Check that the fridge's air outlets don't blow into it, as this will dry them out faster.

The door shelves are usually the most convenient spot to put bottles, whether of milk, soft drink, sauce, juice or wine. But in some of the fridges we’ve tested, the door bottle shelves have been warmer than is ideal for keeping milk (it’s best stored at or below 4°C). If you want it to last longer, keep it in a colder place in the body of the fridge. And some fridges’ door shelves are too small to store soft-drink bottles.

Dairy compartment This is intended to keep cheese, butter and the like at a warmer temperature than in the rest of the fridge — closer to serving or spreading temperature. Of course, cheese in particular won’t last as long as if it’s stored at a colder temperature. Soft cheeses shouldn't be stored here but in the cooler main part of the fridge, because they're prone to contamination with listeria bacteria. You may also have a butter conditioner, which has a small heater to keep butter soft and spreadable. The heater may have a few settings, ‘hard’ usually means the heater’s off and the conditioner functions as a dairy compartment.

Chiller compartment Some fridges have a chiller compartment, which should be at around 0°C to keep perishable food fresh for longer. It's useful for keeping uncooked chicken, fish and other meats fresh, or even for quickly chilling a drink. You’ll also find that precooked foods keep longer here, but be careful about cross-contamination with raw foods.

Convertible compartments A few fridges have a versatile compartment that you can use as a chiller or crisper by selecting the right temperature. Some also have a warm setting that’s ideal for storing tropical fruits, tomatoes and so on.

Egg storage Store them in the fridge in their original carton: it protects them, slows down moisture loss, prevents them absorbing odours from other foods and enables you to keep track of how old they are. Fresh eggs should keep well for four to five weeks; boiled eggs in their shells will keep for up to five days. Cracked eggs may be contaminated, so throw them out.

Freezer compartment As with the main compartment, it’s best to avoid loading too much in at once, and don't put piping hot food straight into the freezer, as it’ll warm up the food that’s already there. If your freezer’s relatively full, its temperature’s more likely to stay even and your food should last longer. However, be careful not to block the cold-air outlets with a frost-free model, and leave air space around the walls for better air circulation.

For best temperatures and storage conditions for fruit and veges - CSIRO

Problems with your fridge?


A fridge is an appliance you expect will work for a long time, and given you store food in it, you need to be able to rely on it to maintain a consistent temperature and function well. No-one wants to waste money on spoiled food due to power loss or a poorly performing fridge. Maintain your fridge in the best possible working order by following our simple steps below, and you can avoid callout fees for repair people when you don’t need them. As always, check the manual for any maintenance instructions and follow them as best you can.

Noise

Fridges make noise, like many other electrical products. These can include fan sounds (moving cold air around different areas of the fridge), pops (defrosting ice), gurgling (liquid refrigerant circling the fridge), hissing (difference in pressure between warm and cold air) and compressor noise.

If your fridge is making a lot of noise it could be that the fridge doesn’t have enough room to dissipate hot air to the surrounds, and therefore needs to work harder to cool the fridge. Also make sure you have enough air space around the fridge. The recommended space can usually be found in the manual. If not, leaving at least 5-10cm around the sides, top and rear is generally recommended. Also install the fridge away from direct sunlight and any heat-generating appliances such as heaters, ovens, cooktops or dishwashers.

Check the controls to see whether they are set to very cold. The colder they are, the more likely the compressor is to run. This is also likely to happen if a large amount of food has just been placed in the fridge, as the fridge tries to cool the food down, or if you’ve put something hot (such as uncooled leftovers) into the fridge or freezer. The fridge compressor is likely to run more often in warmer seasons.

Check what is on top or balanced against the fridge – it could be something is vibrating against the fridge when the compressor starts up. This can also happen internally if a bottle or something else is awkwardly stored inside the fridge and vibrates against something else in response to the compressor vibration.

Balance

Check that your fridge is balanced. Unbalanced fridges mean doors don’t close properly, costing you money from the compressor trying to replace cold air that leaks out the door and it can also cause increased noise. Usually fridges have feet that can be adjusted once you’ve got them installed. Balance issues can also occur if the floor is weak or uneven.

Performance

If you find that your compressor is working hard but your food isn’t getting cold, check to see that none of your food items are covering internal outlets. Cold air is being continuously pushed into the fridge through outlets in the fridge and freezer area. If you block these with an overloaded fridge you’ll make the fridge work harder. Leave space around the outlets so cool air can circulate. Check that the door is closing properly and that no containers are blocking the closing of the door. Opening the door too frequently or leaving it ajar for extended periods will also make it difficult for the fridge to cool food.

Frost

Most fridges these days are frost-free. If yours has frost build-up, check the doors are fully closed and that the seals are air-tight. Seals that are dirty, faulty or deteriorating with age will allow humid air to leak in. Faulty seals mean the compressor can't deal with the amount of moisture in the fridge, which then freezes to the sides of the freezer door. If it’s really serious, you may have issues opening the fridge.

Cleaning

Most manufacturers will recommend turning off your fridge prior to cleaning, so it's best to clean when the food supply is low. Use a mild unscented detergent and lukewarm water with a soft cloth on the interior and the outside of the fridge. Make sure all parts, including the seals, are thoroughly dried after washing and avoid wetting any controls or electronic areas. Thoroughly wiping up any spills as they occur will help in the long run. Avoid using any abrasives.


Smells

This can be directly related to what is stored in the fridge. Check to see what’s in there, as something may have spilled and started to spoil, or may not be covered properly when stored. Some containers and wrappers can cause smells or react with food to create smells.

Water leaks

Outside the fridge Check the rear of the fridge to see whether the defrost water tray is correctly positioned and that the drainage tube that leads to it is indeed pointing at the drip tray. This water should evaporate naturally over time.
Inside the fridge - blocked drain or outlet. There are drainage channels in some fridge cabinets, so check to see if there is a blockage of food or dirt and clear it. If drainage channels are not blocked, the leak could be from condensation so check the door is closing properly, is not opened for extended periods and that the seals are functioning well. This can also occur when there are periods of high humidity in the environment.
In the vegetable/fruit compartments Because of the low humidity in the fridge, vegetables and fruit will lose water and this can cause condensation on the compartments they are stored in. If your fridge has a humidity setting, try using this to see whether you can optimise storage periods. Alternatively you can use storage bags to store the vegetables and fruit in the compartments.

Food is freezing in the fridge

Check the temperature setting. Try adjusting the temperature to see whether freezing of items in the fridge still occurs. Leave the fridge for 24 hours to register any changes in temperature controls you make. Cold-sensitive foods (easily frozen) placed in front of vents used for the cold air circulation are likely to be affected, so make sure you keep vents free of products.

Moving

If you move your fridge, some commonsense approaches minimise any damage to you or the fridge. It’s a good idea to close and tape drawers and doors, and make sure the power lead is tucked into the back or taped to the fridge. If the fridge needs to be laid down on its side at any point during the move, when moved upright again for install leave it to rest for a while prior to turning the power back on. Resting periods will be described in the manual but range from 10 minutes to a few hours. Cooling down will take 2-3 hours.

Ice and water maker issues

For any fridges containing ice and/or water compartments, check for water leaks at all water connection points. Follow manufacturer instructions for replacing any filters. If the ice maker does not make ice, it could be that it is turned off, or that the fridge is not level (causing non-uniform shaped ice cubes that can block the shute). Also check the filter for blockages and that the tap supply to the fridge is turned on.

With the help of guidelines developed with the Independent Living Centre (NSW), we've evaluated many fridges for potential difficulties for people with a disability. Few modern fridges are particularly good in this regard, but here are some things to look out for.

For people with poor vision

  • Good internal lighting and clearly marked controls are essential.
  • Look for a strong contrast between labels, such as black or navy blue on a white background. And also between features (such as crispers) and their surroundings.

For people in wheelchairs

  • Small and shallow fridges make access to items better.
  • A bottom-mounted freezer tends to make using both compartments easier — a higher freezer may be almost impossible to reach as well as clean. Drawers or baskets that slide out easily in a bottom-mount freezer also improve accessibility. But access to all of the fresh-food, and in some cases the chiller, may be impossible with a large fridge.
  • Check where the temperature controls are positioned in the fresh-food compartment: they're often towards the top and back, so you may need help to adjust them.
  • Handles running vertically down the side of the door are easier to use.

For people with upper limb dysfunction

  • The old-fashioned D-type handles are much easier for people with arthritis and lack of hand strength to use, but most modern fridges don't have them.
  • Generally, pushbutton controls are suitable for most people in this group but may not suit those with tremors. In this case, controls with large knobs or slide-bars are better.
  • Look for controls at the front of the compartment.
  • Wire shelves and perforated door shelves are more difficult to clean and don't contain spills.
  • You'll probably find two small crisper drawers easier to handle than a single large one. Make sure chillers, crispers, etc, pull out smoothly and are stable once open — some tend to fall all the way out. People with tremors will find crispers with tracks harder to replace after removing them.
  • Avoid small and tightly-spaced shelf guides, as lining up the shelf to slide it in can be tricky.

For people with cognitive impairment

  • Some electronic fridges sound a warning alarm if they're left open, which can be a useful reminder. However this depends on the individual — some may find it confusing.
  • Look for intuitive, simple controls and labelling. Food should be seen easily, for example, wire baskets in the freezer are better than ones with opaque plastic fronts.

For people with a bad back

  • If you use the freezer a lot, you may prefer it on top, to minimise bending. If you don't, go for a bottom-mounted freezer so that the fresh-food compartment is at a handy height.
  • Temperature controls should be easy to reach without bending.
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