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Fridge reviews

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04.What to look for

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.

 

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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 1 April 2010 (MEPS 2010), which makes 2007 testing standard mandatory. The actual MEPs 2010 requirements haven't changed significantly, but one noticeable 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 use and whether the type of fridge you're considering is suitable.

  • 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 align 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 pre-cools the fridge before a period of heavy use – such as when the kids get home from school or you're preparing dinner.
  • Some fridges 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 veggies 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 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.
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