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
Fisher and Paykel E249TR
Fisher and Paykel E331T
Fisher and Paykel E381TRT2
# Fisher and Paykel E402BRE3
Fisher and Paykel E411T
# Fisher and Paykel E442BRE3
# Fisher and Paykel E522BRE3
# Fisher and Paykel RF522WDRX1
# LG GR-L730SL
# Westinghouse WBM5100WC
# Newly tested models.
How we test
- Temperature performance (broken down below): 80%
- Energy efficiency: 20%
A good temperature for a fridge is 3°C, and for a freezer -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 and through the door dispenser, 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.
This is a recommended retail price unless otherwise specified. You can probably get a better price by shopping around.
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.
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 the depth of the fridge.
Door hinge position
This is the side of the fridge that 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. But 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.