The Best Fridge 2020: A Homeowner's Guide

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With so many styles and features from which to choose, picking the best fridge for you may feel a bit overwhelming. The good news is that it's really not as difficult as it seems. Most of the choices you'll make along the way will depend on your personal tastes, how you use your fridge and your budget. There are a lot of choices, but there are no wrong answers as long as your new kitchen appliance fits in your space comfortably.

Choosing the Right Size Fridge

The best fridge is one that fits in your kitchen, so begin your quest for a new appliance by measuring your space. A standard refrigerator is 36 inches wide, but you can buy one as narrow as 24 inches if space is limited. Most standard units are between 67 and 70 inches tall and 29 to 35 inches deep. Remember to measure your doorways so you don't buy a fridge that you can't get inside your house.

Built-ins are a slightly different animal. Built-in refrigerators nestle into the cabinets in your kitchen so that the door is flush with your cupboards rather than sticking out into the room. Built-ins cost a bit more and are usually taller than free-standing fridges at up to 84 inches. Because they are the same depth as your cabinets and countertops, built-ins are only 24 inches deep. You can eke out some extra room, however, since built-ins can be up to 48 inches wide.

When measuring, take into account the fact that refrigerators need adequate airflow to function properly. A fridge that's crammed up against a wall will get hot and have to work much harder. Make sure your new appliance will have at least 1 inch of clearance at the back and on both sides. You'll also need to leave room for the refrigerator door to open.

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Storage Space Considerations

Measured in cubic feet, the interior dimensions of your refrigerator are critical. If it's just you, you probably don't want a cavernous fridge where things get lost and rediscovered when they're moldy. Go too small with teenagers in the house, however, and you'll spend all your free time running to the grocery store.

For a happy medium, Digital Trends recommends allowing 4 to 6 cubic feet of interior space for every adult in your home. If you tend to throw dinner parties or cook large holiday meals, add an extra 6 cubic feet of space. A family of four typically needs around 24 cubic feet of space, while a two-person household can get by with around 14 cubic feet.

Know Your Refrigerator Style

Just as they come in different sizes, refrigerators also come in different shapes. Tried and true, you can still purchase a traditional unit with a fridge on the bottom and a freezer on the top. According to Consumer Reports, this layout tends to provide the most interior space relative to its size. You will, however, need to bend down to reach the crisper and food on the bottom shelf.

If your primary concern is easy access, choose a fridge with a freezer on the bottom and a fridge on the top. This configuration puts the fridge at the most convenient height. For added convenience, consider French doors. These don't open as wide and can save a lot of space in a cramped kitchen. You can still open both doors for large items, though, so you'll have no trouble tossing a pizza box in there.

You will, unfortunately, have trouble getting a pizza box into a side-by-side unit. In a side-by-side setup, the freezer is on one side of the appliance, and the fridge is on the other. These narrow fridges are good for tight spaces but avoid them if you can. The doors don't open very wide, and they tend to be deep, meaning you'll frequently have to go treasure hunting at the very back of the unit for the milk. They're also less energy efficient than other fridge and freezer layouts.

The EnergyGuide Label

Whether you're looking to reduce your carbon footprint or simply want a lower electric bill, reading the EnergyGuide label will help you get there. Regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this label points out the key features of the appliance and tells you how much electricity it uses in a year on average. It also lists the annual operating cost based on average energy prices in the U.S.

When examining the label, check the bottom right corner for the Energy Star logo. Awarded by the EPA, the Energy Star designation means that the fridge at which you're looking is at least 15 percent more efficient than the minimum efficiency standard set by the U.S. government. You may pay a higher price to get an energy-efficient fridge, but that doesn't mean you're not getting a good value. A cheap fridge that consumes large amounts of electricity may cost you more in the long run.

The Energy Star website maintains a list of appliances that have earned the Energy Star designation. Checking it can help you narrow your choices before going to the appliance store. You can also verify that a particular fridge has the Energy Star designation before you buy it.

Water and Ice

Appliance shoppers in today's market usually have one of two opinions about automatic ice makers. Some absolutely love the convenience, and others view them as a waste of space. Whether or not to get one is a personal choice, but you might struggle to find a model without this feature, which is fairly standard in 2020. If you get an ice maker and find you don't use it, you can always turn it off or even remove it altogether.

You'll find a similar difference of opinion when it comes to fridges with water and ice dispensers on the door. This feature was all the rage some years ago, and it is convenient. Unfortunately, water dispensers require a lot of moving parts to work, and as such, they often didn't. Service calls on water dispensers were common, and some consumers decided they weren't worth the hassle.

Like the ice maker decision, this one is largely personal. You can find great fridges with and without this feature, and the choice is entirely yours. If you do opt for a dispenser, however, make sure it has a water filter and find out how expensive the filters are and how difficult they'll be to change.

Must-Have Features

Hopefully, the new refrigerator you choose will be with you for many years. The relationship will prove to be a happier one if you treat yourself to a few useful features. Always opt for glass shelves since they're easier to clean, and you can easily see through them when looking for certain items. Adjustable shelves are a must and should be easy to maneuver.

Some refrigerators offer vacuum-sealed crisper drawers, and these will keep your vegetables fresher for longer. Look for multiple climate-control settings that let you change the settings in various drawers to accommodate meats, cheeses or fruits as needed. The door within a door is another excellent feature in which a small door is added to the main door. This compartment grants you easy access to condiments, milk and other items for which you reach often without opening the larger fridge door.

Many modern fridges also include a second evaporator. The evaporator is the part of the fridge that makes cold air, and usually, the refrigerator and freezer share one unit. This can cause the food in your fridge to get too much cold air while the freezer is cooling down and vice versa. A second evaporator solves this problem and keeps freezer smells and other funky odors from creeping into your fridge and taking hold.

Remember the little things too. Small but mighty, LED lighting is efficient and long lasting and eliminates the hunt for that special appliance bulb when the fridge light burns out. It's also important to make sure drawers slide open easily and that the fridge doors will swing shut with just a tap when your hands are full.

Smart Home: Feature or Gimmick?

Fridge shopping in 2020 means deciding whether or not you want a so-called smart fridge. Are they truly amazing, or do they increase the cost of the fridge without really adding value? It depends. At the moment, only Samsung, LG and GE make smart refrigerators, and the reviews are mixed.

The most advanced of the options is the Samsung Family Hub. Once connected to the internet, this fridge lets you look up recipes, send texts to family members, stream music, create shopping lists and order groceries online. The camera also lets you peek in the fridge from anywhere so you can check how much milk you have while you're at the grocery store. Unfortunately, it's a bit glitchy and not really worth its premium price tag.

GE's smart refrigerators aren't quite as smart. They can tell you if the door is open, when the ice maker is empty or that the water filter needs to be changed, but that's hardly worth the extra money. Some models come with a built-in Keurig coffee maker, which seems both absurd and hard to replace if it breaks. LG smart fridges offer similar features to GE but also allow you to turn some features on or off with Alexa or Google.

Smart fridges may be the wave of the future, but it seems the future isn't quite here yet. Many of the smart fridge features that work well seem largely unnecessary, while the potentially useful features still need some fine-tuning.

Hey Good Looking

How it functions is, of course, the most important part of a refrigerator, but you do have to look at the thing every day, so it should be pretty. White finishes work in white kitchens and bright spaces, but they do show dirt. Black is quite popular as well, but it shows fingerprints and smudges unless you opt for a matte finish.

Colors work for some kitchens, but stainless steel is by far the most popular finish available today. Brushed and black stainless options help hide fingerprints and smudging better than almost any other surface, and they're easy to keep clean. You can also choose to have a custom finish applied that matches your cupboards and allows your fridge to blend seamlessly into the kitchen. This custom option is expensive but is a nice touch in a luxury kitchen.

Exterior finish is another choice that largely comes down to personal preference. Appliance manufacturers know that homeowners need a fridge that they can easily wipe clean, and they've all obliged. Some may smudge more easily than others, but none are difficult to care for.

So, What Is the Best Fridge?

Given such a wide variety of features and choices, it's easy to see that there is no one best fridge for every homeowner. Some of 2020's fridge models are rated better than others, however. According to Good Housekeeping, the GE Profile with French doors is the best overall refrigerator for 2020. It excelled at maintaining a consistent temperature and bears the EnergyStar certification. It also features smart technology that alerts users if the door stays open and allows you to change the temperature and other settings remotely.

Unfortunately, the Profile comes with a hefty $2,300 price tag, putting it out of reach for some budgets. For a well-rated fridge at a lower price point, consider the Frigidaire Gallery. At about $890, this fridge offers all the necessities including adjustable shelves, LED lighting and humidity-controlled crisper drawers. Reviewers found that it provided excellent temperature control and uniformity as well.

If you want a smart fridge with only glitch-free, useful tech, take a gander at the LG Insta-View Door-in-Door refrigerator. This fridge has a smaller door inside the door for easy access to small items you use often to save energy. You can also tap on the fridge door twice to light up the fridge and see its contents from outside. At around $2,000, this fridge gives you some working tech while avoiding the even more expensive but still buggy computer systems of some other smart fridges.

references

Home is where the heart is, and Michelle frequently pens articles about ways to keep yours looking great and feeling cozy. Whether you want help organizing your closet, picking a paint color or finishing drywall, Michelle has you covered. If she's not puttering in the house, you'll find her in the garden playing in the dirt. Her garden articles provide tips and insight that anyone can use to turn a brown thumb green. You'll find her work on Modern Mom, The Nest and eHow as well as sprinkled throughout your other online home decor and improvement favorites.

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