There are so many choices for refrigerators on the market today, it is easy to pick and choose based upon your individual needs. Improvements in refrigeration technology keep foods fresher longer, and fresh thinking in the industry has created different sizes and types for every use and budget. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing refrigeration appliances.
Beverage Centers: Beverage centers are intended to be auxiliary units for keeping beverages and snacks cold and handy in a bar, basement media room, exercise room, master bedroom morning station, pool house, or even a dorm. They can be handy in the kitchen so children can access drinks easily without opening the main refrigerator. Beverage centers differ from undercounter units by featuring a glass door and not including an ice maker or freezer compartment. They are typically 24" wide and you can order a custom cabinet frame to integrate them into your cabinetry on some models. Some nice ones are made by Dacor, Marvel, Sub-Zero, U-Line and Viking.
Freezers: OK, your refrigerator includes a freezer compartment--but sometimes it's not enough. We are talking all freezer units here! Freezers can be the chest type or tall units that pair with the refrigeration unit. If you have a large family, like to entertain a lot, buy in bulk or freeze your own home-grown fruits and vegetables, then you may need more freezer space than that of the typical refrigerator. If you are building or remodeling be sure to discuss your needs early in the process with your architect, kitchen designer, or builder. You can supplement your refrigerator's freezer space with an extra freezer placed elsewhere (in the pantry, perhaps), or you can incorporate a freezer unit into the kitchen design (depending on available space).
Some manufacturers make built-in units that are all freezer in different widths, commonly called columns or modules. They may be available in 18", 24", 30", or 36" depending on the manufacturer, and are very flexible. Some companies, Sub-Zero is one, even make freezer drawers that can be used almost anywhere. And, since modules are separate units, each has its own compressor and evaporator which prevents transference of odors between freezer and refrigerator. Some brands to look at for freezers are: Gaggenau, G.E. Monogram, Miele, Northland, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Viking.
Refrigerators: Free-standing, counter-depth, built-in, columns, side-by-side, French doors, bottom freezer, freezer drawers, all refrigerator, dispenser in door or not, stainless steel, black, white, bisque, perhaps a color--and what about size?--Whew! Too many choices! The first thing to consider, as with freezers, is the size of your family, how much you entertain, and how much food you need to store. It seems that most people today choose a 36' wide unit either in a side-by-side configuration or with a bottom freezer. The bottom freezer models can be found with or without French doors. I do like the bottom freezer units because the refrigeration space is wide and easy to see, and you can store party platters easily. If you have children, you may like the convenience of dispensing ice and water without opening the door, but these are usually only available in a side-by-side. If you're single or an empty-nester, you may opt for the elegance of a unit without the dispenser.
What's the difference between free-standing and built-in? Free-standing models have finished sides, so you can place the unit in its allotted space and not worry about building it in. They are usually about 66-72" high and about 28-30" deep and are a good choice if you want to replace a unit without changing the cabinets. Their depth means that they protrude beyond the front of the cabinets, but they have a lot of cubic feet of food storage space. You can also opt for a cabinet depth model which is 24" deep, and thus can be placed flush with the cabinets, but you sacrifice some interior space. If you are remodeling, either of the free-standing types can be enclosed between 3/4" panels for a built-in look.
A true built-in will be cabinet depth and it makes up the cubic feet by being taller-84". It's sides are not meant to be seen (though some manufacturers offer side panel kits), so it has to be enclosed between 3/4" thick panels. Built-ins can be stainless steel or you can choose to face them with matching cabinet fronts (depending on model). Some built-ins are also available as all refrigerator units or columns to pair with a freezer so you can choose the widths that suit you best. And, as with the column-type freezers (all freezer), you can choose a companion all-refrigerator in the size that best suits your needs.
With all models, make sure there is sufficient room allowed on both sides to open the doors fully, especially if up against a deep side wall. You must usually allow at least 3" between the unit and a wall to fully open the doors. When considering a model, check to see how wide you have to open the doors in order to remove the bins.
Stainless steel is the most popular finish with black and white continuing in popularity as well. Some brands, such as Viking, offer a wide range of colors. I like the look of cabinet panels on them myself as I think there can be too much stainless steel. But it depends on the look you are trying to achieve. Some good brands are Bosch, Dacor, Gaggenau, G.E. Monogram, KitchenAid, Miele, Northland, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Viking.
Undercounter Refrigerators: These units can be used almost anywhere. They are great for bars, basements, butler's pantries, dorms--anywhere. 15" and 24" are the standard sizes and some units come with ice makers and freezer compartments. They will have solid doors, but some models can be fitted with a custom cabinet panel. Refrigerator drawers are a variation of the undercounter refrigerator. They add extra refrigeration space in only 24" or 27" of width. Use them in a prep area for fresh fruits and vegetables, to store extra party supplies or to keep kids' snacks at easy reach. Check out G.E. Monogram, KitchenAid, Marvel, Scotsman, Sub-Zero, U-Line and Viking.
Ice Makers: The refrigerator has an ice maker in it, so why do we need a separate ice maker? Because not all ice is created equal. When you are serving drinks at a party, wouldn't you rather serve clear, restaurant-quality ice to your guests? With this kitchen (or bar, or butler's pantry, etc.) appliance you can enjoy crystal-clear, rounded (not the typical crescents) gourmet ice cubes with a special unit that filters the water as it makes the ice. They make ample supplies daily as well. One caveat--ice makers can be a bit noisy as they go through their cycles and as the ice drops in the bucket, so keep that in mind as you plan the location. Most residential ice makers are 15" or 24" wide, but check the specs--some recommend allowing 15 1/4" or 24 1/4" of width for installation. Good brands to look at are Scotsman and U-Line.
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