Freezer on top, below or at the side; two doors or many doors; fridges that dispense water and ice; fridges that keep track of your groceries
Freezer on top, below or at the side; two doors or many doors; fridges that dispense water and ice; fridges that keep track of your groceries – our quick guide will walk you through the many options available

Buying a refrigerator is no small investment. Among kitchen appliances, it is probably one of the most expensive. Making the choice even more difficult is the fact that technology has invaded the kitchen, adding ever more features to the humble icebox. So now, you have to consider all the bells and whistles and distinguish the must-haves from the good-to-haves.

To help you make sense of it all, we walk you through the major types of refrigerators and the features that can be mixed and matched with each type.

Typecasting - Types of Refrigerators

1. Top Freezer

This is the traditional layout of a refrigerator - freezer on top, crisper below. If you do not mind the fact that there are more modern and stylish designs available, this is a cost-effective choice, offering plenty of storage space and wide clearance for items like baking trays and pizza boxes. This classic fridge layout also tends to be the slimmest and most energy efficient, consuming typically 10 to 25% less energy than bottom freezers or side-by-side models.

2. Bottom Freezer

This unit locates the freezer below which makes for easier access since you are more likely to take items out of the fridge than the freezer. It also means that no matter how small you are, you can always reach the frozen stuff. Another advantage is its size. Bottom freezers tend to be slightly larger than top freezers although there are fewer models around and they tend to cost more.

3. Side-by-Side

The side-by-side puts the freezer and fresh food compartment side by side as the name suggests. Typically, the freezer is on the left and the fridge on the right. Because it gives equal space to both, you will have more storage space for your frozen items. But that means the fridge section may often be too narrow for large platters. Additionally, the centre divider takes away storage space from the middle of the fridge.

To make up for it, the side-by-side usually has more bells and whistles like water and ice-dispensers. The higher end models even come with small TV screens for you to watch your favourite cooking show, listen to MP3 music, take and store digital photos, make video calls, surf the internet or use as a digital message board.

Another advantage of the side-by-side – they require less clearance to open the doors so they are great for tight fits.

4. French Door

The French door is the latest design in the market. A hybrid combining the bottom-freezer drawer with the side-by-side, this layout has more storage space while requiring less clearance for the doors. Since the fridge is split in two, you can also open one side without letting the cold air out of the other.

5. Multi-door

These typically come with four doors – French doors for the fridge, a middle drawer and a bottom freezer – though five-door and six-door options are available as well. Ideal for large families because of the many compartments, this model also keeps food fresh longer because it allows the groceries to be kept in separate compartments. But the multi-door tends to be bulkier and more expensive.

Bells & Whistles – Nice-to-have Features To Look Out For

1. Energy Efficiency Rating

Unlike most kitchen appliances or electronics, the refrigerator runs 24/7, so an energy efficiency model can keep electricity bills in check. Look out for the National Environment Agency (NEA) green ticks which indicate how energy efficient your model is. The ratings go from one to four ticks (three ticks is good while four is considered excellent). So, a refrigerator with only one tick may set you back about S$60 in annual energy costs compared to one with the same storage capacity but awarded three ticks. ( )

2. Time and Space Savers

To save space and make life easier, some refrigerators come with water filters, and water and ice dispensers. The water filters will guarantee you an endless supply of clean water with less chlorine, heavy metals and other harmful agents. Shelves reserved for bottled water can be freed to store other things and there will be no more need for ice trays.

Others come with quick-freeze or quick cool functions that allow items to be frozen or chilled quickly for convenience (a warm can of drink can become icy cold within minutes) while maintaining the temperature of the other items in the refrigerator.

3. Smart Fridge

Dubbed ‘smart’ refrigerators, this new breed of fridges is programmed to sense the items stored in them, keep track of your supplies through barcode or RFID scanning and remind you what items you need to replenish and which ones are expiring. They also allow you to search for recipes on the worldwide web, tune in to your favourite cooking programme, and even communicate with your other appliances including your mobile phone. Essentially, these fridges are so clever, they can call you to remind you to buy milk on the way home! A few brands have gotten a head start on these state-of-the-art fridges – Samsung, LG, Whirlpool, and General Electric.

Beyond looking at the size, price, and colour, you now have a better idea of the array of refrigerators on the market and will be able to make educated choices. Buying a new fridge will be no sweat at all!

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