Americans are buying more fresh food than ever, and that's changing the way refrigerators are designed. We're seeing more models with flexible drawers and compartments that allow you to create more fresh-food storage space as needed. Other features that claim to extend the life of your food include air filtration systems, sealed crisper drawers, and door-in-door compartments that limit how often you have to reach into the refrigerator's main compartment. These innovations are worth considering, but it's still the day-to-day performance that matters most. That's what our tests are designed to capture, measuring things like temperature control, noise, and energy efficiency. Our buying guide will help you zero on the best fridge for your needs and desires.
Four-door models flood the market
Our Ratings now include a separate category for four-door models, which more manufacturers are bringing to market. Most of them feature a middle drawer, often with separate temperature controls. Samsung introduced the first truly four-door models, which have a compartment that can convert from a freezer to a refrigerator, along with outstanding overall performance. We expect the four-door category will only get bigger.
Fridges expand, along with the features
Space ranks right up there with style on most shoppers' refrigerator wish lists. We're seeing more models that claim more than 30 cubic feet of capacity, and some boast upwards of 33 cubic feet. High-end features, such as temperature controlled drawers, adjustable shelves, split shelves, and internal water dispensers, are increasingly available on even the most affordable refrigerators. Some come loaded with features, including through-the-door ice and water dispensers, LED interior lights, and dual evaporators designed to maintain optimal humidity in their fresh food sections.
We're also seeing more refrigerators designed for smaller spaces. Column refrigerators, which range from about 18 to 30 inches wide and don't include a freezer, fit spots too narrow for most refrigerator-freezers. You can also pair one with a column freezer, available in similar widths, for added flexibility. Manufacturers are also squeezing a bottom-freezer design into a svelte 30-inch width.
Check the specs
Make sure the refrigerator fits your kitchen. Remember to factor in the door swing in relation to adjacent walls, cabinets, and other appliances. And leave at least a 1-inch clearance around the unit and the surrounding cabinetry to ensure adequate air flow.
Consider your food-shopping habits
Do you do a big weekly shop or like to stock up on bulk purchases? Then you may need a larger capacity than the 19 to 22 claimed cubic feet that most manufacturers suggest for a typical family of four.
Use the EnergyGuide labels wisely
Don't look for the Energy Star alone, since efficiency standards vary by refrigerator type. A non-Energy Star-qualified top-freezer might actually be more efficient than a side-by-side with the label. For an apples-to-apples comparison, use the annual operating costs and the kilowatt-hours per year the refrigerator uses, which are listed on the yellow EnergyGuide label. The label has been updated to reflect a new federal energy standard that took affect January 1, 2014. In general, models manufactured after that date will be more efficient than earlier ones. You can also check our Ratings, which are consistent between types, for efficiency and energy costs.