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5 biggest goofs when buying a refrigerator

A minor mistake can mess up this major appliance purchase

Published: January 27, 2014 03:00 PM

The hundreds of refrigerator models on the market means there's definitely the perfect unit out there for you. The flipside to the bounty is that there are also a lot of ways to go wrong. We boiled the many pitfalls into five common gaffes committed by refrigerator shoppers. Give them a look before seeing our refrigerator Ratings for more than 300 models available in stores and online.     

Choosing the wrong size. This is especially important to avoid if you're working with an existing opening in the kitchen. Remember to measure the doorway leading into the kitchen to make sure your new unit will fit though it. And factor in the refrigerator's door swing in relation to adjacent walls, cabinets, and other appliances. Lastly, make sure to leave at least a 1-inch clearance around the unit and the surrounding cabinetry to ensure adequate air flow.

Ignoring noise. We recently had a letter from a reader unhappy with his refrigerator purchase over its clamorous operation. "The unit works excellently, but the noise is so loud and distracting that it sounds broken, and can literally be heard from multiple rooms in our small house," he wrote. Noisy refrigerators can be particularly annoying in open-plan homes, where the kitchen is within earshot of other living spaces. In those situations, we advise getting a model that earns an excellent for noise in our Ratings. Many of our recommended refrigerators get top marks for quietness.

Buying by brand alone. The top spots in our Ratings of the various refrigerator configurations are GE, LG, Samsung, Thermador, and Whirlpool. But each of these brands also has models that miss our recommended list, in some cases by a wide margin. That's why we always advise checking the Ratings for specific models, rather than choosing by brand alone.

Glossing over the features. Refrigerator design has gotten increasingly sophisticated, catering to specific lifestyles and routines. For example, more models have a middle drawer that can be handy for keeping kids' snacks. If maximum storage is a priority, consider a model with a slim in-door icemaker, which frees up space on the upper shelf. Entertain often? Paying more for a model with a second icemaker might be a worthwhile investment. And if you store a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, consider a model with dual evaporators, which maintain higher humidity levels in the fresh-food section.  

Overlooking energy costs. Even with today's tougher energy efficiency standards, the refrigerator is still one of the most power-hungry appliances in the home. That's especially true if you choose a less-efficient model, which might cost you an additional $50 per year to run versus an energy-sipping model. Over the lifetime of the unit, that can add up to a difference of $500 or more.    

—Daniel DiClerico         

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