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Buying a Refrigerator

News from the cold front: The newest refrigerators are super-stylish, keep food fresher, save energy, and are loaded with user-friendly features.

First Things First


1. Pull out the measuring tape. Figure out the dimensions of the area that will accommodate the refrigerator. Then, when you're shopping, find out the height, width, and depth of any units you're considering buying and check to make sure they'll fit in the space. Don't forget to allow a few inches above and behind the unit for air to circulate. Also be sure there's enough room for the doors to swing open.


2. Get into the swing. If you're going for a unit with the freezer above or below the main refrigerator chamber, figure out in which direction you want the doors to open to offer you good access. Make sure the doors of the fridge you want either open in the right direction or can be reversed. If they're reversible, specify which way you want them to open before the model is delivered to your home. That's easier than having the serviceman take them off and put them back on in your kitchen.


3. What style works for you? With so many new options, we've devised this handy guide to help you pick the perfect configuration.

Refrigerators with the Freezer on the Top


Biggest pluses: Accommodate large platters, birthday cakes, or pizza boxes.


Disadvantages: You need to bend to retrieve produce from the crisper bins.


Best for: People who use lots of ice and/or frozen foods, since they're within reach.


Look for: One with adjustable glass shelves. They contain spills and give maximum flexibility for storage.

Refrigerators with the Freezer on the Bottom


Biggest pluses: Eliminate bending to remove fresh foods. Accommodate oversized items like trays of hors d'oeuvres from the club store.


Best for: Fresh fruit and vegetable lovers as no bending is required to reach the produce drawers.


Disadvantages: Finding food in the freezer can be a challenge.


Look for: Be sure to look for a freezer that pulls out like a drawer, exposing the contents at a glance. Also look for a model with baskets to help you keep frozen food organized. Consider one with double or French style doors. They give an upscale look, minimize the amount of cold air that escapes (since you can open only one door at a time), and don't require as much room for the doors to swing open.

Side-by-Side Refrigerators


Biggest pluses: Easy to see into both compartments. Don't require space for wide doors to open.


Best for: Families that use frozen and fresh foods equally often. A good choice for families with physically challenged members who need access to both compartments without standing on a step stool or bending, or from a wheelchair.


Disadvantages: Shelves are narrow, so storing supersized items can be impossible.

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