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Smart shopper: refrigerators

Jan 11th, 2012
How to buy refrigerators and freezers
Photograph by Chris Warnes.
Jan 11th, 2012

Smarter, cleaner, cooler, today's fridges are at the forefront of innovation in the kitchen, writes Geraldine Cardozo.

From NASA-developed air-purification systems and 'smart fridges' that suggest a menu according to what's in your chiller, the latest generation of fridges have attention-grabbing new features. Whether you're looking for easy on the environment, easy to maintain, or both, you're covered.

Take Electrolux's top-mount range, for example. Cooled with the low-emission R600a refrigerant, this line offers the first four-star energy-rated fridges under the new star-rating system. If food safety is your primary concern, Bosch's french-door range has bacteria-busting properties. Other things to keep in mind are 'intelligent' cooling and energy-saving features, ergonomic extras, internal capacity and style: french-door and side-by-side models are popular.

Which fridge style?

More economical and energy-efficient than other styles of the same size, but not as practical since the fridge is not at eye level.
Bottom-mount The fridge at eye-level means less bending down, while the freezer often has drawers with baskets. More expensive than top-mounts.
Side-by-side Good for entertainers and families. A better choice than a pigeon pair when space in the kitchen is limited. The freezer has shelves that can be harder to stack. Options with ice makers reduce internal capacity.
French door Large pantry-style fridge with wide shelves good for platters, with one or two freezer drawers. A popular style with new models on the market.
Pigeon pairs Upright fridge and freezer designed to sit side-by-side. Greater capacity than side-by-side model, but they take up more room.

Full to capacity

While in-door ice-makers are handy for families and entertainers, bear in mind they reduce the internal freezer capacity. New models including Fisher & Paykel's french door, 519L and 442L fridge/freezers feature integrated slimline water dispensers, while Samsung's new 'ultra-thin insulation technology' increases the internal capacity so you can fit more in.

Stay cool

Multi-directional cooling reduces fluctuations in temperature while multi-zoned cooling programs allow optimal temperatures to be set for each compartment. This ensures vegies are kept crisp, butter remains spreadable and raw meats stay fresh, for instance. Look out for dual crispers, convertible compartments, such as Fisher & Paykel's CoolDrawer and LG's vacuum-sealed drawer, which removes moisture for maximum freshness.

Clean and clear

Some brands promote their fridges as having plastic surfaces or door seals that are 'anti-bacterial' and claim that this inhibits the growth of bacteria on treated surfaces for the life of the fridge. Unfortunately, we're not quite at the stage of the self-cleaning fridge just yet — you will still have to wipe your fridge every now and then. Also keep an eye out for deodorising technology designed to reduce odours and cross-contamination.

Want more kitchen inspiration? Check out our kitchens section.



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