30 January 2008

An introduction to appliances: refrigerators

A lot of times, people call me in the very early stages of planning a kitchen renovation. Most people have an idea, even if it's a vague one, of the way they want their new kitchen to look. For most renovation jobs, the largest expenditure will be for the cabinetry that ends up in their kitchen. The second largest they're going to write is to the place where they buy their appliances.

Kitchen appliances aren't really so daunting and learning about them is pretty easy. Most folks end up with the four primary, basic appliances that go into a kitchen. A refrigerator, a range, a dishwasher and a microwave oven. So for kitchen appliances 101, I'm going to concentrate on those four things. And tonight's going to be a run-through on home refrigeration.

Home refrigerators are sold in three primary sizes. And those sizes are their nominal widths. By that I mean, that they aren't really as wide as their sizes suggest. The manufacturers round up the dimension to the nearest size. The sizes are 30 inches, 33 inches and 36 inches. A 30 is the size that would normally end up in an apartment. They are too small for a family to use and unless your home is tiny, it's best to avoid them. 33s aren't very common, though there are a few manufacturers who still make them. I think that the 33 is an endangered species frankly, and they won't be around for much longer.

The 36 is the size where you'll find the largest selection of models and the widest assortment of features. Even if you don't buy a 36 at the time of your renovation, leave room for one and float a smaller-sized fridge in the space for a 36. That will allow you to upgrade later without destroying your cabinetry.

The side-by-side model is probably the most popular one sold in the US. Most of them come with an in-the-door water and ice dispenser. I see a problem with this design though. The freezer side is too narrow to fit something wide. Even though most people don't stockpile a lot of food in the freezer any more. But on at least one occasion a year, you'll buy a great big turkey only to find that it won't fit in the freezer. Ugh. It's sad, but true. The freezer side is too narrow to handle stuff like that. A lot of people who have these realize that keeping an auxiliary fridge with a wider freezer in the garage is a life saver on holidays and other occasions.

The side-by-side pretty much took over the place that top mounted freezers once held. Back in the day, all refrigerators had top mounted freezers, or so it seems to me. Then they went away to be replaced by the side-by-side. So in response to the skinny freezer problem, wider ones are back. But with a twist. Now the freezer is on the bottom. Freezer on the bottom designs makes more sense when you think about it.

Cold air sinks for starters, so it would take less energy to keep colder air low rather than forcing it to an upper compartment. Most people spend more time in the fridge than in the freezer anyway, so it makes sense to keep chilled things at eye level. The bottom mounted freezer is always a drawer, so when you pull it out, you look down at the contents of the freezer rather than having to dig through a compartment as in the days of old.

The newest innovation is what everyone calls a French door fridge. They look good for now but I don't see them adding any real function that will make them last. Most of them have a moveable gasket that locks the doors into the closed position and I always worry about moving parts on something that's going to get used a lot. They are new to the point where no one really knows how long that seal will hold up, but they do look good if only because they're new.

In later installments, I go through the basics of ranges, dishwashers and microwaves. Whether we get into the honors track stuff that covers built-in appliances, drawer freezers, ice makers and the rest of them remains to be seen. I love interesting appliances, I need to find a way to make them interesting though. Hmmmm.

Oh, the refrigerators ion this page came to us from our friends at Kitchenaid. Spend some time on their site, http://www.kitchenaid.com/, they make beautiful and long-lasting appliances.

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