Fridge freezer reviews: Features explained
Types of fridge freezer
Fridge freezers come in several different types, and lots of different sizes, to suit all needs.
Freestanding fridge freezers
The most popular and cheapest type are freestanding models, which are easy to fit.
Freestanding fridge freezers come in a variety of colours and finishes to match your existing kitchen.
You can choose to have the freezer at the bottom or the top. Freezers at the top tend to be more compact than those at the bottom.
Built-in fridge freezers
Built-in fridge freezers are integrated into a kitchen cabinet and are hidden behind a door. Some people prefer the clean look this gives to a kitchen.
However, there are fewer models to choose from than if you buy a freestanding appliance. In fact, you may have no choice if you're buying one as part of deal for a fitted kitchen.
Also expect to pay higher prices than for an equivalent freestanding model.
It basically comes down to aesthetics – whether you want the fridge freezer hidden behind doors that match your kitchen cabinets – and cost.
Built-in fridge freezers tend to be more expensive than freestanding ones, because they have to work in smaller confined spaces with less air flow.
Capacity of fridge freezers
Generally, the bigger a fridge freezer is outside, the bigger it is inside. But that isn't always true: some models have more space inside than others of similar dimensions.
Capacities claimed by manufacturers can be misleading, so don't trust them to help you choose the right fridge freezer.
On conventional models, we've found differences between the actual and claimed capacities of up to 25 litres for fridge compartments and 35 litres for freezer compartments.
On American fridge freezers, the differences are even bigger.
We ignore manufacturers' claimed capacities and measure the usable space ourselves. You can see the results of our measurements in the review for each model.
Thermostats on fridge freezers
Some fridge freezers have a single thermostat for both the fridge and the freezer; others have a separate thermostat for each.
One-control models tend to be cheaper. However, there is a risk that, when you set the right temperature for the fridge (3°C to 5°C), the freezer's could be too warm or too cold.
Some dual-control models give you the option of switching off the fridge but leaving the freezer on or vice versa. This is handy if you're going on holiday. Similarly, you can leave the fridge on while the freezer is defrosting.
Fridge freezer energy ratings
After central heating, refrigeration appliances are the biggest domestic users of energy, because they're on all the time.
New models of fridge freezer are now labelled A+++, A++ or A+, based on their energy consumption. An A+++ rating indicates the most efficient category. If your last fridge freezer was bought before September 1999, it could be anything up to a G rating, with no limit on how much energy it uses.
Energy labels give a good indication of which models are more energy efficient than others, but they won’t tell you how much a fridge freezer will cost to run. So we've developed our fridge freezer energy costs tool. You can use it to compare what fridge freezers cost to power over their lifetime, and weigh up running costs against the purchase price to see which are the best value overall.
Climate class of fridge freezers
Every fridge freezer has a 'climate class', which tells you the range of room temperatures with which it can cope. The two you're most likely to come across in the UK are N class and SN class. Both work effectively in room temperatures up to 32°C.
N models shouldn't be used in rooms that become colder than 16°C. SN models shouldn't be used at room temperatures below 10°C.
Other classes that you might come across are ST and T. ST models work best at between 18°C and 38°C, and T models between 18°C and 43°C.
Functions to look out for on fridge freezers
Many fridge freezers have a 'super-cool' setting, which cools the fridge compartment continuously for a set period of time, usually about six hours.
You turn it on when you put a lot of food into your fridge at once. Usually, big loads take longer to cool but the super-cool setting deals with them more quickly.
This is particularly handy if you're freezing fresh food. By freezing more quickly, a fast-freeze setting lets the food retain more of its nutrients. And for many types of food – bread, for example – it stops the texture from changing too much.
If your fridge freezer doesn't have a fast freeze switch, you can just turn down the thermostat for a while. Remember to turn it up again, though, or you'll be wasting a lot of energy.
Frost free fridge freezers tend to be a bit more expensive to buy and run, but they do make life easier. If you buy a frost free freezer, don't over pack it. Air needs to circulate to keep the frost at bay.
It's also worth noting that if food isn't carefully wrapped, it can become drier than it would in a conventional freezer.
This is for when you're away from home for a few days or weeks. Press the button and, while you're away, the fridge will switch off and the freezer compartment set to the lowest (coldest) temperature.
On some models this lowers the energy used when you're not there and saves money. The only catch is you'll need to empty the fridge first or you'll spoil all the food.
Freezer star ratings
The star-rating system for freezers tells you what it can freeze and for how long.
|Ice boxes in fridges|
|Star rating||Icebox temperature||Food storage|
|4 stars||-18° C or colder||Freeze fresh food, and store food for up to three to 12 months|
|3 stars||-18° C||Store pre-frozen food for up to three to 12 months|
|2 stars||-12° C||Store pre-frozen food for up to a month|
|1 star||-6° C||Store pre-frozen food for up to a week|
|No stars||n/a||Suitable only for making ice|
There are several design details that make a fridge freezer more convenient to use.
Ice banks or soft fruit trays
These are good for freezing soft fruit like raspberries separately. Once frozen solid they can be bagged and placed in the main compartment. An alternative use for the tray is to safely stash your ice cubes.
Most American fridge freezers include an ice dispenser. These provide cubes, crushed ice and chilled water on demand (if you plumb them into the mains).
An ice maker takes up quite a lot of space in the freezer, unless it’s well designed.
Most American fridge freezers have a dispenser that provides chilled water, ice cubes and crushed ice. These either need to be plumbed into the water mains or they come with tanks you'll need to top up.
Dispensers include water filters to reduce the build up of scale within the internal pipes. These filters need to be changed at regular intervals.
Replacement filters are widely available from manufacturers or online stockists. They usually cost between £5 and £80, depending on the fridge freezer.
Rollers or castors
These make the fridge freezer easier to move – if you want to clean behind it, for example.
For a little extra money, you can get many models in different finishes such as stainless steel, brushed chrome, aluminium, matt silver and black.
Check out the colour you're looking for in person, because some finishes can look a bit plasticky when you see them close up
Most fridge freezers have adjustable shelves, so you can have a combination of deep and shallow spaces to fit different types of food and drink containers.
In our tests, we look at how flexible the storage arrangements are and how easy it is to move the shelves around.
It's a good idea to look for fridge freezers with solid shelves rather than wire ones. They're easier to keep clean, and prevent food on higher shelves dripping on to food below.
Freezer door pouches
Look for pouches which are the prefect size for a seven inch pizza or picnic ice packs. Some freezers come with a rounded door slot for un-freezable vodka.
This lets you store taller bottles without a risk of them falling over.
Wine and bottle racks
Many larger fridge freezers come with a removable wine rack for storing a few bottles horizontally in the back of the fridge.
In some, there's even a holder in the fridge for larger champagne bottles.
These store cans off the main shelf giving you more room for food storage. They are very useful for holding beer or soft drink cans and prevents them from falling over.
Humidity controlled compartment
This allows you to manually control humidity in a compartment in the fridge.
Increasing the humidity can help prolong the life of fruit and vegetables and prevent drying out and shrivelling; lowering the humidity can increase the life of meat, fish and dairy foods.
This is a fridge compartment that's colder than the rest of the fridge (around 0°C). It's good for storing meat, fish and poultry.
Only a handful of models have this feature though. Most of them have two compartments, for separate humidity settings.
This lets you know if food isn't cold enough, saving food that would otherwise go off.
Electronic control panel
Many fridge freezers have electronic/digital controls. These are a more convenient way of setting the fridge and freezer temperatures, and managing features such as the auto ice maker.