Fridge reviews: Features explained
What type of fridge?
Fridges come in several different types and lots of different sizes to suit all needs.
The most popular type are freestanding under counter models, which are easy to fit to under a kitchen work surface or in a confined space. Freestanding tall fridges are becoming more popular as buyers look to increase their ability to store fresh foods.
Built-in fridges are integrated into a kitchen cabinet and are hidden behind a door. Both under counter and tall fridges are available built-in, and often people prefer the clean look this gives to a kitchen.
However, there are fewer models to choose from than if you buy a freestanding fridge. 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.
Don't be fooled into thinking you can rely on manufacturers' measurements when choosing a new fridge – we've found their claimed storage capacities can be misleading.
Nor can you judge a fridge's capacity by its size – two fridges that appear identical may differ by up to 25% in their usable storage space. So check our fridge test results before you buy.
Fridge energy ratings
After central heating, refrigeration appliances are the biggest guzzlers of energy in a normal UK home, because they're on all the time.
New fridges are now labelled A+++, A++ or A+, based on their energy consumption, with A+++ being the most efficient. If your last fridge or 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 will cost to run. So we've developed our fridge energy costs tool. You can use it to compare what fridges cost to power over their lifetime, and weigh up running costs against the purchase price to see which are the best value overall.
Clever fridge features
There are several design details which can make a fridge more convenient to use.
Bottle grip in door
These grips let you store taller bottles without a risk or them tipping out or falling over. Some fridges have bottle shelves.
Split shelves are made up of two half-depth shelves. The split shelves can be used together to act as a full shelf, or you can just use one; providing two-tier storage towards the rear of fridge with space in front for taller items.
All the fridges we tested have height adjustable shelves.
Icebox or freezer compartment
Useful for making ice cubes or storing frozen food, but they tend to reduce your general fridge storage space. A four-star freezer compartment can freeze fresh food and store frozen food for 3 to 12 months.
Adjustable door racks
These let you make best use of space in the door, adapting their shape to the type and size of food and drink you're storing.
Rollers or castors
These make it easier to move the fridge – handy if you want to clean behind it, for example.
Climate classes for fridges
Every fridge 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.
The star-rating system for iceboxes tells you what they 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|
Four-star iceboxes should also be able to freeze 2kg of fresh food without adversely affecting the temperature in the fridge. However, the iceboxes we've tested rarely live up to expectation.
Sometimes, the icebox made the fridge too cold; at other times, the food in the icebox didn't get cold enough. So, if you freeze a lot of fresh food, you might be better off with a separate freezer or a fridge-freezer, rather than relying on an icebox.
Antibacterial coatings in fridges
These are becoming increasingly common, but we're not sure they're a good thing to look for in your new fridge.
We asked an expert from the Health Protection Agency for more information. Overall, he felt they're unnecessary.
It's the basic rules of hygiene – eg keeping cooked and raw food separate and storing food in containers – that determine food safety. After all, unless you're in the habit of spreading your mayonnaise straight from the fridge shelf, the fridge surface is pretty irrelevant.
Also, there are concerns that the increasing prevalence of antimicrobial products in our homes – not just in fridges, but in everything from soap to chopping boards – could contribute to bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.
It's sometimes suggested we need some exposure to microbes to develop a healthy immune system. These are both contentious areas and there's no decisive scientific evidence yet.
Nevertheless, in our view, antimicrobial coatings aren't worth seeking out.
And if you feel you want to avoid them, you need to be wary – some brands use these coatings across entire ranges.