Dozens of fridge freezers costing upwards of £750 have plastic backing that can dramatically accelerate the spread of flames in the event of a fire in your home.
Two weeks ago, we made 250 refrigeration appliances Don’t Buys as part of our industry-wide investigation into the backing material used on refrigeration appliances.
Our investigation found plastic-backed fridge freezers that cost almost £2,000 and are unable to withstand an open flame for 30 seconds.
We also found models backed with metal or aluminium laminate that cost five times less and are more than 10 times as effective at withstanding a flame.
If you’re thinking of investing in a high-end fridge freezer, we urge you to avoid the following plastic-backed models:
- Smeg Fab50LBL £1,999
- Smeg Fab32LNG £1,500
- AEG SCE81864TC £1,299
- Smeg Fab30RFN £1,270
- AEG RCB83724MX £979
- Gorenje ONRK193BK £999
- Smeg C7280NLD2P £937
- Hotpoint XUL85 T3Z XOV £928
- Ikea Frostkall (803.127.57) £795
- Ikea Häftigt (202.823.67) £795
The models listed above are the most expensive plastic-backed fridge freezers on which.co.uk, price-checked on 16 April 2018.
Don’t Buy fridge freezers
The manufacture and sale of these products remains completely legal, thanks to flawed current safety standards that won’t be replaced until January 2019.
Following our investigation in to fridge freezer backings, all of the manufacturers listed above have told us they’re either in the process of discontinuing plastic-backed appliances, or are upgrading to different backs. You can find out whether a specific model is in the process of being upgraded in our fridge freezer reviews.
Our Don’t Buy warning relates to the plastic-backed version of any upgraded product and will remain in place until the plastic version is no longer in shops.
The 10 models listed above, many of which are also available in different colours at similar prices, are among the 108 fridge freezers (not to mention 100 fridges and 42 freezers) that we’ve made a Don’t Buy for having a potentially unsafe plastic back.
See the full list of Don’t Buy fridge freezers.
Why are plastic backs a risk?
In the event of a fire, this plastic backing is the only thing protecting the flames from the highly flammable insulation that’s used in all fridge freezers in order to keep your food cool.
What if I already own one of these?
If you own a plastic-backed appliance, we don’t want to frighten you. Please be assured that refrigerator fires are rare. Our March 2018 research into government data found that only 8% of fires caused by faulty appliances were caused by fridge freezers, fridges or freezers. And although flammable plastic backing accelerates the spread of flames, it’s not the cause of fire itself.
But if you’re planning an upgrade, we’d strongly recommend you’d go for one of our Best Buy fridge freezers instead.
Cheap fridge freezers with flame-retardant backs
We’ve reviewed more than 200 fridge freezers that have a flame-retardant metal or aluminium laminate back, many of which are reasonably priced.
But just because a fridge freezer has a flame-retardant back, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily worth buying. A product can only be a Best Buy if it also excels at keeping your food fresher for longer while keeping your energy bills down.
We’ve listed five of the cheapest fridge freezers with flame-retardant backs below, but only two of them are good enough to be Best Buys.
Baumatic BRCIF 3050 E – £329
If you’re looking for an integrated fridge freezer with a flame-retardant back, you won’t find much cheaper than this. Read our full review of the Baumatic BRCIF 3050 E.
Beko CFG1552W – £279
We’ve tested 41 Beko fridge freezers and not only do all of them have flame-retardant backs, but more than half of them cost less than £350. Find out if the Beko CFG1552W is the one you should go for.
Currys Essentials C50BW16 – £160
This is one of the cheapest fridge freezers we’ve ever tested and yet, unlike a more expensive model from Currys Essentials that we’ve tested, this one has a metal back. It’s only 50cm wide, so if you have limited space it’s worth reading our full review of this Currys Essential fridge freezer.
Lec TNF60188W – £330
While we’ve tested some Lec fridges and freezers with plastic backs, you can rest assured that both the Lec fridge freezers we currently have reviews for have metal backs, and this is one of them. Read our full review of the Lec TNF60188W.
Samsung RB29FWJNDWW – £370
We’ve tested 44 Samsung fridge freezers and, while all of them have metal backs, most of them cost more than twice the price this one. It’s frost-free and has a water dispenser, but find out if this Samsung fridge freezer is also a good home for your food.
At Which? we continually monitor and vary the assessments that underpin our reviews to take account of changing standards and areas of concern.
We have been conducting fire research on refrigerator backings for several months. We requested information from manufacturers about their refrigeration appliance backings. Then we tested backing samples from more than 80 different refrigeration appliances, across every refrigeration brand that we carry reviews for.
We applied an open flame to each sample for 30 seconds and any product that was deemed to be unsafe because it failed to withstand the flame, which would leave the flammable insulation exposed, has been made a Don’t Buy.
Hundreds more products have been made Don’t Buys because the manufacturer either confirmed, or our own research indicated, that the backing on these products was identical to a product we tested and found to be unsafe.
Read more about our research into fridge freezer safety.
Support our campaign to end dangerous products
Dangerous products in Britain’s homes are putting millions of consumers at risk. Enough is enough. We’re calling on the government to take urgent action to reform the UK’s inadequate and outdated product safety system.
Support our campaign to End Dangerous Products by signing our petition.