Refrigerator features that are worth it

Consumer Reports
When replacing your refrigerator don't fall for hyped features

Buying a refrigerator is an investment that lasts a long time. If you're just replacing a unit that's more than a decade old, you'll be pleased to find the latest models have new features that save both space and energy.

Of course, it's important to separate the true innovations from marketing gimmicks.

From Consumer Reports' test labs, here are five legitimate leaps forward that you should keep in mind as you shop for a new refrigerator. Some are still only found in higher-priced models, but others are trickling into the mainstream.

MORE AT COnsumer Reports

In-the-door icemaker. For years, an icemaker's assembly has almost always been located in the top left-hand corner of the refrigerator, where it takes up space. More models have moved to an in-the-door design, with a slimmed-down assembly and dispenser both fitting in the door panel. The result is increased storage space inside the refrigerator with the same (or even greater) ice output.


Models with this feature:
LG LFX28991[ST], $2,700.
Kenmore Elite 7205[3], $2,800.


Dual evaporators. Air freshness claims have become a noisy part of refrigerator marketing. You'll hear about charcoal filters, ion air purifiers, ethylene absorption packets, and other devices that promise to keep your food fresh. These claims are difficult to measure, but we can tell you one thing that definitely works: dual evaporators, which we've found maintain higher humidity levels in the fresh food section, while also keeping freezer odors from finding their way into the refrigerator.

Models with this feature:
Samsung RF266AE[WP], $1,700 (CR Best Buy).
KitchenAid KSF26C6X[YY], $1,950.



Bigger, better water dispensers. The most notable improvement here is the extra-tall dispenser, which allows you to fill up pitchers, water bottles, and even oversize pots. "Measured fill" is another smart feature, since it lets you walk away from the dispenser while it fills your container to the desired volume. More recently, GE came out with an auto-stop feature, which fills any size container to the top with a push of the button.

Models with these features:
GE PFE29PSDSS (in testing), $2,700.
LG LFX31925[ST], $3,000.



Middle drawers. You've probably seen French-door refrigerators, which in recent years have become a favorite configuration. But you might have missed the middle drawer that's popping up on more French-door models. This drawer typically has different temperature settings to serve a variety of storage needs, from meat/fish to cold drinks. We're also seeing four door configurations in which the freezer is divided into two bottom drawers.

Models with this feature:
Samsung RF4267HA[WP], $2,600.
Whirlpool Gold GZ25FSRXY[Y], $2,250.



Enhanced compressor design. A refrigerator built today might use half as much energy as one built in the 1990s. Some new models are even more efficient, thanks in part to advances in compressor design. In our tests, we've found that refrigerators with a linear or variable-speed compressor often have excellent efficiency. You can also check our refrigerator ratings for models that achieve top efficiency in our tests.

Models with this feature:
Kenmore 7160[3], $1,600 (CR Best Buy).
LG LFC25765[ST], $1,900.



In its tests of refrigerators, Consumer Reports has seen a slew of other helpful features become standard across many makes and models. Here are six of our favorites:

Adjustable door bins/shelves. Help with the storage of various shaped/sized items.
Gallon door bins. Enable door storage of oversize containers.
Spill-proof shelving. Contains spills and messes.
Split shelves. Create space for tall items.
Temperature-controlled drawers. Provide optimal conditions for a variety of foods.
Through-the-door dispensers. Keep water and ice at the ready.



Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

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