Refrigerator perhaps is the most important appliance in a home. You may be able to live without an oven and be able to manage for at least a few days without a washing machine. But if a refrigerator breaks down, in all possibility you will get it fixed the very same day or if it is irreparable get it replaced immediately.
So, how do you choose this most important appliance in your home when you are inundated with numerous brands and plethora of models?
Well, let us help you figure it out. We will discuss in this article the most important aspects that you have to consider while buying a refrigerator, meaning of most used terms, about energy ratings, its implications and a brief over view of the major brands of refrigerators.
How to choose a refrigerator?
The first question you have to answer when you buy a refrigerator is – What capacity of refrigerator do I need?
If you already have a refrigerator and know its capacity, then it is a good starting point. Depending on whether you have sufficient space or not, you can decide whether to opt for a refrigerator with larger capacity or will the one you have be sufficient. Of course, consider whether there are going to be immediate changes in your family structure in the near future when you buy a refrigerator.
Now, if this is your first refrigerator or if you don’t know what is the capacity of the current one, then the following guideline might help.
The above-mentioned guideline is for families that moderately uses a refrigerator. There are families who cook each meal individually and never keep left over food for the next day. On flip side, there are families who cook food for a whole week during the weekends and store it in fridge. So, consider your unique requirement and determine the capacity of the refrigerator you need.
Once you decide on capacity, next you need to make enough space in your kitchen to accommodate the refrigerator.
Most refrigerator doors have to be opened beyond 90 degrees for taking out the vegetable crisper. So, if you are placing the refrigerator in a corner or if you have a modular kitchen, consider leaving some extra space for opening the door beyond 90 degree.
If leaving extra space is not an option, then opt for Whirlpool Protton or Haier bottom mounted refrigerator or some models of LG refrigerators. In these models, the refrigerator door needn’t be opened more than 90 degree for pulling out the vegetable box.
Type of Refrigerator
Once you decide the capacity and size, the next aspect to be decided is what type of refrigerator do you want? A single door refrigerator, double door, bottom mounted, 3 door or side by side refrigerator? Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Let us take a look at each.
Single Door Refrigerator
Single door refrigerators usually come with capacity less than 300 Litre. These refrigerators are generally power efficient and budget friendly. If you are a non-vegetarian, we wouldn’t recommend you to buy a single door refrigerator as its freezer space is less. Also, single door refrigerators come with direct cool technology which isn’t as efficient as frost free technology and requires frequent defrosting too.
To wrap it up, buy a single door refrigerator only if you live alone or if your family use refrigerators sparsely.
Double Door Refrigerator
Double door refrigerators come with capacity ranging anywhere between 230 to 700 Litres. They are equipped with frost-free technology and comes with superior cooling features and ability to retain freshness of fruits and vegetables for longer.
Design wise, these refrigerators have larger freezer space, adjustable shelf racks and multiple door baskets. Higher end models also have separate vegetable and fruit crisper, chill tray for dairy, enclosure for medicine/beauty products.
Side by Side Refrigerator
Side by side refrigerators look like a steel cupboard with two doors—one being for the fridge section and the other for freezer section. The capacity of these refrigerators range from 500 to 900 Litre. It is best suitable for large joint families who extensively use freezers as it has a higher fridge to freezer ratio compared to double door refrigerators.
If you are a large joint family that is purely vegetarian and sparsely use freezer, then it would be better to opt for double door refrigerator, as the freezer section of your side by side refrigerator would be pretty much under-utilized.
There are other varieties like French door refrigerators (which has side by side top fridge and bottom freezer), door in door refrigerator, multi-door refrigerator etc. But the former three are the most popular varieties being sold in India.
Up till this point, we were discussing about spatial aspects and appearance. Now, let us get in to what is known as the heart of a refrigerator—its compressor.
The compressor is the main component that decides the cooling efficiency and energy rating of a refrigerator.
Most domestic refrigerators use a reciprocating compressor or a rotary compressor.
First let us look at how a compressor works?
A compressor compresses the refrigerant, which then flows to the condenser and gets cooled. Further, it moves through the capillary to cool the refrigerator and finally goes back in to the compressor to repeat the process. It is important that the refrigerant is compressed to the right pressure as failure to do so will result in improper condensation, uneven circulation and lesser cooling efficiency.
In reciprocating compressor, the piston rotates downwards inside the cylinder to reduce the pressure by creating a vacuum. The difference in pressure forces the cylinder to bring the gas in, and when the cylinder goes back, the pressure increases forcing the gas back out. The main advantages of reciprocating compressors are that it is inexpensive and requires minimal maintenance. However, on the negative side, it is a bit noisy.
Rotatory compressors work on same principle, but instead of piston it uses rollers. Its main advantages are lesser oil consumption, lesser noise and heat levels. But on the flip side, it consumes more electricity.
A term that you are likely to hear when you look at a refrigerator’s specs is smart inverter compressor or digital inverter compressor. Let us take a look at what it is.
A normal compressor switches itself off when the temperature inside the refrigerator reaches a pre-determined limit. When you open the refrigerator or when food load increases, the temperature inside the refrigerator naturally increases triggering the compressor to re-start again.
A smart inverter compressor or a digital inverter compressor as the name indicates is controlled by an inverter to start slowly, increase the speed of the fan when the temperature inside the refrigerator increases and finally slow down and maintain a minimal speed when the desired temperature is achieved. The advantages of such a smart system are-
- longer life of compressors as around 85% of wear and tear usually occurs during the starting up of a compressor.
- Lesser temperature variance inside the refrigerator as the compressor always runs to maintain the desired temperature
- Finally, lesser power consumption.
LG, Samsung and certain models of Whirlpool uses inverter compressor, while Haier and Godrej don’t.
Bureau of Energy Efficiency rates all standard single and double door refrigerators for their energy efficiency ranging from one to five stars, with five star being most power efficient and one star being the least.
The rating keeps changing every two years as newer technology evolves and power consumption of latest refrigerators keep decreasing. So, a five-star refrigerator of 2014 would only be a 3-4 star rated refrigerator in 2017 as newer technology gets adopted by latest models to decrease its power consumption.
In effect, energy rating gives you an indication of the cost of using the appliance in the long run. As power consumption in units (KWh) is mentioned on the label of the refrigerator, you can simply multiply it with the cost per unit of electricity in your city and find the per year cost you will incur for running the refrigerator. Do add 10-20% excess to the figure you get as the power consumption mentioned on labels is under ideal condition and needn’t necessarily incorporate the rigors of daily usage.
While a 5-star refrigerator means best power efficiency, it is not an indicator of the quality of the refrigerator. So, energy efficiency rating should NOT be your sole consideration while buying a refrigerator.
Optimal cooling would be sufficient to preserve cooked food. But it isn’t alone necessary for preserving fresh fruits and vegetables.
You might have often observed tomatoes, carrots and chilies kept in the refrigerator getting wrinkled skin in a few days. This is because of lack of moisture. On the other hand, if you see the vegetables going damp, developing fungus and rotting, then it is because of excess moisture. So, it is important to maintain right level of humidity inside the vegetable and fruit crisper to prolong life of fresh produces.
Some of the lower-end refrigerator models just have a vegetable box with no features that control moisture. This is fine for those who don’t cook a lot—especially bachelors who cook occasionally and mainly use fridge to store left over food and other essentials.
Now, if you store a lot of veggies and fruits, then buy a refrigerator with moisture control vent. If you see that the vegetables are getting damp, open the vent to let out the moisture and if you find they are starting to get dry, close the vent.
Certain brands like Haier use Vitamin C Fresh filter which prevents oxidation and sterilizes the air to slow down ripening. Whirlpool uses ionizer for the same.
Most of the refrigerators also have anti-bacterial system to prevent growth of bacteria. Whirlpool uses a special material called MicroBlock for its crispers to reduce bacterial growth and contamination.
Now that we have covered the most important factors, the next aspect to consider is the design of the refrigerator. Look if there is enough space for keeping 2 litre bottles, height adjustable shelves so that you can keep taller vessels inside the refrigerator and overall a manageable space to keep all necessary food.
Some of the higher end refrigerator models also have movable ice tray, special enclosed area for beauty products and medicines.
Some of the top brands of mass segment refrigerators available in the market are Haier, LG, Samsung, Whirlpool and Godrej. Let us take a quick look at the most important aspects and features of these brands.
Haier is a Chinese brand that has some of the fastest selling refrigerator models in India. They are stylish in appearance, highly power efficient, budget-friendly, durable and come with 1 year warranty on the product and 10-year warranty on the compressor.
Perhaps the most marketed feature of Haier refrigerators is its 1 hour icing technology which lowers the temperature of freezer to -5 degree Celsius in 1 hour.
Haier refrigerators also have a large cooling pad that retains cooling in freezer for up to 10 hours in case of power failure.
Most of their mid to high level models also have a Vitamin C Fresh filter to reduce oxidation and increase life of fruits and vegetables and feature LED light too.
Talking about the negatives, what we could find is that Haier refrigerators use conventional reciprocating compressors and not inverter compressors.
LG refrigerators are a notch above Haier in terms of its cooling efficiency, energy rating and durability and justifiably priced higher too.
Most of LG refrigerators use smart inverter compressor; have multi-air flow cooling system/ ice beam door cooling that ensures uniform cooling throughout the compartments; and have moisture control vents in the vegetable crispers. All their refrigerators are aesthetically and functionally designed to maximize storage space too.
Other important features are that LG’s newer refrigerators are solar smart—meaning it can be powered through solar energy. Also, it has smart diagnostic system which helps troubleshoot issues faster. All you need is call the customer care helpline and place the mobile at pre-designated position in the refrigerator and the appliance will directly communicate with the helpline to form faster diagnosis.
Newer single door refrigerators from Samsung are highly power efficient with 4-5 star energy rating. But older models have mostly 2 and 3 star energy rating. What makes Samsung stand out is its stylish yet functional design and digital inverter compressor which runs at seven different speeds to ensure an optimal level of temperature is maintained at all the time.
The exteriors have a rich elegant finish and interiors are designed in such a way that storage space is maximized and things are within easy access. They are the first ones to introduce easy slide tray and the fact that the bottle shelf in Samsung refrigerators are placed at mid- higher level shows that they have given due attention to details to ensure items that are frequently used are always within easy access.
Samsung is also the pioneer of convertible refrigerator technology. In fact, the convertible refrigerators are one of the fastest selling models in the higher end mass segment of refrigerators.
Whirlpool’s USP is its superior cooling system that uses insulated capillary technology and 6th sense active fresh technology.
Insulated capillary technology means a layer of cold gas runs around the capillary that carries the refrigerant. This helps retain cooling inside the refrigerator for up to 12 hours even in case of power failure.
The 6th sense active fresh technology is basically a chip that activates express mode in compressor when it detects a rise in temperature inside the refrigerator due to excess food load or frequent opening of the door. This technology is found to lower the interior temperature twice as fast as a conventional refrigerator.
Most of the refrigerators also use MicroBlock and Freshonizer to minimize food spoilage and prolong life of fresh produces.
Now, that you are aware of the important factors to consider while buying a refrigerator, you can take a look at our list of best refrigerators.
If you have already decided which type of refrigerator to buy, you can take a look at our list of best single door refrigerators, best double door refrigerators and best side-by-side refrigerators where we have published a detailed review of few select models.