Your choice: Bottom-freezer styles, with the freezer below the fridge, provide easier access to the fridge but tend to be less convenient. *Photo supplied
Your choice: Bottom-freezer styles, with the freezer below the fridge, provide easier access to the fridge but tend to be less convenient. *Photo supplied

FRIDAY, FEB. 1: Refrigerators are one of those big ticket necessities that require careful consideration before buying. This is essentially an investment and as I will need one soon I have been doing some research to ensure I get one that suits my needs and offers the best value for my budget. Fortunately there is plenty of information on the Internet including some useful product review web-sites.

After doing quite a bit of research here are three key things one should consider before buying a new refrigerator.

Energy Savings

Refrigerators use more electricity than any other appliance in your kitchen, because they are always on.  Fortunately, most brands today offer energy efficient appliances with the Energy Star label.

Energy Star is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products originated in the United States.

It is a joint program of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy helping to save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. These agencies have set strict energy efficient guidelines and Energy Star certified refrigerators are required to use about 15 per cent less energy than non-certified models, according to their web-site, www.energystar.gov.

Energy Star also claims that Americans, with the help of Energy Star, saved enough energy in 2010 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 33 million cars — all while saving nearly $18 billion on their utility bills. Having an energy efficient appliance saves on your energy bill.

Size Matters

Refrigerators come in various sizes from standard to counter depth, which isn’t as common but a preference for some consumers. What is a counter depth refrigerator? They are also called built-ins as they are designed to fit flush with standard kitchen cabinets.

They are usually between 25” to 27” deep compared to traditional 30” to 32” depths.

These refrigerators tend to cost more than standard sizes and in some cases are higher and wider. Whatever size you consider, you must first measure the width, cabinet depth and height of your space before buying.

Don’t forget to measure the doorways to your home and kitchen so that you can ensure that once you get it home, you can get it in your kitchen.

Another thing to remember is that the larger a refrigerator, the more energy it uses. Generally, refrigerators with 16 to 20 cubic feet are the most energy-efficient, according to the Energy Star website.

Style

There are four main styles of refrigerators: top-freezer, bottom-freezer, French doors with bottom freezer, and side-by-side fridge and freezer.

Top-freezer styles tend to use less energy than the other styles, offer the most storage and are the least expensive.

Bottom-freezer styles, with the freezer below the fridge, provide easier access to the fridge but tend to be less convenient.

Side-by-side’s offer the least space inside as they have narrower shelves but they are convenient for small kitchens as the doors require less swing room. Be sure to consider how much interior space you will need and determine which type is best for the space in your kitchen, especially how much space you have for door swing and in which direction the door needs to swing if you are not getting a side-by-side style refrigerator.

Consider any plumbing that you may require if you are getting an ice-maker or water dispenser for the first time.

When it comes to buying any appliance there are many product review websites that I found very useful.

Consumer Reports, www.consumerreports.org, is a good resource for reviews and buying advice on most products.

I also suggest: ehow.com, Consumerreview.com and Cnet.com, which has a number of reviews of electronic and technology products.

Honey Adams is the education officer for Consumer Affairs.