Refrigerator Buying Guide
Fit Kitchen and Budget!
If you’re in the market for a new refrigerator, chances are you have a pretty good idea about what features you are looking for. The style of fridge, including the color and configuration, are usually pretty easy to research as well. But there can still be some hiccups along the way.
One of the most confusing aspects of choosing a refrigerator for your kitchen is getting it to fit in your cabinets properly. The “cabinet” dimensions are the physical dimensions of the fridge itself. Sometimes cabinent dimensions includes hinges and other possible obstructions, but usually they do not. You shouldn’t confuse these measurements with the measurements of the cabinets in your kitchen!
The Difference Between Cabinet and Installation Dimensions
The source of the confusion arises from the fact that refrigerators need extra space to function properly, usually referred to as “recommended clearances”. When you see a “32 inch wide fridge” in the store or on a retailer’s website, that doesn’t mean it will fit in a 32 inch wide opening. The manufacturer may recommend that you leave a half inch or inch of clearance on the sides to allow for proper ventilation or the doors to fully open. Clearance on the top is often to allow for the door hinges, and sometimes also for ventilation. Clearance in the back is to allow for plugs, wires, plumbing (for those refrigerators with ice makers and water dispensers), and ventilation.
So there are the cabinet dimensions, the recommended clearances, and then the installation dimensions. This can be especially confusing because the recommended clearances are not usually published in a prominent location. Even on the manufacturers websites they tend to be hidden away in a PDF file, rather than on the product specification page, and they are hardley ever to be found on retailer websites. Occasionally the installation dimensions may be published as the refrigerator’s dimensions, which muddies the water even further.
General Recommended Clearance Guidelines
Each refrigerator model is going to have it’s own recommended clearances. However, models from the same manufacturer are likely to have similar clearance requirements. For instance, Sub Zero refrigerators have top mounted radiators, which means they need more clearance on the top of the refrigerator. However, these tend to be “built-in” and so you simply need to leave room for the grate at the top to allow for proper airflow. This is often included in the height of Sub Zero refrigerators, and is why they tend to be some of the tallest refrigerators on the market at about 84 inches high. As they are built-in, they don’t have any recommended clearances. Be careful though, as they can be installed flush, or with a flange around the opening. Each type of installation will have different requirements for the size of the opening the refrigerator will be installed in.
Whirlpool’s full sized refrigerators on the other hand, as well as those from Kenmore, Samsung, and GE tend to only need about an inch of clearance on the top to allow for hinges. Half an inch of clearance on the sides is fine for most of their models as their doors don’t require a lot of extra room to open. However be careful of the clearances in the back for models with water dispensers and ice makers. These models require copper tubing and a water hookup which can in some cases mean you need to leave more than the standard 1 inch clearance in the back. A few of their refrigerators don’t have any posted recommended clearances on the sides, like the GX2FHDXVB, GX2FHDXVQ, and GX2FHDXVY.
One of the more surprising things you will find is that as refrigerators get smaller, they tend to need more clearance. This is often because a smaller refrigerator has a smaller radiator, which means it needs more airflow. Often the small personal refrigerators need 3 or more inches in clearance! Magic Chef’s line of smaller refrigerators like the MCBR170BMD and MCBR170WMD need 5 inches of clearance on the sides and in the back for instance.
A Special Case for Additional Clearance
One type of installation that will really give you a headache is when your refrigerator is in a corner or next to an extended wall extrusion. These types of installations require additional clearances to be left on the hinge side to allow for the door to open fully. Even worse, this information is not always made available by the manufacturer (and of course is not published by retailers even when it is available).
How to Avoid the Confusion when Sizing Your Fridge
Whenever you are in the market for a new fridge, remember to do your homework. Research the cabinet dimensions as well as the recommended clearances to make sure you have a good idea as to the proper installation dimensions for each refrigerator. (Often the installation dimension is found already computed in the PDF files on the manufacturer’s website. If not though, it’s easy to calculate from the cabinet dimensions and recommended clearances.
You can often sort refrigerators by dimensions on retailers websites, but be wary because they don’t allow you to sort by installation size. It’s always by cabinet size (and the recommended clearances nowhere to be found). The same is true for most manufacturer’s websites as well. Manufacturers websites are also limited in that they will only have their own refrigerator models to compare between. Retailers tend to have a wider array of refrigerator models to choose from, but still won’t have anything approaching a comprehensive selection.
The Best Websites for Refrigerator Dimension Searches
At fridgedimensions.com we publish this information for all refrigerator models from all manufacturers in easy to digest formats. The recommended clearances, cabinet dimensions, and installation dimensions are all right there in one place. We also allow you to search refrigerators by their dimensions and clearances with our refrigerator dimensions search!
Another site which allows you to properly search through refrigerators by dimension is fridgesizes.com, which is one of the more comprehensive sites when it comes to information about refrigerators.
Even when using these sites though, make sure to double check everything. Refrigerator manufacturers often change dimensions and clearances for new refrigerator models (or with new accessories and styles) without changing the model numbers. Taking proper precautions and doing your homework will ensure that you get the right fridge for your kitchen, rather than a lot of hassles and headaches that come with having to return a refrigerator.