Buying guide: Refrigerators
1 Is the fridge for you or for your property?
The right refrigerator for you is one that meets your cooking habits and lifestyle needs. The right refrigerator for your property is one that’s complementary to the scale and value of the property, and which will enhance its value if you choose to resell. Sometimes, these qualities overlap – which is great! Other times they’re in conflict.
For example, let’s say you’re an avid home-entertainer who cooks elaborate dinner-party menus for your wide circle of friends. This would indicate a large-capacity fridge with platter-friendly, French doors and individually controlled cold zones would be the right choice for you ... except that you live in a tiny one-bedroom condo. The majority of one-bedroom condo buyers aren’t looking for a professional-capacity fridge, and won’t pay a premium for it.
In fact, says Janice James, a real estate sales representative with Re/Max Escarpment Realty, Hamilton, Ont., it could make the sale harder. “You can have a beautifully renovated small kitchen but it’ll be overpowered by a huge fridge that dwarves the rest of the room,” she warns.
Remember: Context is key. In general, the higher-end your property, the higher-end you can and should go with your appliances. The more entry-level your property, the more modest your fridge should be in features and price tag, says Janice, who has over 20 years experience in the industry.
That said: if you’re buying for your “forever home,” choose your refrigerator based on the features that matter to you.
2 What style is right for your needs?
Refrigerators come with various bells and whistles, from exterior-door water and ice dispensers to Internet touch screens, but only four main styles.
Side-by-sides place the fridge and freezer compartments beside one another, vertically. These models use the most energy to run. Average capacity: 22 to 30 cubic feet.
Bottom-mount freezer models put the most-frequently accessed section of the unit – the fridge – at chest level, for less stooping. They’re more energy efficient than side-by-sides, but less so than refrigerators with a top-mount freezer. Average capacity: 19 to 25 cubic feet.
Top-mount freezer models are the most common fridge style. It’s the most energy-efficient model. Average capacity: 14 to 22 cubic feet.
French-door fridges have a bottom-mount freezer and a fridge compartment with a pair of doors that allow for versatile placement of larger trays and platters. Average capacity: 22 to 30 cubic feet. By comparison, commercial-kitchen or pro-kitchen style fridges average 27 to over 49 cubic feet capacity.
3 What capacity do you need?
A good rule of thumb is to provide a minimum of five square feet of food storage per adult member of your household. (Although obviously, avid chefs will need more fridge space than convenience-food junkies!) But fridge purchases are dictated as much by kitchen layout as storage needs, so consider the unit’s exterior dimensions first when browsing, and narrow your search to potential purchases that fit your counter and cabinetry dimensions.
4 Is energy efficiency important?
Buy an Energy Star qualified fridge. “Energy efficiency is becoming more and more popular [with homebuyers] every day,” says Janice. Energy Star qualified appliances will pare dollars off your energy bill, while reducing your home’s carbon footprint.
5 What finish do you like?
White remains classic. Black is a good match in many contemporary kitchens. “Stainless is still very popular,” as a luxury finish, says Janice. Expect to pay a slight premium. (Meanwhile, faux-stainless “titanium” is cheaper and easier to wipe clean.) Finally, for a seamless look, you can sheath your fridge door in cabinetry so it blends into your custom kitchen.
6 Finally, what’s your budget?
A budget, top-mount-freezer fridge can be bought for under $500. Meanwhile, designer-series professional-style fridges can run into five figures. So think strategically before you hit the showroom.
“From a resale perspective, I would suggest ‘middle of the road,’ ” says Janice. “The low end will be viewed as such. In fact, certain buyers may wish to replace them, even if they’re new. And the high-end units won’t give you the return on investment you may feel they deserve. The key is to price your appliances appropriately to their surroundings.”
Oh, and that old avocado-green 1970s behemoth lurking in the basement? Chances are it costs $200 more per year in electricity to run than a new, Energy Star-rated model , so replacing it just makes sense.