5 Tips to Choosing the Right Refrigerator for Your Living Space

There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to buying a refrigerator, and if you have not been in the market for one before, you might not know what you should be looking for to find the one that fits your lifestyle and the space you have available.

Avanti Refrigerator with Door Open

Let’s take a closer look at the options available to you, as well as five tips to help ensure that you pick the right fridge for your situation.

Refrigerator Size Options

There are several different refrigerator sizes available for people with all different space considerations. These appliances generally fall into the following categories:

  • Compact Cube:
    These “office-style” refrigerators are small and provide only a little bit of space to store food and drinks. They range in size from about 1.5 to 3 cubic feet, and generally have room for a few cans of soda or water, today’s lunch, and maybe some condiments.
  • Compact Midsize:
    The next size up is a compact mini fridge, sometimes known as a dorm-style mini fridge. These appliances are designed to be very small and inexpensive, but have enough space to store enough groceries for a few days. These refrigerators generally have a very small amount of freezer space, but with between 3 and 5.5 cubic feet of total storage space they are often small enough to fit under a standard height countertop.
  • Combo Microwave/Fridge:
    For people who are looking for convenience and ease in small spaces, the combination microwave and fridge can be a great option. Combo fridges come in a variety of sizes, with fridges that range from 2 to 9 cubic feet of space, and microwaves that include everything from the basics or more advanced options.
  • Apartment Size:
    If you have a little bit more space, the next step up is the apartment-sized fridge, which offers slim style but is similar in height to more standard refrigerators. They generally range from about 7 to 15 cubic feet (about half the size of traditional refrigerators), but offer similar features to their full-size counterparts, such as drawers, dual-cooling air systems, temperature control, adjustable shelving, and more freezer space than compact models.
  • Full Size & Commercial:
    Of course, if you have the space for it, you can also choose from a wide range of full size and/ or commercial refrigerators. If you have a slightly smaller space but want the functionality of a full size fridge, many brands today offer extra narrow models of popular designs (24 to 28 inches instead of the standard 32 to 36 inches). There are a myriad of features, styles, and configurations to choose from, so it’s important to shop around before you decide on which full-size fridge is right for you.

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Wine Coolers 101

built-in wine cooler

Mention a wine cooler, and my mind wanders to the French countryside, maybe say… Burgundy. A beautiful wine country, just south of Paris, Burgundy grows fine grapes to make exceptional Pinot Noir red wines and Chardonnay white wines. Yes, I have actually visited there once.

A bit of brie, a picnic basket and a beautiful smile….ok, I have to get back to work!

EdgeStar carries a wide variety of wine coolers, both the thermoelectric, or TE coolers, and the more familiar compressor-based ones. It is very important to note that no matter which one you choose certain guidelines must be observed.

The first item of note is which way the door will swing. Factory configurations usually have it set to open from left to right,  and occasionally, customers want the door to swing the other way, from right to left. Happily, the vast majority of the EdgeStar wine cooler line allows the customer to do exactly that.

The next consideration will be placement of the unit. Most customers prefer to place the unit in such a fashion that it appears to have been built in, under a counter, or in a cabinet. The compressor-based units are preferred candidates, because they vent from the front at the bottom of the cooler. With that in mind, I present a bit of advice for the value minded customer that purchases one of our fine EdgeStar thermoelectric coolers to reproduce the exact same look in their kitchen…

The thermoelectric series of wine coolers are an excellent product, but if you build them in, or put them under a counter, they will overheat, and will live a very short life.

This is due to the fact that they generate a LOT of heat from the back of the unit, and although the cooling is fan forced, they absolutely must be installed in a free standing environment. We mean it, folks, no joke.

Leveling is very important when installing one of our wine coolers, especially the compressor-based ones. An unbalanced compressor will be noisy and will fail early. Use a bubble level to make sure the leveling is done correctly, and try to use a level that has a magnetic strip attached, that’s handy for not only horizontal level, but vertical leveling as well.

Regular cleaning of both the intake and exhaust grills on both types of coolers is also very important, I recommend doing a complete cleaning at least once every 6 months. Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment for best results.

Last but not least, I recommend using a surge protector on all of our wine coolers, but especially the thermoelectric units. Most kitchens these days have outlets that are GFCI protected (think wine cooler falling in the pool), but not surge protected. Surge protectors can be picked up at most retail electronic stores at reasonable prices. The really good protectors will stop passing power when they are worn out.

That’s all for this week. See you later!

Dave

Appliance Terminology Overview

I think a good way to start this blog post series will be to explain some appliance terminology and what it all means. A short encyclopedia, if you will. This is not necessarily all in alphabetical order.

I might get a little technical, but I’ll try to apply the K.I.S.S. rule (keep it simple, stupid) wherever I can.

Technology

Compressor-Based System: An appliance that uses a compressor, or pump, with a closed refrigeration system, and uses a refrigerant to cool a particular space.  This could be a refrigerator, wine cooler (some), kegerator or deep freezer. Common refrigerants include R134A and R410A, among others.

Thermoelectric / TE: An appliance that uses electronics/electricity to cool a small space without the use of refrigerants. These typically consist of a cooling node (Peltier effect) and fans to distribute the air inside the cabinet and dissipate the heat to the outside. They are, for the most part, efficient, although there are a few drawbacks, especially if you are trying to build it into a cabinet.  I’ll delve into that in a later post, along with what exactly a Peltier unit is in simple terms.

LED: Refers to a Light Emitting Diode, which is a commonly used electronic component. All diodes allow electricity to flow in one direction only. Think of it as a one way street, except this one glows when the electric flows. They are used for operation and mode indicators, and also for general lighting purposes. Sometimes they use different colors and are commonly used to highlight and display wines in wine coolers.

Cooling Fans: This will mostly apply to thermoelectric, or TE, wine coolers. They do different jobs: some distribute the cooled air inside the cabinet or at the evaporator coil on compressor-based units, and others get rid of the hot air at the back of the cabinet or from the condenser coils on compressor-based units. Most of them consist of the same small DC-powered fans you find in your desktop computer.

Product Descriptions

Countertop Dishwasher   Portable Air Conditioner   Portable Ice Maker   Kegerator   Portable Freezer Refrigerator   Wine Cooler

Portable Dishwasher: This isn’t the one your mom used to roll around the kitchen and store in a corner. These actually are small enough to sit on a countertop. These are really simple to install. Most come with two hoses, a drain and supply, and a quick connector to attach to a standard kitchen faucet, in place of the aerator. They are typically not meant for a permanent installation. They come in different sizes and capacities, also.

Portable Air Conditioner: An alternative to the typical, window-mounted A/C unit. These usually have one hose used to exhaust out the hot air produced during the cooling process, though some will also have an intake hose. They are mounted on casters, so they can be moved room to room. Most will evaporate the majority, if not all, of the water produced in the exhaust air, but if they don’t get rid of all of it, they will usually have a drain at the bottom of the unit to get rid of the collected water. Portable air conditioners usually will require a 15 amp circuit to run properly, although there are some that require 20 amps or more. Most will come with a window fitting kit that is easily assembled, as they have to be vented to the outside of the room being cooled in most cases.

Portable Ice Maker: An ice maker that is small enough to sit on a counter, produces 6-12 cubes at a time, uses a self-contained water supply and storage for the ice after the cycle is complete. These are not high volume units. Typically, they will not refrigerate the ice and it will melt back into the water tank to start the process over yet again. I recommend moving each batch of ice out of the ice maker and into your regular freezer.

Kegerator: A refrigerated appliance used to keep beer cold and dispense beer. Usually has a connected tower and faucet, with dispenser head to pour the beer and on board CO2 storage to pressurize the beer. They also usually have casters for portability and can be used with multiple beers of your choice, sometimes more than one keg can be used (called a dual tap kegerator). Some kegerators are much smaller and utilize a 5 liter mini keg. These are fairly new on the market. The larger kegerators fit a half shell sankey keg, or Cornelius keg. Some of the mini keg 5 liter units will run on 12V DC and are popular with tailgaters.

Portable Freezer / Refrigerator: These are unique, as they can be used in a vehicle, or boat, or while camping and for emergency uses. Some use compressor-based refrigeration, while others use TE technology. A TE unit typically will not be able to refrigerate to freezing or below, and they will usually be good for 40 degrees F below the ambient temperature around the unit. Think short term storage,  like trips to the grocery store. The compressor-based units are infinitely more flexible, allowing for -0 degrees F operation, up through 50+ degrees F, in most cases. Both can be operated from 12V DC and 120V AC, depending on the model. Each type has their pluses and minuses and I will cover those later. Personally, I like them both!

Wine Cooler: These come in a wide variety of sizes and capacities.  The same can be said for the refrigeration system used. While they have a large temperature range to work with, the TE models generally will hold wines from 45 degrees F-65 degrees F, depending on the ambient temperature of the room they are located in. A compressor-based unit will usually hold wines at 40 degrees F or less, and can be built into a cabinet, as the condenser coil and fan is at the bottom front of the unit. One thing to  remember with wine coolers in general:  They are designed for long term STORAGE, not drinkability, and that applies to TE units in particular. Again, that is a general guideline, so YMMV, or Your Mileage May Vary. (I love acronyms, don’t you?)

Til next time!

Dave

Previous Post: What is a small appliance, anyway?

Appliance Maintenance Tips

                    refrigerators

To ensure that your favorite appliances last a long time and continue to work well, you want to make sure you take very good care of them. From big appliances like refrigerators and washing machines to small appliances like toasters and microwaves, caring for their overall function is a must. Without proper care, your appliances may become ineffective, resulting in a higher electricity bill or unfulfilled purpose, or even potentially start a house fire due to faulty wiring or mechanics.

Cleaning your appliances after you use them is an excellent way to keep hazards at bay. Small appliances such as waffle makers, sandwich presses, blenders and toasters should especially be cleaned after use to help keep crumbs or uncooked batter from burning and possibly catching on fire. Therefore, after cooking food with these appliances you should wipe or wash them down, but also be cautious of electrical cords and features that may be ruined by contact with water.

Inspecting your appliances’ electrical connections is extremely important. Appliances age with use and loose wires can be potentially very dangerous to you and your family. If wires seem taut, split or torn and exposing the actual electrical wires, your appliance may be at risk of sparking and starting a fire or electrical surge causing a power outage in the rest of your home. This can also lead to damaging your appliance completely.

Overheating is also a common deficiency in older appliances. Being aware of the age of your appliances and their normal function is important so that you can recognize when something is wrong, like overheating or strange noises.  This appliance reaction is usually caused due to a backup of dust and dirt blocking the appliance filter. In some vacuums and washer dryers, this is common when the lint filter is filled to capacity with lint or dirt.

Make sure to read the instructions on any new appliance you purchase so you know how to care for them and what to do if they need repair. Some appliances are self-explanatory and easy to use, but keeping the instructions handy will help you if you need to repair the appliance or need warranty information. If something goes wrong with any of your appliances, you’ll find comfort in knowing you are prepared.