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Whether you are buying a refrigerator for your home or for a commercial application, there can be a lot of options to consider. The first thing you should do before you begin shopping is determine your price range. This will limit your choices and keep your search focused. Second, measure your refrigerator space in your kitchen. Particularly if you are in a small kitchen or have a non-standard sized space, you'll want to know what will fit. Also take note how much room you have for an open refrigerator door and how that would affect kitchen walkways. And third, try to go into your search with an idea would look best given the kitchen cabinetry, flooring and wall color.

Refrigerator Features

One of the ways that manufacturers differentiate their products from the competition is through the inclusion of standard and optional features. Aside from the ice/water dispenser found on some refrigerators, common exterior features include contoured doors, integrated door handles, hidden hinges, stainless steel finish and a counter-depth design for seamless installation. On the interior, home refrigerators feature both adjustable and fixed tempered glass shelves with spill protection for easy cleanup, humidity-controlled crisper drawers, temperature-controlled deli/dairy drawers, devoted egg containers and a gallon jug area, adjustable door bins, LED digital display and up-front controls. Many new refrigerators are Energy Star-qualified, which means they consume less power. Almost all brands offer a full one-year manufacturer's warranty, and extended warranties are always available for purchase.

Home Refrigerators

Home refrigerators are available in an array of styles and come in numerous sizes designed to fit specific needs. Most home refrigerators are combo units that include a freezer, although there are refrigerator-only models that make an ideal backup appliance. Standard size refrigerators feature dual evaporators and entirely separated compartments, each with their own thermostat. Styles include side-by-side, bottom freezer, top freezer, under-counter and compact units. Counter-depth models are available that align with adjacent countertops and/or cabinetry for a seamless look. Built-in refrigerators are also an option.

Side-by-Side Refrigerators

One of the more spacious refrigerator styles, side-by-side units feature vertically-divided compartments with ample door storage space. Most units come with a built-in ice and water dispenser. Storage capacity ranges from around 21 to 28 cubic feet in total. Side-by-side refrigerators are one of the most common styles found in home kitchens.

Bottom Freezer Refrigerators

Bottom freezer refrigerators are another spacious option. With the freezer placed below the refrigerator compartment, you no longer have to bend over to access the fresh foods you most often need. The entire refrigeration area is kept at eye level. Bottom freezer units feature one and sometimes two pull-out freezer drawers accessible from the top. The refrigerator door style can be either the single- or French-door variety. French door bottom freezer refrigerators incorporate twin doors that open outwardly and enclose the refrigerator compartment. The single-door style is hinged either to the left or right.

Top Freezer and Other Refrigerators

Top freezer refrigerators feature the classic design still quite commonly found in homes. The freezer is placed above the refrigerator with this style. Top freezer units are available in a wide variety of sizes. This style is most commonly scaled down to form compact and apartment-sized appliances. Other home refrigerators include 2-door and single-door compact units. These are ideal for dorm rooms, offices, home bars and apartments where limited space is a factor. Compact refrigerators with two doors feature dual evaporators so the freezer and refrigerator sections are kept independent of each other, but many compact refrigerators place a mini freezer section inside the single compartment. Compact refrigerators are available in both the under-counter and countertop varieties.

Commercial Refrigerators

Commercial refrigerators are used for numerous applications in many different kinds of settings, from restaurants and bars to medical laboratories. Whether for display of merchandise, for food storage or to keep other perishable items chilled, commercial refrigerators meet many business needs. Commercial units include glass door beverage merchandisers of all sizes; portable beverage centers for behind bars, in hotel rooms and in offices; reach-in units that provide ample storage space for fresh and/or frozen food in restaurant kitchens; 2- and 3-drawer rollable refrigerators perfect for cooking lines or cold storage of other goods; and portable keg refrigerators. Commercial refrigerators are durable and insulated with thick polyurethane panels, and they feature dual-pane tempered glass for the display units. Portable units feature heavy-duty casters, and locks often come standard. In many cases, commercial refrigerators are completely customizable according to your needs.

Refrigerator Brands

Home refrigerator manufacturers include Whirlpool, Amana, Maytag, Jenn-Air, Frigidaire, Kenmore, LG and Samsung. In addition, GE, KitchenAid, Viking, Bosch, Avanti, Sanyo, Hotpoint, Electrolux and Northland offer home refrigeration products. Manufacturers that mainly focus on commercial refrigerators include Turbo Air, Tor-Rey, Summit, True, McCall, Ranco, Arctic Air, Delfield and Frieling. These makers produce a wide selection of commercial units, ranging from glass door display refrigerators to reach-in back-of-the-house models. It should be noted that while several kinds of residential refrigerators are produced under their own names, they are actually subsidiaries of other companies. 

Parts and Accessories

Refrigerators undergo constant use, so it is likely that eventually they will need a replacement part. Some accessories, such as water filters for those units with water dispensers need to be replaced regularly, usually every 6 to 9 months. However, when parts fail you can often save a lot of money by replacing it rather than the whole appliance. Some mechanical parts that may one day need replacing include components of the condenser, evaporator, defroster, thermostat or the water valve. Extra storage components, such as baskets, bins, drawers and shelves, and door handles are also available in case of breaking, cracking or discoloration.

When buying a new refrigerator for home or commercial use, you have too many options to go into the search unprepared. Rather than be overwhelmed by your choices, do a little research and find the best style, size and brand for your budget and refrigeration needs.