I have two refrigerators in my home: the main fridge in the kitchen and one in the basement that typically holds frozen foods, drinks (beer, juice boxes, and so forth), and surplus items when we’re entertaining, like a sheet cake or 20 lb. turkey. The refrigerator in our kitchen is a beautiful silver stainless steel model we’ve had for years (definitely time for an upgrade!) that has French doors, a middle drawer, and a bottom freezer. Downstairs, it’s an ancient fridge that was left here by the previous owners that has your standard single-door refrigeration area and top-mounted freezer.
These days, you can get refrigerators in all kinds of designs, from four to even five door, door-in-door designs to maximize space; in finishes from basic white to matte black; and with high-tech features like built-in icemakers and even LCD smart panels. And innovation is happening around the freezer and its placement as well.
You might be looking for a chest freezer, upright freezer, and other standalone freezers. But if you’re looking for a refrigerator that has a freezer, there are three main designs: those with a bottom-mounted freezer, top-mounted, and even side-by-side. Which one is best? There are pros and cons for each type and style.
Top-Mounted Freezers: Pros & Cons
The good thing about refrigerators with top-mounted freezers is that it’s really quick and easy to grab frozen items, or load them up inside, since they’re right at eye-level. The bad thing, however, is that this means the refrigerator section shifts to the lower two-thirds of the fridge. This can result in some items that you might need to access more frequently then frozen foods being placed on the very bottom shelf so you have to bend down to grab them.
Another advantage with top-mounted freezers is that it keeps little kids from being able to sneak popsicles and ice cream when you aren’t looking since they can’t reach! These designs are often smaller, a benefit if you have a small kitchen, live in an apartment, or needs to fit it into a tight space.
However, design-wise, refrigerators with top-mounted freezers are the oldest and most traditional design. More modern kitchens and premium refrigerator models have bottom-mounted freezers. You also won’t be able to enjoy luxuries like ice and water dispensers in refrigerators with top-mounted freezers. And all top-mounted freezers open and close like a door versus pulling out like a drawer, which is a common set-up with bottom-mounted freezers.
Bottom-Mounted Freezers: Pros & Cons
I love the layout of my main refrigerator, which has a bottom-mounted freezer that pulls out like a drawer, with ample space divided into two sections for storing all kinds of food, from ice cream to frozen fruits and homemade goodies, plus a separate pull-out tray on top where I store things like frozen meats and poultry. This is a common feature in bottom-mounted freezers that makes it much easier to organize things inside versus throwing everything into a massive open space like is often the case with top-mounted freezers (though they might have one small shelf to separate certain items). There are, however, more affordable models that have traditional open and shut bottom freezer doors with baskets and in-door storage for smaller items.
Aside from looking really nice, and allowing for elegant designs like French doors, these types of refrigerators also tend to be the most energy efficient, which is a plus if you’re looking both the help the environment and save on electricity (and really, who isn’t?) The design also keeps all of the foods you access most frequently – i.e. those kept in the fridge – at eye level so you can easily grab them. You don’t have to hunch over while you’re looking for the salsa or trying to load the fruits and vegetables into the crisper drawers. Kids can also easily grab freezies, popsicles, and other frozen treats without asking for help.
Bottom-mounted freezers also tend to be larger, overall, which means you can fit more inside, making them great for large families or those who like to buy a lot of frozen foods, or store a lot of frozen foods. However, if you don’t have the space to accommodate that size, it might not matter. There are, it should be noted, some narrower model bottom-mounted freezer refrigerators should you be dead-set on this layout for a smaller kitchen.
The fact that the freezer is on the bottom, however, can also be a disadvantage because when you do want to access something from the freezer, you have to bend over or crouch down to get it. Depending on how tall you are, and how often you access frozen versus perishable foods, that could be a deal-breaker.
Side-by-Side Freezers: Pros & Cons
As the name suggests, side-by-side freezers can offer the best of both worlds in terms of design as the refrigerator occupies one half of the fridge, lengthwise and the freezer the other half. Your refrigerator is basically split right down the middle. In some cases, they are equal in size, in others, the refrigerator portion is slightly wider.
The main advantage is that you can keep all of your most frequently accessed items, both perishable and frozen, at eye level, saving those items you only access once in a while for the bottom of both. Because each door is effectively half-sized, you also don’t need as much clearance space to open them, which means they might be able to fit in tighter spots or smaller kitchens. And door storage for the freezer makes it easy to organize smaller items, like pint-sized tubs of ice cream and popsicles that might otherwise get lost inside.
However, the design means that compartments and shelves, especially in the freezer, are much narrower. This could make it difficult to store large or long items, like frozen pizza boxes or large packages of frozen meat. (If the freezer is deep enough, you might be able to get around it by sliding them in sideways.) The side-by-side design does, however, allow for the integration of a built-in ice and/or water dispenser.
Which freezer design is best?
Deciding which freezer design makes the most sense for you, your family, and your kitchen, really depends on individual preferences as well as the style, size, and layout of your kitchen. I prefer the bottom-mount design because I access items in the refrigerator more often than I do items in the freezer. And having the freezer at the bottom means I can ask my 8-year-old to grab something and he can reach it without issue. But I can see the value in top-mounted freezers for those who most often access frozen items because they are kept at eye level so you don’t have to bend over to grab something or search through what’s inside. If you have back issues, the choice will depend on which you access more often: the freezer or the fridge?
Design-wise, refrigerators with bottom-mounted freezers come in much cooler and more modern and sophisticated designs and can incorporate features like door-in-door areas for maximizing refrigerator storage space, various freezer baskets for organizing items in the much larger space, and built-in ice and water dispensers. But you might not have room nor need for all of that anyway, in which case a more affordable top-mounted option might do just fine.
Refrigerators that employ a side-by-side design aren’t as common but do offer an interestingly layout. You won’t want one if you tend to freeze a lot of large-sized items. But if you’re one of those people who organizes everything in your freezer in stackable, individual-serving Tupperware, this might be the perfect refrigerator and freezer design for you.
Check out refrigerators employing all three of these common freezer designs at Best Buy Online.