Whenever I go to my parent’s house, I swear I stand in awe of their freezer-refrigerator for a solid two minutes before I open it and pour myself a glass of wine. As an urbanite apartment renter, my fridge is so small I’m forced to shop for groceries a few times a week. I can’t even save money by shopping at big box stores for my staples because they simply will not fit, so needless to say the beautiful new stainless steel appliance in my parent’s kitchen got me thinking about all the different options available to those who can choose their own refrigerator.
Sure, there’s the decision about whether or not you want an icemaker, and of course you need to decide if stainless steel is the route you want to go, but more importantly, what fridge-freezer orientation do you go with? Freezer on the top, bottom, or side? As it turns out, there are pros and cons for each fridge-freezer combination.
This is the kind of refrigerator I have now, and the same style I grew up with. The bottom two thirds are dedicated to keeping all your perishables fresh, while the top third is all about keeping Freezies out of reach of the hands of children. First introduced in the 1940s, refrigerators with top freezers, like this Insignia 30” 18 cubic foot top freezer refrigerator, are the most traditional refrigerators and still account for about half of all refrigerator sales.
While fridges with top freezers might not have the same updated aesthetic as bottom or side freezers, they tend to be more reliable, which is likely due to the fact that they have been around longer than their bottom and side-by-side counterparts. They are also generally quite energy efficient, which isn’t just great from an environmental perspective, but also for your pocketbook, as they tend to come in at the lowest price point. Another pro of top freezer refrigerators is that they usually take up less space in your kitchen but that smaller footprint can also translate to your fridge having less storage space.
Pros: Low cost, energy efficient, reliable, smaller
Cons: Potentially less storage space, no ice or water dispenser
My parent’s new fridge, which I covet every time I see it, is a stainless steel bottom freezer not dissimilar to this GE 33” 24.9 cubic foot refrigerator. Clearly I’m a fan of bottom freezers, but aesthetics aside, they come with a number of other pros. Interestingly, refrigerators with bottom freezer compartments are the most energy efficient of the group, followed by top freezer fridges. Energy efficiency aside, refrigerators with bottom freezers ensures that all your most commonly used perishables are at eye level. As a tall individual, that might be why I like this orientation so much, as it eliminates the “open-door-and-stare-to-see-what-to-eat-while-bent-over-like-a-hunchback” stance. And as much as my mother will kill me for saying this, at almost 70, this is one of the reasons she chose the bottom freezer option. They are great for seniors, or those with other issues that make bending difficult.
Refrigerators with bottom freezers also typically have slide-out drawers in their freezers, making storage of frozen items efficient, organized, and easily accessed when the time comes. They also tend to be larger than their top-freezer counterparts, which can be both a pro and a con. If you have the space, great! You’ll be able to store ample frozen goods. If you don’t, well, then no bottom freezer for you. Perhaps the biggest con of bottom freezer refrigerators is that they come in at a considerably higher price point than top freezer fridges.
Pros: Most accessed items at eye level, larger storage capacity, drawers in freezer
Cons: Cost, bending down to access frozen items
Side-by-side refrigerator freezers do exactly what the name suggests and split your fridge right down the middle with a freezer on one side, and a fridge on the other, like this Frigidaire Gallery 36” 25.6 cubit foot fridge. Depending on the model, your freezer might take up just under half of available real estate, while others might offer a freezer to fridge ratio of an even 50-50. The best part of a side-by-side fridge is that you can put all your most accessed items–both frozen and perishable–at eye level and therefore within easy reach. That said, because of the vertical split, you might be looking at a somewhat narrow freezer space, which can make storing frozen pizzas and turkeys a little difficult.
One big pro of side-by-side refrigerator-freezers is that they often come equipped with a number of features that top freezer and bottom freezer units simply don’t offer. For example, this Samsung 35.7” 21.5 cubit foot fridge features a “showcase door” that allows you to keep your most frequently accessed items at the very front. Because of their design, they also require less clearance space when it comes to opening their doors, which makes them ideal for galley kitchens, or otherwise narrow kitchen spaces.
Pros: Most accessed frozen and perishable items at eye level, extra features
Cons: Narrow fridge and freezer space
Deciding whether to choose a refrigerator with a top freezer, bottom freezer, or side freezer is about more than just aesthetics. Each has it’s own pros and cons, so it is important to choose your new refrigerator based on your needs. Do your research, give some thought to your habits and how you like to access your perishable and frozen items, and then have fun deciding on all the fun details.
For more resources on refrigerators, check out Best Buy Canada’s Major Appliance Help Hub.