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Product Reviews

New refrigerators keep food fresher, better organized

Kenmore Elite 72093

Kenmore Elite 72093

Space ranks right up there with style on most refrigerator wish lists. With almost 23 cubic feet of usable capacity, the Kenmore Elite 72093, $3,400, and similarly designed LG LFX33975ST, $3,000, are roomier than any fridge Consumer Reports has ever tested. They are also among a growing list of models designed to keep food fresher and make it easier to organize.

Those 36-inch-wide models have dual evaporators, which maintain optimal humidity levels in the fresh-food section and help keep odors from migrating into the freezer (no more salmon-scented ice cubes). Vacuum-insulated panels with ultrathin insulation allow slimmer walls and added storage space, and extra-tall water dispensers are among the innovations hitting retailers.

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French-door refrigerators are a growing category because they combine a top-mounted fridge section for easy access with split doors that save space yet open full width for pizzas and other large items. More are now available in 33- and 30-inch widths for tighter spots. Consumer Reports is also seeing more fridges made in the United States as GE and Whirlpool bring the bulk of production back home. Here are the details of its latest tests:

Daewoo gets dinged. Two new models are part of the Korean giant’s segue into the US appliance market. But temperature control on the French-door RFE-26A1D, $1,500, was erratic enough to prompt a repair call.

GE side-by-sides slip. GE’s GSH22-JDSS, $1,400, replaces a model that was tops among side-by-sides. But less consistent temperatures helped yank the new one more than 40 points lower overall in Consumer Reports’ ratings.

Some pricey models underwhelm. The Fisher & Paykel bottom-freezer E522BRXU2, $1,850, costs plenty, and with its high energy costs, you will keep paying at home.

How to choose

Pick a type that fits your needs. Top-freezer refrigerators are best for small spaces and tight budgets. Bottom-freezers, including French-door models, keep fridge items at eye level. Side-by-sides have the narrowest door swings, but their full-length refrigerator and freezer sections usually require lots of reaching and bending on each side. Built-in models sit flush with base cabinets and often accept matching panels, but they cost the most and hold the least.

Check the fit. Width is the most critical dimension in determining whether a fridge will fill an opening, though height is also important under cabinets. Also factor in door swings relative to other appliances, walls, and an island countertop.

Save with cabinet-depth models. They give the built-in look and protrude only a little more than true built-ins for a lot less.

Choose a finish. Stainless is still king when it comes to style. For a fresh look with fewer fingerprints, consider Whirlpool’s Ice Collection in glossy white and black, or GE’s slate, a gray-toned metallic.

Don’t buy capacity claims. Claimed space is 32 percent more on average than the usable space we measure. That’s because companies often include tiny nooks and crannies to boost those numbers. Even the mega-sized fridges from Kenmore and LG proved roughly 10 cubic feet smaller than claimed.

Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at consumerreports.org.
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