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The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Refrigerator Shopping

It’s time to make some really cool decisions, whether you need your first fridge or just want out with the old, and in with the new, this post will help you get yourself an enslaved winter box, that you gonna love and adore for decades to come or a century if you wanna outlive the queen.

Unlike other appliances, fridge shopping is not that straightforward. You could be like, fine I’ll just find the best brand and I have my fridge. No, that’s not how you are supposed to play the game! There is no perfect brand for refrigerators as each one has its unique flaws, but with factors considered you might just get the best for your needs.

1. Size & Dimensions

Refrigerator Dimensions
 Refrigerator Dimensions

First things first, get a tape measure and check the maximum space you have in terms of; height, width, and depth. Dimensions should not be overlooked as they are key in determining the fit and space utilization of your new unit. Getting a very big fridge for your space may cause obstructions.

Height is important in case you are short and won’t be reaching the top of the unit, or you have height limits from cabinets or fittings. If you have a cramped space go for a shorter fridge so that you can utilize the space above; for storage of other small appliances like toaster ovens or microwaves.

For width ensure the space is wide enough and take into account the opening of fridge doors without nearby obstruction on the side, consider the direction in which your door(s) open for your desired refrigerator.

For the depth, it determines how much it will protrude outwards, you should leave extra allowance as the fridge shouldn’t be in contact with the wall since air circulation is important for the condenser coils in the back. Not only for the back, fridges should be ventilated all around and it should never be a tight squeeze anywhere. 

For a small cramped kitchen go for a small fridge since space is valuable, however, if your kitchen is big get a bigger fridge to take up space for aesthetics and to provide proportions. A small fridge in a big kitchen will appear dwarfed. 

2. Capacity

If you need a certain capacity just get more for future-proofing. Capacity is measured in cubic meters which is equivalent to litres. Capacity is directly tied to household size and lifestyle.

A larger household needs a larger capacity. The common guidelines are

  •  250L-350L: For a bachelor, spinster, or a young couple
  •  500-700L: Average family for up to 4 people
  •  700L+: For a family of 5 or more.

The rule of thumb is, to allocate at least 150L capacity per person in the household, more is better. Always don’t pack your fridge to the maximum, allow some space to ensure cool air circulation for more efficiency.

Also, establish your freezer needs and get a proper fridge-to-freezer ratio depending on how much frozen food you intend to store. For normal freezer use, make sure your freezer is 30% of the refrigerator’s capacity. 

Heavy users should go for up to 50%. A side-by-side refrigerator type should be best for heavy users as it is split into halves, one section a freezer with the other half a refrigerator

3. Budget

 Budget is not only related to affordability but also influences options like the value of your purchase, running expenses, and quality.

Budget is how much you can justify spending, however, the cheapest fridges might not be the best for you due to; lower build quality that goes into suppressing equipment cost, higher noise levels, limited support and warranties, and high power usage. 

This doesn’t mean you should get the most expensive unit because you can afford it. High-end units don’t offer the best value, and the gimmicks don’t justify the price you pay for but instead, it is a premium price set for a premium experience. Some are even overkill for normal household use.

Go for mid-range budgets to get the perfect blend of value, efficiency, and reliability without destroying your wallet or compromising on quality.

POV: You at 3am
POV: You at 3am

4. Energy Efficiency

You can get a cheap refrigerator but end up spending more on power in the long run. This will beat the entire reason why you got it,-for budget. It is better to pay slightly more upfront for equipment cost if it will guarantee better energy efficiency and you will also get slightly better overall features.

Energy efficiency for fridges matters big time compared to other household appliances; as they run not for minutes or hours but 24/7, 365. and 366 on leap years lol. Most if not all fridges have estimated KWh/annum stickers. The figure indicated is an approximate value and may greatly vary depending on environmental temperature and other factors. 

To get the estimated cost of running the appliance, multiply the KWh/annum figure by the cost of 1KWh for your region.

Energy stars provide an estimation for usage compared to similar models of similar capacity. The more the stars the more efficient the unit and thus less KWh/annum use.

5. Freezer Location

I never thought freezer placement mattered, but it does. Could be either at the top, bottom, or even on the side for some models. Either way, the choice for a top or bottom freezer narrows down to personal use cases like accessibility, and storage needs.

Top freezers are the traditional and common type, the freezer is above the refrigeration compartment, and vice versa for the bottom freezer. 

Advantages of  bottom freezers include; 

  •  Easy accessibility to your normal fridge food as the freezer is tucked away in the bottom, ensuring your commonly used stuff is at eye level. Accessibility of the freezer is compromised yes, but you don’t use the freezer as much as the fridge.
  •  Better organization for the freezer as they include trays and baskets that lift out making it hassle-free to get whatever you want without disarranging everything.
  •  Modern, stylish, and aesthetic.

Disadvantages of bottom freezers:

  •  The freezer is located in front of the compressor which heats up and gets hot on operation, this reduces the efficiency as the refrigerator has to work more to counteract that, which increases energy use and drives up the cost.

If you fancy a bottom freezer then shop for a unit with a compressor mounted on the top for better efficiency.

6. Split Layout

Specific needs and goals as discussed below will determine the best-split layout for you:

Mini Fridge

A small refrigerator for compact and tight places such as small apartments and dorm rooms. It is so small that it mostly fits under countertops. Offers capacities averaging 90-100L.

Single Door

Slightly taller than a mini fridge and offers more storage capacity. Has one door that opens to both fridge and freezer compartments just like in a mini fridge.

Double Door

 May come in the same dimensions and capacity as a single-door fridge, but with separate doors for the fridge and freezer. This helps with individual temperature controls and fluctuations curbing, minimizing odor transfer from one section to another since one section is closed when the other is opened. Double doors are slightly aesthetic as they break the monotony of the continuous flat boring front of a single door.

Side by Side

The fridge and freezer are vertical and take up half of the space eachNormally slim shape for fit, with abundant freezer space and sizable door storage for larger containers and bottles. It is a double-door fridge essentially so it packs the same advantages listed above, adjustable shelving for even more customization so you won’t have fit problems. Most units come with ice and drink dispensers.

The downside of a side-by-side is the reduced capacity of the fridge section for storing fresh foods. You should only opt for this layout if  50% of your refrigeration needs are freezing.

French Door

 It is a modern and elegant design that features; two refrigerator doors split vertically and a freezer splitting the unit horizontally at the bottom thus forming an inverted T.

The fridge section is narrow but wide, allowing easy accessibility as nothing is deep and almost everything is within your reach. It is the easiest to organize and make aesthetic. Comes with beverage dispensers and ice cube makers. 

Generally modern, elegant, upscale and will add a premium touch to your kitchen. However, they come at a steep price tag.

So in choosing your preferred layout;

  •  For small spaces, and a limited budget get a mini fridge or a single door,
  •  Small spaces, slightly more budget and want better organization, get a double door,
  •  If you want large freezer space go with side-by-side,
  •  If organization and aesthetics are your things and you have the budget for them, go with French door.

Shallow and Wide Interior Layout of a French Door Refrigerator
Shallow and Wide Interior Layout of a French Door  Refrigerator

7. Storage Compartments

Salad Crisper

 Also commonly known as a vegetable box is a compartment designed for storing fresh vegetables and fruits. The compartment regulates humidity ensuring freshness of vegetables by retarding the wilting process. However, don’t store vegetables and fruits together as fruits release ethylene gas which can lead to spoilage of some vegetables by turning them yellow.

Water Dispenser

Having a water dispenser in a fridge is convenient in several ways; for instance, you don’t need to store water in jugs and pitchers to enjoy crisp cold water. It also eliminates the need for a full-standing separate water dispenser unit.

The cons that come with it include, taking up space thus reducing the capacity in your fridge, and the high cost that comes with paying for a fridge with an inbuilt water dispenser. 

Wine rack

This section maintains an optimum temperature and humidity for wine 

Dairy compartment

 Isolates dairy products from other stored items to prevent odor and to make sure dairy products are stored in optimum temperature conditions.

Ice Cube Maker

 Automatically makes ice cubes continuously ensuring steady availability

Egg Tray

This is for securing the eggs to prevent damages from rolling around, at the same time optimizing temperature, and neatly utilizing space. Odor is contained in case of accidental damages and leaks.

Door Bottle Storage

 Upright to prevent spills of opened or semi-opened bottles, this is where commonly used goodies like sauces, condiments, and juice boxes are stored for quick access.

In Summary:

  •  If you are vegetarian or consume a lot of veggies choose a fridge with the biggest vegetable box capacity within your budget and other factors
  •  If you have a standing water dispenser unit, there is no need to get a fridge with an integrated water dispenser 
  •  Get a fridge with a wine rack if you are a casual wine enjoyer, however, if you are a wine enthusiast with a mega-collection, get a dedicated wine chiller as the integrated chiller in a fridge is limited in capacity. If you don’t care about wine then go with a fridge without one.
  •  I wouldn’t personally go for an ice cube maker as an option due to reliability issues in the past couple of years, and the fact that the unit consumes space. If you need ice cubes then just get a dedicated ice cube maker, or fill in ice trays and freeze them. 

8. Operation Noise

This seems like a minor factor but could be a big deal if you have sensitivity issues. I’m allergic to noise However, most modern refrigerators operate at low humming or at near silence. Take into consideration the operating decibel rating that you can condone.

9. Brand & Origin

Just because I said no fridge brand is good, doesn’t mean you should get a no-name brand. Just go for the slightly reputable household names like Bosch,  Whirlpool, LG, Samsung, GE, Kitchen Aid, and Panasonic among others.

The same brands are assembled in different parts of the world. A unit assembled in The US or UK is likely to be better than a unit assembled from Asia. The high manufacturing standards will give you more confidence pertaining to reliability and build quality. So you should check the origin country stamp.

10. Model Reviews

Reviews help compare and contrast competing models at a certain price range, reviews will help you get the best for the money while laying out the pros and cons for each.

Especially from independent and reputable reviewers. The reviewer has user experience so they know better. Reviews also address re-occurring problems with certain models so that you can choose to totally avoid them or live with them if it is not a big deal for you

11. Warranty & Support

I tend to trust longer warranties like 10+ years, this shows that the manufacturer themselves have confidence in their creation. The warranty is supposed to give you peace of mind that in case anything goes south, you will be covered.

Some offer after-sales services including free servicing for the warranty duration. In case you are getting a used unit, ensure you get a written warranty and not a trust me bro warranty.

12. Aesthetics

Normally aesthetics shouldn’t be a priority, it should come after functionality and budget overviews. Keep in mind elegant and appealing units cost much more.

Some of the things that are associated with an aesthetic fridge are modern finishes, sleek body panels, glass doors, and interior organization tools.

Aesthetics are important if you value visual appeal, have a theme to maintain, and just style and personal taste. I’m personally heavy on aesthetics ngl.

13. Lighting

Light in fridges is sorely for convenience and ease of item location especially when packed or at night. There are different lighting technologies incandescent and halogen bulbs which are traditional or LED strips which are modern.

No debate here just go for an LED-lit unit as it creates visual appeal, brighter than the traditional bulbs, and has a longer lifespan of up to 10x longer.

Note that the freezer compartments don’t have light, (unless it is a high-end unit) because frost might cover the light rendering it unusable. Also, freezers are normally packed, and you don’t use your freezer often as a fridge especially when grabbing the 3 am snack.

LED Refregerator Lighting
LED Refregerator Lighting
Halogen Refrigerator Lighting
Halogen  Refrigerator Lighting

14. Number of Compressors

Two-compressor fridges have better performance for precise temperatures in each compartment, are more energy efficient, and have redundancy in case one compressor fails. Dual compressors are obviously more expensive than single and are the better choice if needed.

15. Self Defrost

This is a feature that prevents the accumulation of ice and frost in the freezer. Heaters periodically heat to melt out the ice and frost and drain the water. Frost reduces capacity by taking up space in the freezer and reducing energy efficiency as it insulates heat exchange. This feature may come in handy as manual scrapping and defrosting are not required.

Frosted Freezer
Frosted Freezer

16. Smart Features

These are some of  the extra and luxury features:

  •  A Door alarm that beeps when you leave your door open or not properly closed, I mean if it is smart enough it should close itself
  •  Built-in touchscreens so that you can use the internet while in the kitchen for instance looking up recipes or just tweeting.
  •  Recipe suggestion on the basis of available ingredients
  •  Works with voice commands such as Alexa, Google Assistant
  •  Inventory management

Remember, the more features the more reliability problems you are gonna run into. Skip on the gimmicks and go simple


The best fit for you will involve choosing your desired features and plotting them, drawing the best line of fit to land your best model on constraints of your budget and features taking into account other discussed factors. Cheers!

Related Links

Review: The Best Fridge Brands in Kenya for 2023

The Best Fridges for Every Budget in Kenya: (Updated May 2023)

Buying Guide: 10 Food Preparation Appliances

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