Refrigerator – What to Look Before Buying
The refrigerator is an indispensable appliance for storing and preparing food in the kitchen. There are different types of refrigerators, many are the functions of the refrigerators and different are the internal accessories with which they can be equipped. Choosing the right model for this appliance is therefore fundamental and depends on various factors that must be considered when purchasing it.
HOW THE REFRIGERATOR WORKS
The refrigerator has the task of storing food in a cool space, with temperatures around 4 degrees Celsius: knowing all its components and how it works also allows you to know how to use it at its best.
The refrigerator consists essentially of three basic parts:
Motor > Stops its operation
Compartment > Where food is stored
Doors > close the compartment
The engine is then in turn composed of:
- External grid with capacitor
- Thermostatic valve
The internal compartment consists of:
- thermostat, by means of which to adjust the temperature desired to be obtained
- light to illuminate the compartment
- Grids and containers for food, which may be of various sizes and shapes, depending on the particular product for which they are intended
The refrigerator works with a compression system, in which the refrigerant is compressed; initially the refrigerant is sent to the external grate, which has the task of raising the pressure to make it liquid; the condenser of the external grate then cools the liquid and extracts the heat; by means of the thermostatic valve, the liquid then enters the evaporator, where its expansion occurs again due to the existing pressure difference and the liquid becomes gas again, which absorbs the heat of the food inside the refrigerator compartment; finally the gas returns to the compressor, where the cycle just described starts again.
This operation is repeated until the inside of the refrigerator reaches the desired and set temperature; at that point a thermostat will stop the action of the compressor.
SPACE AND ENCUMBRANCE
As with any household appliance, this is one of the first parameters to take into consideration: it is therefore important to take all measurements, height, width and depth, counting for the latter 10 cm more.
Free-Standing refrigerators, that is “free installation”, represent the most common type of refrigerator used in the choice of a modular kitchen: in this case it is the aesthetics of the refrigerator that is very important, as well as its positioning in the arrangement of the furniture in the kitchen.
If you have a built-in kitchen, you will therefore need a built-in refrigerator: compared to the old models, today’s more modern ones can have capacities more similar to those of the free-standing (everything depends, of course, on the space you have available).
In this case, the aesthetic characteristics are not of interest, since it will be recessed into the kitchen furniture and therefore hidden from the same material used for the rest of the composition; if we choose a recessed refrigerator later on compared to the rest of the kitchen, the feature to which more attention must be paid will be the size of the refrigerator itself.
AESTHETICS AND INTERIOR ACCESSORIES
The aesthetics of refrigerators, especially free-standing models, can satisfy any taste and can adapt to any style of furniture. From steel to brighter colours such as yellow, red or blue, from the most original patterns to classic white or cream, the refrigerator can look like the rest of the kitchen, or it can stand out specifically. Often steel parts are combined with other colored, and even the handles, large and with special shapes, can be distinctive pieces of the aesthetics of a refrigerator.
One element to take into account when purchasing a refrigerator is the type of interior fittings, which could also be changed or replaced over time.
The food and drinks inside a fridge, in fact, are kept in order, both to make them cool better, and to immediately find what you need, both because the lower shelves of the fridge are a little colder than others and the different foods can find more suitable locations.
Grids, drawers, various containers can contain different foods in different positions inside the compartment; there are special grids to keep the bottles horizontally without moving inside the fridge, or smaller drawers to hold foods such as butter, cheese, etc., or even special grids contain eggs, in some containers with lids can find place foods with a strong smell that will not mix with the rest of the fridge, etc..
TYPES OF REFRIGERATOR
There are many models of refrigerators available on the market, and it is therefore important to consider which one to purchase according to one’s real needs.
- Single-port refrigerator: single-port refrigerator, usually without freezer, although some models are equipped with a small internal cell that performs this function.
- Double Door Refrigerator: classic and traditional refrigerator, with the refrigerator compartment on the bottom and the freezer compartment on the top. The latter, moreover, is less capacious than the refrigerator sector.
- Combined Refrigerator: similar to the Double Door, but with the freezer compartment located at the bottom of the refrigerator compartment. More practical, it can be powered by one or two motors, with the first preferable solution for saving energy.
- Side-By-Side refrigerator: American type refrigerator, with two vertical doors, the left one opens the freezer, while the right one opens the refrigerator compartment.
- French Door refrigerator: another model of American refrigerator, with two vertical doors that open to the refrigerator compartment and 1 or 2 horizontal doors located at the bottom that open to the freezer compartment.
- Fridge 4 Doors: another model of American refrigerator that consists of 4 doors. The aesthetic is that of a 4-leaf wall cupboard, with a reasoned division of compartments (horizontally and vertically) and greater overall capacity.
It is therefore important for the purchase to evaluate the use that the refrigerator and the compartments will make: if you plan to use the refrigerator more, it is preferable to use a double door or a combination, with the capacity of the freezer that is less than the refrigerator. If you tend to use both parts in the same way, opt for an American refrigerator, especially in the case of large families, given its larger size and capacity.
This parameter is decisive in choosing the capacity your refrigerator should have: there are models on the market with specific capacities adapted to the needs of consumers. For example, it ranges from a hundred litres to over 600 litres: capacity is important because the possibility of filling the appliance depends on it. Remember that the total capacity of a refrigerator should also be divided into the capacity of the refrigerator and that of the freezer: usually, in a double door or combined refrigerator, the capacity of the freezer should be 1/3, 1/4 or 1/5 of the total capacity.
As a guideline, however, the litre/number of persons ratio you can refer to is this:
- Up to 150/190 litres: 1 person
- Up to 210-260 liters: 2 people
- Up to 300-360 liters: 3 people
- More than 300 litres: 4 and more people
ENERGY CLASS AND CONSUMPTION
Before choosing a refrigerator it is very important to know how to read the energy label that must be placed on the appliance. Here are the elements that make it up:
- Manufacturer’s name and trade mark, model number and name
- The coloured band on the left indicates the energy classes, which are distinguished by length and colour of the arrows. They range from dark green and shorter (class A+++, the highest) to red and longer (D, the lowest). In the EU market, there are generally always the first four classes, from A to A+++. On the right, in black, you will find the enrgetic class of the refrigerator you have chosen.
- Energy consumption measured in kWh per year
- Refrigerator capacity in litres
- Freezer capacity in litres
- Noise in decibels in the refrigerator
On the freezer’s capacity icon in liters you may also find stars representing the relationship between temperature and food storage, as shown in the table below:
However, it should be noted that the majority of refrigerator models currently available on the market have a 3+1 star rating. Obviously the energy class of the refrigerator also determines the consumption of the latter, considering that a refrigerator of class A+++ will allow you to save about 50% compared to a refrigerator of class A.
Another aspect that affects the consumption of this electro-mestic is its location: keeping it away from heat sources will allow you, for example, not to force the fridge to a greater energy effort.
As far as the actual costs are concerned, taking a 300-litre refrigerator as a reference and considering 0,30 euro cents, the cost per kWh, the consumption and the average (indicative) costs are as follows:
The icon indicating the noise of the refrigerator is expressed in decibels (db): a noisy refrigerator will have 42 db and above, a fairly quiet refrigerator will have between 40 and 42 db, while a silent one will have less than 40 db.
Your refrigerator’s cooling technology can affect consumption, but also the proper storage of food. The main types of cooling are:
- STATIC: used by the old models, they consume less than the modern ones, but they tend to form ice in the fridge and freezer, forcing the consumer to a complete maintenance (which includes emptying the fridge and cleaning the whole interior) at least once every 6 months. In addition, the formation of ice inside the refrigerator can cause an increase in consumption over time.
- NO FROST: This cooling technology prevents the formation of frost inside the refrigerator. The No Frost is divided into two types: the Total No Frost covers fridge and freezer, while the Partial No Frost is only for the freezer. Virtually all new-generation refrigerators are equipped with a no-frost system, in which the cold is passed into every compartment and corner of the vane-fridge, constantly and evenly: this prevents the formation of annoying frost on the interior walls of the compartment.
The advantages of no-frost do not only concern defrosting; in fact, this technology allows more space to be available for food, to obtain rapid cooling and consequently to reduce energy consumption. The no-frost defrost can be fully automatic or semi-automatic: in the latter case, it is necessary from time to time (such as once every 3 or 4 months) to provide manual defrost to obtain optimal operation of the appliance.
- VENTILATED: it is a type of medium between static and No Frost, in which the ventilation is spread homogeneously along all the compartments.
This is one of the first questions you should ask yourself, immediately after you have taken measurements of the area in which to place your refrigerator. However, if you have no space problems, better focus on the type of refrigerator that suits you and then think about the budget that you want to invest. Obviously this choice increases the purchase price of the appliance, but over time a small investment will be compensated in terms of savings on the bill. However, try to choose a good brand refrigerator and a medium-high price range, two factors that will certainly affect the overall quality of the appliance. Avoid low-end refrigerators, unless you need them for specific needs, but among the cheap ones there are more than enough quality refrigerators that can be purchased at competitive prices.
A new refrigerator will certainly be a better choice, but if you want to spend less with the purchase of a used refrigerator, opt for the refurbished ones, or those appliances returned to the seller by the first customer, and then checked, repaired and repackaged as new. These refrigerators are clearly cheaper, ideal for second homes or temporary solutions, but can present difficulties in finding possible spare parts.
The latest generation offer many possibilities in terms of functions and practicality, thanks to the latest technologies and the search for increasingly simple and optimal storage of food.
Thanks to a thermal sensor and a digital display, if not an LCD screen, the internal temperature of both the fridge, freezer and possibly freezer can be controlled electronically: in fact, the temperature can be set from the external display and push-button panel and checked to ensure that it is kept constant over time. Moreover, the sensor, very sensitive to temperature variations, can automatically adjust the ideal temperature for food, depending on the climate outside the fridge and therefore on the season. Finally, an additional electronic device inside the refrigerator can signal power outages, a very useful function in the case of prolonged interruptions in time that may compromise food preservation.
Some new technologies are instead:
- Active Oxygene is a technology of the new Hotpoint Ariston combi refrigerators, which aims to keep food fresh even after 9 days. Active oxygen is a powerful purifier that removes up to 90% of bacteria and eliminates up to 70% of unpleasant odours.
- TwinTech FrostFree is an Electrolux refrigeration technology that aims to regulate the humidity inside the refrigerator and does not dry up food, ensuring a longer life.
- StopFrost: prerogative of different models of Whirlpool, facilitates the defrosting of the freezer and the formation of too much ice, which is deposited on a special bridge located on the top of the fridge.
- Finally, NoFrost Premium is a technology used in some modern Samsung refrigerators, which uses a sophisticated system of internal and external sensors and a separate MultiFlow air flow management compartment that eliminates excess humidity in all the shelves, thus preventing the formation of ice.
MEASURES TO ENSURE THAT THE REFRIGERATOR IS USED PROPERLY
To keep a refrigerator in good condition over time, there are some measures that help its preservation:
- cleaning of the coils; the external coil can become dusty and dirty, the internal coil can be filled with ice and in both cases the operation and efficiency of the refrigerator suffer, causing greater energy consumption and less effectiveness in food preservation
- periodic defrosting: where the refrigerator does not have an automatic defrosting system or has a partially automatic defrosting system
- cleaning the fridge: in all its corners and shelves, to be carried out periodically, perhaps together with defrosting operations if necessary
- Correct arrangement of the food: if the compartment is too full, the cooling will not be uniform and will lose effectiveness; always check the expiry date of the food and the ideal temperature at which it can be stored in a given period of time.
INSTALLATION AND USEFUL TIPS
Refrigerators do not require special installation techniques, 2 are the things to pay attention to:
- Do not place the refrigerator near any heat sources such as radiators, stoves, or direct sunlight. This way you will avoid making the fridge work too much and prolong its life.
- It is important to leave at least 8 cm from the wall (for this purpose, spacers are provided with the fridge to be placed on the back of the fridge). This allows the condenser to cool down without any problems.
Perhaps not everyone knows that many refrigerators will not work if they are placed in an environment that has a temperature below 6 degrees. When buying a fridge that you need to put in a cold environment (a second home that you occasionally use) make sure it is secured before it is suitable for this purpose.
If you have to defrost the freezer, do not use any ice removal equipment at all. Let the ice melt by itself. In fact, it is very easy to pierce the coils in which the gas passes and thus have to throw the fridge.
More and more devices are equipped with a zone called “zero degrees”. Here the temperature is around zero degrees and it is therefore possible to store meat and fish in the fridge for three or four days.