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Which is Best, Freezer on the Side, Top or Bottom?

May 31 2010

Refrigerator trends have changed over the years from the “ice box” of the 1930s, to the freezer top of the 1960s, to the side-by-side style of the 1980s.  Now we are seeing French doors with the freezer at the bottom.  In choosing a new refrigerator, consider where the freezer is located and whether it provides the roominess and easy access you need.  

French door, bottom freezer

The new French door style opens with one or both doors at the same time, allowing for a broad view of what’s available to eat, plus easier access to foods and bigger storage containers.  This style tends to be the most expensive option in refrigerators.

Many French-door refrigerators are offered without the convenient ice/water dispenser on the door for a sleeker look.  The ice is obtained from the freezer at the bottom of the unit.  To avoid bending, you may consider a more expensive model that includes the ice/water dispenser on the door. 

The French-style refrigerator tends to work best for cooks who use fresh foods more than frozen foods, as the freezer compartment tends to be smaller than the refrigerator section.

Overall, cubit foot storage capacity is slightly less than other models, but the convenience of the short door swings and wider storage shelves make this style a new favorite.  They are also obtainable in counter depth size. 

Side-by-side refrigerator/freezers

The side-by-sides were the most desirable option in refrigerators for some time, but have lost popularity due to the inconvenience of placing and finding stored items. Side-by-sides tend to have narrow storage units compared to other models, which means food can get forgotten when it’s out of sight at the back of the refrigerator or freezer.

They have some advantages over other models – they’re less expensive than the French door models, and they offer nearly equal freezer capacity to the refrigerator side.  This can work for users who use frozen items frequently, and don’t rely upon as much refrigerator storage. 

Side-by-sides are also convenient for users who don’t want to do a lot of bending over to find items.  However, pulling aside items to look for deeper stored items is not as convenient as the shallower shelves found in the French Door models.  Many models will offer pull out shelves, but usually not all the shelves pull out, except in more expensive models. 

From a kitchen design standpoint, side-by-sides have less of a door swing radius than other models, and can easily fit in spaces that other refrigerators can’t. 

Freezer on top

Once familiar, this style became passe during the rush to side-by-sides.  However, they are still a valid option for energy and expense conscious buyers.   Less expensive than other styles, these are also the most reliable, according to ConsumerSearch.com.   

Less stylish than other options, features such as ice/water dispensers on the door are not usually found, which is one reason they rate so high in reliability. Believe it or not, water and ice dispensers are the number one reason for refrigerator repairs. Also, there will likely be more bending to see into the refrigerator compartment, and to take out or put in stored items while bent over. 

If you’re trying to fit a small space in an older home, small home or apartment, the freezer-top style also offers the most versatility in sizes.

If all these options sound good to you, simply think about how you really will use a refrigerator – do you like to shop or cook ahead and store a lot of frozen food? Is an outside water-dispenser a dealmaker/breaker for you? Do you want to see your whole selection with one sweeping view?

Visit your local appliance dealer and practice opening the doors of display refrigerators. You’ll quickly know which configuration is right for you and your budget.