Product Reviews

Appliance Breakdown: Replacing the Refrigerator

When my 4 year old refrigerator stopped working, and the repairman made it clear that it would cost more to fix it than it was worth, I went on a mission to find a new one. I was determined to buy the perfect refrigerator. A refrigerator that I would fall in love with.

I had been in love with a refrigerator once. It an Amana with a bottom freezer and a white, fingerprint-free finish. It was big and roomy and had deep, gallon door trays and see-through glass shelves.

But then, when I needed to move a fridge into the kitchen of a house I was selling, it seemed to make more sense to move my 10- year-old Amana to the house being sold and buy a new refrigerator for my own kitchen.

I replaced my Amana with a slightly smaller Maytag Performa. The new fridge and I had a troubled relationship from the start. He wasn’t just smaller, he was too small. His vegetable bins were shallow and he didn’t have a third drawer for cheeses. And now after only four years, he didn’t want to work anymore? I was mad to be replacing a 4 year-old refrigerator. At the same time, I was happy to see the deadbeat dragged out the front door and kicked to the curb.

I began surfing the web for refrigerators. I did not want to make another mistake like the last one. But with all of the brands, sizes, and styles that are out there these days, how does anyone know what to choose? I wanted this to be a long-lasting and happy relationship. I knew I needed to take my time and do some research. And I needed to do it in a hurry.

What I discovered is that the perfect refrigerator doesn’t exist. Or, at least it doesn’t exist within my budget and size requirements. I was without a refrigerator however, and so I got busy and started making decisions.

I decided where to shop. If you live in a big city where you have a lot of stores to choose from and you can transport it yourself or you don’t mind waiting weeks for your refrigerator to be delivered, it would make sense to first choose the refrigerator you want and then go looking for the retailer that offers the best price. But I did not have the luxury of selection. All of the big box appliance stores near me– Sears, Best Buy, Lowes and Home Depot, could not deliver any refrigerator to me in less than two weeks time. But I didn’t want to live for two weeks without a refrigerator.

Fortunately, we still have a local, family owned, appliance store downtown. A refrigerator from them might cost a few dollars more, but they would deliver in one or two days and haul away the old one for free. If I wanted something quickly, the local store was my only option. I was happy to see that they seemed to have a good selection of appliances.

I measured my space. The width of my refrigerator space is a flexible 32 inches but my maximum refrigerator height had to be less than 69″ because of an overhead cabinet. The depth could be no more than 34.”  The other number that I had to worry about were the widths and heights of doorways into the house and kitchen. My refrigerator would have to pass through three doors to reach my kitchen. The smallest of these is a 30″ wide doorway between the dining room and kitchen. Either the width of my new refrigerator, or the depth (with doors removed) would have to be less than 30.” Small spaces and narrow doorways are the downside of living in a 160-year-old historic home.

I set my budget. My last refrigerator cost $800 but I knew I’d have to pay more this time to get what I wanted. I set a top limit of $2000 on my internet search. I didn’t want to spend that much but the search criteria would allow me to at least see what features were available at the higher price.

I started my on-line search on my local store’s website. I was sure I wanted a refrigerator with a bottom freezer. I knew I wanted it to be white and I knew I wanted a model no smaller and preferably a little larger than my current 18 cu. ft. fridge. I was also considering a fridge with French doors. I’d never had a French door refrigerator before but it seemed like it might be more convenient in my tight space. The website’s search engine allowed me to select out those features, I also could search for USA made products. The returned result gave me 16 refrigerators to choose from.

I read the reviews on various websites and eliminated anything that appeared to have too many issues.

I next checked the “Specs.” I went down my list of refrigerators and opened the “specs” of each model one by one to make sure they really fit my needs. If a refrigerator was at least 18 cu. ft. AND it fit my size requirements, it remained on the list. I was disappointed that my old, beloved Amana model seemed to have been discontinued and every Amana available at my local store was too tall to fit my space. I would be forced to choose another brand. What I also discovered as I moved down the list was that I didn’t have to worry about spending too much money. Most of the refrigerators over $1500 were too big for my space. Once I deleted everything that wouldn’t fit, I ended up with a list of possibilities that looked like this:

GE Artistry; Model # ABE20EGHWS; 20.3 cu.ft; $1100.99

GE Model #GBS20EGHWW; 20.3 cu. ft; $1168.99

Maytag Model MBF2258DEH; 18.7 cu. ft; $1215.99

Whirlpool Model #WRF560SMYH; 19.7 cu. ft.; $1310.99

Maytag Model#MFF2055DRH; 19.7 cu. ft: $1360.99

Whirlpool Model #WRF532SMBW; 22.7 cu. ft.; $1365.99

GE Model # GDE20GGHBB; 20.3 cu. ft.; $1475.99

GE Model #GNS23GGHWW; 22.7 cu. ft.; $1486.99

GE Model #GDE23GGHWW; 23.2 cu. ft; $1636.99

GE Model # GNS23GGHBFWW; 22.7 cu. ft.; $1775.99

I compared the features of each appliance. Now the real work began. I went through the list a second time, refrigerator by refrigerator, looking at the features and making notes about each one. Adjustable glass shelves and door trays that would hold a gallon of milk seemed standard to them all. I wouldn’t have to think anymore about those things. I wanted an ice maker. Most models included one but the least expensive models did not.

I thought about all the ways I use a refrigerator throughout the year. Could I fit a 20 lb. turkey inside the refrigerator compartment? In the freezer? Was there a place for tall wine bottles? Was there a shelf wide enough to fit a large platter of party meats and cheeses? Were the crisper drawers deep enough to hold a fair amount of vegetables including a large head of cabbage? Was there a third drawer to hold my lunch meats and cheeses? Was the model Energy Star rated? I eliminated those that were lacking too many desired features.

My list began to look like this:

GE Artistry; Model # ABE20EGHWS; 20.3  cu. ft;  $1100.99: single door; Energy Star; points for vintage appearance; NO ICE MAKER, NO THIRD DRAWER

GE; Model #GBS20EGHWW; 20.3 cu. ft; $1168.99: single door; bottom freezer; NO ICE MAKER; NO ENERGY STAR; NO THIRD DRAWER

Maytag;  Model MBF2258DEH; 18.7 cu. ft.; $1215.99: single door, bottom freezer drawer, ice maker, third drawer, Energy Star

Whirlpool Model #WRF560SMYH; 19.7 cu. ft.; $1310.99: French door, bottom freezer drawer, ice maker, Energy Star, third drawer

Maytag Model#MFF2055DRH;19.7 cu. ft; $1360.99: French door, bottom freezer drawer, third drawer, NO ICE MAKER, NO ENERGY STAR

Whirlpool Model #WRF532SMBW; 22.7 cu. ft.; $1365.99: French door; bottom freezer drawer; third drawer; Energy Star; NO ICE MAKER

GE Model # GDE20GGHBB; 20.3 cu. ft.; $1475.99; ice maker; energy star; single door; third drawer; bottom freezer drawer

GE Model #GDE23GGHW; 23.2 cu. ft.;$1636.99: ice maker; Energy Star; single door; bottom freezer drawer; third drawer

GE Model # GNS23GGHBFWW; 22.7 cu. ft.; $1775.99; ice maker; energy star; french door; third drawer; bottom freezer drawer

After narrowing down my choices, I made a trip downtown to the appliance store.    I didn’t want to order a refrigerator without seeing it first. What I found was that it’s better to buy “in person.” All of the prices in-store were marked lower, in some cases much lower, than the on-line prices.

Once I saw it, I was sold on the French doors. In my kitchen layout,  a single door refrigerator, when open, did not allow anyone to pass by. The French doors would take up much less space. I crossed all of the single door fridges off of my list. That left me with just two refrigerators to choose from.

  • Whirlpool Model #WRF560SMYH; 19.7 cu. ft.; $1310.99: French door, bottom freezer drawer, ice maker, Energy Star, third drawer
  • GE Model # GNS23GGHBFWW; 22.7 cu. ft.; $1775.99; ice maker; energy star; French door; third drawer; bottom freezer drawer

The Whirlpool model was cheaper. But the GE model was larger. It looked a lot larger by side by side comparison and in this case, bigger was better. It also included a filtered water dispenser. The in-store price, $1500, was more than a $200 savings over the on-line price. I signed on the line and paid the bill. The next day they delivered and set up my new fridge.Dispatcher

Review: I’ve now been using my new fridge for a good 6+ months. Is it perfect? No. The ice tray has a tendency to throw one or two ice cubes onto the floor if you pull open the drawer too fast and the button for the filtered water dispenser is hard to push. And while I love a bottom style freezer, this one does not have shelves but is instead, one big drawer. For my husband and I it works out okay most of the time, but like the old chest freezer your grandma had, you may have to dig around for things in the bottom. Fortunately, I have a small freezer in the basement and so we use the fridge freezer only for everyday items like frozen vegetables and ice cream. For just the two of us, this refrigerator is a nice size. A larger family would likely find the ice and freezer compartments to be too small. This refrigerator is, however, the largest size that would fit our historic home’s refrigerator space without a major remodel so if you are a large family living in an older style kitchen you may have to make do. No, I do not love it the way I loved my old Amana. But I’m happy to say that it does come in a close second. Now, if only it will last more than 4 or 5 years…


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