Fridges

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Make the right choice with our test results and buying advice.

Whether you’re after a tiny apartment-sized model or a huge side-by-side for a family, we have a recommendation for you. We also explain what to look for and provide tips on maintaining the right temperature.

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Fridge features

Size, shape, shelves, drawers ... what to consider when you’re choosing a new fridge.

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Efficiency

In general a bigger fridge will use more power than a smaller one – some smaller models we’ve tested cost half as much to run as some bigger models.

A fridge’s “star rating” and annual energy consumption are printed on a label so you can make comparisons in the showroom. All fridges must have the label, but watch for tricks like putting the display card over the label.

We recommend looking at these labels, the annual running costs from our test, or the Energy Rating website which has a 10-year running cost calculator.

Life-cycle costs

A fridge is always running. While month-to-month you might not notice the impact on your power bill, this cost adds up over the long term.

Our analysis shows an extra-large french-door model costs upwards of $5300 including the purchase price and running costs over 10 years — are you still sure you need all that extra space?

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Noise

The fridge is one of the few household appliances that is always running. This means a loud one can become a major annoyance.

We trawled through our test data and analysed noise readings for household appliances, including dishwashers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Fridges were the quietest, with an average running noise of 33dBA. That’s almost as quiet as a cat purring.

Our noise test is conducted while the fridge’s compressor is on and off, but not while it’s defrosting. Measurements are taken a metre away and up from the floor. While our noise measurements are objective (31dBA is 31dBA), how people perceive noise is subjective. This is why we don’t consider noise when scoring fridges.

Our members often ask why our noise readings don’t match those stated by the manufacturer. The answer is they were measured in different conditions. When we test noise, we want our results to be directly comparable. This means all models are tested in the same lab and under the same conditions. This won’t be the same as how a manufacturer measures noise. Only compare noise readings of models we have tested.

White noise

The decibel scale is logarithmic, not linear so a sound difference of 10dBA will sound like double the sound. This means a 30dBA fridge will sound twice as loud as a 20dBA model, while a 40dBA fridge will sound four times louder. Most people will only notice a difference of 5dBA or greater, so two fridges with noise readings 3dBA apart will sound about the same.

  • 30dBA – Fridges (equivalent to a whisper)
  • 40dBA – Dishwashers (equivalent to running water)
  • 50dBA – Clothes dryers and dehumidifiers (equivalent to moderate rainfall)
  • 60dBA – Washing machines (equivalent to normal conversation/TV)
  • 70dBA – Vacuum cleaners (equivalent to a dull roar)

The design and layout of your home also affects how noisy you’ll find a fridge. Sound waves are dispersed by objects, which will muffle the sound. This means open-plan areas do little to minimise a fridge’s noise. A fridge with walls or cabinetry at its back and sides will also be quieter as these help deflect the sound.

What’s that sound?

Here’s a guide to normal sounds fridges make and what causes them:

  • Cracking/popping: plastic walls and shelves inside the fridge contracting and expanding as temperature changes.
  • Dripping/gurgling: water draining during the defrost cycle.
  • Hissing: refrigerant gas moving through the coils during the compressor cycle.
  • Whirring: some fridges have an external fan that helps keep the compressor cool.
  • Banging: usually found in models with an ice maker as it’s turning on or off.

Reliability

We received information on 2581 fridges and fridge-freezers in our 2017 appliance reliability survey.

To see which brands are trustiest, become a paying Consumer member or log in.

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We tried a smart fridge

Ever get to the supermarket and struggle remembering what’s in your fridge? Samsung’s Family Hub lets you photograph what’s inside remotely, and much more.

Learn more

Fridge Top Brands

The Top Brand award recognises brands that perform consistently well across product testing, reliability and customer satisfaction.

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Buying second-hand

New fridges and freezers are more energy efficient – so if you’re buying second hand, newer is better.

  • Stick to well-known brands under 5 years old, as newer models are much more energy efficient. They’re also easier to get parts for if anything needs fixing.
  • Check the lid or door seal is intact, in good condition and the door or lid shuts properly.
  • Make sure the door is hinged on the correct side for your kitchen (or is reversible).
  • Make sure the interior is in good nick and free from funny smells. Only buy if it looks tidy and well cared for.
  • If you buy a fridge from a second-hand dealer and then discover it’s faulty, you're covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. If you buy privately, you're not.
  • Under the Electricity Act, all electrical appliances for sale must be safe – whether they're new or second-hand, bought privately or from a dealer.

Environmental issues

Fridges used to be made with and contain environmentally unfriendly CFC gases.

Now, they commonly contain "R134a" refrigerant, which does not damage the ozone layer, although it does contribute to the greenhouse effect. And they are made using ozone-friendly, low greenhouse-effect gases.

A more environmentally sound refrigerant, R600a, is used by some manufacturers. It's a hydrocarbon so it's flammable and therefore carries a small safety risk.

To make the smallest greenhouse-emissions impact over time, a fridge’s energy efficiency is more important than the type of refrigerant used. But if you want to check which refrigerant your fridge uses, all models have this information on the fridge specification plate in the cabinet.

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Looking for a wine fridge?

On summer evenings there are few things better than sitting back and sipping a chilled glass of wine. We tested 8 wine fridges and measured how well they keep your wine chilled.

Wine fridges

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More Appliances reports

Check out more of our tests, articles, news and surveys in our Appliances section.

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