Refrigerator buying guide: How to choose a fridge in Singapore

PHOTO: Pexels

Ask anyone what is the most important electrical appliance at home and chances are, they’ll say that it’s the air-con.

While we don’t doubt that claim given Singapore’s never ending summer, there’s actually one really critical device we all have in our homes that we usually take for granted: the fridge.

Without a fridge, our eggs would go bad, our milk would spoil, and we wouldn’t be able to get a spoonful of ice cream whenever we crave it.

Whether you’re adulting for the first time or just want a guide on how to buy your next fridge, we’ve got easy-to-understand information and advice to help you choose and buy a new fridge.

Fridge size: Will it fit in my kitchen?

The most important factor when it comes to buying a new fridge is determining what size will fit in your kitchen.

You’d hate to walk into your brand new kitchen and see your fridge sticking out from your counter like so:

PHOTO: LG

Pro tip: You’ll want to leave at least an inch around the back, sides, and top of the fridge to allow for proper ventilation and air circulation.

Because you wouldn’t want to be caught in this situation when it overheats and breaks down. 

Or the fact that your fridge is so big that you can’t even open the door without hitting the island or counter on the other side of the kitchen:

PHOTO: Wirecutter

How much fridge capacity do I need?

It really depends. And yes, we know that that’s pretty useless advice.

In our experience, the best way is to take a look at what’s currently in your home right now.

Based on your current living habits and what size of refrigerator your family uses, you have a pretty good gauge for what refrigerator capacity you will need for your new home.

With that being said, a bigger capacity fridge naturally means a bigger electricity bill. So be careful about splurging on extra refrigerator space that you aren’t actually going to need in the future.

Fridge types explained

So you’ve figured out the dimensions and capacity of the fridge that you want. Here comes the fun part. Identifying which fridge type suits you best.

1. Top freezer

If you think of a refrigerator, this is probably the one that comes to mind.

It’s the classic, no-frills icebox that you’ll find in most homes in Singapore. And for a good reason too.

PHOTO: Samsung

The utilitarian design means that it’s ideal for those on a budget and usually doesn’t come with fancy features like water or ice dispensers.

The latter is an advantage because this increases the overall reliability of top freezer fridges – fewer parts mean fewer things will break down.

Because they have been around for so long, manufacturers have gotten really good at building them. So top freezer fridges are usually very energy efficient as compared to other fridge door styles.

The only problem that we can think of with regard to the top freezer configuration is that you have a wide swinging door that needs plenty of clearance to open. So do your measurements religiously and you won’t have a problem.

2. Bottom freezer

Similar to the top freezer except the freezer’s at the bottom (duh).

PHOTO: Panasonic

Like the top freezer style, the bottom freezer is not the most fashionable but its budget-friendly and reliable (your grandma probably had one).

Bottom freezer units come with drawer style doors sometimes so that makes getting frozen food like ice cream out that much easier (read: not an advantage if you have kids with a sweet tooth).

And while drawer style bottom freezers do make it easier to see and access your frozen food. You still have to bend over to get food out of the bottom freezer.

3. Side by side

Side by side fridges are split down the middle. With the freezer on one side, and the refrigerator on the other.

PHOTO: LG

As a result, you have more vertical storage space for frozen food. This makes organising and finding frozen produce a lot easier as well.

Side by side units are usually feature-rich and come with options like water or ice dispensers.

And while they’re a tad more expensive than the above two, they look almost as good as a French door fridge without the same price tag.

Overall, they’re best suited for narrow galley-style kitchens because the doors’ swing radius is much smaller than that of a top freezer unit.

4. French door

French door or multi-door (as they are more commonly known in Asia) models usually come with a bottom freezer (some options open like a drawer), and half-width doors for the refrigerator section.

This is every refrigerator salesperson’s go-to unit as its the most visually impressive and feature-rich option available on the market.

PHOTO: LG

Because the entire fridge section is waist-to-eye level, everything from fruits and vegetables, to drinks like soda and milk are all easily accessible.

The wide fridge space allows you to store large cheese platters, large pizzas, whole cakes, baking trays, the largest turkey you can find at the supermarket… You get the idea.

PHOTO: LG

The problem with this is that you’ll probably have a less-organised fridge and you might forget items if you stack things from back to front.

Some French doors also come with features like water and ice dispensers as well.

And if you want to be really fancy, some are smart enough that they can be controlled via your smartphone.

Naturally, this option is often the priciest of the bunch.

Pros and cons at a glance

Here’s a table comparing the pros and cons of all four fridge types.

Types Of Fridges Pros Cons

Top Freezer

  • Budget-friendly
  • Reliable
  • Energy efficient
  • Not the most fashionable
  • Wide door clearance needed for refrigerator compartment

Bottom Freezer

  • Budget-friendly
  • Reliable
  • Easier access to freezer
  • Not the most fashionable
  • Have to bend over to reach items in the freezer
  • Wide door clearance needed for refrigerator compartment

Side By Side

  • Good for those who eat a lot of frozen food
  • Comes with features like water and ice dispensers
  • Great for narrow galley style kitchens
  • Looks almost as nice as a French door unit, but slightly cheaper
  • Not good for those who eat a lot of frozen pizza
  • Slightly more expensive than top and bottom freezers

French Door or Multi-Door

  • Looks the best (like something you'll find in Martha Stewart or Gordon Ramsey's kitchen)
  • Entire fridge section is waist-to-eye level making it easily accessible
  • Wide fridge section allows you to keep huge items like baking trays, whole cakes, and pizzas (ideal for bakers and people who hosts parties often)
  • Usually comes with features like water and ice dispensers
  • The most expensive option
  • Fridge section might be less organised due to the open space
  • Might forget items if you stack items back to front

Other things to consider

Because a refrigerator is such a big and expensive purchase, we talked to ShopBackers – who are current homeowners – and tapped on their experiences to compile a helpful list of things you should also consider before deciding which fridge to buy.

1. Delivery

We talked earlier about getting the external measurements of your potential fridge to ensure that it fits in your kitchen. But you really should measure entry points too.

For example your lift door, the corridor leading to your apartment, your front door, hallways, kitchen door, and so on.

Talk to your interior designer (if you’re building your home) to ensure that your fridge can be delivered. Or try to anticipate the path the delivery person will take to avoid any unforeseen complications.

Imagine splurging on a gorgeous custom unit only to realise that it doesn’t fit through your kitchen door.

2. Colour and finish

You probably would’ve noticed that the refrigerators pictured above all sport a stainless steel finish. It’s no surprise that it’s the most popular because it is durable and fits well with almost any decor.

Other common colours include black and white. If you want bright colours or even pastel shades, then those tend to be reserved for custom or retro-style fridges like the Smeg.

PHOTO: Apartment Therapy

In terms of finish, black stainless steel (which is essentially regular stainless steel with a dark polymer coating) has been voted to be the easiest to keep clean. 

Depending on the look you’re going for, your fridge should also match the colour and texture (if possible) of other appliances in your kitchen. You’ll notice that even stainless steel tends to vary between manufacturers.

So if you want to match everything perfectly, you might have to stick to buying appliances from the same brand.

Alternatively, keep the rest of your kitchen neutral, and make your colourful fridge the focal point of the room.

3. Functional drawers, shelves, and other things

PHOTO: Unsplash

We often get caught up with the physical aspects of the fridge (or the price) that we sometimes forget about the smaller (but equally important) stuff. It’s always worth physically trying out and thinking about certain things like:

  • How easy is it to open the fridge door? Do I like handles better or can I live with a handle-less fridge which opens via a notch on the side?
  • Are there enough dedicated compartments for meats, fruits, cheese, kimchi, and whatever stuff that you usually store in the fridge?
  • Do the drawers and shelves open and close smoothly?

Whatever you have taken for granted with your existing fridge, or would like to have in your new fridge, create a checklist and check them off accordingly.

This article was first published in Shopback.