Fridge-freezers And The Cold, Hard Facts

Sydney Morning Herald

Monday August 21, 1989

Meryl Constance

LAST week Tried & Tested looked at the lower end of the refrigerator market and at specialist fridges without freezer compartments designed for people who already own a separate freezer. But by far and away the most important market segment is the one discussed today: two-door refrigerator freezers, most of them with either automatic (cyclic) fridge defrost or completely frost free.

Manual defrosting is on most people's "most hated" job list. So if you are in the market for one of these fridges, you'll want to know just how good these defrost features are.

Automatic fridge defrost is an improvement only in degree over manual defrosting. The freezer compartment will still ice over and need to be manually defrosted from time to time; it's just that the frost won't extend into the refrigerator compartment.

Frost-free fridges, on the other hand, really do offer freedom from the horrid task. There is no ice build-up ever, even in the freezer section. At worst, and at long intervals, you will need to turn off the appliance to clean up spilt liquids or solids in the freezer compartment. Its only disadvantage(besides costing more) is that it produces a much drier environment for stored food. As a result, it is particularly important to cover food with plastic wrap or store it in airtight containers before putting it in the fridge. If you don't, your cheese will dry out, and your celery wilt, in no time.

The majority of the fridges here are in the standard freezer-on-top, fridge-at-the-bottom, two-door configuration. Some, however, have the fridge on top of the freezer (often called upside-down models) and others have their two doors vertical, with the fridge and freezer side-by-side. You'll know yourself which kind you are likely to find most convenient.

Upside down models are certainly convenient on a day to day basis: most of us go to the fridge much more often than the freezer, so it is nice not to have to stoop to see what's where. Their disadvantage becomes apparent when it's time to defrost the freezer; you'll have to do the job on your hands and knees.

The table today, just like last week's, has been limited to models which are registered with the NSW Department of Minerals and Energy in its energy star rating scheme.

The manufacturers and distributors of refrigerators (and, now, of a number of other appliances) are required to supply test data to the department about the efficiency of their products (how much energy they use to do a given job)and to label them with a star rating accordingly.

When you walk into an appliance store nowadays, you should see star rating labels on all fridges and freezers. The more stars you see the better (six is the maximum) and the cheaper the appliance will be to run. Running costs can really mount up in an inefficient fridge, turning what may have seemed like a bargain into anything but.

There are sure to be other, or more recent registered brands and models besides those listed by the department. Keep an eye out for any with particularly good ratings when you go comparison shopping.

Because the table is so big already, we have omitted a few listed models within some brands with very large ranges, primarily Kelvinator and Westinghouse, where, for instance, there were several fridges identical but for their capacity or something similar. So if you don't see exactly what you want here, check with the manufacturer whether it is available.

To save you a lot of market research we've listed model numbers, manufacturers' recommended retail prices (these are only a guide - it is usually possible to do quite a bit better by shopping around), the amount of usable space in the fresh food compartment and the freezer, approximate running costs a year and the energy efficiency rating. This last is more informative than simply showing the star rating.

On the basis of the information here, there is quite a good range of efficient models to choose among with a scattering of poor to fair units.

There are only two manual defrost models - both big, pretty efficient 400-litre jobs from Fisher and Paykel. However, neither is appreciably cheaper than comparable cyclic defrost models in other brand ranges.

Among the cyclic defrost models in the 300 to 350 litre range, the Gorenje Pacific fridge is an absolute steal at only $589 for a total of 328 litres and an efficiency rating of 4.2.

Quite a bit more expensive at $799, but also a good unit is the Westinghouse RE351F, with an efficiency rating of 4.5 and the Fisher and Paykel at 4.0.

In the range around 350 to 400 litres, there is a wealth of choice. Units with above average efficiency, all at very similar prices, include the Fisher and Paykel C390T, a conventional model, and the F&P upside-down unit, the C410B, the Kelvinator C400T and the Philips 89-41 CRPW.

The 408-litre upside-down models from Kelvinator and Westinghouse, the CB410T and the RB411F, are the most efficient of the lot with a rating of five.

If you are prepared to pay about $150 extra for frost-free operation, your choice is more limited. The standout models for efficiency are the Sharp units and their prices are comparable to similar size units in other brands.

The Kelvinator N400T is also a good bet in the 400- to 450-litre size frost-free range, as is the slightly smaller Fisher and Paykel upside-down N395B.

In the 450- to 500-litre class, the Philips 87-48 FRDW is the best bet, closely followed by the Kelvinator N500T.

In the very biggest size ranges, it is hard to find a particularly efficient model. The Westinghouse RS652F, with a total of 647 litres and an efficiency of 3.3 rates best but will set you back a whopping $2,189.

When you've decided on a short list, remember what we said last week: shop around. There is a lot of room for bargaining in the appliance market. Even the major department stores will drop their prices to match a better price you've been offered elsewhere and smaller stores will usually not just match it but better it.

© 1989 Sydney Morning Herald

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