What Should I Consider When Buying a Compact Refrigerator?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Small portions of food, instead of large items, will fit best into a compact refrigerator.
Small portions of food, instead of large items, will fit best into a compact refrigerator.

Whether in a college dorm, an office break room or a hotel guestroom, the compact refrigerator has certainly become a very important appliance in our daily lives. A quality compact refrigerator allows us to safely store left-overs, packed lunches and cold beverages, which in turn can lead to substantial savings and less waste. What qualities should you look for when considering a new compact refrigerator? There are a number of factors which separate the best buys from the also-rans.

A compact refrigerator may have different drawers for keeping food items separate.
A compact refrigerator may have different drawers for keeping food items separate.

One important consideration when buying a compact refrigerator is energy consumption. Most appliance stores provide this information for all of the compact refrigerator models they offer. An energy usage guide usually compares the amount of electricity required to run the appliance and the efficiency of the appliance.

Some compact refrigerators use a significant amount of electricity, but provide little cooling due to poor insulation. Others may use relatively little electricity, but provide cooler air inside the box. It's all a trade-off, so look for compact refrigerators with a higher energy rating compared to price.

Compact fridges should be large enough to accommodate food storage containers.
Compact fridges should be large enough to accommodate food storage containers.

Another consideration is available storage space. Some compact refrigerator models do not provide very much space for common items. Look for a compact refrigerator that can hold a large container of milk or several canned beverages. If an entire office plans on using the refrigerator, it should be able to accommodate full-size restaurant containers or several frozen dinners. Check to see if shelves can be removed for additional space. Don't automatically select the smallest compact refrigerator available, since a much larger model may cost only a few dollars more.

Compact refrigerators use less energy than large ones.
Compact refrigerators use less energy than large ones.

Many compact refrigerator models are notorious for having small freezer sections. Students may want to economize on food by using frozen entrees, but the typical dorm fridge works against them. There may be a very small ledge attached to the ceiling which serves as the freezer section. There is room for perhaps one tray of ice cubes or one frozen dinner. When shopping for a quality compact refrigerator, look for one with an expanded freezer section and a working thermostat. This may not be a consideration if you only plan to store beverages or snacks, but you'll want significant freezer space while living in a dorm.

Another thing to consider when buying a compact refrigerator is portability. The traditional dorm fridge is rarely heavier than a microwave oven or TV set, but other models can require some serious muscle to maneuver up steps or through doors. The heaviest part of a compact refrigerator is the compressor needed to freeze the refrigerant.

The more powerful a refrigerator is, the heavier its compressor will be. There is also a metal grid which serves to dissipate the heat generated by the refrigerant. These elements can make a compact refrigerator a little bulky and difficult to carry. You may want to try picking it up at the store to get an idea of what you may need to do once you get it home.

A compact refrigerator may also need a companion compact chest freezer for additional frozen food storage. Look for a small freezer that could be stacked on top of the compact refrigerator or stored nearby.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments

anon182220

When purchasing a compact refrigerator, also make sure to check the warranty and availability of the parts. We have had several that lasted a little over a year and no parts were made to repair the unit so they ended up in the trash.

Sara007

When you go to buy a compact refrigerator check on the label and see if it says how cold it gets. I was surprised at how difficult it was to keep ours cold after we purchased it. We noticed later that it said its temperature range on the tag.

It is more expensive to get a compact refrigerator with better insulation and a colder temperature, but if you don't want your food spoiling I would splurge on it.

The only reason I could see someone getting a cheap compact refrigerator would be if they were just storing cola or some fruit.

letshearit

If you are considering buying a compact refrigerator, check to see if it comes with a frost-free icebox or not.

When I was in college I made the mistake of not cleaning my icebox, expecting it to not be a problem, and ended up having a small glacier form and emerge from my refrigerator.

It made a terrible mess and melted all over my dorm. It cost me quite a bit of money to have the damage to the wood furniture fixed.

Having a frost-free feature on something small can certainly make life easier. I figure it may cost a little more, but at least it saves you doing one more chore.

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    • Small portions of food, instead of large items, will fit best into a compact refrigerator.
      Small portions of food, instead of large items, will fit best into a compact refrigerator.
    • A compact refrigerator may have different drawers for keeping food items separate.
      A compact refrigerator may have different drawers for keeping food items separate.
    • Compact fridges should be large enough to accommodate food storage containers.
      Compact fridges should be large enough to accommodate food storage containers.
    • Compact refrigerators use less energy than large ones.
      Compact refrigerators use less energy than large ones.