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The Purchase : Productopia Tips : Refrigerators

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Don't be cheap. You can get an excellent home refrigerator for between $750 and $1,550, depending on size. Cheaper models can cost more in the long run, because they may be less energy-efficient.

Don't overspend. If you want a gorgeous refrigerator that integrates perfectly with your kitchen design, it'll be worth its $4,000-and-up price. Otherwise, consider carefully whether the improved food preservation that special features provide is worth the premium you'll pay.

Monitor your family's food-consumption potential. If you have ravenous family members (a teenager, teen-to-be, or teen-in-appetite-only), you'll need a large icebox for their consumption needs. If it's just you and your cat, something smaller will certainly do.

Consider configuration. Side-by-side, freezer on top or freezer on bottom? Top-mount freezer models are generally the most energy efficient. Side-by-sides, typically the most readily available, have more eye-level storage and easier to manage doors, but they are generally less energy efficient. They also don't hold large items, such as frozen pizzas, very well. Bottom-mount freezers, which are more efficient than side-by-sides but less plentiful, put the fresh-food compartment at eye level, but the user must bend over to get at the freezer compartment.

Look for the Energy Star label. The government's Energy Star program, run by the Environmental Protection Agency, lists products that exceed the government's minimum energy efficiency standards by at least 20 percent. These energy-efficient models often cost a little more, but in the end, you'll more than make up for it in your utility bill.

Check for utility rebates. Many local utility companies offer cash rebates for replacing your old energy "hog" appliance with a high-efficiency model with the Energy Star label. Check to see if your utility company offers this rebate before you go shopping -- and before you get rid of that old fridge. Sometimes they want to come get your old one.

Ice and water can soak you. Inevitably, you'll be forced to choose between refrigerator models that offer door-mounted ice makers and a cold water-distribution system and those that don't. Refrigerators with ice makers tend to be less energy efficient and if there is a water-filtration unit, the filter will need to be replaced on a regular basis. Also, don't forget, if you're not already plumbed for water at the fridge, you'll have a plumbing bill, too.

Weigh features carefully. What frequently drives up the cost of refrigerators are the type and amount of amenities offered. A water-filtration system, temperature or humidity control compartments, and other such features will add hundreds of dollars to a base model refrigerator. It's best to decide what features you can and cannot live without before plunking down a three- or four-figure dollar amount for your refrigerator.

Check the price of your color. You may want to pick your new refrigerator's color with wild abandon, but if you need to match the color of your kitchen or simply prefer one color over another, be aware that not all colors are created equal when it comes to pricing. But generally speaking, white is nearly always the least expensive; stainless steel, the most expensive.

Know the manufacturers. It can get quite confusing out there when it comes to brand names because several of the "name brands" are really just divisions of larger "name-brand" appliances. So, if you intend to buy one brand, understand that it could merely be a different version of another brand. Click here for a list of manufacturers and what brands they make.

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Measure the area available for a new refrigerator NOT your old oneMeasure correctly. Be sure to measure the area that is available between the cabinets and not just your old refrigerator. The dealer will then be able to tell you which models will be able to fit that space without compromising size or the functioning of the appliance.

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