Refrigerators are available in a number of styles and sizes. With advances in technology, the placement of refrigerator/freezer systems allows more flexibility for the designer and challenges for the installer. The selection of the refrigerator must be completed before the cabinets are ordered to ensure proper cabinet selection and placement.
Most refrigerators will require a minimum space of between 1 and 2 inches above them to allow for proper compressor ventilation. In addition, the bottoms of these units need to be kept free of obstructions as airflow restrictions can severely reduce the life of the refrigerator.
As a general rule, separate refrigerator-freezer combinations take more space than a combo. Also the cost of the equipment and installation is significantly higher for the separate units.
Commercial-like equipment has see-through doors and typically requires a separate freezer unit. These provide a modern look to a kitchen, but the homeowner must ensure the refrigerator is kept neat and clean or the whole kitchen will look unkempt.
Side-by-side refrigerator/freezers have become very popular. Many have water and/or ice dispensers built-in on the door. If the homeowner intends to use a refrigerator with one of these built-in dispensers be sure to plumb a water supply to a location near the refrigerator.
Side-by-sides will also reduce the amount of door projection into the kitchen, but the doors tend to block access to the counter tops on both sides of the refrigerator. On smaller side-by-side models, the freezer compartment may be very narrow and larger items like large turkeys, roasts, or pies may not fit easily.
Built-in refrigerators are becoming more available. The units are typically 24” deep and tend to be much wider than standard depth refrigerators in order to hold a comparable size food load. The up-side to these units is that panels can be installed that enable the refrigerator to match the cabinets of the kitchen. The price of built-in refrigerators is typically higher than a comparable standard unit, but using built-ins can have a dramatic impact on the kitchen.
Modular units have appeared on the market recently and enable refrigerators to be placed next to the location where their contents will be used. The use of modular refrigerators must be included at the design phase. When installing these units, be sure to note all clearances and safety precautions listed in the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
The cabinet above a refrigerator should be 24” deep to optimize the storage space usage. Refrigerators that support the use of wood panel inserts require that you exercise care when matching the inserts to the cabinet panel. If the color or grain do not match, it can cause a distraction. It is also recommended that you measure the physical unit before ordering panels – manufacturer’s instructions are generally “clear as mud.”
The refrigerator should be placed so that there is adequate space for loading and unloading and so that it does not interfere with traffic patterns through the kitchen. The plan should allow at least 15” of clear counter space on the latch side of the refrigerator or on either side of a side-by-side refrigerator. An alternative is to provide at least 15” of landing space, which is no more than 48” across from the refrigerator. A kitchen with a side-by- side refrigerator should be designed so the countertop is readily accessible to the fresh food section. For convenience, when there is room for only one appliance adjacent to a countertop, the refrigerator should be the appliance placed adjacent to the countertop. If there is no safe landing area across from the oven, this arrangement may be reversed.
Courtesy of NARI CKBR education program
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