Types of Refrigeration: From Gleaming Steel to Sexy Finishes


It may be the greatest invention of the modern home and we generally take it for granted until it breaks. I am talking about refrigerators. Long gone are the days of waiting for an ice delivery so that a giant chunk of ice could be placed in an insulated box to help you keep your perishables fresher longer. Now, we simply plug in a gleaming insulated box with doors and it goes to work, keeping our foods and beverages cool.

While refrigerators may not be the most glamorous appliance in your kitchen, you can certainly find ones that are sexier than others. That could mean a built-in fridge, a free-standing refrigerator or refrigerator drawers under your counter. Let’s look over the different types of refrigerators that are available to you today.

Built-in Refrigeration:

Built-in Refrigerators are unique in a couple of different ways. First, they need to be built into a fitted cabinet space and secured on all sides. They weigh as much as a Fiat 500 (mid 2000 pounds) and are as tall as Shaquille O’Neal (7’1”) but they give the kitchen a more professional feel and typically a cleaner aesthetic with its integration into a kitchen’s cabinetry. Secondly, most built-in refrigerators will have their compressors on the top of the machine, rather than on the bottom as-is typical for traditional refrigerators. Also worth noting, generally, built-in refrigerators are going to be only be counter depth and won’t extend deep into the kitchen floor plan.

One of the brands that are often automatically associated with this style of refrigerator is Sub Zero. They have been making their products for over 70 years and are universally rated as the #1 brand you can buy due to their dual compressor operation system. A dual compressor system means that they run 2 separate systems, one for keeping the refrigerator at a steady temperature and then another compressor to maintain the low temperature of the freezer. By doing this, Sub Zero refrigerators can maintain a much more consistent temperature in each compartment when compared to others in the market. When you pair that with their fresh air purification system, the food in the fridge will last 2-3 times longer than in a standard refrigerator. Along with the performance of the Sub Zero, the build quality is very robust and has been proven to last 25-30 years.

Built in kitchen

Sub Zero, while being the best known, is not the only game in town when it comes to built-in refrigerators. Brands such as Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, Bosch, Viking, GE and Electrolux also make built-in refrigerators that offer many of the same features as Sub Zero, generally at a lesser cost. Many of these built-in refrigerators are offered without front door faces, so you can match the look of your kitchen cabinets on your refrigerator.

Built-in refrigerators require a larger up-front investment. That investment can be largely justified by the substantial cost savings stemming from hundreds of dollars in food spoilage avoided throughout the lifetime of the unit. Average Cost : $7,000-10,0000

Freestanding Refrigeration:

In contrast to the large, commercial style stature of the built-in refrigerators above, freestanding fridges are going to be slid into a cavity that can be surrounded by cabinetry but will not be secured to it.

freestanding refrigeration

Freestanding refrigerators historically have been described “in the industry” by where the freezer is built on the refrigerator. There are four basic types of freestanding refrigerators, as illustrated above:

  • The Bottom Mount, with the freezer at the base of the unit
  • The Top Mount, which is the most traditional and well known
  • The Side by Side with the freezer portion on one side and the refrigerator on the other
  • The French Door refrigerator, with two doors on the top followed by some configuration of drawers on the bottom. These drawers can be all freezer or part freezer and part refrigerator.
retro refrigeration

Going with a freestanding refrigerator could be more fun as well! There are many brands like SMEG and Big Chill that offer a freestanding refrigerator in a retro style and a large range of colors. It is a great way to bring a pop of color into your kitchen as well as turning the refrigerator into a conversation piece, since everyone who sees it will fall in love with it.

Brands like Whirlpool, GE, LG and KitchenAid are prominent in this category and offer many shapes and sizes. Most freestanding refrigerators are an average of 70” tall and come in both counter depth (30-32” deep) and full depth (33-36” deep) depending on how much capacity you are looking for. If you have family of 4 or more, as well as entertain often, a larger capacity refrigerator may be best for you. While these types of fridges come with a lower price tag than built in units, there is a significant change in performance and lifetime expectancy. These units will incorporate a single refrigeration system that controls both the refrigerator and freezer sections and is going to be more average in terms of food longevity and temperature control. Life expectancy of these styles of units will range from 10-12 years, on average, before any major components will need to be serviced. Average Cost: $1,500-3,500

Under counter Refrigeration:

Undercounter Refrigeration

Under counter refrigeration is going to be more compact and useful for space saving opportunities. Refrigerator units in this category can be installed underneath a countertop and can be as compact as 15” wide for those extremely tight galley kitchens who want to utilize as much space as they can in their kitchen. Compact refrigeration comes with various internal configurations, which can be great to add to an already amazing kitchen design. These configurations range from a beverage center to a wine reserve or even a beer dispenser. Some brands, like Perlick, specialize in making the highest quality under counter refrigerator and utilize the highest quality of components to ensure that no matter where it is installed, the temperature will remain consistent. Some manufacturers of under counter refrigerators offer units that can be installed outside which are frequently integrated into larger outdoor kitchen designs which are becoming more and more popular in today’s world.

There is another type of under counter refrigeration unit and that is the refrigerator drawer. Many brands from Sub Zero to Jenn-Air and Summit to Viking manufacture drawer refrigeration. This is helpful if you want to get away from the “giant steel box” in your kitchen. These drawers can be finished in stainless steel or you can get a cabinet panel ready version that you can cover with a panel of your choosing which would match your other kitchen cabinets.

Refrigeration drawers

No matter what your situation is, there is always a style and size of refrigerator that would make your home the best it can be. If you’re building or remodeling you’ve got a lot of refrigeration options to consider and an appliance professional can ask the questions to help you drill down to the best products for your needs and space. Consider calling, texting, messaging, or carrier pidgeoning our team* or just stop into the Metropolitan Appliance showroom for a deeper dive into the various options given your needs.

* please do not use any other type of pidgeon as your proxy. After “the incident” we are turning all other flying stock away at the door.

Ryan Ryan Walsh has been in Appliances sales and service for over 5 years. He can help you find the right refrigerator for your space. Just ask! Click here to send Ryan a message!


  1. I appreciate what you stated about how there is always a design and size of a refrigerator that would make your house the best it can be, regardless of your circumstances. There are many refrigeration alternatives to think about when building or renovating, and an appliance specialist can ask the right questions to help you narrow down your choices to the items that are ideal for your requirements and available space. This is something my aunt should think about before purchasing a new refrigerator for her restaurant given that her menu is expanding. I’ll see to it that she heeds your advice and seeks guidance from a specialist so she can decide which one to buy.

    1. Hi Elle, thank you for checking our blog! Yes – we’re always here to help and would love to give options that will best fit your aunts situation. You can reach out to us at (206) 623-8811 if you have any questions 🙂

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