Goodbye to the bright white refrigerators that sound like a road grader making the compressor work and that no matter what a homeowner does, they still smell like stale something and mystery plastic.
Hello to stainless steel beauties built right in with flush doors, climate control zones, separate compressors for the freezer and refrigerator, energy conservation features and the ability to tailor the freezer and refrigerator to individual household needs.
Jeremy Moriconi, owner of Sam's Best Brands Plus, 3101 Lindbergh Blvd., says Thermador, Viking and Sub-Zero are all concentrating on stainless steel or cabineted fronts and energy efficiency.
"They may cost more, but they save more in the long run," he said. "They are energy efficient, and because they run on different compressors for the refrigerator and the freezer, you don't get the freezer compressor kicking on when you open the refrigerator door and vice versa.
"In addition, they have different climate controlled drawers, which makes food last longer," Moriconi said. Thermador makes refrigerators in 36-, 42-, 48- and 72-inch widths.
"You might say, 'Well, all I eat are fresh foods, and I don't have a lot of frozen foods on hand.' It would be more efficient for you to get a larger refrigerator with the climate-controlled drawers to keep fresh food fresher longer and a small freezer. That's all available."
Consumers can customize their refrigerators and freezers to make them look exactly like the cabinets in a kitchen. "Thermador makes models that sit totally flush into the wall, and they have a patented hinging system that, allows them to do that," Moriconi said.
Some of the newer refrigerators have glass doors and stainless steel interiors. Families can also customize their kitchen set-up, Moriconi said, to have pull out refrigerator drawers in a central island as well as a refrigerator and freezer.
Tom Gravatt, a specialist with Lowe's, 2560 N. Dirksen Parkway, said whereas before the typical size for a standard refrigerator with freezer on top was 20 cubic feet, now most people are opting for larger devices measuring at least 25 cubic feet.
"So you've got a ton of fresh food space, as well as freezer space," Gravatt said.
Gravatt said another big trend of the day is energy efficiency. He said many devices sold at Lowe's carry Energy Star designations. That means, the device will be 20 percent more energy efficient than the government's guidelines for that type of refrigerator, he said.
To that end, refrigerators that a few years ago would have cost up to $200 to operate now cost about $54 annually to run, Gravatt said.
"These things will save you a ton of money compared to an old refrigerator," Gravatt said. Moriconi said the higher-end models use only as much energy as they need, and that may be only as much energy as a light bulb uses.
According to Dan McGary, an appliance supervisor at Best Buy, 3193 S. Veterans Parkway, some time in the not so distant future, your refrigerator may be able to detect when your milk is getting low, and then place an order for more at the grocery store. However, you don't have to wait for your refrigerator to serve as your personal assistant to find some pretty cool gadgets right now.
McGary said some refrigerators he sells come with a cooling spot in the door for milk so it can be chilled quickly. Also, forget the baking soda; some refrigerators come with technology that can neutralize odors.
Moriconi said refrigerators come with an air neutralizer, and some even have literature that helps determine which of the climate-controlled produce drawers should hold which vegetable.
Clear interior bins mean less searching for a food product, which cuts down the amount of energy wasted by having an open door. Some of the models also have a tone that sounds if the door has been open for too long.
McGary said many customers are opting for the French door model. This style consists of a double door on the top, and a pull-out freezer drawer on the bottom.
Even door hardware can be customized to mimic the hardware on cabinets, Moriconi said. There are three types of refrigerator and freezer door handles, including professional - which has a rounded front with a flat underside - curved or tubular. The premium refrigerator lines allow doors to be right-handed or left-handed.
But it is also possible to customize the higher-end models with side-by-side French doors on the ends of a bank of cabinets that might have a wine cooler and pantry space in the middle.
Sam's Best Brand's Plus can help with customized kitchen set-ups including wine chillers.
Story published Friday, January 8, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 1 )