Choosing the Best Small Refrigerator For Your Apartment

A new refrigerator is always a major purchase decision, even when you’re in the market for something small. Apartment size refrigerators range from about 7 to 17 cubic feet of storage, with plenty to choose in between.

These are some of the big things to consider when it comes to choosing the best small refrigerator for your apartment or condo.

How Much Space Do You Have?

It’s always the first question when it comes to buying things for an apartment: how much room do you have to spare?

Apartment kitchens aren’t known for their spaciousness, and failure to match the size of an appliance to the size of the space is the number one reason appliances are returned.

Newer refrigerators need between ¼ and ½ inch of space between the sides of the fridge and the wall, and about 1½ inches at the back (download the owner’s manual to be sure.) This clearance ensures there will be adequate air flow in and around the refrigerator’s coils.

How Much Food Storage Do You Need?

After height/width/depth, storage capacity is the next most important measurement to consider. The total storage space within the fridge is usually represented in cubic feet (cu. ft.)

Of course, it’s hard to visualize what that number means on paper – so your best bet is to see for yourself what the fridge looks like on the inside. Compare photos of the interior of the refrigerator looks like empty and fully-stocked with food.

It’s good to invest in slightly more fridge space than you think you need. Cool air needs room to circulate to keep your food safe, and an overfilled refrigerator is less efficient. Leaving a few inches between food items will make sure the air can circulate.

How Bulky is the Refrigerator?

If you’re a renter, you’ll want to consider the ease (or difficulty) of transporting your new refrigerator if you move out. That’s part of the beauty of an apartment size fridge – they’re a lot lighter than their full-size counterparts.

Consider investing in a fridge equipped with rollers/castors to simplify the moving process. Rollers also make it easier to pull the refrigerator forward to vacuum the rear coils (which can save you a repair bill down the road.)

Which Type of Fridge is Your Style?

Today, apartment size refrigerators are available in many configurations, including traditional freezer-top-style fridges, fridges with a bottom freezer drawer, and full refrigerators with no freezer compartment.

The best style of small refrigerator for your apartment is part preference, part practicality.

Refrigerators go through style trends just like other appliances. Split-door fridges had a moment, and bottom-freezer fridges are outselling old-fashioned models with the freezer on top. You might already know which one goes perfectly with your kitchen’s unique style.

However, there are practical concerns as well:

  • Top-mount refrigerators are cost-effective to run and tend to cost the least upfront. Next to full fridges with no freezer, they offer the most refrigerator storage space. The main downside is that you may need to bend or squat to reach the bottom shelves and crispers – so they might not be the best choice for bigtime veggie eaters.
  • Bottom-mount refrigerators put all your fridge’s contents at eye-level, and they are often the most economical models to run. However, the freezer drawer can be hard to keep organized, and you need plenty of room to pull the drawer out all the way.
  • Full refrigerators with no freezer at all are ideal for families who always eat fresh and want to maximize their fridge storage space. They are also a great solution when you have room for a separate standalone freezer.

What’s the Temperature Range?

If you’re shopping for an extra-small refrigerator (in the range of 1 to 5 cu. ft.), check the temperature range before you buy. Some mini-fridges or compact refrigerators are designed only for can and bottle storage. Your fridge must be able to maintain a temperature of at least 40°F (3.3°C) to keep vegetables, fruits, and other perishable items safe.

Is it Energy-Efficient?

Thanks to improvements in insulation and compressor tech, new refrigerators use far less energy than older models. Figuring out exactly how efficiently a fridge will perform is simple – just look for the ENERGY STAR label. An ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator will use up to 10% less energy than a standard model.

Believe it or not, a top-mount fridge with ENERGY STAR certification actually uses less energy than a 60-watt lightbulb. That’s impressive.

What About Your Old Refrigerator?

Buying an apartment size fridge to replace your old model? Recycle it! Taking your old refrigerator to a proper recycling facility ensures it won’t wind up in a landfill or on a resale website. It’s the right thing to do for the planet.