One of the better comforts is enjoying a nice meal or drink in the leisure of home. To easily prepare foods, a well-stocked kitchen equipped with good appliances is a must. Among the more useful is a second fridge or freezer, such as a compact refrigerator.
As a type of refrigerator or freezer, compacts don’t deliver the same performance or energy efficiency as bigger models. The freezers in these small units can be iffy, and generally they tend to break down more often, sometimes after they’ve been in use for only a few months. Compact models are also less energy efficient per cubic foot of interior capacity than full-size units. But they do have their advantages. Mini models are a better fit for small rooms like that found in dormitories, offices, wet bars, or anywhere too limited in practical space for larger models. That said, storing wine properly requires the use coolers which maintain temperatures well, a task for which minis are not designed.
The better quality models have compressors of the type which large kitchen units use to regulate operational temperatures. Budget models feature thermoelectric cooling, which is based on technology reliant on electrical currents to cool surfaces. Thermoelectric models are only usually good enough for keeping drinks and other convenience items chilled at 40F and not much lower, which is at the limit for safe storage of food. None can attain the lower temperatures necessary for fast cooling or freezing, and they are nowhere nearly as energy efficient as models which have regular compressors.
It’s important to first determine which type of cooling system is appropriate for the user’s purposes, particularly if storing food is a priority, and then look at other features. Thermoelectric models have their operating type specified on their boxes or in their appliance guide. The specs normally indicate that these must be unplugged occasionally, or that they cool down to only a limited number of degrees below room normal.
Small or cube minis are great at keeping drinks chilled but aren’t good for much else. These are 16 to 22 square-inch cubes in appearance which offer less than 3 cubic feet of capacity. Most are built from cheaper and less reliable parts, rendering them less durable and energy efficient, but they do fit under desks and in other tight places. Some models eschew a freezer compartment in order to maximize the available space for the refrigeration side. Most minis’ freezers are too small and inefficient to keep foods frozen for long, anyway.
Midsize minis are priced somewhat above the tiniest models, but they usually perform better given that they usually occupy the same amount of floor area. Larger models range from 23 to 30 inches in height, and range from 2.2 to 3 or more cubic feet in interior volume.
Large minis, at times labelled as counter-height, generally offer more performance and efficiency than the smallest minis.
Two-door compacts are for those who desire a reliable freezer which can store more than a tray of ice. These have distinct refrigerator and freezer sides, and offer performance almost as good as that of full-size kitchen units. As insulation must surround the freezer, these designs naturally have less capacity than single-door versions of comparable dimensions.
Better models have useful features like adjustable shelves and door racks for holding six-packs, good interior lighting, or bins for large bottles. A few offer full-size features such as reversible doors configurable to open either left- or right-wards, auto defrost cycles, and more durable finishes. The better models have glass shelving instead of wire, and the best even offer glass crisper bins for storing vegetables.
Things worth checking
- Most college and university administrations permit the use of compact refs in students’ rooms, but there may be size and electrical usage limits.
- It’s best to buy the largest size you can afford, as the bigger the size the more energy-efficient the cooling and regulating performance.
- Solid shelves made of glass are more stable for placing small items, handle spills better, and are also easier to clean.
- If you’re looking to store gallon jugs or other large items then big door bins make sense, otherwise these are inefficient for storing smaller items like beverage cans.
- Thermoelectric compacts can cost and weight less than other types but aren’t good for maintaining perishables at proper storage temperatures, particularly when located in warm areas in the home.