Please help me pick out a built in fridge

phaphaphooeyMarch 25, 2013

Long time listener and first time caller here. I already searched but didn't find an answer to my query so I am posting my quandary for all of the experts here. We have a cutout for a standard fridge that is 36 inches wide by 72 inches tall. We are obviously going to need to take out a cabinet above the opening to make it taller but can't do anything about the width and as a result need a fridge that is pretty dang close to 36 inches wide. We also already have a separate freezer so we only want a refrigerator for this space without a freezer. That leaves only 4 options that I can find. They are the Viking VCRB5361Rx, Miele K1901, GE Monogram ZIR360NX, and SZ BI36R. Does anyone have any input on these models? I am worried that the Viking built in is a result of the Amana debacle but would be appreciative if someone could confirm that. I welcome any advice regarding these models or just these brands' built in all refrigerators in general. Thanks in advance and links are below.

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Viking is not a good gamble- especially at the price. Full of quirks and issues right off the assembly line. Were just sold to a commercial appliance manuf. that will be looking to see a return on their hundreds of millions they spent, so svc. will be a wild card and isn't that great now.

The Monogram is a fairly solid unit, but it is not as refined as the Miele or SZ in terms of the build quality or creature comforts or fit and finish. When you factor in cost it's not attractive either.

The SZ and Miele are the top of the food chain and represent the latest in technology and build quality. They both have cust. svc depts. that rank at the top of the heap should you need them.

If you want a stainless steel model or one with a glass door or just want a made in the USA product - sub zero is your ticket.

If you want a fully concealed model with a cabinet panel - then the miele is the way to go as the SZ presents some challenges doing that. Namely it requires xtra depth.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 7:32PM
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Thanks for your response. The rest of the appliances are not paneled so we would probably go ss to match the other appliances. Also there is just something about the big ss doors on the all refrigerators that looks amazing. I think a northland fits the criteria as well but based upon what I have read it seems like a non starter even more than Viking.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 9:06PM
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I may be mistaken but doesn't Thermador make a 36 inch all refrigerator? Might want to check out their website.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 11:43PM
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I wish. According to the Thermador website the only all refrigerator models they manufacture are columns.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 11:16AM
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Patty - Thermador does not make a 36" all fridge. They only come in 24" and 30" versions.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 11:23AM
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Are all except for the SZ rebadges that share a large part of their components with other models under the company's corporate umbrella? It seems like that may be the case.

I would prefer not to pay the SZ premium but it looks like there isn't much a price delta anymore between these brands.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 9:16AM
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Monogram is not a rebadge, and neither is the Viking.

The Miele is a different animal. While it is VERY similar to it's cousins Thermador and Gagenau there is sufficient difference in the internals and trim out that I don't considered it a rebadge.

You are going to pay a premium regardless of choice when selecting a built in and especially an all fridge model. All if them are expensive by most people's standards.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 11:17AM
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Welcome. I heard Howard Stern has the SZ and loves it. ;) Seriously, out of all of those, the SZ is the only one with dual compressors (one for fridge, one for freezer) so if that sort of thing is important to you (as it is to me) SZ is the way to go.

Have you checked the specs on the Liebherr? That was a new brand to me and it was a tough choice between that and the SZ, but ultimately we are going with the SZ because we just like the feel of it better. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 7:50PM
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Hmmmm, The Op said they already had a freezer and only want a fridge. Why would they want a fridge with 2 compressors?

To me, what is more important is what kind of compressor is it? Is it the old style all the way on then all the way off the SZ and Thermador use, or is it a Variable speed compressor like the Liebherr and Miele use?

Why is this important?

Try a simple experiment.

Fill a one cup measuring cup with EXACTLY one cup of water.
Try it ALA SZ and Thermador first, turn the faucet on full and then turn it off when it is exactly 1 cup, Unless you are very lucky, more than likely you over filled it and had to dump the excess.

Now try that by adjusting the faucet for a slower flow as the measuring cup gets close to 1 cup. Chances are you got it right on the first try!

A VSP compressor works the same way, as it gets close to set temp, it slows down and does not Over Cool, Over fill (if you will) like a conventional compressor does,

Jenn-air specs +/- half a degree temp accuracy, they use the VSP, (variable speed compressor). chances are the Miele's and Liebhers would do just as well, not that you need +- half a degree but it just shows you what new technology can do,

To me, at least, if you are paying those kind of prices, You should be getting the "Latest Technology"!

Apparently the manufacturer of the compressors for the Thermador fridges thinks so too, as they have promoted one of their own to be in charge of VSP technology,
(Emerson Electric, Copeland Compressors).

So to me, some of these companies are behind the times and count on the ignorance of buyers, or at the very least, buyers not aware of the latest technologies.

(Example) Thermador, the only description you will see about their compressor is "Dedicated", while SZ says pretty much nothing about theirs!


    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 10:22PM
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Didn't read carefully ;)

Good to know about the VSC. I'm not technically inclined, nor do I have hours to research. I glean what I can from the few minutes I have each day.

So if a refrigerator/freezer has only one compressor, even if it is a VSC, won't there still be the problem of too cold fridge/not quite cold enough freezer?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 7:36AM
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I believe I read somewhere the SZ used to to use VSP and have gone back to a traditional on/off compressor. If true, what would the reasoning be for such a move?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 9:03AM
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Yes, phaphaphooey, Antss posted that, several years ago. He did seem to know what He was talking about and was somehow
"Connected with the appliance industry".

Your guess is as good as mine as to why SZ did that, maybe they did not want to buy compressors from Whirlpool, who as far as I know are the only fridge VSP compressor manufacturer (Embraco). There is another company that makes fridge compressors and it looks like the are getting "geared up" to produce and market more of them.

I think, if the "Rules change again", as far as energy usage
of fridges goes, virtually all the fridge manufacturers will be using them to meet the new energy specs, until something better comes along, (New refrigerant) for example.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 1:23PM
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"So if a refrigerator/freezer has only one compressor, even if it is a VSC, won't there still be the problem of too cold fridge/not quite cold enough freezer?"


Usually the folks that are fans of the 2 compressors systems is not due to temp, but the mixing of the air between the fridge and freezer. They "Claim" the fridge contents can affect the taste of the ice, or something in the freezer can affect the taste of whats in the fridge, or the mix of air creates less than "Ideal" humidity in the fridge and so on and so on.

To me, it's just "Marketing Hype" being espoused.

If you search GW or even google for such complaints, You will see such complaints are pretty rare, but You will see "How much better my new Dual compressor keeps my food than did my old fridge--well shoot, if it didn't , why buy a new one?
You also see these "Keeps better longer" post from folks that have bought just single compressor fridges too.

Better seals, better temp control is the reason the food last longer and lots of folks are buying counter depth or built in fridges which have less volume, and hence probably cool back down to set temp, much faster after the door is opened and closed.

If you really must have complete isolation between the fridge and freezer, (I don't), then Samsung is on the right track there.
They use one compressor to run 2 evaporators (the part that actually cools the fridge, freezer. They use one in the fridge and another in the freezer, so you do not have 2 compressors condensors operating which should be far more efficient.

As far as temps being "Spot ON", a single VSP is the easiest way to do it. Why?

The way they work, is it monitors the fridge temp continuously.
If it starts heating up, the fridge allows more of the freezerair into the fridge, even turning on a fan, if necessary. It will only run the compressor if the freezer temp becomes too high.
My fridge always stays at exactly 38F, but the freezer temp will vary from about -2F to +3F, Now I seriously doubt anything in the freezer would care about a 5F swing, as it's still way below freezing---Ya thinks?

A fridge with a regular compressor and a separate one for the fridge, must get above the set temp, then turn on and get below the set temp, otherwise it would be going on/off continuously.

Anyway "VSP101" !

Good luck with your hunt.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 1:54PM
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this seems to have digressed a bit.

I don't think phooey should concern himself with this compressor or that one. Or this type of filter or that, or abc wire vs. xyz.

If you chose a high quality all fridge (it will have only one compressor) from a high quality manuf. just trust the engineers who designed it and staked their reputations on that design as well as the company's ability to stay in business and keep their lofty reputations.

Since there isn't a whole lotta choice here and the smart play is either the SZ or the Miele - I'd be more concerned with which fridge had the best layout and features for my lifestyle and habits before I lost sleep over what type of compressor or light bulbs made the thing work. I'd also weigh my local dealer's association with each brand over the specific components contained within. If you ever have a problem or need service - he'll be a big help.

The rest is simply an exercise for engineers to hear themselves talk as both types work just fine and there is not clear cut winner. Both have pros and cons, and the average consumer isn't likely to understand or even care about those. They just want their fridge to work and not have to call the maytag man for 20 years.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 10:32PM
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Well, I disagree. Lets say I bought a really expensive car, Rolls Royce, upscale Benz, Masserati---whatever.

I go to play music in the car, but it won 't play my CD's and DVD's. It only takes 8 track tapes.

To me, the fridges with the old compressors, its the same thing!! I pay that kind of money for a fridge, I want the latest and the greatest and an up to date design for any part of that car.

Just putting LED lights in it, doesn't cut it for Me!

They get away with that because of folks that feel like You, Xedos----that's fine if that's what you like.

Myself, I will buy nothing, (A car without knowing what motor it has), (A TV without knowing what kind of back lighting it has), etc etc, but then, I'm a "Techquie".

Your mileage may vary!


    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 11:10AM
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I'm sorry Gary, you are just wrong here.

I understand you like the variable speed set up, nothing wrong with that. And I'll even get on board that it is newer. But that doesn't make it better ! There just isn't enough acceptance from the engineers designing residential fridges for you to make any kind of broad statement that this is the way to go for the mass market. Your 8 track analogy is pretty stupid. That format has been dead, not produced, sold or serviced for 30 + years. The regualr old embraco system that you loath is still alive and kicking and still has something like 80% + market share. It ain't going anywhere any time soon. Better would be halogen lights vs. HID , vs. LED technology for the headlamps. Or a gas combustion engine vs. an electric would be even better. The elect engine on the Tesla S that's all the rage with the green crowd these days up against that old fuddy duddy gas engine tech of the Maseratti you mentioned.

Is the point coming where the variable speed units take over? Perhaps, but it will not be this decade. The majority of manuf. are still using the regular old setups and with sometimes spectacular results. Sub Zero fridges are still going strong that were purchased the same time as your JAir even with their old style compressors. Like I said there are benefits to both types. The fact that YOU feel the benefits of the vari speed type works best for you does not make it a slam dunk for everyone and neither does the opposite.

Back to the OP - in his case he'd be silly to base his choice solely on the use of one type of compressor over the other-or-even weigh it that heavily. I bet at the end of the day he's only REALLY interested in the thing working well for 20 years or so - not in how that's accomplished. Good engineering, plain ol luck, superior parts, magic beans or the tooth fairy , few people care.

And to throw a wrench in phooey's weekend. Suppose he's swayed by your argument for the vari speed setup and gets the miele only to find out his spouse hates the waaa waaa waaa noise that particular VS setup makes and which is exacerbated by the acoustics in some kitchens ? Or that the hidden controls are just a plain a PIA to use and adjust ?

Are you going to send him a check for the thing so he can get something that works better ?

FWIW _ I have a fridges with both types. I got them for the purpose they served and my needs - not because of the specific internal parts. Just think if the IT crowd started sticking their noses into the electronics some of these fridges have !

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 2:06PM
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I want to thank everyone for his or her guidance. I am a tech nerd and would probably prefer a vsc but don't find it to be a make or break factor. I particularly appreciate the car analogies as my true passion is sports cars much to the chagrin of my bank account. We will probably go with the sz as we are wanting a stainless steel kitchen and I believe it is probably the best of the options. This is unfortunate as due to their strict price controls it seems to be impossible to get a good deal on a new one. If anyone has a secret to share in that regard I am all ears.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 9:17PM
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I wish you the best of luck with it. They do have great service and it is made in the US.

Maybe I think a bit differently than a lot of folks here?

I just "souped up this computer".
I wanted to know what hard drives were gonna be put in it. What kind of processor, how much memory, etc etc,

Of course we're talking about spending a lot less money than you are.

So that's where "my problem" comes in!

We are asked to buy a big box, for a lot of money,
with either a "Designated Compressor",
or, buy one,
" Designed with advanced technologies".

If Designated Compressors and / or "Advanced Technologies"
are good enough for most folks, then I'm the "Odd Ball" alto it would be nice to know what "Advanced Technologies are"?


    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 11:23PM
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Pretty much all built in fridges have "price controls", so it really doesn't matter which brand you go with in that regard.

If you want a cut rate price, you'll have to find one used, scratched or dented, last years' model sitting in a showroom that really wants to get rid of it or is dropping the line entirely or sometimes larger dealers will "package" you a lower price if you are getting all your other gear from them, though it doesn't amt to a huge %.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 9:52AM
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I would first consider the fridges that will fit (which apparently you have). Then look at the price, if this is a deciding factor. From that, consider reviews. Personally, I have lived in 3 homes in 18 years. For each home we selected the GE monogram built-in. I have had this current one for 7 years, and called service for a clicking sound. It was a loose fan screw. A GE tech finds me in my part of the country in a day. I like that. When my miele DW is out, that is at least a 3-day wait. Though price was not a determining factor for me, value is. I could not justify spending over 50% more for features I was not personally motivated to purchase. Everyone has their favorites, but that does not mean others are a poor choice.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 1:05PM
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