KitchenAid vs. Frigidaire (or Ikea) refrigerator

dreamojeanJune 14, 2013

I'd love some advice about which side by side counter-depth fridge to buy for our small kitchen. Our big constraint is that our fridge will be smack dab against a wall on the right (with 3" clearance only) in order to even have countertop space. So that means that we need a fridge where a 90 degree right door opening will give us access to fully open produce drawers, without having the right door built-in's hit us in the face (GE had that problem for me, among others). So far Frigidaire seems best in that area. And I've been wanting a side by side for many years, used to have one and much prefer it.

I'm settled on a 36" wide, under 29" deep fridge - height isn't an issue. And I want a fridge with a lot of produce capacity since we have a lot of it, and with good freezer space since we use the freezer a lot.

I've read good things about the KitchenAid but can't seem to find a local store with a side by side floor model, and I'm much better with choosing appliances if I've seen them in person. I've gone to a bunch of stores and seem to gravitate toward the Frigidaire for layout - although I've read that that's not the best brand to choose. Ikea also has a model that could work, and I plan to go in person. Price differences are relevant - Frigidaire is probably going to run $1800 or so, same with Ikea, and the KitchenAid would probably be $2300 or so. I was hoping for under $2,000 if possible, is the KitchenAid worth the extra if it works for us otherwise?


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The dimensions guides for KitchenAids, as with most Whirlpool fridges, say they require only 2" to 2 1/2" side clearance for a door to open 90 degrees. That is supposed to allow full access to produce drawers. It does on my KA FD model. BUT, there is an important caveat: extracting a drawer for cleaning requires the door to swing further back (about 135 degrees) before the drawer can clear the framing in the door that supports the door storage bins. I'm certain that the same constraints apply to the SxS models.

The KitchenAid SxS fridges are Whirlpool products with minor differences from the other WP SxS fridges. What I found when fridge shopping last fall was that these differences were: small differences in drawer and bin materials; having digital temperature read-outs and settings (rather than an arbitrary scale of 1-7); having medium-gray colored sides on stainless steel models (rather than black sides on the other WP-made stainless models); and having a ten-year warranty on sealed system components (for which other WP-made models require you to buy an extended warranty).

Pricing can make a difference. In my own case, the extra features on the KA were not worth (to me) the $450 difference between the KA FD model and the bottom-freeezer fridges I had been planing to buy. But it was a different matter when a holiday weekend discount sale brought the KA to within $150 of the others.

With regard to IKEA, most of the IKEA branded appliances for the North American market are made by Whirlpool.

IIRC, the IKEA CD models were a good deal less expensive than WP and KA equivalents. I have read, but have no direct info of my own, that IKEA fridges are the same as those CD models that WP used to sell under its Maytag or Amana brands. That may be completely inaccurate. But, I suggest you compare the various WP-branded SxS CD models with the IKEA versions. Also, check out the IKEA warranties and the local warranty service providers.

In terms of longevity and reliability, the most recent membership surveys from Consumer Reports show that SxS models are significantly more likely to have problems than the other fridge designs but, within that category, there are such slight differences between most brands that you really cannot use reliability as a basis for choosing between them. For example, the KitchenAid SxS fridges have a 16% defect rate and the Frigidaire models have 17% rate. CR says that differences of less than 4 percentage points in the survey results are not meaningful. The only exception was LG: with a 22% defect rate, it seems to be the brand to avoid for SxS fridges. Do note that roughly half of the reported defects seem to be with ice and water dispensers.

As between Kitchenaid and Frigidaire, the Consumer Reports testing shows both as being average for operating noise. Electrolux, which owns the Frigidaire brand and apparently puts a bit more insulation/noise control into the Electrolux versions of the SxS fridges. If you can wait a couple of weeks, you might see what happens with 4th of July holiday weekend pricing. I recall a recent posting about some CD models of Electrolux fridges having prices that dipped below $2k. (Don't recall if that was President's Day or Memorial Day, though, and can't find the thread right now.)

I cannot speak to how well any SxS model will meet your requirements for a "fridge with a lot of produce capacity . . . .t, and with good freezer space . . ." Personally, I avoided CD models because, to me, they did not have what I thought was adequate produce storage or freezer space, especially with through-the-door dispensers eating up a lot of freezer space. But those are my own subjective, personal preferences. Your preferences seem to be different than mine. You've seen the Frigidaire model and liked it. I think you will find that most 36" wide counterdepth SxS brands will be similar.

One thing you haven't mentioned is looking into who does the local warranty service for each brand and what their reputations are. Given that there is a roughly 1 in 6 chance of needing service on a SxS fridge in the first five years of ownership, I definitely would look into that.

So, to get to your bottom line, I think that the differences between KitchenAid and a Frigidaire SxS CD model are apt to be too minor to be worth an extra $600 to you.

This post was edited by JWVideo on Sat, Jun 15, 13 at 12:46

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 12:45PM
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Wow, thank you JWVideo! That's so helpful!

I live in New York City so in a lot of ways I'm in good shape in terms of service (that's the upside of living in a crowded, overpriced place - we have a lot of services).

I've since learned that I'm probably out of luck to even see the KA fridge in the flesh - which would be a deal killer for me anyway. I'd love a taller fridge with more storage - I'm definitely concerned about the Frigidaire's lower amount of space than the KA - but at least I'll have seen it in person. I've called Best Buy, Sears and Lowe's - no dice. Home Depot doesn't carry KA apparently. I'll head to AJ Madison and hope they have a floor model. If not that's the end of that.

I also plan to go to IKEA and see their model in person. And I found a website with reviews of KA and Frigidaire fridges and IKEA appliances vis a vis the Whirlpool warranty. So once I do that reading I will call it a day and make a decision.

I'm going through this same process for washer/dryers, dishwashers, ranges, microwaves, sinks, plus of course cabinets and countertops - I don't know how anyone does this in any kind of reasonable time unless they delegate to a designer to make those choices, and for me the hourly charge of a designer (especially given that I've hired people hourly, hmm) would mean I couldn't afford to pay for half this stuff. So I'm paying the specialist(s) when I really hit a wall, and otherwise muddling through.

I'm finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel though.

By the way, in my shoes what type of fridge would you buy? Side by side? I realize there is risk to that, but I just can't see having a bottom freezer. I'm getting used to the idea as I bet side by sides go by the wayside soon anyway. We don't need an ice maker or door water really, it would be fun but not needed. But most of the bottom freezers seem so problematic.

I actually liked the Fisher and Paykel (?) french door bottom freezer which surprised me and it was really nice - BUT, the fridge part had no real space for big tall items (!). I was so surprised. It was the perfect fridge (this was at PC Richard) except for insufficient vertical space. Oh, plus the produce drawer was the entire width of the fridge despite it being French door - so, unlike some other similar models, it wasn't going to help us pull out at least one drawer clear on the left - they were like siamese twin produce drawers. Kind of silly.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 1:19PM
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IIRC, F&P fridges have a lot smaller capacity than the advertised specs. This is true of virtually every brand and the variance seems worse for SxS fridges that anything else.

My recollection from last fall's shopping was F&P rated its CD fridges at 22 cu. ft. but that Consumer Reports measured it at under 14 cu. ft. of actual capacity. Makers typically measure the interior volume of the case and then compute the space in the door bins which will occupy interior space when the door is closed). I remember looking at an F&P FD model that was rated at 20 cu. ft.. capacity and only had about 12 cu. ft. of actual capacity. And, as you say, the shelf configurations in smaller capacity FD fridges often do not allow for tall items, even in door bins.

So, don't put much stock in the manufacturer's claimed capcities. Consumer Reports and have more accurate measurements of capacity. Also, my recollection is that the Frigidaire CD models had more usable capcity in the FD models than the SxS models.

In terms of avoiding ice and water dispensers, they are pretty scare. There are some models without through-the-door dispensers, but not many without them. You can try searching on the aj madison web site using the filter options.

Both Whirlpool/KA and Electrolux/Frigidare get pretty high marks for temperature control and evenness in both FS and SxS. Also seem to do a good job with crispers.

On drawers, my KA FD has two good sized crisper drawers (with humidty controls), each occupying one side of the fridge. There is also a full width "pantry/deli" drawer beneath them (with its own temperature control) which I sometimes use for stashing produce. Good for things like those long English cucumbers and mushroom boxes from Coscto.

This post was edited by JWVideo on Sun, Jun 16, 13 at 1:55

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 4:00PM
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Love my elux fridge- which would be similar to the fdaire.
I have the FD model. Drawers are so smooth and it keeps the food so fresh.
I disappeared for a couple weeks when. DD passed away forgetting to empty the fridge. The milk was still good and so was the lettuce.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 6:08AM
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I have a KA SxS fridge, but it is an older model, from when KA really differentiated itself from the rest of Whirlpool. In 7 years, I have never had a problem. Having said that, from internet buzz it seems the current KA models aren't any better than the less expensive Whirlpools, other than a few cosmetic differences that JWVideo pointed out (also the KA drawers are on "rolling balls" (don't know the term) which makes opening and closing the drawers smooth, while the Whirlpool drawers just slide in and out of their plastic slots - a pet peeve with me).

Although my KA has never had a problem, one of my biggest regrets in my kitchen was buying the SxS configuration. Each side is simply too narrow, period. I wish I'd gotten a bottom freezer style. The only reason I would buy a SxS is if I were a senior citizen and had problems bending or pulling on a bottom freezer, as I believe it was Dodge59 pointed out in another thread.

Regarding price, good idea to see about 4th of July sales. Also, do not be afraid to challenge the salesperson on price. Sears and Best Buy have advertised they will beat other prices, and I have heard they mean it. If you go into the store, and say you are ready to buy right now if they give you the price that's in your budget, they will try really hard to get it for you. Also, if they cannot get the price any lower, make sure to get free delivery and installation.

Re size. Don't be taken in by a SxS seemingly larger cu. ft. specification. It's all about usable space. A french door counter-depth fridge might list "23 cu. ft.", while the KA SxS lists "25 cu. ft." but come holiday time when you can't fit the turkey in your SxS, or Super Bowl when you can't fit a pizza or snack tray, you won't care about the cu. ft. number.

I suggest you look at the Samsung french door counter-depth fridges. My friend has it, and it was amazing when he moved the food that had been crammed into his previous SxS into his new Samsung french door. There was empty space on the shelves! He did have an issue with dripping on the back wall when he first got the Samsung, but the appliance store took care of it right away, and he's not had a problem since.

Here is a link that might be useful: Samsung CD FD Fridge

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 12:42PM
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I want to add to my previous post that I just looked at the ajmadison site. Since you said you don't need water/ice in the door, that will give you significantly more interior space. Plus, the water/ice in the door is far and away the biggest reliability issue, regardless of manufacturer.

I see there is an Electrolux CD french door fridge with no ice/water in the door. The stainless steel version is over your price range - would you consider a white one? (no fingerprints to deal with). To me, getting a french door configuration over a SxS trumps everything else, so if you are interested in the Electrolux brand, I would look at the fridge I am linking below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Electrolux FD CD Fridge

This post was edited by akchicago on Sun, Jun 16, 13 at 13:04

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 1:01PM
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That CD Electrolux FD model that akchicago linked to --- I think that is the one for which holiday weekend discounts or rebates took the price at or below $2k a few months ago.

On akachicago's suggestion to look at Samsung CD fridges: Consumer Reports gives Samsung fridges high marks for quietness, temperature performance, etc. Samsung's fridges seem to have average reliablity in the membership surveys.

Note that the LED interior lighting is not to everybody's taste. Good idea to get a look at it. (LEDs are theoretically more energy efficient than other appliance bulbs, but the actual improvement in efficiency of the fridge is going to be negligible unless you have teenagers who hold the doors open for use as kitchen lighting.) AFAIK, the biggest benefit to LED lighting is that the "bulbs" do not get hot. No chance of a broken door switch leaving the light on and heating up your fridge or freezer compartment. (I forget whether it was LG or Samsung, but two or three years ago one of them had a spate a problems with defective swtiches and a lot of very irate owners of SxS fridges. A few of the units reportedly overheated and caused fires. A lot of irate postings about that problem, as you might imagine.)

I do not know anybody with a Samsung SxS model, let alone a CD version, but several friends do have CD Samsung FD models and have been very pleased with them. Pretty much everybody who buys a Samsung fridge likes it unless and until they happen to need service. Samsung's warranty service and support practices have been uneven and have sometimes generated a lot of ire. Check them out on Check for regional patterns, too, because service and support might be better in NYC than, say, my neighborhood in rural Montana.

One of the attraction of the Samsung fridges is having dual evaporators and separate fans. Not quite the same as dual compressors but theoretically the dual-set-up lessens the chances of freeze-ups in the venting system and theoretically makes for better temperature regulation. I say "theoretically" only because I haven't seen any testing or data that shows that they are noticably "real-world" better than the current good WP/KA and Frigidaire/Electrolux models.

AFAIK, all of the SxS Samsung CD models have through-the-door ice and water dispensers (TTDDs) which may be an issue given your preferences. This is definitely a YMMV thing, however. As I have said before, TTDDs are so important to some of my friends that, for them, fridge storage is merely a nice accessory to the TTDD.

As for akchicago's points favoring FD over SxS, I pretty much agree that FD models have more usuable space and give more flexibility in the use of space. Of course, if those were the sole criteria, we'd be buying top-freezer models. :-)

A couple of places that I sorta differ.

First, while I can see gary dodge's point -- cited by akchicago --- about some of us older folks maybe having trouble pulling on a bottom-freezer drawer and therefore preferring a SxS model, that point strikes me as a six of one and half dozen of the other kind of thing. I says this as a certified chronic old fart. Us oldsters are as apt to have bending problems as problems pulling on a freezer drawer. My personal preference is for FDs in order to have the crispers and deli-drawers up closer to waist level because those are the things I will use the most frequently.

Also, my perception from fridge shopping last fall was that bottom freezer models (including FD fridges) seemed to have a bit more crisper space than the drawers in SxS models.

WIth the freezer drawer in my KA FD fridge having a couple of sliding compartments inside the drawer, I haven't had any trouble finding and retrieving frozen goods. Although the capacity is slightly less than the freezer compartment of the top-freezer fridge it replaced, I actually find it easier to sort through and find things.

OTOH, freezer capacity in FD models will be reduced -- at least compared to a top freezer model --- by the space needed for the compressor and other sealed cooling system components at the bottom rear of the fridge. In top freezer and SxS fridges, that space reduces the space for the bottom mounted crisper drawers.

If you go by specs, the specs for SxS freezer compartments may seem a little bit larger than the specified capacities of FD models. But, when you talke usable freezer capacity, I think FDs are a better buy. (Mind, we are talking about 36" wide units here. It hink it is a completely different story when you get to 48" built-in SxS models and the "twin tower" combos.) For me, the problem with freezers in 36" wide SxS fridges is that they have a series of narrow, small compartments. I call it the "card catalog" effect. Handy for folks who like that arrangement but, for me, however, the full width freezer drawer in an FD model results in more spacious, flexible and useable capacity. All the more so because I don't use the ice maker.

This post was edited by JWVideo on Sun, Jun 16, 13 at 16:03

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 3:34PM
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I'm concerned about Samsung, I've heard such horror stories about customer service that I'm not sure whether it's worth it to play the roulette... I'm considering them for a stackable washer/dryer and friends like them for that, but I just don't know. At least for a washer/dryer if you have no laundry machines for awhile it's inconvenient but I live near laundromats and friends with machines. With a fridge on the blink, you're really stuck if you get jerked around by customer service.

I checked out the IKEA fridges today and their prices are competitive with the KitchenAid and even the Frigidaire. I am very tempted to just go for IKEA especially since IKEA gives a 5 year warranty on kitchen appliances. It seems crazy not to buy through them for that alone.

I was reading reviews and the only manufacturer that didn't make a guest appearance seems to have been Miele...

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 8:41PM
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If you are considering any ikea appliance, I would strongly recommend doing a search on ikeafans and reading about people's repair experiences. It's not pretty, sad to say.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 12:37PM
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I'm realizing that with fridges there is no magic bullet and all fridges have some haters and happy people. So since frigidaire is affordable and I actually like it I'm leaning toward that with an extended warranty or ikea with its 5 year warranty. Or if I can see it in person a kitchenaid after all. Perhaps with the longer warranty.

But more and more I'm thinking not to splurge on any of the appliances I'm getting. I'm adding a kitchen and need stackable washer dryer, dishwasher, microwave, big and small fridges, range, sink, faucet. So other than a Miele dishwasher I'm probably not buying anything I can't afford to replace. The fridge is the biggest risk since you can get by without most anything else for longer.

I may even bag out on the side by side after all if it comes down to it. We don't need water or ice in the door.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 1:27PM
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