Enclosing new FD Fridge

OldBiker650August 18, 2013

I am remodeling my kitchen.... I don't want to spend $10,000 on a built-in 48" refrigerator with less capacity and reliability than a $3000 free-standing one. I do all the work myself, including building cabinets, so I can definite enclose the full-depth fridge--also have plenty of depth/room. Seems the issue is really one of thermal considerations.

I am thinking of getting a "mega-capacity" LG, LFX33975ST. Any comments on this choice? Or is there a better model for my purpose?

Most FD refrigerators need about 1" opening above and 1/8" on each side to get air to the coils and discharge it from below. I don't mind the side space, but would like to minimize the open space above. I can even stick a grill on the cabinets that would normally go above the fridge...

I would love to hear from anyone with relevent experience or deep thoughts on the subject.

Cheers, Shawn

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A $10k built-in fridge usually has less but better organized capacity than a $3k freestanding one and it is certainly not less reliable than an enclosed freestanding fridge.

Freestanding fridges were not engineered to be enclosed they were engineered to be freestanding. Enclosed they will work harder, consume more energy, and wear out faster. Minimal clearances are not optimal clearances.

Placing a wooden vent or "grill" above enclosed refrigerator would significantly help matters. If your house is not on a slab and does not have a finished basement putting a vent in the floor to a crawl space/unfinished basement underneath would also help

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 5:45PM
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Good point on the suboptimality of the stated "minimum" clearances. That being the case, perhaps a power vent triggered by a thermostat might be a better solution than opening the kitchen to the crawl space.

I don't know whether the LG forces air out the underside like many do or has its own twist on forced convection.

Thanks for the response.
Cheers, Shawn

PS: I also don't know why a solenoid-type drive would be so much better than a traditional rotary motor + crankshaft arrangement for the compressor... but apparently a "linear compressor" is a big deal for LG.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 8:08PM
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The other thing to watch is clearances to the sides for opening the doors.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 9:09PM
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How much are you counting on the deep storage space above the fridge? If "not so much" the here's a thought I had but didn't end up doing: open front cabinet that only has a bottom along the front half or so. I pictured using this space as a shelf for cookbooks. Plenty of space for the air to come up and over the books or whatever.

In the end I decided not to jump through hoops. A reasonable fit is one thing, but you can plan and engineer 'til the cows come home but in the end it'll still look like, and be, a free-standing fridge. The only exception that I know of is the frigidair twins that come with optional trim pieces. Worse, while a nominal 36" seems to be a fairly standard width, height varies by inches between brands and models. So if you're unfortunate enough to have to replace the fridge within the expected life-span of the kitchen you're limited at best, screwed at worst.

Related question: how important is side clearance? I understand airflow in the back, top, and of course toe-kick. But sides? The owners manual of my new Samsung says to "allow sufficient space to the right, left, back and top for air circulation." The accompanying diagram shows 2" top and back, and 3.75" to a side wall. I interpret that final measurement to be for door clearance, not air clearance. Aside from the door swing and positioning the fridge, is there really more space needed? I can't imagine the 1/8" referenced in original post above amounts to anything more than room to slide the fridge in and out.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 9:41PM
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Even better in my case, the left side of the fridge will be a wall--with the garage behind it. While I don't want to violate the firewall behind, I can easily mount a grill on the left wall and take air into the cabinet (above the fridge) and back down. I can easily forego the storage above the fridge--as I would have to for a $$$ 84" tall built-in.

The height variation between fridges pales in comparison to double ovens... there does not seem to be any standard there at all.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 3:10AM
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You're overthinking everything with old fashioned thinking. Refrigerators do not have coils on the back anymore. Most fridges these days "breathe" out the bottom in front. When a company says it only needs 1/8" clearance on the side, that's what it needs. I routinely place 36" fridges (which aren't 36" wide) into a 36" (actual width) alcove. With no issues. A standard 36'W X 72"H alcove works for 98% of the non built in 36" fridges on the market. As to whether or not this "shortens" an appliances life, well, when a refrigerator's life expectancy is 7-10 years, and it dies at year 7, I don't think that's a "shortened" lifespan. It's just the luck of the draw for that particular one.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 10:53AM
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Methinks Live_wire_oak has it right! I went to the store and took a good look at the LG I spoke of. Everything is on the bottom. There are two little windows in the back (for the two evaporators), fan (or fans) pull the air in back there, end exit at the front underside. If it gets enough air, the fridge would not know whether it is enclosed or not!!

Last time I bought a fridge, it had coils on the back--and I had hair.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 10:15PM
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Just to let you know my setup, I have a 1953 house. The prior owner apparently did his own surround for the fridge (as opposed to a professional). Wall on one side, deep cabinets on the other, cabinet above. I put in a 25cf side by side into the 36" space. The fridge is 35.75" wide. And there it has sat for 20 years with no problems. The coils are on the bottom, with the grill on the bottom front. The cabinet above has 1" clearance.

The reason I think the fridge has enough circulation is that in the cabinet above the fridge, there is a pipe built in running from the bottom of the cabinet up through the cabinet to the attic, and a few discreet small holes drilled into the cabinets on the side. The pipe in the cabinet doesn't take up that much room, and the holes into the side cabinets are so discreet that I didn't notice them for a couple of years.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 7:30PM
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I built in a freestanding Amana back in 1986, leaving about an 1/8" on the sides and maybe a 1/4" on top. It served us without a hiccup all those years, and was still running just fine when we finally replaced it during a kitchen makeover this past winter. (The coils were on the bottom, and it vented out the toe space.)

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 12:26PM
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I have that LG. The spec sheet calls for 1" behind -- the owner's manual calls for 2", which IIRC is what the Samsungs call for.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 1:16PM
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Oooh, that is good to know. Of course, being an old engineer, I would have probably doubled the 1" just to be safe...

Tell me O' person of small capacitance, how do you like your LG? Is it quiet and does it cool well. Any problems? Will I kick myself for not buying a sub-zip instead or will I be laughing at the yuppies who do?

Cheers, Shawn

PS: Seriously though, I read somewhere that it takes a long time to freeze stuff... not sure whether that is a real problem or the test methodology was at fault.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 3:32AM
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