Several years ago I did extensive research on how to buy a refrigerator. I wrote several articles to share what I learned with savvy homeowners. Imagine my surprise when I recently learned I missed a very important decision factor. I learned that advertised refrigerator sizes aren't what you think!
According to Consumer Reports which measured usable capacity, they found it “… can be as much as 32 percent less than manufacturers’ capacity claims”. I found this rather shocking, and at the same time, a great example of why consumers need to research products and building materials before they buy.
Why Refrigerator Sizes Don't Describe Storage Capacity
There's a reason why the stated refrigerator volume doesn't equal usable storage space. It's because the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) standards for measuring refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers and freezers consistently across brands and models, is focused on energy efficiency. In fact this industry standard specifically states it is “not intended to provide a means of measuring the food-storage capacity.”
According to the Consumer Report article, an AHAM spokeswoman stated “The mandatory federal energy program requires energy calculations to represent every portion of refrigeration space, and not only consumer usable space. Every part of the refrigerator is required to be cooled, and therefore every part of the refrigerator is required to be measured.”
Comparing Refrigerator Sizes Indicates They're About the Same!
When you use Consumer Reports calculations for usable storage capacity, you'll be amazed to learn they're all about the same size. They do this by measuring the cubic foot volume of each shelf, door bin, drawer and features we love like ice makers, lights and air filters. Loved their description when explaining that they “… consider the refrigerator stripped to the walls. Even the ice chute for an external ice dispenser isn’t deducted from the measurement.”
To learn more about the analysis done by Consumer Reports, you can read their article, Why Refrigerator Capacity Claims Don’t Add Up. Of course they want you to sign up for their magazine to get much more detailed ratings on all the refrigerator models they've tested … and my advice is more research means a better purchase decision.
Often the data you find online is truthful but not as useful as you might think. The graph above does a much better job of visually explaining that the storage capacity you get from any one refrigerator is about the same as all the others. While the data behind my chart came from the Consumer Report article, even I didn't see the real story immediately.
Now it's pretty obvious that you shouldn't spend any extra money for more storage capacity. Whether you're buying a full size refrigerator, a medium refrigerator … or love the term, standard size refrigerator, they all do the same thing. What do you think?
PS Here are the other articles I've written about buying a refrigerator, which should apply to any type of refrigerator.
- Refrigerator Styles & Buying a Refrigerator
- 5 Tips for Buying a Refrigerator
- Researching Refrigerator Sizes, Styles & More … OMG, I do have a chart here showing sizes but now I'm not sure if that's claimed versus actual storage capacity?