Friday, June 10, 2011

A Solid Refrigerator/Freezer, Even If It's Not Quite My Style.

The Good: Energy efficient, Keeps food cool, Fairly affordable
The Bad: Noisier than I would expect, Does not use space wonderfully.
The Basics: Not quite the style I would gravitate toward, the Frigidaire FRT18S6AW is a very energy-efficient, affordable to operate refrigerator/freezer.

My wife and I have been getting by and one of the biggest adjustments for me has been losing my kitchenspace from the house I had before. I loved my Frigidaire GLRT216TA (reviewed here!), despite its inability to keep ice cream solid. That refrigerator and freezer, though, fit my style and my kitchen with its stainless steel front and sides and its ample space inside. It certainly fit me better than the ocre-yellow Sears refrigerator from the 1970s my mother had. In addition to leaving puddles on the floor frequently, it never kept food truly cool and so I was pretty glad when she upgraded to a new Frigidaire FRT18S6AW refrigerator.

My mother has had the Frigidaire FRT18S6AW for about a month now and I've been observing it and using it for that time and despite being a bright white color (she loves it because it lights up her otherwise dark and dank kitchen) it works well and is a very solid refrigerator and freezer. But the more time I spend with it, the more the quirks of this particular refrigerator bug me. This is a good refrigerator, but it is not the ideal one by any objective standard and the particular quirks of the Frigidaire FRT18S6AW are good to know before one buys one.

First of all, this refrigerator is not as big as I am used to as it stands under six feet tall (66") and has a width just under 30". The more problematic dimension for me is that it sticks out farther than I am usual with a depth of just over 32" deep. Ultimately, this has interior dimensions that give it 18 cubic feet of storage space. . . supposedly. I write "supposedly" because the drawers on the bottom of the refrigerator are slanted. Apparently, part of what makes this refrigerator energy efficient is how it has the refrigerating mechanisms organized within the machine. One of the advantages of this refrigerator is that the back is closed up, so it may actually be set back against a wall. This is something my mother's 1970s open-backed (the refrigeration coils were exposed) unit could not do. But the lower drawers are not flat; they angle up toward the back of the refrigerator. As a result, the storage space goes from being almost two feet by a foot wide to about a foot cube, then about half that for the back half. This can be inconvenient as well for storing food that might roll downhill as any such foods pushed to the back will roll forward when food in front of it is moved.

This is a large refrigerator and the freezer is nice. The freezer is on top of the refrigerator and it occupies about a third of the space of the refrigerator. This is a good appliance for a big family needing to store a lot of food, but not wonderful for using the space well and allowing people to segment that space easily. For example, in the freezer there is a rack. The rack may be adjusted from a position four inches above the bottom of the freezer . . . to five inches above the bottom of the freezer. This is not a huge difference in space and by neither position does the user get to actually segment the freezer in half. As a result, four people sharing the freezer and trying to avoid taking each other's food does not work so well in the freezer half of this unit. In the last month, there has been more pulling food out, inspecting it and replacing it than there was in the prior several years with the old refrigerator. Still, the refrigerator and freezer have enough storage space for food for a family of four for almost a month.

My mother opted for the white finish, though it is available in the stainless steel and the black as well. The textured white side and front do get a little dusty, but for the most part, the finish is very easy to clean. I'm not so big on the white plastic look, but my mother seems quite thrilled by this appliance. Usually, one pass with a sponge and anything that's on the outer surface comes right off. Oddly, though, I've noticed that the outside of the refrigerator and freezer actually get quite cold. Especially when the refrigerator and freezer are running, the outer surface gets cold as well. So far, this has not caused anything like magnets to fall off the Frigidaire FRT18S6AW.

Inside the freezer is a single shelf. The freezer door (on the inside) has the standard (horizontal) split level shelf going for it (the type that holds the average frozen juice jar). The refrigerator door has one full length shelf good for holding large bottles and four split level shelves (i.e. they each take up half the width of the door) which may be configured in a dizzying number of arrangements to hold various bottles of different sizes. Inside the refrigerator are two crispers with varying humidity control (which actually work to keep vegetables crisp), and four split level glass shelves that pop easily into their brackets and show no signs of slipping out of their brackets without warning.

In short, the inside of this refrigerator/freezer is an homage to the power of choice. There are literally hundreds of ways one might configure the shelves inside the refrigerator. It's easy to clean and, when set at medium settings, it is VERY energy efficient. This refrigerator/freezer set had one of the lowest energy usages of any refrigerator/freezer we looked at. Like our previous Frigidaire, the Frigidaire FRT18S6AW is at its most energy efficient when it is set at medium cold (factory installed) and kept no more than 85% full. Since my mother purchased this, our electric bill has actually gone down; even with the necessary initial cooling down of the refrigerator when it was installed. This makes some sense as the prior unit was very much not energy efficient. Given that no other appliances have been changed in the house, the energy efficiency claims of this Frigidaire seem to be good!

The other big plus for me is that the freezer actually works! Having had a freezer that could not keep ice cream hard, I was actually excited when my mother got a freezer that did something better than my last one. Now, I can keep an open ice cream carton in the main freezer instead of having to go into my deep freeze chest freezer.

My mother bought the refrigerator/freezer installed, so the ease of getting it in and out is not something I can speak to, but I know the standard doorframes required the removal of doors in order to get this in the house. Once there, the feet on the Frigidaire easily adjusted to that the unit was kept level. It is very important to have the unit kept level in order to keep the seals properly aligned and sealed. Prolonged use on an unlevel surface is likely to make the refrigerator and freezer less energy efficient.

What finally bumped this refrigerator up in my rating system was that it was affordable to buy and to own. My mother, a retired schoolteacher who substitute teaches, was able to afford this and the energy efficiency of it is enough to actually bring down the electric bill, which is pretty astonishing - though most of our appliances are Energy Star certified. Being able to easily clean it is one thing; being able to afford keeping it plugged in and having it keep food actually cold at the settings that make the refrigerator efficient is absolutely wonderful.

For other refrigerators, freezers or Frigidaire products, please check out my reviews of:
Frigidaire FFC07C3A Chest Freezer
Frigidaire Built-in Dishwasher
Frigidaire FEF336EC Electric Range


For other home and garden product reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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