Best Compact Refrigerator – Choosing A Mini Fridge For A Dorm Room, Office, Rec Room Etc.
Here’s a fun fact – nearly 100% of American homes have a refrigerator. A whopping 23% have two or more*. In fact, refrigerators are the most common home appliances, even more common than cooking appliances.
But why? First of all, nothing beats a cool drink after a long day. Whether it’s a date night, the occasional catching up with friends or a moment of relaxation as you watch your favorite show/sport. And there’s also that important matter of keeping foods cool.
But what do you do if for one reason or another you can’t manage to have a conventional fridge? You get a compact refrigerator. Also known as a mini fridge, a compact refrigerator is a great way of keeping foods and drinks cool without taking up much of your space.
With spaces getting smaller, you can see why having a mini fridge could be the way to go. And you can always move with it from place to place when that need arises, whether in an RV or the trunk/backseat of your car. Most units will fit comfortably.
Best Compact Refrigerator 2018 Comparison Chart
What Is a Mini Fridge Suitable For?
Compared to full-size fridges, mini ones are much smaller. The best compact refrigerator will not take more than 5.5 cubic feet. They, however, come in all shapes and sizes. While some are great for storing snacks and drinks, others are capable of storing foods as well.
The higher the capacity of a compact fridge the more the things it can hold. Generally, the smaller units, with a capacity of under 3 cubic feet, are great for cooling drinks. Bigger ones that have a capacity of up to 5.5 cubic feet can store drinks and certain foods like groceries and meat.
Perhaps the biggest downside of mini fridges is that they’re not as good as their full-size counterparts in holding consistent temperature. For that reason they are not the best for preserving food for long. Models labelled ‘superconductor’ or ‘thermoelectric’ are the least impressive for highly perishable stuff. So if you want a unit for preserving food you may want to stay clear of those types. However, they work just fine for cooling all sorts of beverages.
Who Is It Suitable For?
Back to school is a popular time to score an awesome deal on the best dorm refrigerator. The demand is usually high as many students want a fridge in their dorm rooms. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to wait until then before making your purchase. If you are a student you will love that it can keep your beverages, snacks and a few foods fresh, allowing you to focus more on studies rather than preparing food.
Beyond dorm rooms, small refrigerators are also ideal for offices, man caves, garages, RVs and even rec rooms. If you spend a substantial amount of time in any of those places then perhaps you should consider having one somewhere in a corner. The occasional snack and beverage will do you good, whether you’re working, partying or gaming.
While fridges are primarily used to store food stuff, most have space for temperature sensitive items like medicines. Even with a mini fridge you can always find room for a perishable medicine that you use frequently. That’s particularly important if you’re always on the go. Its portability means you won’t have to leave your meds behind.
Your Style Options
There are several types of mini refrigerators available for you to choose from. They differ in design, size and intended use. Here’s a brief look at each:
- Cube refrigerator– this is the most common type of compact fridge. With an interior capacity that ranges from 2.1 to 5.5 cubic feet, this fridge weighs anything from 25 to 40 pounds. That makes it reasonably portable. Depending on the size, you may get a model that can store food in addition to drinks and snacks. Some even have a freezer compartment for ice cubes.
Cube refrigerators are usually the most affordable, which makes them perfect if you are shopping on a budget. However, they are not the most energy efficient. So if you are worried about maintenance costs then you may want to consider a different type.
- Counter-high refrigerator– you guessed it; this type of compact fridge is about the height of a counter. Its capacity can range from 3.5 to 5.5 cubic feet. There are some models that closely resemble full-size fridges. They come with a separate freezer compartment and are fitted with such accessories as drinks dispenser and vegetable crisper. Counter-high fridges are very energy-efficient, but they are quite expensive to buy.
- Mid-size refrigerator– this type of compact fridge is slightly bigger than a cube fridge but just smaller than a counter-high. It is the perfect compromise for the first two as it allows you to store more food and drinks than a cube fridge and comes at a lower price tag then a counter-high.
- Drinks mini fridge– if you’re looking for the best small refrigerator for cooling drinks then this is the category you should be focusing on. This fridge can only store drinks and snacks. Its compartments are designed to hold beverage bottles, not food. On average, a drinks fridge can hold as many as 12 cans or bottles of your favorite drinks. It is perfect for use at parties or when you’re binge watching.
- Wine mini fridge– while a drinks fridge can hold pretty much any beverage, a wine fridge is meant to store wines only. Most of them maintain a temperature range of 41 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the ideal temperature for white wine. Red wine requires between 50 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit. There are particular mini fridge models for that temperature range as well.
- Travel fridge– as the name suggests, this small fridge is for storing drinks, snacks and foods while you travelling. The best mini refrigerator for travelling usually features a small and compact size, carrying handle and rugged exterior that can endure outdoor use.
Features of a Good Compact Refrigerator
With many types, brands and models of compact refrigerators available on the market, how do you pick the best one for you? The key is finding a unit that fits both your budget and needs. Below are some of the things to keep in mind as you narrow down your options.
Generally speaking, a larger and better performing compact fridge will cost more than a smaller, fair performing one. Certain features like a glass door, counter-high design, freezer compartment and extra door also make a mini fridge pricier. You, however, don’t necessarily need to spend an arm and a leg to get the best compact refrigerator. Some quite affordable models offer reliable features and performance.
- Energy consumption
Compact fridges are not as energy efficient as their full-size counterparts. In fact, the cost of running a small unit can be nearly as much as a large one. That said, the best small refrigerators have an Energy Star rating to show energy efficiency. For example, a 1.7 cubic feet fridge that has no Energy Star could be rated at 30 kWh per month. On the other hand, a 4.5 cubic feet with an Energy Star could only require 20 kWh or less per month despite having a larger capacity.
- Design and construction
The style of a mini fridge can either be cube, counter-high, mid-sized, drinks or a travel fridge. In that regard the best choice for you largely depends on why you need the fridge, the cooling capacity you need and the style you prefer.
Beyond style, there are other design features to consider. For example, do you prefer glass shelves or racks? Does the interior configuration suit your storage needs? Would you rather have a double-door (which is more expensive) or a single-door? Does the door have to be reversible and/or lockable? What about the color, does it match your house’s interior décor? If you consider all those features you will see that to some extent the best mini refrigerator is one that meets your aesthetic preferences.
Most compact refrigerators have a small freezer compartment. You can find a double-door model whose freezer is accessible through a separate door or a single-door whose freezer shares a door with the main compartment. Regardless, many freezers in compact fridges are too small to hold anything other than ice cubes or you can purchase a portable freezer. But it’s still a worthy addition, especially if you love your drink on the rocks. You can also consider a unit that has an automatic defroster.
- Size and capacity
Compact fridges vary in capacity from 1.7 cubic feet to over 5 cubic feet. As a rule of thumb, the larger the capacity the bigger the size of the fridge. For example, a large 4.5 cubic feet fridge is likely to be 43 inches tall, 19 inches wide and 20 inches deep. On the other hand, a smaller cubic-shaped model with a 1.7-cubic feet capacity is likely to have dimensions of 17 to 18 inches all through.
It’s worth mentioning that when it comes to size and capacity there’s no one-size-fits-all. It really boils down to how many things you want to store in the fridge and the amount of space available in your house.
Long story short, a compact refrigerator makes a great and reliable substitute for a full-size fridge. If budget and/or space limitations don’t allow you to have a conventional refrigerator then it makes a lot of sense to consider a mini fridge. That is especially the case for students living in a dorm room or if you are looking for a small unit that can serve your office, garage, man cave, home theater, rec room etc.
Just make sure you pick a model that performs nearly as well as a full-size fridge. The above guide will help a great deal as you shop around. We have outlined all the important features of the best compact fridge. Be sure to refer to them as often as you need.