Bottom Freezer vs. Top Freezer: Which One’s Better?

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Should a bottom freezer be your top choice? It depends. These expert tips will help you figure out which refrigerator is the best for you.

There are many things that factor into buying a new refrigerator. And chances are, if you’re in the market for a new one, questions like these are going through your head: What features are the most important? Which model is the most energy-efficient? Is stainless steel the best finish, or is something else better?

Perhaps the biggest dilemma of all is whether you should choose a fridge with a top freezer or a bottom freezer. Which is best? It turns out there isn’t a definitive answer; it depends on your needs and lifestyle. Here’s how you can decide what’s right for you. Plus: Are you storing these foods all wrong?

Do Top and Bottom Freezers Work Differently?

While they both keep your freezer items frozen, they do so in different ways. “Top-freezer functionality is relatively uniform across manufacturers,” says Kennet Johansson, an appliance merchant at The Home Depot. “These units feature a single compressor that cools the freezer, with cold air routed down to the refrigeration compartment through a series of vents or baffles.”

Bottom freezers, however, can work differently depending on the manufacturer. “Bottom freezers typically move air from the freezer compartment up to the refrigeration area through a series of fan ducting,” Johansson explains. “Some dual evaporator systems separately cool the refrigerator and freezer sections without crossover air.” Don’t miss these surprising ways you’re shortening the life of your refrigerator.

Which Type of Freezer is the Most Energy-Efficient?

Comparing energy efficiency, there is a clear winner. According to Orion Creamer, founder of the appliance company Big Chill, “top freezers offer a more energy-efficient option for people looking to minimize their environmental footprint.” However, if you prefer a bottom freezer and still want to prioritize saving energy, look for an Energy Star-rated appliance.

Is a Bottom Freezer More Expensive to Run?

Because a top freezer uses less energy, the operating costs are also lower. “The average annual cost to operate [a top freezer] is between $37 and $94,” says Johannson. “Bottom freezers cost slightly more to operate, with average annual energy consumption between $64 and $104.”

Which Type of Freezer has the Best Storage?

Most of the time, bottom freezers have more storage. “Bottom freezers generally offer larger sizes, better organization [with features like] pull-out baskets, and varied configurations and colors,” says Johansson. “Some go up to five doors.” So if you have a big family or just like to keep a good supply of frozen foods on hand, a bottom freezer is your best bet.

Learn why you should never wrap your leftovers in foil.

Do Bottom Freezer Refrigerators Have More Technological Features?

Bottom-freezer refrigerators are where the most category innovation is taking place. “New appliances offer [features like] a fourth drawer with soft-freeze flexibility, and others have lighting enhancements such as an entire back wall of LED illumination,” says Johansson. Other freezers feature smart technology. That all tends to increase the cost of an appliance. So if you’re looking to save money and tech doesn’t matter all that much to you, opt for a refrigerator with a top freezer. So, just how smart are “smart” refrigerators — and are they worth it?

Is a Top Freezer Easier to Reach?

Considering accessibility is important when making this purchase. “Ideal freezer location depends on how individual homeowners use their kitchens,” says Creamer. “For the home chef who would prefer to have fresh ingredients easily accessible, it is more convenient for the refrigerator to be on top and the freezer below. On the other hand, top freezers are more accessible for people who store heavy items (like that 30-pound Thanksgiving turkey) in the freezer.”

What Type of Freezer is Best for Small Spaces?

For an apartment or more compact kitchens, a top freezer is a better choice — hands down. Even if you don’t live in a small space, a smaller unit is more than adequate for people who don’t cook or spend too much time in the kitchen. “For those looking to keep food fresh with fewer bells and whistles, it’s a solid, conventional option,” explains Johansson.

What’s the Best Choice for Families?

If you have a family, a bottom freezer is probably a better option for several reasons. There’s plenty of storage, as well as other common features that can provide useful conveniences like chilling a bottle of wine in just a few minutes. (This may be very useful for parents.) Some bottom freezers even have a locking function, preventing little ones from grabbing treats like ice cream on their own.

The Best-Selling Top Freezer Refrigerator

And now for the question on everyone’s mind: Now that I know which type of fridge is right for me, which model should I choose? One of Home Depot’s best-selling refrigerators with a top freezer is the 20.4-cubic-foot Frigidaire model. It isn’t loaded with a ton of bells and whistles, and its $648 price tag certainly reflects that, making it an affordable option. But even better, it is well-designed, features plenty of inner shelving, and has a door that can be installed on either the right or left side.

The Best-Selling Bottom Freezer Refrigerator

If you want a fridge with a bottom freezer, the 26.2-cubic-foot French Door Smart Refrigerator from LG Electronics is one of Home Depot’s most popular. It has the all-important Energy Star seal for energy efficiency, and it’s WiFi-enabled, so this model can be controlled remotely through an app. It also features an outer ice/water dispenser and is available in either a light or dark stainless steel finish. And even though it has dual ice makers, you’ll still have plenty of room to store items in the fridge.

Plus: 6 Genius Tricks to Keep Your Freezer Organized.

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Amanda Lauren
A self-proclaimed "Jackie of All Trades. Marilyn of None," Amanda Lauren does everything including writing about anything lifestyle related for a number of websites as well as her blog, It's Amanda Lauren. Anything but lazy, she also has a podcast called Things We're Too Lazy To Blog About. When she isn't in front of her MacBook, she can be found on stage doing standup and sketch comedy or hosting red carpet events. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two dogs, Lulu and Milo.