Tips for Choosing and Installing an Under-Counter Refrigerator

Updated on July 23, 2020
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I have been researching and writing about consumer electronics for over 13 years.


Free Up Counter Space With an Under-Counter Refrigerator?

If you live in a small space, an under-counter refrigerator can be ideal. These appliances are also perfect when you need a second refrigerator or one which you can place in a separate location. In-law suites, bars, game rooms, and the like are common locations for these smaller refrigerators.

Built-in models can be placed within the cabinetry just as a dishwasher would be. They can generally sit flush with the wall and will blend in with your existing cabinets. Some of them are built to function as a wine and beverage cooler while others function more like a traditional refrigerator.

Having a separate under-counter refrigerator for beverages and other frequently used items can also be handy for younger kids and for reducing the number of times your large refrigerator has to be opened throughout the day.

The only potential drawback to an under-counter refrigerator would be if you are adding it as a second refrigerator and you already have limited cabinet space. While you won't lose counter space, you would be sacrificing a cabinet. On this page, you can find a few tips for choosing one of these appliances.


What Is Special About an Under-Counter Refrigerator?

An under-counter refrigerator is compact, but unlike some compact refrigerators, they are built to sit flush to the wall. Because of this, they will not stick out in front of your cabinetry. This means they will look great and will not intrude on your floor or living space.

In addition, their height is right for sitting just under the countertop. You will not lose counter space or food preparation area.

Also important is the fact that their ventilation (front venting) allows them to sit in this more confined area without overheating or creating a fire risk.

Words of Wisdom for First-Time Buyers

Be sure you are looking at a built-in model versus a stand-alone model when shopping for an appliance that you want to use under a countertop or between cabinets. Stand-alone models will have the condenser on the back rather than in front on the bottom of the unit.

Buying Tips

When shopping for an under-counter refrigerator, you will want to consider a few things:

1. Freezer
Do you want or need a freezer? Not all under-counter refrigerators offer one, so you'll need to know up front whether it's a necessity for you. If you get a freezer, you will want to know if it offers manual or automatic defrosting and the capacity. The majority of these units will include the freezer in the same compartment as the refrigerator, but a few have a freezer that is separate so that you can access it without opening the door for the entire refrigerator.

2. Door Opening
You will want to consider which direction you want the door to swing open. Some models offer a reversible door that can be mounted to open either right or left depending upon your specific needs.

Some models will also have an open door alarm.

3. Use And Capacity
Some under-counter refrigerators are designed specifically for keeping beverages cool while others offer various door compartments such as bins to accommodate larger bottles and jugs and other compartments for vegetables and so forth. Some units are designed specifically for storing wine.

Knowing what you want to be storing in the refrigerator is critical in assuring that you choose one that offers the temperature range you need and the type of shelving desired.

Adjustable shelves and split shelves offer more flexibility to assure you can get the configuration you need. Certainly capacity matters and can easily be compared, but looking for the right type of shelving and measuring internal space can be even more useful.

4. Size
If you have a small space, you need to double check the outside dimensions of the refrigerator as compared to the space where you hope to place it. (H x W x D)

5. Other features
Having an interior light can make it much easier to see what is inside, especially toward the back of the refrigerator. External temperature control allows you to make adjustments without opening the door. Some of these appliances also provide more than one temperature zone.

If your appliance will be housed in a public or commercial area, having a factory installed lock can be particularly important.

6. Costs and Warranty
Certainly, if you have a budget it's important to consider the purchase price. It's also important, however, to consider the long term costs such as operating costs. This is generally in the form of energy usage. Any of these refrigerators should have an energy efficiency label that indicates the energy usage and, potentially, the annual estimated energy cost.

Shoppers should also be sure they know about warranty coverage in case of problems. Extended warranties are seldom recommended however since most appliances tend to fail during the first year while the standard manufacturer's warranty is still in place or after several years when any extended warranty has expired. In addition, the cost of repairs is frequently no more than the cost to purchase the extended warranty.

7. Finish
There are a variety of finishes available to assure your new refrigerator looks appealing in your room.


In most cases, installing one of these refrigerators is a simple process. Of course, it's always easiest to plan for one of these appliances during the building or remodeling process, but most of these units are standard cabinet width. Therefore, you need to measure your cabinets to identify the size space you have available.

It is generally a good idea to house your refrigerator so that it is not too close to any heat source such as an oven.

Once you've identified the space, you merely need to remove a cabinet, add any necessary trim, plug in the refrigerator, and slide it in place. You may need to adjust the feet to assure the refrigerator is level.

Below is a demonstration of a typical installation. Of course, the appliance you choose will come with a manual explaining the specific installation instructions for that model.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Christine Mulberry


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    • speedbird profile image


      9 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Never thought of an under-counter refrigerator, but I think it should supplement the main refrigerator. Anyway nice hub, voted UP and rated USEFUL


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