A COMPREHENSIVE BUYER’S GUIDE FOR UNDER COUNTER APPLIANCES

Choosing an under counter appliance can be a confusing and time consuming experience.

Our Comprehensive Buyers Guide include:

  • Identifying the right appliance for you
  • Pricing differences and potential cost savings
  • Which brands offer the best value
  • And much more

This is a long guide, so if you would like to have it in pdf format, you can download the 18 page guide immediately for free by signing up on the right sidebar signup (if you sign up, make sure to check your junk/spam email folder!).

Introduction

Throughout the years, a handful of appliances have helped to improve the lives of consumers all around the world. With a fridge, your items will always remain cold. A freezer is equally important and is responsible for keeping frozen foods frozen! All of these appliances are pertinent and each homeowners needs one or more. Unfortunately, some individuals live in a small dwelling or temporary housing. These individuals will be better served by an under counter appliance. Although they're smaller, the purchase should not be rushed!

Take a deep breath, step back and prepare to begin. Within this guide, you will learn everything you need to know to purchase a good under the counter appliance for your home.

under counter beverage cooler

What to look for when buying Under the Counter appliances

under counter fridge and freezer

First and foremost, you should take the time to learn about these items, their specifications and their differences. Although each fridge will behave like a fridge, they’re unique in a number of different ways. This rings true with all of the undercounter appliances. Below, you will find a breakdown of the most pertinent factors to take into account.

Price and Budget

Although price shouldn’t be the sole determining factor, it is still one that will play a vital role. With this in mind, you need to separate yourself from the mindset that price is incredibly important, because it often is not. Relying on a strictly set budget is highly recommended, but don’t be afraid to splurge, if you’re able to do so.

Knowing the brands

Before rushing in blindly, it is essential to explore the various brands. You will likely already be familiar with many of these companies. U-line, SPT, Electrolux, and Frigidaire are all companies, which manufacture these products. Selecting a reputable company is highly recommended, as this will help to guarantee that the company’s customer service will be worthwhile.

The Vacant Space

Under the counter appliances are specifically designed to fit into cubbyholes and vacant spaces underneath your counter. If you make an error in this area, you’ll regret it terribly and will need to enlarge the hole or send the item back. With this in mind, you should get the handyman of the family to provide you with accurate measurements. Once you’ve gotten these figures, you’ll know precisely what to look for and will be able to fill the void perfectly.

Where shall it go

At this point, you likely already have an idea where you want the appliance to be situated. You’ve gotten your measurements and are well on your way, but one glaring issue has yet to be addresses.

Where will the item be installed? Do you plan on installing the item outside on a patio? If so, you will want to make sure to choose a weatherproof undercounter appliance, which can withstand nature’s elements.

Weight

Although size is likely more important, you should take the time to examine the item’s overall weight, as well. If the item is excessively heavy, you’ll need to make arrangements and find assistance for getting it installed properly. Two individuals can easily handle the majority of these appliances, so a friend is recommended.

Scour through pictures

When shopping online, it is absolutely imperative to get an ideal of what the item will look like, once it has been installed. The easiest and most efficient way to do this is by scouring through pictures. In all likelihood, you should be able to find pictures from previous customers. If you like the overall style, you’re one step closer to making the right investment.

Difficulty of Installation

Although these appliances are different from their bigger counterparts, they’re typically installed in a similar manner. If you’re not a handyman and don’t want to hire a professional, you should opt for an appliance, which is easier to install. Otherwise, you will find the overall cost increasing, since you’ll need to pay someone to properly install the appliance for you.

Capacity

One of the most important factors that one needs to consider, when purchasing an under counter appliance, is the storage and cooking capacity. If you like to entertain a large number of guests, you will need a microwave that has a cooking capacity of 0.9-1.2 cubic feet and an oven that has a cooking capacity of 2-4.6 cubic feet. This will be enough space for a large turkey or ham, plus some additional space for a side dish.

kitchen island with under counter fridge

The under counter refrigerator should have a storage capacity around 3.2-5.5 cubic feet, which is enough space for a large variety of beverages. You will find several different sized wine coolers, which will hold around 18-30 standard wine or champagne bottles.

The full size kegerator will hold 1-2 standard sixth barrels, while the mini will hold a 5 liter keg. An under counter icemaker will hold around 10-12 pounds of ice, which is suitable for a large family and for entertaining guests.

The storage capacity should play a huge role in the decision making process, so be sure to consider your needs and preferences, before you actually make your final purchase.

Energy Star Rating

With the ever increasing electric and gas bills, you will definitely want to purchase an appliance with an Energy Star Rating. This is an international energy efficiency standard that ensures customers and the government that the appliance is capable of lowering high-energy bills and reducing greenhouse gases.

You can actually receive tax credits for purchasing Energy Star Rating appliance, so be sure to take advantage of these savings, if you do decide to purchase an energy efficient appliance.

Door Handle

While most undercounter appliances are equipped with a towel bar handle, you will find some that have a recessed handle. Many homeowners prefer the large handle, because it offers more convenience and feels sturdy in the hand, when they are opening the door. The recessed handle also offers a few benefits including flushness with cabinets and decreases the risks of bump injuries. This is more suitable for households with small toddlers and children running about all day long.

Reversible Door Hinges

If you are replacing an older appliance, you should definitely consider reversible door hinges. This allows you the option of choosing which side you want the door handle on. The appliance will have door hinges on the top left and right side, so you can switch the door from side to side effortlessly.

This feature prevents having to make additional physical adjustments to the storage space, cabinetry, and countertops. This option will decrease the installation time dramatically, so be sure to factor this into the equation.

Cleaning and Maintenance

When planning to purchase one of these appliances, you should remember that they will require some degree of maintenance. Of course, the precise maintenance procedure for each will vary significantly. Some under the counter appliances are equipped with self-cleaning functionality. Although this might increase the price slightly, it’ll also provide you with added convenience. Therefore, a personal choice will need to be made in this category.

Frost Free Operation

If you do not want to spend 1-2 hours defrosting your refrigerator, ice maker, or kegerator, you will require the frost free operation. This technology prevents ice buildup, which can potentially alter the appliance efficiency and function performance, if the ice is not removed routinely.

Most homeowners will select the frost-free operation, because they do not have extra time to spare defrosting their appliances. If you fail to repeat this task routinely, the motor will be forced to work twice as hard to perform efficiently. This will end up decreasing the appliance’s service life by several years and when considering the high price tag, you want to avoid this from happening at all costs.

wet bar with under counter fridge and freezer

Microwave Turntable

Almost everyone is familiar with the microwave turntable, since you can watch it operate through the glass door. The turntable is capable of holding a large sized microwave safe plate, which normally comes with the appliance. Its main purpose is to rotate the food around and around, so the energy is distributed evenly throughout the food. This allows the food to cook thoroughly, so there are no portions left uncooked and cold.

Some microwaves do not have a turntable, but instead they have an internal stirrer. This basically operates the same way as the turntable, but you cannot see it rotating. The stirrer is integrated into the interior top panel and it actually looks like a perforated disk. This allows the energy to be disturbed throughout the microwave, so the food is thoroughly cooked.

Many individuals seem to think that the turntable is more efficient than the stirrer, but this may be linked to the fact that they can visibly watch the turntable in action.

Customer Reviews

Even if a specific appliance perfectly fits your preferences, you should refrain from making the purchase, until you’ve read customer reviews. This is incredibly important and will make a world of difference. Previous customers have experience with the product and will know it better than anyone. If they were unsatisfied and unimpressed, there is a high probability that you will be too. Therefore, you should only purchase products, which have received majorly favorable reviews.

Warranty

The warranty is incredibly important, regardless of what you’re buying. When purchasing an expensive home appliance, the warranty is even more pertinent. The majority of these appliances will come with at least a 1-year warranty, but it is sometimes possible to find or buy extended coverage. Obtaining a lengthier warranty is always recommended, as it’ll provide you with many more years of peace of mind and reassurance.

Identifying the right Under the Counter appliances for you

under counter dish washer

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the important aspects of an under the counter appliance, you should attempt to find the best one for your particular situation. The factors above are pertinent, but they won’t make a difference, if they do not perfectly fit your personal desires and preferences. Below, you will find a list of things to consider, when attempting to identify the right appliance for your home.

  • Make sure the product fits your budget
  • The item should beautifully match your overall design and please your style to no end
  • Does the appliance perfectly match your lifestyle?
  • Be sure that the appliance will fit into your cubbyhole and that no gaps will be visible, once it’s in place
  • Does the product offer enough capacity to satisfy your entire household or party?
  • Is the warranty lengthy enough for your liking?
  • Is the installation process easy enough for your skill level?

The perfect appliance will completely satisfy each and every one of these categories. Remember that the best under the counter fridge for one individual may not necessarily be the best for another. Therefore, a lot of personal decisions will need to be made, in order to choose the best product for your individual situation.

 

Understanding the pricing differences for Under the Counter Appliances

Above, you learned that price is important, but it should not be the sole determining factor. Still, price can tell you a lot about a specific appliance. Generally, a more costly price tag will mean that the product offers added features or conveniences, which aren’t available with the less costly alternatives. The increased cost could mean one or more features have been added. These will be explored in greater detail below.

under counter wine cooler

Size

Undercounter appliances are specifically designed to be compact, but some are still bigger than others. A more costly option could mean that the item offers a bigger capacity. If you feel the need to be able to freeze or cool more foods and beverages, spending extra in this area is reasonable.

Energy Use

Some undercounter appliances are energy efficient and won’t cause your energy bill to soar through the roof. If you’re looking for ways to save money, spending more to obtain an energy efficient model is very wise. It might cost more initially, but it’ll pay off exponentially in the long run.

Automatic Defrost

Under the counter fridges, freezers and beverage coolers may be equipped with an automatic defrost mechanism. The addition of this feature will almost certainly increase the product’s price significantly. If you believe this feature is pertinent, paying a little extra for it is recommended.

Self-Cleaning

Some appliances are capable of cleaning themselves. This is generally the case with ovens. The feature will provide you with more convenience, but it is not necessary for many. Take note that the addition will elevate the price, so if you want to safe money, you should opt for one without it.

Brand to Brand

There is no denying that the price will vary from brand to brand. More reputable and better-known brands will almost always charge more for their products. This is acceptable, as long as the company’s products are better and their customer service is more responsive. The combination will deliver a better investment and added peace of mind.

Exterior Design

For some individuals, the exterior design won’t make a lot of difference. For others, it’ll be the most important factor of all. Enhanced aesthetics can certainly increase the price to some degree. If you feel that the style and design are worth it, you should not hesitate to spend extra in this area.

Length of Warranty

Last, but certainly not the least, you should remember that the item’s warranty will play a major role in the overall price. A 1-year warranty is fairly universal, but some companies do offer lengthier guarantees. They’ll often do so, as a way to hike up the price slightly. An extended warranty is generally worth it and should not be overlooked.

Maintaining your Under the Counter appliances

cleaning under counter fridge

Once you’ve spent a large sum on one of these appliances, you will want to ensure that it’ll last you for many years to come. This will require a little bit of hard work and diligence on your behalf. Although some of these appliances are self-cleaning, they’ll still require some degree of maintenance. Below, you’ll learn how to perfectly maintain under the counter appliances!

Cleaning the Exterior

Although it is possible to find appliances, which are different, the majority will have a stainless steel exterior. The good news is that this material isn’t overly complicated to keep shiny. You will want to make sure to routinely clean the front and sides of the appliance with water and a microfiber cloth. Be sure to dry it thoroughly with a dry cloth, so no watermarks will appear. It is also possible to use a little dish washing liquid for difficult to remove dirt.

Defrosting

If you own an under the counter freezer or fridge, without automatic defrosting, you will need to do it manually. In order to remove the ice and frost, you will need to unplug the freezer and grab some towels and a bucket. You can speed up the process, by adding hot water to the freezer’s interior, using a blow drier or scrapping the ice off of the surface. By properly sealing the freezer’s door, you likely won’t need to defrost the unit very often, which is definitely good news.

Clean Condenser Coils

All refrigerators are equipped with condenser coils, which are responsible for heat absorption and transfer. These coils will become clogged with dust and debris, so the homeowner will have to routinely clean them. If you fail to maintain your refrigerator, by not cleaning the condenser coils, it will not operate efficiently. The clogged coils can also cause the motor to run harder, which will actually cost you more and decrease the appliance’s service life.

Just remove the bottom or rear grill to access the condenser coils. You can utilize a broom or vacuum to clear the dust and debris away from the coils. When you get done, just replace the grill back onto the refrigerator and the task will be complete. You may need to repeat this process 2-3 times a year, but now that you know how to do it properly, you should not face any issues, when it comes to cleaning the condenser coils.

Removing Calcium Deposits

Some appliances are prone to calcium deposits. Removing these unsightly blemishes is absolutely imperative and not too complicated. Using a combination of distilled vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda is usually very effective. You’ll also need some paper towels and an old toothbrush. With patience and diligence, you will be able to remove the calcium deposits and your fridge or icemaker will return to brand new!

Professional Checkup

Some appliances require professional maintenance. This is especially true for those that utilize Freon. Any appliance that keeps something cold most likely utilizes Freon. Without this integral chemical, the appliance will not be able to generate enough cold air to keep your foods and beverages cold. Therefore, you will need to schedule yearly visits or contact a technician, once the unit begins to lose its luster.

Microwave Cleaning

You will have to clean your microwave routinely, since mishaps will happen frequently. While most of the food residual will just wipe away with a damp cloth, occasionally the food bits will become burnt and impossible to remove. In order to clean the microwave properly, you should use a soft cloth that has been dampened with glass cleaner. Just wipe the interior and exterior clean, but make sure that you do this at least 4-5 times a week or accordingly.

To remove stubborn food bits, you can place a cup of water with a bit of vinegar on a microwave safe plate. Sit the cup in the center of the microwave and let it come to a boil, this should loosen the hardened food, so you can just wipe it away.

Conclusion

All in all, purchasing, owning and maintaining an under the counter appliance can be complicated, timely and will require diligence on your end. Above, you have found a thorough list of everything you need to know to purchase and maintain your appliances.

It is highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with all of this information, as it will prove to be exceptionally helpful in the future and will help to protect your investment for many years to come.