Things you should know before buying integrated fridges or freezers
The premise is a fairly simple one for integrated appliances, you take a standard appliance and modify it to fit into a kitchen unit and allow a kitchen door to be fitted to the front of it. This makes the appliance seemingly invisible as it looks to be just another door in the kitchen.
In an ideal world this is fine and gives no issue but, we do not live in an ideal world and some careful thought should be given to the notion while you are planning your kitchen because, after you fit machines like this you are often stuck with it for a long time.
For mre general help on all integrated appliances please see our guide on buying integrated appliances.
Do also be aware that there are a lot of own label brands when it comes to integrated refrigeration.
Cost Of Integrated
The first thing to bear in mind when thinking about building in refrigeration units is the additional cost.
The reason that integrated fridges and freezers are more expensive is that they are produced in lower volumes and tend to be a European thing for the most part so, a limited market to some degree.
Then you have that they require to have all the extra parts to fit a furniture door (this is how we refer to the outer wooden or formed kitchen door) such as additional brackets, sliders, clips and such to make it all work.
People also forget that the combined weight of the fridge or freezer door and the furniture door is well in excess of what a normal freestanding unit the same size would have so, the door hinges need to be beefed up to cope with that weight increase. It may seem of little consequence to many people but, this alone can add more that £20 per hinge to a fridge or freezer.
All these factors combine to the point where you end up with a far higher cost for an integrated fridge or freezer than you would have for a similar freestanding one.
After all that, for the actual owner, you then have to think that each door that you have to buy to match the rest of our kitchen units will also cost an additional amount, typically between £20 and £50 per door.
You can easily be looking at a price premium of several hundred pounds, before you even consider fitting costs.
All that said, most people will expect a new kitchen to last for many years, at least ten years and you need to be sure that, if you build in appliances, that they will also last that time so taking care choosing the correct products that will last that long and, installing them so that they will is hugely important.
You don't want to end up with your new kitchen looking pretty for only a short time.
From a service perspective the biggest problem that we see with integrated fridges and freezer is poor installation issues. Primarily, these are to do with the airflow allowed to the cabinets.
Installers often have a tendency to ignore the instructions and leave inadequate ventilation to the machines, the het builds up inside the cabinet as the warm air has nowhere to go or, there is no source of cool air to draw into to cool the unit or, both.
This leads to the compressor overheating as it has to run almost constantly to maintain temperature, which is often will not especially during the warm summer months, literally burning out from being overworked after a few years, if it lasts that long.
It is common to be telling a customer that the installation was iffy and that the unit is beyond repair leaving them with the only option of trying to hunt down a similar replacement to fit into the same space after only a few years. Of course, the kitchen is still absolutely fine, it's just the fridge or freezer that isn't.
If you can't find a direct replacement, you have a problem.
In short, take great care installing an integrated fridge, freezer or fridge freezer and make sure that the ventilation is as specified in the installation instructions because, if you don't, you could face trouble down the road.
Even if the machine is being installed by your kitchen fitter, check that it has all been done correctly, vents cut and so on.
Not ensuring the appliance is installed correctly can prove a costly error to make.
Weight & Door Hinges
As said above, the weight of the door is substantially higher than a normal fridge freezer and the door hinges have to operate many thousands of times in their life, many don't.
The two that we see a lot of are made by either Hettich or Ingol and both are okay, so long as you mind that not too much is placed in the door. Putting huge cartons of milk or fruit juice or other very bulky items in an integrated fridge door is not advised.
Simply, the hinges cannot take being overloaded given the weight that they are already carrying and these are quite complex hinges to allow the door to move as it must when the appliance is integrated.
Leaning on the door, kids swinging on them will destroy them in short order.
Cheaper integrated fridges and freezers, notably from the Far East, can have hinges that are cheap copies of the Hettich and Ingol hinges, they don't work and will break quickly. Often in weeks or months.
Servicing Integrated Fridges & Freezers
Servicing integrated appliances is not a lot of fun for most service engineers.
They take longer to get out, longer to get back in and often involve much messing about to get them all lined up again and, that's if the installation was all okay.
Even working on them is harder as they tend to be more "crammed" with less room to work on them which often only adds to the hassle of repairing them.
Due to this many repairers will charge more for repairs to integrated products, if they will repair them.
Replacing Integrated Fridges & Freezers
Thankfully, over the past couple of decades as dictated by the kitchen industry, the sizes of integrated fridges, freezers and fridge freezers have become far more standard and now there is not too much variation in them.
It is therefore usually relatively straightforward to fid a replacement fridge or freezer that will be the same size and will fit onto your existing kitchen. That said, this does not mean that the brackets and door mountings or hinges will be the same.
When you do eventually have to replace the appliance it can be not as straightforward as you might think it ought to be. Also, not as cheap.
Do You Really Need Integrated
Given the above we would urge you to think very carefully before buying any integrated appliance including fridges and freezers and most certainly specialist items like fridge and freezer drawer type appliances.
Are you really sure that they are good enough to last as long as your kitchen will and, if you do have to replace them, will you be able to do so without major work or expense?
In many cases we feel that the need for these sort of appliances is an unnecessary expense and whilst it may well look sleek when new, in that all you see is kitchen doors and not appliances, that there is a definite downside to owning them.
Of course the margins on these machines are higher so there is a vested interest for many retailers, especially kitchen retailers, to sell you on the idea but, we doubt very much that they will explain the cons as well as the pros of buying integrated.