Refrigerators' energy conservation has improved a lot since mandated standards were set in 1993 and 1998. Today's refrigerator-freezer models also offer a lot more convenience. You can still get the basic 18-cubic-foot, freezer-on-top model with wire shelves, but the most popular style offers 20 cubic feet of storage; adjustable glass shelves; meat keeper with temperature control; vegetable crisper with humidity control; ice-maker; and door bins.
Next in cost and convenience are models with the freezer located below the refrigerator (a very good option for people with bad backs) and 22-cubic-foot capacity. Side-by-side designs and water- and ice-dispensing "convenience centers" built right into the door add further appeal. Built-in refrigerator-freezers and commercial, stainless-steel models are top-of-the-line choices for luxurious looks or serious, high-volume storage.
How much refrigerator do you need? One rule of thumb says plan on 12 cubic feet for two people and 2 more cubic feet for each additional household member, but other considerations also matter. If you like to stock up during sales, or cook often for crowds, the more room the better. Side-by-side models are easiest to organize, but the smaller models have relatively narrow freezers. Make sure the model you buy can fit a frozen turkey or pizza! In all cooling sections, look for pull-out, roll-out bins and baskets that make it easy to see everything without having to dig around, squandering energy (yours as well as the refrigerator's!).
Beyond the main fridge, if you've got the room, a separate, under-counter refrigerator for soft drinks and a wine cooling compartment are entertaining options. If you're a serious entertainer, you may want to look into ice makers that fit into the space of a trash compactor and produce large quantities of ice daily.
In the next section, we will look at sinks and all of the various attachments you can buy disposals, water purifiers, and faucets.