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How much space does your fridge freezer waste?

Full fridge freezer

Think fridge freezers’ claimed capacities will help you see which one will hold more food compared with another? Think again. We don’t think manufacturers’ quoted capacity figures paint an accurate picture…

So, you’re ready to buy a new fridge freezer. You know the type you want, the dimensions you need, the colour you prefer and roughly how much you’re prepared to pay.

You pick up the Argos catalogue, hit the shops or search online – or possibly do all three – to find the fridge freezer you want.

While you’re browsing, you might start narrowing down your options by picking models that offer more fridge or freezer storage space compared to others. Most retailers list the net capacity (in litres) of each fridge freezer to allow you to do just this. And if model X has a capacity of 290 litres and model Y’s is 250 litres, it surely stands to reason that you can fit more food inside model X.

But, we don’t think these capacity figures paint a true picture of the actual amount of food you can fit inside a fridge freezer, and they don’t really help you compare one model with another.

Fridge freezer storage claims don’t add up

Why do we think this? While manufacturers exclude bulky space-eating features like ice makers or water dispensers from their calculations, they can measure the fridge and freezer volumes with all of the shelves, drawers and door racks taken out. These minimal storage features might not seem to take up much room, but in our fridge freezer tests we find they soon eat into the storage space you can actually use.

Fridge-freezer-space graphicWhen we get a fridge freezer into our test lab, we leave everything inside it and measure the space that’s actually available for storing groceries. We want to know how much space you’ll really get on each shelf – without counting the space between the shelf’s edge and the door. And if you can only keep fruit and veg inside the drawer in the salad crisper area, we think it makes sense to just count the volume of the drawer, not the space around it.

As the illustration shows, the differences between what the manufacturers claim and what we find can be big – as much as 32% with one Samsung model. We find these differences exist, to greater or lesser degrees, across all fridge freezer brands. For example, Indesit’s worst offender has 30% less usable space than claimed. Bosch’s has 22% and Beko’s has 21%.

And even within a brand’s own range of models you get some with actual capacities that are closer to the claim than others. So although Samsung, LG and Hotpoint can have fridge freezer models that have 32%, 27% and 20% less usable space than claimed, they also have models with only 11% or 12% less usable space as well.

All in all, it’s a pretty confusing affair. Do you think fridge freezer manufacturers should make more realistic capacity claims?


Why are fridge freezers measured in litres?

Litres are a liquid measurement and are meaningless and impossible to visualize. Space should be measured as a cubic capacity. You can visualize cubic metres or feet but not litres.

I have noticed other solid items measured in litres and must only be to confuse the consumer.


Actually, litres and cubic metres are both measurements of volume. For me, the top priority is that all fridges and freezers should have their capacity measured in the same units, whether this is litres or something else.

I’m happy with litres, though that might be because I used litres on a frequent basis throughout my working life.


It might help the OP to know that a litre is the volume of a cube measuring 10cm x 10cm x 10cm. It doesn’t have to be liquid, but the amount of water that fits inside a 10cm cube weighs almost exactly one kilogram (from the original definition).

So I find it much easier to imagine both the volume and weight of food in a fridge/freezer in terms of litres and/or kilograms, rather that cubic metres and tonnes. Think of a one filled with 1kg bags of sugar and you won’t be too far off.


You live and learn !!! Thanks for the explanation Em.
Litres seem to crop up a lot more than they used to. When I wanted some storage containers, I found they were all measured in litres and not all of them gave external measurements. Not much use when you are trying to find something to fit in a specific space.
(Note to self…..must stop visualizing a kilo is just under a 2lb bag of sugar….. !!!)


Before metrication, fridge and freezer used to be given in cubic feet, and litres is probably more useful than cubic metres when making comparisons.

What is a 2lb bag of sugar? I can’t remember them. 🙂

lemon says:
18 August 2013

Estimating using 1Kg bags of sugar might be a bit off as sugar is 1.6 times as dense as water.
2 litre bottles of coke would be a better way to go.

lemon says:
18 August 2013

… 1 kg of sugar would only occupy approximately 0.63 litres (or 630 cubic centimetres).

Then again coke bottles are round so you can’tquite fit 30 coke bottles in a 60 litre fridge as there is some empty space between all the bottles.


I buy my sugar granulated. 🙂 In crystal or powdered form the S.G. of cane sugar is < 1kg per litre.

I was trying to think of an object the OP would be familiar with that is about 1 litre in volume. Go measure a bag, and you will see I am not too far out.


In the days when we could pop along to Comet and compare half a dozen fridge-freezers that would fit in the space available, it was fairly easy to look at the space available and decide whether it would suit our needs. Now that many appliances are bought online rather than in shops, it is more of a gamble.

Let’s hope that Which? gives us useful guidance on usable space. Expecting all manufacturers to be more honest is a bit of a non-starter in my view