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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.

Go to John Lewis, if there is one handy, make your choice, then look on the internet. If you find a better price, and the seller has a showroom / shop anywhere in the country, ask John Lewis for a price match. It still supports JLP’s service, albeit at a lesser margin for them. We recently bought a fridge and cooker hood this way.

Thanks Malcolm. Unfortunately the nearest JL store is over 50 miles from where I live, so their shops have had little of my custom despite their good reputation. I am not going to make a special trip but might be able to combine the journey with something else.

I seem to remember some car manufacturers measuring the capacity of their boots with ping pong balls – in litres. So all the odd nooks and crannies were included, even though they were not generally usable space.
Our difficulty with fridges is that things get hidden behind other items, and you can’t organise diverse foods very well. Same in the freezer drawers where inevitably new stuff gets put on top of old, which then gets forgotten.
So whilst usable space is important, so is access to food. I would like to see proper (deeper)storage shelves on doors that carry food as well as bottles and small items, with consequently shallower shelves in the main body where you can see what needs using. The American-style 2 door fridge does this to some degree, but is too big for many kitchens.

thank you for your comment Malcolm,I totally agree with you I would find better shelving in the fridge door very useful especially for food stuff that dousnt need to be as cold ,as on shelves.
I seem to think when buying my new f/freezer,I had to buy a dearer model to get the best out of it ,I have paid a lot ,but still have a moan as to how much less room I have inside but being only 2yr old cant afford to change it .

Larry Gerschwitz says:
5 February 2014

I recently bought a new freezer that was supposed to be bigger capacity but as the old freezer was still working I couldn’t fit all the stuff from my old freezer into the new one, needless to say I’m not happy as the new one was much dearer 🙁

Ian says:
31 July 2014

I bought a fridge freezer in Curry’s this week. Comparing what I saw with what the labels said about storage capacity, I smelled a rat. A Samsung had a bigger claimed freezer capacity than the Hotpoint I was considering, but the drawers looked smaller overall. I didn’t have a tape measure so I pulled the drawers out of both and put them side by side. This seemed to confirm my impression that the labels were not giving the true picture

I ended up buying an Indesit which is internally identical to the Hotpoint I had chosen, but the Hotpoint was out of stock. Indesit was on promotional offer and 70 quid cheaper for what appears to be exactly the same thing bar the badge and other minor external cosmetics! It was not on display (even though this was a big store) but they had hundreds in the warehouse. This only came to light when the salesman thought I was about to walk after I didn’t go for the alternatives he suggested (like the aforementioned Samsung). Then it came out that Indesit and Hotpoint are the same company and the models are often shared and Curry’s sells things that are not on (or not yet on) display…

Anyway, my previous FF was a Hotpoint (17 years old) with claimed freezer capacity of 100L. I measured the usable storage spaces (internal drawer and compartment dimensions) and calculated 83 litres usable capacity – 17% less. Well I never. The Indesit comes out at 80 litres but 87 litres are claimed.

When I queried the discrepancy between what the labels said and what I thought I saw, the salesman told me that the way they are calculated is governed by law, as if to say it is totally standardised and above-board so the labels must be right and I must be wrong. Well clearly I was right and the law leaves enough wriggle room for significant dishonesty or it is just not being followed.

Astonishing as it may seem, I want to know how much stuff it will actually take, not a measure of the elasticity of the marketing exec’s morals.

So for once, I was glad I’d shopped in person rather than doing my usual online bargain hunt. A good result in terms of price paid and getting what I wanted.

Strangely, the bargain must-have extended warranty (or maintenance contract as they’ve been rebranded), which at £99 was a mere 33% of the cost of the fridge freezer, did not appeal despite a valiant attempt at Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt by the salesman.

I love the comment about fear, uncertainty and doubt being used to promote warranties. A familiar term and a familiar scenario but I had not made the connection before. 🙂

I believe that Indesit has owned the brand Hotpoint for some time.

jackie says:
3 August 2015

Looking at getting a new f/f. The curry one one offer at the moment looks ok on paper.(Beko CXFD825s (or w) It says 87 litre. Just found a bin on line that holds 87 litre. it measures 760H 520W 290 deep. this seems to fit with the sizes of the freezer except it is 210 less in depth!!!! Also looking at the bin makes me realize how little food i would be able to fit in. So it is worth seeing before buying.

Taztek says:
8 November 2015

What a good idea Jackie, a bin does give an excellent visual clue.