If you are remodeling a kitchen and going high end, you may be asking yourself, what is a built in refrigerator and would it be a good choice. If you want that really modern, high end commercial grade look, a built in refrigerator may be exactly what you need.
Built in refrigerators are made to be built into an opening in the kitchen cabinets and they do not protrude from the cabinets. They do not have finished sides and the compressor is usually located on the top of the unit. These are available in larger sizes and are usually priced much higher than freestanding refrigerators. They are usually purchased for very expensive homes along with other high end appliances. (Before we continue: for more info on choosing a new refrigerator, check out our refrigerator buying guide!)
Built-in refrigerators are limited by cabinet depth, so they are available in greater widths and heights than freestanding refrigerators usually are (up to 48" wide and on average around 84" tall). They are available in premium finishes like stainless steel and black stainless steel, and you can also go the extra step by choosing a panel ready model: custom-made cabinetry and hardware are mounted to this type of refrigerator so it will completely blend in with your kitchen.
What makes a built-in refrigerator different?
Made to last longer than freestanding models - generally higher build quality
Permanent installation into cabinetry, with or without custom overlay panels
Compressor is at the top of the refrigerator rather than the bottom, and vents from the top
Freestanding models that do not need to be permanently built into the surrounding cabinetry can compete aesthetically with built in refrigerators: counter depth and panel ready models offer a similar look, often at lower prices.
There is another factor to consider: the difference between integrated and traditional built in refrigerators. Integrated refrigerators are designed to sit completely flush with your cabinetry, while most built-in refrigerators do protrude a small amount from the cabinetry - the doors stick out slightly while the case is completely covered. Integrated models may be freestanding
If you want to design a custom panel for your refrigerator, an integrated refrigerator may be the best choice since panels add a little extra thickness to the doors. An integrated refrigerator will truly help your refrigerator "disappear" into the surrounding cabinetry! However, they typically will still vent from the bottom and may not be made to as high of a quality standard as a true built in refrigerator.
Some people also look for column refrigerators and freezers: basically achieving a custom side by side refrigerator look by combining a built-in all refrigerator model with a built-in upright freezer model.
Built in refrigerators typically start at around $5,000. Dimensions are extra-important with this type of refrigerator since you are building a custom cabinet and need room for the doors to open properly, any trim kits, and so on. Good communication with the professional handling your kitchen renovation is crucial!
Several popular appliance brands offer built in refrigerators in their high-end lines, such as the GE Cafe, Professional, and Monogram lines from GE Appliances; KitchenAid (Whirlpool's high end brand); and Bosch. Specialty brands like Bertazzoni, Marvel, and Summit offer built-in models alongside more well-known luxury niche brands like Viking and Thermador. We'll review a top-rated built in refrigerator as well as an integrated refrigerator from Fisher & Paykel, an industry leader in integrated appliances.
One popular built in refrigerator model is the KitchenAid KBSD606ESS, a side by side model retailing at $9,399 in PrintShield stainless steel (read more about fingerprint resistant stainless steel in our article). This 36" wide model offers 20.8 cubic feet of capacity. It's 88.375" tall and 27.75" deep. It is not Energy Star rated, which is unusual for today's refrigerator market, and uses about 772 kWh per year. A more efficient model in the same size range will use about 100-200 kWh fewer per year.
It includes an egg holder and wine rack as well as a factory-installed icemaker with an exterior ice and water dispenser. It has two full-width crisper drawers, but they are not humidity-controlled. Overall, the interior design is pretty basic with edge-to-edge, adjustable glass shelves. The ExtendFresh Plus temperature management system uses separate thermistors in the refrigerator and freezer to maintain the ideal temperatures for each compartment.
The warranty covers two years parts and labor on the full product, six years parts and labor on the sealed system, and then six additional years on the sealed system for parts only. See manufacturer's full warranty for details!
Curious about integrated refrigerators? Fisher & Paykel is one of the few companies besides luxury niche brands like Viking or Thermador that is offering integrated refrigerators. One top-selling model is the Fisher Paykel RS36A72J1N, a panel ready integrated French door refrigerator that is also available in EZKleen smudge-proof stainless steel, model RS36A72U1N. The panel ready model is priced at $3,989, and with a depth of just 23.75", it will be truly seamless with custom panels installed.
This Energy Star rated model is 72" tall and 35.65" wide and offers 16.8 cubic feet of capacity. It adapts to daily use, only cooling and defrosting when needed, while ActiveSmart FoodCare uses a microprocessor, interior temperature sensors, independently controlled fans, and multiple air vents to quickly adjust the flow of cool air when the door opens or new items are added to the refrigerator.
Fisher & Paykel also covers this model with a two year parts and labor warranty plus a five year parts warranty on the sealed system.
We hope this helped you understand more about built-in refrigerators and other factors to consider when you're looking for a high-end design for your kitchen. As you can see, an integrated model tends to be a cheaper option than a true built-in, but there are other trade-offs when it comes to features and warranty coverage that are important to consider.
What do you love (or hate) about built-in refrigerators? Leave us a comment below - We'd love to hear from you!
(PS: Check out our Summit refrigerator reviews for some eye-catching integrated refrigerators at great prices!)
Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in December of 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy as of the publication date noted above.