The first step to choosing the best refrigerator for your kitchen is the choice between freezer on the top, or freezer on the bottom. Neither of these are the perfect ideal, but a side-by-side refrigerator gives equal access to both units. Often overlooked as a first choice, the best side-by-side refrigerator can also give you the best built-in look for your kitchen. And, although not as fancy nor as expensive as a French door refrigerator, they are often a more suitable choice.
Guide to Side-by-Side Refrigerators
- What is a side-by-side refrigerator?
- Advantages of a side-by-side refrigerator.
- Side-by-side vs French door refrigerators.
- Five reasons to choose a side-by-side refrigerator.
- Things to know about a side-by-side refrigerator.
What Is a Side-by-Side Refrigerator?
A side-by-side refrigerator has two full length vertical doors, which independently open up a refrigerator and freezer unit situated side by side. The refrigerator compartment will always be wider than the freezer compartment, and they often have factory installed ice makers and through door filtered water and ice dispensers.
What Is The Advantage Of a Side-by-Side Refrigerator?
Side-by-side refrigerators are a good fit for limited spaces because of their short door widths, and they don’t have a pull out freezer drawer. The freezer shelves stack like a typical refrigerator, so it’s easy to see, organize, and get at all types of food.
Other advantages are aesthetic. Their full length doors are quite elegant, and with no bottom freezer drawer, you get an uninterrupted contour. A counter depth side-by-side refrigerator can give you the best built in look of any refrigerator— and at an affordable price.
Side-by-Side vs French Door Refrigerators
These have a similar split door design with typical ice makers and through door dispensers, but key differences between them will help you decide which is better, a side by side or a French door refrigerator?
|Slightly wider right swing door||Front pull out drawers|
|Slightly smaller capacity||Slightly larger capacity|
|Freezer stack shelves||Freezer mostly pull out drawers|
|More bending on average||Refrigerator at waist height|
|Narrower shelves and more door bins||Wider shelves and more adaptable|
|Simple food organization||More complex organization|
|Better for tall objects and bin bottles||Better for party platters and dishes|
|Fewer freshness features||More freshnes features|
|More affordable||More costly|
Whereas the difference in door width is negligible, the average capacity of a side by side tends to be a few cubic feet less than a French door, and this may matter to some. Around 19 to 22 cubic feet is enough for a family of four, or roughly 4 cubic feet of usable space per adult, and 1.5 cubic feet per family member of freezer space is a good recommendation.
French doors are more likely to have humidity controls for both crisper drawers, a deli drawer with thermostat controls, turbo cooling, bottle chilling, air filters, twin evaporators, and multi airflow systems. For these features, they cost a lot more than side-by-sides.
Both types usually have an ice maker and a through door dispenser. These significantly increase the purchase price and energy costs, but there are a few models without these.
Five Reasons to Choose a Side-By-Side Refrigerator
- You love your freezer as much as your refrigerator.
- You have a lot of packaged or bottled items convenient for large door bins.
- You need more space for taller items.
- You don’t mind bending over to get at fruits and vegetables.
- You want an aesthetic look that is more built in and cheaper than a French door.
Things to Know About a Side-by-Side Refrigerator
Humidity controlled crisper drawers are a popular feature, but many side-by-sides only have adjustable controls on one of the drawers. Fruits and vegetables, however, should not be kept together, but humidity control is more important for leafy vegetables, than harder fruits.
Deli drawers for meats or dairy often don’t have an adjustable thermostat, so are in actual fact just snack drawers.
Spill proof shelves with raised border edges in the refrigerator are nice and less easy to break. There could be two to four shelves, but unfortunately extra shelves are difficult to get or very expensive.
Wire shelving in the freezer cuts the price tag, but glass shelves look much better. Freezers shelves are less adjustable, and on more affordable models the shelves are fixed.
Ice makers and through door dispensers are found on most models, so installation requires some DIY skill and a connection to a water source.The refrigerator water filter will need to be replaced every three to six months depending, but if the model comes with a bypass plug, you can use your refrigerator without a water filter, or connected to an alternative filtration option.
Reviews of The Best Side-by-Side Refrigerators in 2021
Our selection includes two of the best 36 inch side-by-side refrigerators, the best 33 inch model, a small side-by-side refrigerator, and a side-by-side wine and beverage cooler.
- Frigidaire 36 Inch Side-by Side Refrigerator - Best to Buy
- GE 36 Inch Side-by-Side Refrigerator - Best Value
- FRIGIDAIRE FFSS2315 Side by Side Refrigerator - Best 33 Inch
- Avanti 31 Inch Side-by-Side - Best 30 Inch Small Sized
- Phiestina Side by SIde Refrigerator - Best Wine & Beverage Cooler
Here are our top picks for the Best Side-by-Side Refrigerators in 2021
1. GE GZS22DGJBB Side Refrigerator - Best to Buy
This GE GZS22DGJ with a through door water and ice dispenser is a counter depth installation. Despite the smaller capacity, it has reasonable shelving options. It’s big enough for two to three people, so not exactly a family sized refrigerator.
Humidity controlled crispers
2 gallon door bins
Wide adjustable shelf range
2 glass refrigerator shelves
Accessible ice box
5 freezer door bins
Only top lighting
Freezer basket not so great
No deli drawer on standard model
For the price, this GE side by side refrigerator has some good features. The two humidity controlled crispers are good quality, and the shelves have a wide adjustable range.
The capacity of the refrigerator is 14.2.cu.ft., so it may not be suitable as a family-sized refrigerator. Two of the door bins are gallon-sized. The bins are also quite deep so small items are unlikely to fall out.
For this basic model, there is a dairy hatch box. Some models, however, come with a deli box or others may have a twin evaporator and turbo cooling. Available color options include the following:
The 7.7 cu.ft. freezer is a good compromise for the two glass shelves and the 5 door bins. On the bottom is a wire basket, but rather poorly designed which is unfortunate. There is 1 wire shelf in addition to two adjustable glass shelves which lend a bit of shine.
There’s a small sweet box above the ice bin at the very top. Additionally, there are also two nicely positioned door bins right above the dispenser unit. It takes an MSWF filter certified to NSF standards 42 and 53, and there are generic replacements available.
Most people find the dispenser and ice maker works really well. The biggest flaw is the lack of floor to ceiling lighting. The lower levels are poorly lit. However, this is a good looking refrigerator quite suitable for a small kitchen. If the features are all that you need, it shouldn’t let you down.
|Overall Score||7.4||Space utilization||7|
2. Ascoli ASBS2100EW Side by Side Refrigerator — Best Value
If you’re looking for a good value side by side refrigerator without the hassle of a water and ice dispenser, this Italian inspired Ascoli is a recommended choice.
Spill proof shelves
Gallon door bins
2 crystal crispers in freezer
Manual ice maker in door
Not well known
More lighting needed
Ascoli is a brand that is registered in Italy. However, Ascoli America is headed by two executives with previous long term experience with Haier and Whirlpool. You can register your product on their homepage and access customer service from there.
The correct dimensions of this refrigerator are 70.08 inches high without the hinge and 72.64 with full installation. The width is 35.83 in and 38.11 in with the doors open. The depth without the door is 27.80 in and 29.53 in with the doors — so it can almost be considered counter depth.
The nice thing about this refrigerator are the pocket handles and the quality look with glass shelves throughout. The freezer has two pull out bins like the refrigerator, and the shelves have a reasonable adjustment range.
Although the three upper door bins are gallon-sized, there is not much leeway to adjust them. There are no extras like a dairy hatch box, snack drawer, rapid chill, or an automatic ice maker.
For a really competitive price, you get all basic necessities and enough storage space for the size. If you don’t need all the extras, these Ascoli are a good choice. They look great, and there is no extra hassle to be had with an ice maker and dispenser.
|Overall Score||8||Space utilization||8|
3. Frigidaire Professional — Best Built In Side by Side Refrigerator
The Frigidaire Professional is a breath of fresh air when it comes to refrigeration. The freezer and refrigerator comes as two 19.0 cu.ft. independent units. You can install them side by side, separately, as a built-in unit, or as a stand alone installation.
32-inch wide units
Deli drawer in fridge
Soft freeze draw in freezer
3 dividers in humidity crisper
Water filter in-line
In more ways than one this Frigidaire Professional is unique — especially for the ample and equal storage space in both units. The refrigerator crisper bin has three dividing sliders, and it can be set to three different humidity levels. These are for fruits, vegetables, or in between for storage of both.
The deli drawer in the fridge is not temperature controlled, but the equivalent unit in the freezer is a soft freeze zone. The compact ice box and ice maker are right at the top.
The staggered door bin arrangement is both practical and aesthetic. In the fridge you can store gallon bottles and there’s an additional dairy hatch. A number of half sized bins in each unit are adjustable. The freezer has plenty of door bins suited to an array of bronze dinners, tubs, or packets.
If you never want to worry about refrigeration or freezer space again, this Frigidaire Professional is a unique and practical solution. They come well appraised, and you can even buy just a single unit instead of two together.
* Although still available online, this is a discontinued product.
|Overall Score||7||Space utilization||7|
4. Avanti 31 Inch Side By Side Refrigerator — Best Small and Compact
If you’re looking for a small-sized side-by-side refrigerator, there’s not a lot to choose from, but this Energy Star Avanti is a good deal. It can fit under a counter, and its upholstery look with recessed handles blends in very well.
Upholstery, inset design
3.3 cu.ft. refrigerator
2 Adjustable glass shelves
3 Door bins
Energy Star certified
Free standing only
This small side-by-side has similar features to a full sized model, and because it’s also suitable for long term storage, it’s more than just a mini refrigerator. Like a standard refrigerator, it has a crisper so you can neatly tuck away fruits and vegetables.
The fridge door bins are very handy and the freezer unit has two fixed shelves. There’s an adjustable thermostat for both units located inside the refrigerator.
The other advantage of this Avant is that it fits below a counter or it can be placed on a countertop, as some people like to do. It requires 5 inches of clearance space at the back and is not intended as a built-in refrigerator.
This is a true mini side-by-side refrigerator which also has a good amount of freezer space. It’s energy efficient, space wise, and you get a crisper drawer in addition to door bins. Apart from small kitchens, people also use these in studio apartments, AirBB rentals, small offices or holiday homes.
|Overall Score||8.1||Space utilization||9|
5. EdgeStar 30-Inch Built In Dual Zone - Best Wine & Beverage Cooler
A side-by-side wine and beverage cooler with dual zone settings and a low temperature of 38 ℉. The wine racks are spacious enough for Chardonnays and Pinots, and they have safety stoppers too.
Easy cabinet fit
Built-in or freestanding
38‒50℉ / 40‒68℉ zones
Chardonnay and Pinot bottles
No door locks
No wood shelves
There are several reasons why this two door wine and beverage refrigerator comes out tops. It’s an ideal size for many cabinet spaces and with a height of 33 inches, it’s a perfect built in size. The wine cooler shelves are spacious enough to take Chardonnay and Pinot bottles, although champagne bottles are a bit of a tight fit.
The wine cooler zone ranges from 40‒68℉ so it is ideal for either a mix of reds and whites, or as a single zone for either white or reds— which need a higher temperature of 65‒68℉. It can take 20 wine bottles, and 78 standard 12 oz soda cans in the general beverage compartment.The general beverage compartment ranges from 38‒50℉, so it isn’t going to give you super chilled drinks. The temperature is, however, lower than a standard wine refrigerator and not bad for champagnes and crisp white wines, which can also be chilled more in an ice bucket before serving.
This side-by-side wine and beverage cooler is the one that keeps most people the happiest. The lowest temperature is better than average, the wine racks are spacious, and it’s not noisy at all. A couple of drawbacks are no lock for either door, and the wine cooler doesn’t have wooden racks, but the polished stainless steel looks good too.
|Overall Score||7.6||Space utilization||8.5|
For single door wine coolers, or to know more about wine and wine storage, see our guide and reviews of the Best Wine Refrigerators.
Comparison Table for The Best Side-by-Side Refrigerators in 2021
Fridge / Freezer
|Shelving||Freshness > Extras|
|Frigidaire 36 Inch||16.5 / 9.0||2 glass |
5 bins / 2 gals bins
|Ge 36 Inch||17.5 / 10.9||3 adjustable, 1 sliding, |
3 gallon bins
|Turbo ice 10 lbs
|Frigidaire 33 Inch||14.2 / 7.9||2 glass shelves|
5 bins; 2 gals bins
|Avanti 31 Inch||3.3 / 2.2||2 glass shelves|
3 door bins
|Phiestina 24 Inch||20 wine|
|12 adjustable||Shelf stoppers
38℉ low temp.
The Best Style and The Least Hassle: Two Worthy Mentions
We have two niche recommendations that some people might appreciate: A side-by-side for those who want to show off a little, and one for those who are happy to do without an ice maker and a water dispenser.
Blomberg BSBS2230SS - Best Style
Blomberg counter depth side-by-side refrigerators usually sell as part of an appliances set, but they can be bought separately. These more high-end models have a smooth, stainless steel finish and they look very stylish on the inside as well. There are four high quality glass shelves and a chrome bottle rack, but no 1-gallon door bins.
They include freshness and performance features such as twin evaporators, two crispers which deploy blue light technology for longer food preservation, as well as a charcoal air filter and a negative ion generator.
Blomberg’s side-by-side is also Energy Star rated and manufactured with 85% recyclable components. For the value and style they offer, these refrigerators are also very reasonably priced, although a lot more expensive than the more everyday brands.
Whirlpool WRS315SNHM - Best Without an Ice Maker and Dispenser
There are a number of advantages to having a side-by-side without an ice maker and no water dispenser. These extras add to the price tag, cost more to run, and come with extra installation requirements for water connections. Ice makers also tend to be noisy, take up space, and are the number reason for repair callouts.
There isn’t a lot to choose from if you don’t want these two extras, but fortunately Whirlpool has a few select models with an optional icemaker. They’re very affordable and this model has 15.46 cu.ft. for the refrigerator and 9.61 cu.ft for the freezer.
The fridge has two crisper drawers, three spill proof glass shelves, three adjustable 1-gallon door bins, a fixed door bin on the bottom and a top hatch box. The freezer has five wire shelves and six door bins, so there’s a ton of available space in this side-by-side.
In our selection of the best side-by-side refrigerators, we’ve tried to include models that have the best freshness features, are energy efficient, and maximize space at affordable price points for the value they offer. If you’d like to add anything, or would like to ask a question, please use the comment feature below. We are always here for you.