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Ten tips

By LAURA T. COFFEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


Keep your financial cool when buying a refrigerator

If you're in the market for a refrigerator, get ready to encounter a host of options regarding the configuration, size and features. Also, get set to save money on your monthly utility bill: The newest refrigerators use 30 percent less electricity than models that are 10 years old. Consider these tips:

1. Know your needs. Refrigerators cost about $100 to $6,000, depending on the options. Determine the size and freezer configuration that would work best in your kitchen, and pay only for extras you deem essential.

2. Consider your space situation. If you get a refrigerator with a freezer on the top or bottom, you'll need enough space to allow those full-width doors to swing open. If you opt for a fridge with the refrigerator and freezer located side by side, the doors will require less clearance but you may not be able to fit larger items on the narrower shelves.

3. Make energy efficiency a priority. Spending extra money on a refrigerator with greater energy efficiency ultimately will cost you less because you'll save on your electric bills over the life of the refrigerator. Be aware that most top-freezer refrigerators tend to be more energy-efficient than side-by-side models.

4. Just say no. Don't buy a refrigerator because it has a switch for an energy-saving mode. Despite the name, such switches have little effect on energy consumption.

5. Keep it simple. Decide whether or not you want extras such as icemakers or water dispensers. Such features increase the cost of the refrigerator and tend to create a higher risk of problems. In addition, manufacturers recommend that you change the water filter every six months, which can cost $20 to $40 plus shipping.

6. Inquire about zero-interest financing. Some stores offer no-interest financing for periods ranging from three months to a year, which can be a big help if you weren't planning to buy a refrigerator.

7. Think about your current refrigerator. How well did that brand perform? If you were happy with it, keep it in mind when you're looking to replace it. However, take the time to compare it with other brands and models.

8. Stick to your price range. Don't be swayed by a salesperson's pitch of higher-end models. If the price is too high, ask to see a less-expensive model.

9. Look it up. Before you buy, call the manufacturer or visit its Web site for a spec sheet or for answers to questions about the refrigerator's measurements, features and capacities.

10. Inquire about rebates. Many utility companies and manufacturers promote appliances that save energy. Ask the salesperson about any promotional offers, and call your utility to find out which models qualify for rebates. -- Compiled by Laura T. Coffey.

Sources: Consumer Reports (http://www.consumerreports.org) and Microsoft's eShop (http://www.eshop.com)

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