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Fridge: net volumes can be wildly divergent from gross volumes, or not even published

Looking at fridges recently & finding the volumes of fridges don’t add up. We’ve been looking for one with a chiller drawer. None of the Choice recommended models with one fit our space.

Few brands publish the net volumes. Are they required to have them? Is there an Aus standard for this?
In one brand found it buried in the user manual, another no where on web, specifications or manual. Another says on the fridges compliance plate, on the fridge. Is that a requirement?
A rare case to publish, (praise to Mitsubishi), one freezer’s net volume was 45% of the gross. On two models, going from 500l to 574l increased the net volume by only 9l (Net 370l & 379l respectively). Both these fridges are close in external dimensions to our existing 442l fridge. The newer ones appear to have thicker insulation, so it really doesn’t make sense.
Please Choice, publish net volumes in the reviews. Gross makes no sense.

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I have just purchased a fridge.What i did was took some measurements went into a store and see which one’s would fit my space.Saw some of the Choice one’s at the store as well.I assume your doing this all on-line i would highly recommended to go to a store and see what’s available to you,and then you will know which avenue to take Good Luck

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Thanks for the feedback @Kanga2. I’ll be sure to pass this onto the product testing team.

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I believe you missed @Kanga2’s point. There is a mismatch between internal gross capacity, internal net capacity, and external dimensions. External dimensions are easy. Gross internal capacities are useless excepting for bragging rights since much of it is not usable. There is no predictable correlation between gross and net capacities, nor with internal capacities and external dimensions. Net capacity might not be 100% usable but will come much closer than gross capacity that includes lots of air space such as that around shelves that cannot be used in a practical sense.

Knowing the net capacities helps narrow down the units with the most usable capacity that will fit in a space. You will not easily measure net capacity with your tape unless you are happy to crawl around, and if every customer did that?

Better if Choice was able to publish it once, and would be best if manufacturers had to provide it in a standardised way to keep them from gaming it.

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External dimensions and volume I understand. Internal volume I understand. What is this net capacity of which you speak?

A gross figure with dimensions is probably the best way of expressing the size of a “fridge” in general terms, in my thinking, but I also understand where @PhilT is coming from as he explained in his post some of the problems of just advising gross capacity and what the limitations of just expressing gross capacity could be for a particular buyer.

Indeed some of the internal volume is lost space due to the way shelving is placed/used. As an example If a 1 litre bottle is placed in the “fridge” with 10 cm above it until the next possible shelf placement you could lose some reasonable cubic capacity…the capacity of the “fridge” may state 400 litre but perhaps some significant portion of that space could be “wasted” space.

When they state the gross capacity it is purely the internal dimensions not taking into account all the internal fittings such as knobs, protuberances, shelf rounding in corners, shelf placements, vents that may need to be kept clear of and similar design characteristics. Even the 400 litre capacity is not always 400 litres but is a close figure to what the “fridge” really has as a capacity. So for any buyer the only sure way to determine the usefulness of one “fridge” over another would be to conduct an actual examination of the choices but in the absence of that ability I do see the benefit of the “Net space” figure but how is it measured objectively for each customer’s requirements?

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As a consumer, I want to know will it fit in my space, what can I fit in it, & running cost. What I can fit in it is more likely: can I fit all the stuff I have now, or more or less. If you’re after getting a fridge to fit more, 'cos that’s what you want, aren’t you going to be peeved if you actually end up with less (usable) space?
It can be very difficult to judge. Net or usable volume is much more useful for comparison.

I’m looking at car rental at the moment. The cars have things like 1 large & 1 medium case, or 2 large & 1 small. That’s somewhat useful to compare across models. 265l gross is not. (FWIW, Back in history, I’ve worked next to people who have done those case loading volumetric tests. Interesting to watch, once :slight_smile: )

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My first proposal would be to take the flat loadable area of shelving to compute area, up to the first protrusion above it that inhibits loading to compute volume, for each shelf and drawer. That would be a max net capacity since most fridges require some air space atop each compartment for air circulation from the coils, but it is a lot closer than gross measurements accepting there are quite a few variables w/knobs and so on.

If that was required I could imagine the manufacturers might do a better job of improving usable capacity by reducing protrusions and unusable spaces -> better product design for us. As it stands they seem to focus on the headline gross capacity, and engineering targets (efficiency, and features like pull out adjustable shelves that often reduce net capacity because of their designs).

It is also common where a manufacturers’ (eg) 450, 500, and even 550 gross capacity models are the same cabinet (same external dimension), but that is easily filtered.

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Measurement up to the first obstacle above makes assumptions about the goods to be stored there.

The goods that go into a fridge are all shapes and sizes; bottles, packets, boxes, bags etc, some are stackable some are not. The spaces inside a fridge are also various; wide shelves, door shelves, racks, pockets, bins, compartments and drawers. Depending on:

  • your skill,
  • the sizes and shapes of goods (which may be different tomorrow),
  • the size and shape of chambers of the fridge,
  • how much air circulation you leave,

you will manage a wide variety of levels of efficiency packing your fridge on any given day.

I cannot see how you could get a measurement out of that mess that means anything or that anybody would agree upon. There are times when reality cannot be usefully coerced to fit desire.

I know one fridge whose purpose in life is to house a single beer keg. All but the bottom shelf have been removed, much space is wasted but the owner is perfectly happy. Yet by your proposed method this fridge would score highly as there are almost no obstacles but for most people it would be almost useless.

Hi @Kanga2, Part of the reason fridge manufacturers quote gross volume not net volume is because gross volume (which includes cooled areas inside the cabinet that you can’t get to - behind pieces of trim, ducting etc.) is what’s used to calculate the energy star rating during the fridges compliance testing (star ratings are calculated by dividing energy consumption by gross volume, with an extra loading for the freezer compartment in acknowledgement of the extra energy required by the freezer. And that’s why different size fridges may have the same star rating but vastly different total energy consumption).
Also, net or useful volume may not be all that useful, because it also includes volume you can’t realistically use, such as the airspace immediately under door pockets, and this will vary depending on how you load your fridge. Not to mention almost impossible to measure accurately as the insides of fridge compartments are rarely square - there’s lots of angled surfaces, rounded corners, nooks and crannies which would need to be dealt with to be able to provide this information.
Speaking of how you load your fridge, a better way to think about it may be to use gross volume as a rough indication of size, but make an assessment as to how a given fridges internal layout would suit the way you would use it in store. You may find some fridges of a given size are far more suitable for your needs than others. External dimensions are, of course, taken as absolute as they determine whether you can actually fit a fridge in your kitchen or not.

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The goal is a net capacity comprised of ‘usable boxes’, not how many of a particular thing you can put there. I doubt it is difficult unless one chooses to make it so.

Surface area of a shelf or bin that you can put something on upward to whatever is above it to block anything larger seems a normalised approach, and more informative than including all those spaces the fridge needs for itself, but that is not there for us to use.

That leads to filtering what and how we put in it. The issue came to mind initially when looking at a Mitsubishi fridge where the outside is quite small for the gross capacity!, the inside is large, but the usable space is not much in comparison because of how it is configured.

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Sadly it is difficult without trying as the volume of usable boxes above a given shelf depends on the size and stackability of the boxes. Reality is that much food is not in boxes, this simplification isn’t really very simple and takes us away from the real world situation too far.

In my example of the shelf-less fridge you could in principle stack densely up to the top and it would score highly on your scheme but this would be like the overfilled chest freezer, no air circulation and almost useless for getting to the stuff on the bottom.

@airedale has a better idea:
“Speaking of how you load your fridge, a better way to think about it may be to use gross volume as a rough indication of size, but make an assessment as to how a given fridges internal layout would suit the way you would use it in store.”

Emphasis added.

I thought you would get the simple explanation but apparently not. The word ‘boxes’ references usable cubic airspace, hence ‘box’.

Score? No, a metric. Regardless whether gross or net capacity the issue of air circulation for a fridge or freezer to cool properly is the same.

That is certainly the end point and gold standard to make a judgement on your own use, but since every shop does not have every brand the information would be useful to decide which shops to visit to see which brands and models might be your top suspects.

I guessed energy measurements had something to do with it. A quick google finds a different approach from a consumer web site.

… while the standard is designed around energy-consumption measurements, we take the time to measure the ‘usable capacity,’ which we feel is the real-world space that the consumer will realistically be able to use.
We calculate each model’s usable storage capacity by measuring and tallying the volume of each individual shelf, door bin, and drawer, while subtracting the volume taken up by parts such as ice makers, water filters, air filters, lights, vents, and other components. This leaves behind only the space that foods can occupy, called total usable capacity, which we note on the Features & Specs tab of our ratings….”

Unfortunately that market isn’t ours & I wasn’t going to pay to see more :slight_smile:

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I did quick generous measure of our existing freezer & crisper space as those appear where most space is wasted. Each were only about 50 - 50% of the gross space, meaning all the fridges I mention are within a few litres of the same net space. Not surprising really for being so close in external dimensions.

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so it’s futile measuring capacity if the shelf spacing is rubbish.
Next time I go to buy a fridge. I am taking a bottle of champagne, a turkey plate, a 3litre bottle of milk(empty of course) and a selection of largish plastic food containers. If I can fit the turkey plate across the shelf and also longways in, the Champagne bottle underneath and the 3 litre milk container into the door. It may be a contender!
Christmas and parties are the struggle for capacity days.
I currently use sturdy plastic bins to keep glass containers, and other jars under control. Cheese is less of a problem but egg boxes are a nightmare because you have to store 2 at some point in time especially if you live out of town. Why can’t the crisper be at eye height? If veggies were more visible then lazy people like me who hate rummaging around at the bottom of the fridge could just have a deep drawer to store the green goodies and they would be easily accessible and not so susceptible to composting. The manufacturer who comes up with a design your own storage space fridge would make a fortune. Naughty food down the bottom, healthy stuff up the top instead of the other way round!
They could just sell the fridge with no accessories and have optional stuff like full shelf, half shelf, chiller drawers, deep or shallow crisper drawers, can storage, bottle racks etc as extras. And another pet hate is flimsy shelves in upright freezers! Noooooo, I want shelves that slide not clip and bend and slip out landing frozen blocks of stewed plums on my poor toes. Even better still a cage to squish in those bags of peas and corn. Again I have resorted to plastic boxes to contain unruly frozen goods. Good luck with your search for the perfect fridge. I have yet to see anything which is actually all useable

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Two simple things that helped us with our previous 3 fridge purchases having got another two very wrong. We have moved often over ten+ years.

1/ we have always found for smaller fridges (eg 240l) removing one shelf has always been necessary to get the best balance of use with standard height jars and bottles. It also makes accessing items at the rear of a shelf easier by keeping lower and smaller items at the front.

2/ you need air space around each shelf and the stored items for the cold air to circulate. The right size fridge is one size bigger than you think.:thinking:
There is no value in filling every cubic centimetre jammed packed till nothing more can fit. Otherwise some stuff gets too cold and freezes and that at the front is slow to cool.

Optionally 3/ the amount of cold stuff you buy and keep in a fridge always increases until you have no more room left regardless of it’s surplus capacity. The more there is in the fridge the more time you spend standing with the door open shuffling stuff around until you can remove or find what it is you need. Perhaps there is some wise advice on how to minimise what you need to keep in a fridge?

Having to fit fridges into a variety of different spaces, generally it has been the outside dimensions that have been most useful. Noting that every fridge has different side, top and rear requirements for air space. These larger than quoted external dimensions are what we have used in a purchase as they are the minimum cabinet space requirements.

Visualising how the internal shelving works is not easy. Perhaps Choice could do as for the washing and drier tests. For these it includes testing with and weighing an optimal and jam packed load for each verses the name plate capacity. For a fridge, have a representative range of different sized items and stack each fridge according to the standard config till jam packed. Score 1. Take at least one of every different item out and continue until the contents have been reduced by one third. Score 2. Subjectively decide how easy it is then to access all the items in each fridge compared to the others of similar nominal volume.

Some fridges may rate better for larger bottles eg champagne, others cans of beer or coke, while some may best suit storage of Coles “ little shop” products and not much more?

While we all use a fridge differently and have varying notions of the right way to stack or store stuff. A standard test load should reasonably compare the effectiveness of the internal space of two fridges with similar quoted volumes? I prefer my sardines after opening kept In the fridge in the original tin with the lid open, if I can assist there?

P.s. there appears to be no consistent correlation between fridge total outside volume, internal capacity (volumetric efficiency), energy efficiency and price. Two similar outside dimensioned fridges could have very different internal volumes as noted. The one with the the greater volume may have thinner higher quality insulation increasing the cost, or just a larger compressor making it more expensive to run. So our current fridge which is deliberately free standing with no constraints was sized on shelf space, then star rating, and best purchase price by brand name/Choice guide. It will not fit many typical fridge spaces. We turned our old fridge space into a pantry and turned down the option of a home beautiful kitchen shoot.

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The answer to the question in the second sentence is in the first. No.

A standard test load is not likely to represent the way you use a fridge at all, better to stick to internal volume and look at how you use the space. Then pick the fridge that allows you to get best use with the things you put into it the way you put them in.

There are times when a standard is useful. For example in comparing supermarket prices from a standard basket. We know nobody buys that basket exactly every week but it still works as a measure of comparative price. There are times when the standardised approach doesn’t work. Fridge packing is one of those.

That’s actually a great idea for anyone buying a fridge (or a dishwasher). When CHOICE photographs the inside of a fridge we’ve tested we try to choose props that can show you which common items you can fit where - for example, frozen pizzas - if a family size frozen pizza will fit in the freezer you’ll see one in the photo. Freezer too pokey to fit one? It will be obvious by it’s omission. Likewise with bottles in door bins, and the various other props we use - they’re chosen to demonstrate usable space visually.
On a similar note, if you’re considering a side by side fridge then remember your shelves won’t be very wide - you may have trouble fitting large platters, celery, or anything that’s long and wide in one.

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How about a sign that says 6 X 1.25 litre bottles fit here :slight_smile: , Another sign that says we fitted a family sized 60 cm pizza here (anything less is not family lol), on this shelf we fitted two 35 cm tall bottles of wine and a six pack of coolers :slight_smile: and more descriptively “we could only fit a 15 cm long cucumber on this shelf” or something along those dimension lines to describe the spaces.

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