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Consumer Reports rates best mini-refrigerators for dormitory rooms

August 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you have a child heading off to college, you may be thinking about getting a small refrigerator for your child's dormitory room. But don't just pick the first one you see. Consumer Reports just tested nearly 20 mini-fridges and found problems with almost all of them.

Consumer Reports just tested 19 mini-fridges, including ones from Danby, Haier and Kenmore, to find out which ones do the best job of keeping your food cool.

There are two basic types: ones with a separate freezer compartment and ones that have the freezer inside the refrigerator section.

Testers put thermocouples throughout the refrigerator section to measure the temperature. In the freezer section, thermocouples are put into packages of frozen spinach. Testers monitored how evenly each refrigerator maintains the temperature in both sections.

"Inconsistent temperatures affected nearly every mini-fridge," said Dan DiClerico, Consumer Reports. "In two-door models, the problem was worse in the refrigerator section, while in the other types it was an issue in the freezer."

Testers used an audio sensor to measure how noisy each fridge is. Some are much louder than others.

Energy efficiency is another area where testers found big differences.

"Some of these compact refrigerators cost nearly as much to run as a full-sized model, even though they only have about a quarter of the space," said DiClerico.

In the end, Consumer Reports found most of the mini-refrigerators tested didn't perform well. But testers did find one to recommend, a Frigidaire model that costs $220. Both the fridge and freezer sections keep their cool.

Consumer Reports says before you buy a mini-fridge for a dorm room, check the rules at your school. Some colleges don't allow fridges, and others require that you rent them from the school itself.

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