A noisy refrigerator can be a real pain in the neck. In a combined kitchen and living room, it can fill the whole room with its sound. Its humming can make watching TV or relaxed reading impossible. A loft apartment faces similar problems. Particularly in a one-room apartment you will not be very pleased with regularly recurring refrigerator noises, least of all when you want to sleep. Falling asleep and sleeping through the night is much more difficult with such an annoyance, especially if you are one of the people sensitive to noise.
Simply buying a new fridge does not solve this problem.
Newly bought appliances can turn out to be unexpectedly loud refrigerators. Sometimes they even annoy their owners until they are desperate enough to replace them shortly after. After this bad experience, the noise level will take the first spot on the list top purchase criteria. Next time, this will be the first thing you check.
The following quiet models are worth a look in this case:
Quiet 2-door fridge
The Walsh WSR31TS1 is a very quiet refrigerator that according to a seller operates at only 42 dB. It is a small fridge of 3.1 cubic feet (cu ft) probably best suited for single households.
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Quiet fridge with less than 45 decibels
The Midea WHD-113FB1 is another quiet mini refrigerator. Its noise level is given to be below 45 dB. With its capacity of 3.1 cu ft it is a good choice for singles or small households.
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Quiet French Door refrigerator with only 45 decibels
SMETA HC-767WE French Door refrigerator
This French Door refrigerator by SMETA has a noise level of 45 dB, which makes it one of the quietest family-size fridges you can find. With its capacity of 20.66 cu ft it is quite spacious. The freezer capacity is 6 cu ft. To top it off, this French door refrigerator includes an ice maker. check on Amazon
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Reduce noise with LoDecibel™ Quiet Operation
various LG refrigerators
LG boasts a roster of refrigerators equipped with LoDecibel™ Quiet Operation. This feature promises to make refrigerators work much quieter. There is a wide range of different fridges from LG with LoDecibel™ Quiet Operation. All those who are not satisfied with a mini refrigerator but want a full-blown fridge, should take a look at LG models. You can find everything from top-freezers to side-by-side fridges and French door refrigerators.
Example of a LG refrigerator with LoDecibel™ Quiet Operation: check on Amazon
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What to consider when buying a quiet refrigerator
First of all, when choosing a quiet fridge, you should try to find concrete information on the noise level, of course. The noise level is given in decibels, more precisely in dB (A). It may not be possible to find information on the noise level for all refrigerators on your shortlist. However, such information would be crucial, as this makes refrigerators comparable.
To be able to assess what is quiet, just from looking at the numbers, you need a guideline. In general, a sound level of less than 40 dB (A) is considered quiet for a refrigerator.
Some people still feel annoyed by a 39 dB (A) or 38 dB (A) refrigerator. If you yourself are a noise-sensitive person, you goal should probably be to aim for an even lower noise level.
How can it be that a refrigerator with less than 40 dB (A) is still perceived as annoying?
There are various sources of noise in a refrigerator. The main one in most refrigerators is probably the compressor. It is responsible for the typical, rhythmic buzzing and humming. Some units, however, have a compressor that is so quiet, that other noises come to the forefront and become predominant.
As an example for this, dripping sounds can be mentioned. The explanation behind these sounds is the flow of the refrigerant. Such noises are often described as bubbling or gurgling.
Refrigerators are often equipped with various functionalities that can cause further noises.
A no-frost functionality is quite popular and widespread among modern fridges. This functionality necessitates a fan and a defrost heating. A running fan will be audible, as you can imagine. But even the defrost heater can be responsible for some noises like dripping water or the sounds of falling ice.
A multi-zone functionality in the refrigerator means that different compartments inside the fridge have different temperatures, i.e. there are various temperature zones. This feature also brings with it additional fans. Thus the multi-zone functionality of the refrigerator can lead to additional noises. Usually, there is a particular compartment for vegetables, in which temperature is kept at 32° F ( 0° C ) and air humidity at around 95%. Storing vegetables this way is supposed to make them stay fresh for a longer time and to slow down their spoiling. Some fridges also have a meat and fish compartment in which the temperature is between 32° F and 35.6 °F (0° C and 2° C) and the air humidity is kept at around 50%. These conditions are said to be favorable for fish and meat and to make them last longer. Another zone that may be included in a fridge is a drying compartment. A humidity of 40% is supposed to create ideal conditions for packaged food.
In contrast to the disadvantageous functionalities (in terms of noise), one feature that can help lower the sound level is an inverter compressor. This compressor is able to run at variable speed and adapts its performance to how much energy the refrigerator currently needs. As a result, the compressor does not always work at full capacity, but sometimes just runs slowly and therefore more quietly. Inverter compressors are also familiar from air conditioners.
The particular type of refrigerant can also affect how loud the refrigerator is. The refrigerant is a medium that can be either fluid or gaseous and flows through the refrigerator. It is needed for the cooling cycle. A refrigerant that requires higher pressure is more demanding on the compressor. This makes the compressor work harder and louder. The refrigerant isobutane / R600a is said to have this property.
Due to energy saving regulations or increased environmental awareness, energy-saving compressors are increasingly being used in refrigerators. Energy-saving compressors or motors are usually also quieter. However, the compressor may have to run longer at a time.
Concluding, one can say that a refrigerator with less than 40 dB (A) is quiet. However, if you are a noise-sensitive person, you should probably choose a unit with a significantly lower noise level. The reason is that a reduction by 10 dB (A) means that you perceive the noise level as only half as loud.
When looking at purchase criteria for a quiet refrigerator, energy consumption certainly comes up at least second. Unlike other electrical appliances, the refrigerator is plugged in day and night and works 24/7. Thus it is no big surprise that your fridge’s energy consumption will be quite significant. Therefore, you should take a look at the power consumption per year for the refrigerator you have in mind. Usually electricity consumption is given in kilowatt hours per year, abbreviated as kWh/a. Comparing different models of fridges with each other as to their power consumption is also of importance.
The no-frost and multi-zone functionality mentioned above can drive up energy consumption. Environmentally conscious and thrifty people might take this into consideration and prefer a quiet fridge without these functionalities. Thereby they also avoid the noises that may come with these features, such as fan sounds and breaking ice. People who buy seasonal products and consume a lot of fresh food may profit less from a no-frost or multi-zone functionality, anyway. These people will mostly use up foods within a short time frame, without even giving them a chance to start rotting. Thus, there is no need to store large quantities of vegetables or meat in the fridge for days, anyway, such that no-frost and multi-zone may not be that big of an advantage.
The next point may have nothing to do with the inherent energy consumption of the fridge, but is still important with regards to energy consumption: Thick layers of ice in the refrigerator increase the power consumption. That is why regular defrosting is important if you do not use the no-frost function.
The ideal refrigerator is different for everyone. What it should be like depends on
- how large your household is
- whether you do one big shopping trip once a week or go shopping every few days
- what share of your food needs to be stored in a refrigerator
- if and how much frozen goods you buy or if you freeze food yourself
- how important energy efficiency is for you
- and how much space you have
To determine how much capacity your refrigerator should have, is often advised to start with 3.5 cubic feet (about 100 liters) as a base capacity and then add another 1.75 cubic feet (about 50 liters) per person. Alternatively, you can of course just look at your previous refrigerator. You will know how well you managed in terms of storage space and based on that you can make adjustments up or down. Singles will of course have very different requirements than a family when it comes to capacity.
In case you stumble across a giant fridge that it is currently on sale, you may be thinking “one never knows…” and really be tempted to buy it. But be aware that the power consumption will be higher than with a smaller device. The follow-up costs you incur over the years may mean that it’s no good deal after all. Choose the size wisely. Consider it also if you do not want to cram your kitchen.
Type of refrigerator
If you look for a quiet refrigerator, you will notice that there are different types of fridges.
Fridge freezers are quite common and popular. This type of refrigerator integrates a freezer compartment into a conventional fridge. The freezer compartment can be located in the upper or lower part of the refrigerator. Those with the freezer compartment at the top are called top-freezer refrigerator. If the freezer compartment is at the bottom, it is called a bottom-freezer refrigerator. In general, it is preferable to have the freezer at the bottom, as there is a natural temperature difference between the top and bottom of a fridge, or generally, any space. Warm air rises to the top, cold air sinks to the bottom. Thus the temperature in the lower part of your fridge is naturally lower. Keeping freezing temperature at the top of the fridge may therefore prove to consume somewhat more energy. Some of fridge-freezers allow the temperature to be set separately for the refrigerator compartment and for the freezer compartment. Often, the refrigerator can be switched off completely while the freezer can be left running. This is useful for the times you go on vacation. But there are also fridge freezers in which the temperature of the two compartments is linked. Thus they cannot be switched off separately.
Besides the fridge-freezer, there is also the pure refrigerator, which does not have a freezer compartment. If you already own a large freezer, this may be the refrigerator you have been thinking of.
Side-by-side refrigerators are also very popular. They look luxurious and offer an incredible amount of storage space. These two-door refrigerators are closely related to the French Door refrigerator. The difference is that in the French Door refrigerator, the freezer section is located in drawers in the lower part the refrigerator. These extend across the entire width of the refrigerator. With the side-by-side refrigerator, the freezer compartment is usually contained in one side of the refrigerator.
Moreover, the mini fridge or beverage refrigerator is another type of refrigerator. This small fridge often has a noise level of 0 decibels. Therefore it is sometimes called 0 dB refrigerator. What this means is that it is a completely silent refrigerator. Usually these silent fridges are absorption refrigerators.
A recent development are counter-depth refrigerators. These fridges are designed to match the depth of your kitchen counters to avoid the awkward sticking out to the front.
Apart from that, refrigerators can also be classified based on the technology they use. There is the compressor refrigerator, the absorption refrigerator and the thermoelectric refrigerator.
Household refrigerators are generally compressor refrigerators.
Another point to consider when choosing a refrigerator is its width. A side-by-side or French door refrigerator is of course much wider than a single-door refrigerator. What you choose may depend on the space you have available in your kitchen.
Special functionalities of refrigerators have already been mentioned above.
One of those is the no-frost functionality, which is intended to spare consumers from regular defrosting. Ventilation and defrost heating prevent ice from building up on the walls of the refrigerator. Annoying manual defrosting could be a thing of the past.
The multi-zone functionality of the refrigerator means that different compartments of the refrigerator have different temperatures or humidity.
The main compartment of a refrigerator usually has a temperature between 35.6° F and 46.4° F (2° C and 8° C). The special compartments often have a lower temperature.
For vegetables, the temperature is set to 32° F (0° C) and the air humidity to approximately 95%.
A temperature of 32° F to 35.6° F (0 °C to 2 °C) and a humidity of 50% are deemed favorable for meat and fish.
Dried goods and packaged food are placed in the drying compartment, which has a humidity of approximately 40%.
Some refrigerators are also equipped with an inverter compressor. This regulates the speed of the compressor. Continuous power adjustment goes hand in hand with quieter and more energy-efficient operation of the refrigerator.
For long-lived and comparatively expensive electric appliances, such as refrigerators, taking manufacturer’s warranty into account not stupid at all. Particularly if you find a quiet fridge for which the warranty is quite generous, this is a clear plus.
Trying to take all the different criteria for a good fridge into account, you may feel overwhelmed. It can be quite difficult to find a model that meets all the criteria. All in all, you will have to find a balance.
How to set up a fridge the right way
Another point that should not be neglected: How the refrigerator is set up and how safe of a stand it has. The correct placing of the refrigerator is of great importance, not only for its functioning, but also for the noise level.
Correct placement requires to keep a minimum specified distance from the back and the side of the fridge to the walls or the surrounding furniture. You should also make sure that enough air can reach the refrigerator from below. Good ventilation is important. The reason is among others that the fridge emits some warm air. A build-up of heat should be avoided.
How does a fridge work?
The refrigerator works based on a cooling circuit.
Actually, the inside of the refrigerator is not cooled, but warmth from inside the refrigerator is transported outside. The initial warmth inside the fridge is explained by the normal room temperature, but also by the warmth of the food that is put into the refrigerator.
A little more detailed, it goes like this:
In a refrigerator, there is a pipe system with several parts that runs mostly inside the frigde’s housing, but also on the back of it. A refrigerant flows through this pipe system. One part of this system is the evaporator. At some point, the refrigerant is fed into the evaporator, which is inside the fridge. There, the refrigerant absorbs heat and becomes gaseous. The refrigerant absorbing heat means that the interior of the refrigerator gives off its heat. Consequently, the temperature inside the refrigerator drops.
Now the absorbed heat, contained in the refrigerant, hast to be transported out of the refrigerator. First, it goes into the part of the pipe system that runs on the outside of the fridge. The refrigerant, which is gaseous now, flows to the compressor, which increases the refrigerant’s pressure or compresses it. This heats up the refrigerant even further. The reason is that higher pressure always goes hand in hand with higher temperature. This step is necessary in order to make the temperature of the refrigerant exceed the room temperature. Only then will heat balancing occur. This means that the temperature of the refrigerant and that of the air surrounding it will equalize. For this reason, heat from the refrigerant must be emitted into the air. This happens in the condenser.
The condenser is the part of the pipe system that follows after the compressor. It is on the outside of the fridge. This is where the refrigerant condenses, releasing heat, which means that it becomes liquid again. Thus, in the end, the warmth or heat is released into the environment.
Now, for the refrigerant to conduct its next cycle in the fridge, a few more things happen. In order to further reduce the pressure of the refrigerant, it is passed through a throttle (for example an expansion valve). The pressure drops and the refrigerant emits even more heat (gets even colder so that it can absorb more heat later. After it passes the throttle, the refrigerant is back in the evaporator. The refrigerant, now in liquid form, returns into the inside of the refrigerator. There it again absorbs heat and transports it outside, and the whole cycle starts over.
In all this, a thermostat regulates the temperature in the refrigerator and ensures that the compressor is switched on and off regularly.
What may be interesting to know: In principle, a refrigerator works like an air conditioning system.
Some people may have asked themselves why it is not possible to cool a room in summer by opening the fridge. The reason is this: The compressor and the condenser, i.e. the parts that give off the heat, are part of the refrigerator and thus in the same room that you want to cool. The heat that your improvised air conditioning system – your open fridge – would absorb is immediately released back into the room.
An air conditioning system, in contrast, consist of two parts and the unit that contains the compressor is placed outside the house. It is called the outdoor unit. The case is a little different with a portable air conditioner. This type of air conditioner leads warm exhaust air to the outside via a hose. So, it is not released back into the room, either. Only portable air conditioners without a hose promise to achieve this feat, i.e. too cool the room without directing warm air outside – a claim which is thus not very convincing. Their effectiveness may be akin to that of an open fridge.