I'm building the refridgerator niche in my new kitchen. What's the
appropriate gap to have on either side? I was going to make it 1/2" on
either side, but am now wondering whether a larger gap is needed for
venting or for aesthetic reasons.
Many thanks in advance,
1/2 inch is tight but enough if thats all your cabinet plan allows.
If you make it wider then go up to the next standard width in case the
next homeowner wants a wider fridge, otherwise its wasted for any
future fridge. As for the depth it should be about 3 inches deeper
than the rated depth so that the door can swing and because the power
cord will prevent a full push in, 33 inches deep is common. It can
still draw plenty of air from underneth and above.
Big fridges come in either 36" or 33". Just make it that width. The
fridge is usually 1/4'-1/2" less wider anyway. When I did my kitchen,
I enclosed my 36" fridge with panels on the side and a 36"cabinet on
top, They usually are more concerned with the top clearance than the
I can tell you it is real frustrating when you find that the opening is too
small somewhere for getting the refrigerator in. If everything is real plumb
and square you can get by with a very close fit but I like about an inch on
each side for maneuvering room.
If you dont own the frige yet and want to save forever in electric
costs line the enclosure with foil faced R 7.2" foam insulation up to
R 28. I bought the most efficent 19.5 cu ft frige I could research at
energystar a few years ago, it was a sears, it also had no back coil
that I wanted. A subzero is also easy to imbed in foam. My energy use
is the less than the hyped 6" super insulated SunFrost. Keep enough
room to get your fingers in to clean and velcro a piece of trim for
airtight seal. If you have a coil on the back it may not cool right,
even with a bottom coil a open space on both sides at the bottom to
the front or the side is needed for enough new air to run it properly.
The little sears vented the heat out the front so I was only concerned
with enough air volume. 3-3.50 a month was my last test at 12.75kwh
with conservative use, but all day use. What you plan into this can
save you alot 10-15 a month, add it up over 20 years, and it ups
An interesting potential energy saving concept for a refrigerator with a
bottom fan-cooled condenser would be to have a vent grate on the bottom
to a basement or crawlspace. Block it in the winter so that the
refrigerator will help warm the kitchen, and open the floor and block
the front opening in the summer so that the refrigerator doesn't heat
the living space. BUT... this may not meet building code requirements
and the refrigerator warranty be void if the coil doesn't have
sufficient fan forced cooling.
My opening is 36.5 with a fridge that is 35.5W. That leaves 1/2" on
either side, which looks fine. I would not leave larger gaps, as
then it looks ugly. And you could probably go down to 1/4" per side,
but it makes it harder to move the fridge in and out.
Along with width, I strongly recommend looking at counter depth
fridges. They can give a close to built-in look, for a fraction of
the cost. I just installed a Kitchenaid one. All that sticks out
and is visible is the stainless door. Compare that to the typical
deal where 3 inchs+ of the fridge plus the door sticks out and you'd
never want that again.
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