Choosing the best refrigerators for dorm rooms isn't as easy as it seems, as there are a myriad of factors that complicate the decision making process. Unlike buying a fridge for a home or apartment, buying an appliance for a dorm room will require a keen eye for detail, a full understanding of your dorm rules and a savvy shopping ethic.
College is hard enough without worrying about keeping your food and drinks cold. And when you're in the middle of a hard core study session, the last thing you want to do is walk all the way down to the common area and spend an over-inflated amount of money on a single can of soda, bottle of water or even a snack. Keeping your favorite beverages and food items handy is just one of the advantages of buying a dorm room refrigerator, but it's certainly one of the most advantageous. As a former college student myself, I can't begin to count how many late-night cram sessions were fueled entirely by the contents of mini fridge in my dorm room.
What To Look For In A Dorm Refrigerator
Before stepping foot in an appliance store or typing anything into your favorite search engine, it is absolutely imperative that you read through your dorm rule book and find out if there are any regulations regarding fridges in the rooms. While most colleges allow students to have these, many will have limitations on size, shape and even electrical usage. The last thing you want to do is drop your hard-earned money on a great appliance only to find out that your resident adviser or dorm supervisor won't let you use it.
If you're unsure about the rules in your dorm, or if your dorm hand book isn't very clear, it's best to ask someone of authority.
Once you know what is allowed and what isn't, you can shop without worrying about breaking any rules.
Dorm Fridge Features
Did you know that even the smallest refrigerators often include freezer sections? So if you're the type who enjoys a late night serving of ice cream or even just an ice cube tray for cooler drinks, this should make you happy. Then again, not all of these smaller-sized appliances include freezers, so don't automatically assume that the one you're eye balling has one. It's best to double check if you're unsure, either by carefully reading the product description or even asking a sales person.
Of course there are many other features available, too. For instance, the unit my brother used all the way through college included a soda can dispenser in the door. I personally thought this was very handy, as he didn't have to waste any of the precious space in the "cargo area" on cans of Coke or Sprite.
Speaking of the door, most of these dorm refrigerators will include some sort of storage capacity in the door, but not all. So be sure to check before buying.
Also, be sure you know if your unit will require defrosting. I don't suppose there are too many of these out on the market anymore that require manual defrosting, but it never hurts to double check before laying down your money. Believe me, unplugging a fridge and letting the accumulated frost melt is tedious and messy - not to mention a great way to get your carpet soaking wet. I would highly recommend taking every precaution necessary to avoid one of these types and opt for something that either resists frosts or defrosts automatically.
One of the deciding factors when I made my purchase was the ease of cleaning. While almost all of them will be made of the same general materials, you'd be surprised at how difficult some are to clean. When I opened mine up, I could remove the wire shelf and clean the entire food area very easily, but some of my friends' weren't as convenient in this aspect. The last thing you want is a mold or mildew problem - especially in an area where you sleep. Speaking of which, also double check that the cleaning products you plan on using won't damage the inside or outside of the unit you're considering.
While generally very safe, here are a few things to keep in mind when you get your new dorm fridge back to your room.
1. Always provide adequate room for ventilation in and around the mechanical parts. Fridges use a variety of cooling fins, compressors, tubes and motors to keep your foods and drinks cool. These parts need free air to work properly, and could malfunction if not properly ventilated. Look in your user guide for specific guidelines, but as a general rule leave at least a few inches between the back of your new dorm refrigerator and the wall, and never stack stuff over the back of the unit. Doing so could make the internal parts wear out faster, reduce the cooling capacity and even cause a fire.
2. Never attempt to open any of the mechanical parts. All refrigerators use a very dangerous chemical to cool down the air (Freon). When sealed properly, Freon can reduce temperatures very quickly once compressed (these appliances work the same way that air conditioners do). But this chemical can cause some major health problems if released - sometimes even death. So under no circumstance should you ever try to modify, fix or intentionally break anything.
3. Always keep your fridge clean! College is a busy time in people's lives, and it's easy to forget about food that's been pushed to the back. But if this food becomes moldy, it could contaminate everything else. Heck, it could even contaminate the air your breath. This is especially harmful in this instance because unlike a house or apartment, in a dorm room you are sleeping only a few feet from your refrigerator.
Where To Buy A Dorm Refrigerator
Most appliance stores, department stores and even electronics stores will likely carry at least a couple different dorm fridges, though you can often find cheaper prices online. I won't bore you with a list of places to check, other than to say that these are more abundant than you probably realize. Heck, I even noticed that an office supply store in my city stocks them (of course the prices are very high, but it might be worth checking out if you're shopping).
By following these simple guidelines, you should be well on your way to finding the best refrigerator for your dorm room.