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Refrigerator vs mini-fridge | Appliance Comparison Guide

Mini-fridge vs Refrigerator

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While refrigerators are popular appliances in homes, mini fridges are becoming a trend in modern homes and offices.

Both are used in cooling and preserving items. But which will best fit in your space is the reason for the refrigerator vs mini fridge debate.

To help you decide which appliance will cater to your needs and be compatible with your space, we’ll delve into the mini-fridge vs refrigerator debate.

Let’s find out the differences between a refrigerator and a mini fridge.

What Are the Main Differences between A Refrigerator and A Mini fridge?

The main difference between a refrigerator and a mini fridge is in their sizes.

Mini-fridges, also called compact fridges, are designed to fit in small spaces such as dorms, offices, hotel rooms, and under the counter of small kitchens. Mini fridge sizes typically range from 1.7 cubic feet to 4.5 cubic feet.

Full-sized refrigerators, on the other hand, are larger and more spacious. The sizes of standard refrigerators range from 20 to 32 cubic feet. You can find them in residential kitchens and commercial centers such as restaurants.

The second main difference between a refrigerator and a mini fridge is their functionality.

Refrigerators have both a freezer (for storing frozen items) and a fridge compartment (for cooling items), so they're more powerful cooling devices than mini fridges. While mini-fridges function at higher temperatures, so they can’t keep icy foods iced like refrigerators.

Since it’s a matter of size, we’ll observe both appliances individually to help you decide which will both be great for cooling your items and a better fit for your space.

What is a refrigerator? A refrigerator is a large kitchen appliance used for both cooling and freezing foods. Refrigerator dimension ranges from 65 to 72 inches tall, 23 to 36 inches wide, and 24 to 35 inches deep due to their several orientations.

Refrigerators are typically a fridge and freezer combo. The fridge compartment cools perishable foods and other items by maintaining its temperature between 32 and 50 °F (above the freezing point of water). While the freezer compartment maintains its temperature at around -3 and 5 °F (below freezing point) for freezing items such as ice creams.

Because of their fridge-freezer compartments, refrigerators are very versatile and provide a lot of storage space. They are also powerful appliances and they get cold very fast: usually, it’ll take a refrigerator 2 hours to get cold after plugging it.

Though refrigerators and fridges are used interchangeably (including in this article), they’re different appliances. Technically, a refrigerator has freezer and fridge compartments for freezing and cooling, while fridges are designed to only cool items as they don’t have freezer compartments.

What is a mini-fridge? A mini-fridge (sometimes called a compact or portable fridge) is a small fridge designed to fit in small spaces that standard fridges and refrigerators can’t fit in.

Mini fridges are built for people to store cold drinks, fruits, and snacks in their bedrooms, dorm rooms, (home) offices, bars, and hotel rooms, etc. Because of their small sizes, some of the portable units can be taken on camping trips or kept under the counter of small kitchens.

Regardless of their small sizes, some models are large; reaching capacities of 100 liters for storing your favorite beverages, wines, and some cold snacks. Mini fridges don’t have a freezer compartment, so they’re not your go-to appliance for preserving frozen foods.

While a mini fridge can cool perishable food items, it can’t do that for a long time. It’s advisable to store such items in a mini fridge for not more than 2 – 3 days.

It’s also important to note that the space-efficiency advantage mini fridges have, they lack in energy-efficiency. However, they don't lose as much cold air as full-size refrigerators when opened when compared.

What are the advantages of a refrigerator over a mini fridge?

The advantages of a refrigerator, when compared to a mini fridge, are that it’s a powerful versatile appliance with large storage space.

Versatile appliance

When compared to a mini fridge, a refrigerator offers better versatility in that it allows the storage of a variety of items. Any food or item that can be preserved by refrigeration can be stored in a refrigerator.

It’s safe to say refrigerators are 2-in-1 cooling units as they come with two compartments: a freezer (for freezing frozen items such as ice creams and frozen beef) and a fridge (for cooling soups, snacks, raw foods, and other perishable foods).

Mini fridges don’t have freezers, so they only keep drinks and snacks cold.

Large storage space

Refrigerators are way larger than mini fridges, hence they have larger capacities.

The dimension of a 20-inch refrigerator is between 67 and 70 inches high; 30 and 36 inches wide; and 29 and 35 inches deep. This can cater to the needs of a family of four. And it will allow you to cool and freeze veggies, whole chicken, frozen beef, ice creams, and soup. Plus you can place containers that won’t fit in mini fridges.

A large mini-fridge of 4.5 cubic feet (127 liters) measures 32 inches high, 21 inches wide, and 23 inches deep. This comes with racks and shelves and is enough for one person living in a dorm to store up to 100 beverage cans or 27 bottles of Bordeaux wine bottles.

Powerful appliance

When compared to mini fridges, conventional refrigerators can preserve items for a longer time.

First, standard refrigerators use between 300 to 800 watts; making them powerful enough to keep many items refrigerated despite temperature fluctuations. This is unlike portable fridges with 50 to 85 watts.

Full-sized fridges can store frozen foods such as raw meat, prepared foods, bread, etc., for up to 3 months. This is opposed to storing perishable foods like ground beef or prepared meat in compact fridges for only 2 to 4 days.

More consistent temperatures

When compared to a mini fridge, a standard refrigerator has a more dedicated circuit that makes it able to maintain a consistent temperature and withstand temperature fluctuations. Mini fridges are not powerful enough to withstand the effects of fluctuating temperatures.

Longer lasting

When compared to mini fridges and other home appliances, refrigerators tend to have a lengthy lifespan.

The lifetime expectancy of standard refrigerators is 13 years whereas mini fridges are not expected to last more than 5 years. This is because mini fridges are built with cheaper components than full-sized fridges.

What are the advantages of a mini fridge over a refrigerator?

The advantages of a mini fridge, when compared to a refrigerator, are that it’s an affordable space-efficient appliance that’s portable and saves energy.

Saves space

The reason mini fridges were developed in the first place is so everyone can chill with a cold brew and some snacks anywhere and anytime. For this reason, mini fridges are designed with a focus on space efficiency.

And unlike conventional fridges that are bulky and can be found mostly in spacious residential and commercial properties, mini-fridges are compact to hold a few beverages in small spaces like hotel rooms, offices, home bars, bedrooms, and dorm rooms. They can be installed under the counter in homes with tiny kitchens and limited space.

Affordable cost

When compared to standard refrigerators, mini fridges come at cheaper prices.

The cost of a mini-fridge ranges from $30 to $800. Although there are portable models that cost over $1,200, they still don’t compare to full-sized fridges that cost around $500 and $10,000.

Portability

A mini fridge will be a worthwhile investment if you need a fridge to serve you as you host friends in your garden on the weekends.

First, it’ll cost too much to get another full-sized refrigerator. Secondly, a mini fridge will be a better fixture in your patio than a standard fridge since you’ll be storing drinks and snacks and not raw foods.

And finally, your mini fridge can refresh you as you watch TV or fit in your car when you go camping.

With standard fridges, you don’t get such flexibility and portability.

Saves energy

When compared to conventional refrigerators, mini refrigerators require less energy to run. This is due to their small sizes and their ability to lose less cold air when opened.

However, they’re not so energy-efficient since they use too much electricity in comparison to full-sized models.

Which One is More Usable in the Kitchen between A Refrigerator and A Mini Fridge?

Refrigerators offer better versatility as they can both freeze and cool a wider variety of foods than mini fridges. Since refrigerators are a combination of two appliances – freezers and fridges – they can store more food items.

They can preserve raw foods such as ground beef, frozen foods such as whole chicken and ice creams, and other foods such as dairy and soup. Their size advantage also means they have more racks, shelves, and compartments for better organization.

And if you’re asking, “Is a refrigerator the same as a mini fridge?” The answer is ‘No,’ they’re different appliances.

A refrigerator is a large appliance with freezing and cooling compartments for storing food long-term or for immediate consumption. While a mini fridge is a compact fridge for cooling drinks, snacks, and instant foods in rooms with limited space.

appliance comparison

What foods can you store in a refrigerator?

If you want your foods to stay longer, these are the following prepared foods and produce in your refrigerator;

  • Homemade jam or jelly
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Summer squash and zucchini
  • Soy sauce
  • Poultry
  • Frozen meat
  • Citrus fruits: limes, lemons, and oranges.
  • Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, leeks, rhubarb, cabbage, spinach, okra, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, greens, celery, Bok Choy, and peppers.
  • Ripe fruits: avocados, plums, mangoes, pears, apricots, honeydew melons, papayas, and nectarines.
  • Maple and chocolate syrup
  • Ketchup
  • Cakes
  • Fruits: pineapple, grapes, cranberries, watermelon, cherries, apples, and berries.
  • Beet
  • Mustards: Dijon and horseradish
  • Mushrooms
  • Dairy products
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Fresh corn
  • Root vegetables: parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas.

Here are different uses for your refrigerator. Also, there are produce you should avoid storing in a refrigerator. They include;

  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Bananas
  • Winter squash: acorn and butternut
  • Persimmons
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes

What foods can you store in a mini fridge?

Mini fridges aren’t as versatile in the kinds of goods they can preserve, so here are the items you can store in your mini fridge;

  • Red and white wines
  • Nuts: almonds and cashews
  • Bread
  • Water
  • Yogurt
  • Beverages: milk and juice
  • Pasta
  • Noodles
  • Pizza leftovers
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Hummus
  • Chocolate
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Packaged goods
  • Desserts
  • Eggs
  • Fruits
  • Salads
  • Beers

Can a refrigerator and a mini fridge be paired together in a kitchen?

Yes, you can pair a refrigerator and a mini fridge in a kitchen. While you store your prepared foods and perishable produce in your refrigerator, you can store your canned drinks and red or white wines in your dedicated beverage cooler (which is also a type of mini fridge).

What are the instances where you can use a refrigerator and a mini fridge together?

Since a refrigerator is a large appliance for cooling and freezing groceries and prepared foods, you can install it in your kitchen for easy access to your supplies during cooking. Here’s how to use a refrigerator.

Mini fridges, on the other hand, are portable cooling appliances, so they can sit in your living room, home office, bar, bedroom, patio, and anywhere in the home for quick access to your canned drinks, bottles of wine, fruits, and snacks.

What are the instances where a refrigerator and a mini fridge should never be used together?

If you’re not a wine enthusiast or someone who drinks cold beverages often, you may not need a mini fridge in addition to your standard refrigerator. You can simply keep your snacks and fruits cool in your refrigerator in the kitchen.

What to Consider when Buying A Refrigerator and A Mini Fridge?

Should you get a full-sized refrigerator and store a variety of items or a mini-fridge to get easy access to your favorite drinks?

These are the factors you should consider when making such a decision.

What type of fridge should I get?

There are different types of refrigerators based on style. They are top-freezer, bottom-freezer, side by side, and French door models.

The top-freezer model is the most common and least expensive style. They have a small freezer section above (at eye level) the chiller compartment which isn't roomy enough to store frozen items.

Bottom-freezer fridges are slightly bigger and more expensive than freezer-on-top models. Their freezer section is below the chiller, and they offer more room for storing frozen items; however, you’ll have to bend to access your items.

Side-by-side models are good for narrow kitchens as they have two small doors that open without taking up much space. This refrigerator provides equal storage for both the freezer and the fridge compartments as they’re split down the middle.

French door models are the most expensive as they combine both side-by-side refrigerators and bottom-freezer models. The freezer lies in the single bottom section.

That said, there are different types of mini fridges based on sizes and technologies. When considering sizes of mini refrigerators, we have portable, cube, mid-size, undercounter, and minibar mini fridges.

A portable mini fridge mostly uses thermoelectric technology for cooling beverages, and it’s best for road trips and dorm rooms. They also consume very little electricity (as little as 12 volts).

A cube mini fridge is the most popular compact fridge, and it’s larger (28 to 59 liters capacity) than portable units. Although you may not be able to carry them in trucks or cars, you can easily move them around without help.

Mid-size mini fridges are larger (80 to 96 liters capacity) and more energy-efficient than cube models. And under-the-counter models are the largest mini fridges (having capacities reaching 99 to 127 liters). These units can be used at home as well as in commercial centers. And finally, minibars are designed for only serving beverages: although some can store snacks.

What fridge size will fit your kitchen?

The size of your kitchen will determine whether you’ll get a refrigerator or a mini fridge. If you have a very tiny kitchen with limited space to install a full-sized fridge, you may opt for a mini fridge. But if you cook a lot and have the space to accommodate a standard refrigerator, then go for it as it’ll serve you more.

How much should I spend on a fridge?

Mini fridges (except beverage coolers) are cheaper than conventional fridges. You can get a good mini fridge between $200 and $300, while good full-sized refrigerators cost around $2,000 and $5,000.

But keep in mind that mini fridges are limited in their versatility. Plus they aren’t as powerful and durable as their full-sized counterparts. So it won’t make much sense to spend so much on a mini-fridge since they last for only 3 to 5 years.

Which appliance is good enough for me to use?

When choosing between getting a mini fridge and a refrigerator, you should consider what you want to use the appliance for and how often you’ll use it. The way you use your device also determines how long it’ll last.

If you cook a lot of frozen foods and store items for long-term use, a refrigerator will be the best option. But if you live in a dorm and you only need a cooling agent for chilling drinks, fruits, and snacks, then a mini fridge will be a better option. But keep in mind that the more often you open your compact fridge, the more you engage its compressor, and the shorter its lifespan will be.

What Are the Best Brands for Refrigerators?

That said, the five best brands making the best refrigerators are Danby, GE, LG, Frigidaire, and Whirlpool.

Danby

Danby is a reliable brand if you’re looking for budget-friendly refrigerators that don’t compromise on quality. Their fridges offer exceptional performance and can fit in small spaces. Also, their fridges are easy to use and have beautiful designs.

GE

GE is another household name making some of the best home appliances. Their fans love their products because of their durability and stylish designs. The refrigerators also come with lots of extra features to make them competitive.

LG

LG is one of the most reputable names making quality electronics. So its refrigerator units come with some of the most beautiful designs and high-tech features. Regardless of these features, they’re budget-friendly.

Frigidaire

Frigidaire is also another popular name that’s making the best refrigerators. Their models are energy-efficient and reliable. They have both mid-priced and expensive units that are all low maintenance.

Whirlpool

Whirlpool is one of the most popular brands making the best fridges. Their products’ strong points lie in their durability. They can last a long time without repairs, and they’re energy-efficient. Whichever fridge orientation you need, you can get in a Whirlpool.

Not all refrigerators are good for you. We've put together a list of the top refrigerator brands to avoid.

What Are the Best Brands for Mini Fridges?

The five best brands making the best mini fridges include Haier, Midea, NewAir, Avanti, and GE.

Refrigerator vs Mini-fridge

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