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- Hisense's Bottom-Freezer Refrigerators are ideal for small kitchens where space is at a premium.
- My partner and I installed the fridge in our small New York City apartment to put it to the test for the past year.
- We love having the spacious fridge at the top and the freezer at the bottom; it makes accessing the food we use most much easier.
- Hisense fridges come in several sizes and are currently available at Lowe's for $899 to $999 depending on the model.
17.2-cubic-foot Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator (small)
I've hated the fridge in my apartment ever since my partner and I moved in nearly three years ago. It was too small, made by some company I've never heard of, did not adequately cool things, and was likely at least 20 years old.
We cook a lot, and were getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of storage space in our old fridge, having to kneel down to get potatoes, and never being able to find that sauce we were looking for in all that clutter. So after years of lusting after shiny new stainless steel fridges, we finally got one from Hisense.
We chose this brand for a few reasons:
- Most models are small enough to fit through the narrow doorway into our tiny New York City kitchen (as well as all the other doorways it had to pass through along the way).
- They have a decent 17.2-cubic-foot capacity, on average.
- They have the freezer at the bottom instead of the top, which is a design I've always liked for its convenience.
- They're relatively affordable for the size and quality.
- They look sleek and modern with their stainless steel finishes (especially when compared to our old dingy white one with its '70s-inspired faux wooden handle).
Now that we've used this fridge every day for about half a year, I've pulled together our impressions of the Hisense's fridges.
Dimensions and design
Hisense makes several bottom-freezer fridge models. I tested the the 17.1 cubic-foot Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator (HBM17158SS) model, which is currently out of stock. However, you can find slightly larger 17.2 cubic-foot models available in the same design. Here are the specs for the HRB171N6ASE model.
The freezer is located at the bottom instead of the top. If you primarily use fresh foods and don't look in your freezer too often, this is an ideal setup, as the foods you use most frequently are located right at eye level and easily in reach. The freezer has two compartments so you can store larger items in the bottom drawer and smaller ones in the top.
The fridge is tall at about 70 inches in height and slim at 31-inches wide, so it can fit in small kitchens. It requires just 33 inches of space to fit through a doorway for installation.
The door is reversible, meaning you can install it so that it opens to the left instead of the right if need be. You will need a Philips screwdriver and an 8-millimeter socket wrench to do the job.
Getting a new fridge into a small New York City apartment is never easy, but the process went as smoothly as can be expected. Our building's maintenance man helped us bring the fridge up to the sixth floor in the elevator on a large dolly cart.
We chose this fridge in part because it is actually slim enough to fit through the elevator door, the entrance to our apartment, and the kitchen doorway. Most fridges are simply too big, but this one fit in the elevator and our apartment's main entrance easily with a few inches to spare.
We couldn't get it through the kitchen doorway while it was still in the box, so we cut the box open in sections with a box cutter until it was free. We removed the protective Styrofoam and plastic wrap to start wiggling it through the doorway inch by inch.
Then, we moved the fridge slowly off the Styrofoam and plastic base to free the wheels up. Once that was done, we rolled it into place and plugged it in.
Next up: handle installation. We found the handles safe inside the fridge, read the instructions, and broke out the included Allen wrench to start installing the handles. It was very easy to do: We lined up the handles with the screws on the front of the fridge, located the hole in the handle, and inserted the Allen wrench to tighten the screw.
A few twists of the wrench later, and the handles were attached. If you need the door to open in the opposite direction, you can switch it using the included kit and the instructions. We did not need to switch it, so we didn't try it.
We removed the rest of the protective plastic on the fridge and the tape they used inside to secure the drawers and shelves, and finally, the fridge was ready to fill up with food. The entire set-up process only took half an hour.
Inside the fridge
The fridge has three adjustable glass shelves inside and six heavy-duty plastic shelves in the door. You can move them around to suit your needs, though you are somewhat limited in the adjustments you can make, because of the grooves you need to slot the shelves into for stability.
There's also a spacious crisper drawer with two sections where you can house your fruits and vegetables. You can adjust the humidity of the drawer with a simple slider that opens or closes holes. You do have to pull the whole drawer out to access what's inside, as opposed to opening one drawer, and that means you'll need the fridge door open wide enough to pull out the drawer.
The fridge has a 12.1-cubic-foot capacity, which is a big upgrade over our previous small and ancient fridge. We were able to put a 1.53-liter Tropicana orange juice bottle and a 1-liter bottle of Coca-Cola in the bottom shelf of the door. In our old fridge, that simply wasn't possible, so we always had to squeeze tall bottles into awkward spaces or make them lie down and risk a spill. You can also fit a bottle of wine or Champagne in there for chilling upright, which we did for New Year's Eve.
The numerous shelves in the door also make it easy to store smaller items like sauces as well as eggs and butter so you can save space for larger foods inside on the three big glass shelves. We put our many different sauces and jams on the door shelves, and it has been a revelation. We can finally find the hoisin sauce without having to move things around frantically while the tofu burns.
As for negatives, we found that you can only fit a full gallon of milk in the fridge if you remove one of the interior glass shelves entirely and make do with two shelves instead of three. We ended up deciding to buy half gallons from now on instead of losing the extra space created by having all three shelves in place. However, if your family regularly buys gallons of milk – and many do! – this is important to note. Everything else fits in place easily.
You can set the fridge temperature using the control panel at the top of the fridge's interior. Hisense recommends the pre-set 39-degree temperature for the best results, so we left it at that at first. After a few months, we found that it was a bit too cold, so we adjusted the temperature to 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Changing the temperature was easy: I pressed down on the "Fridge" button on the control panel for three seconds until it beeped and then kept pressing it to get to the temperature I wanted.
The inside of the fridge is illuminated by energy-saving LED lights, which is common on new fridges, but nonetheless exciting for anyone who's coming from an old fridge with a fragile bulb that needed replacing.
Inside the freezer
The freezer is located at the bottom of the fridge, but it's still easy to access. When you pull the handle, the freezer opens smoothly.
It has a 5.1-cubic-foot capacity and two compartments: a top-level drawer that pulls out and a deeper bottom level compartment. We put all our most frequently used frozen items, ice cube trays, and smaller foods in the top drawer for easy access and saved the bottom compartment for bigger items (in our case, a giant bag of frozen peas and a stash of smoked salmon). It's important not to overload the top drawer with heavy items, because it can get off the drawer pull-out tracks when overloaded.
Hisense recommends the pre-set temperature of -2 degrees for best results. Just like the fridge temperature, the freezer is easy to set. You simply press down the "Freezer" button in the fridge's control panel for three seconds until you hear a beep, and then keep pressing it to cycle through the different temperature settings.
We found that temperature to be more than cold enough. We put a new bottle of Coca-Cola in there to chill before dinner, and within the 20 minutes we spent cooking dinner, it was icy cold and even partially frozen. In our old fridge, it wouldn't even have been chilled in that amount of time.
If you need things to freeze quickly, the freezer also has a super freeze function that drops the temperature down to -13°F in a matter of minutes to rapidly freeze the food. Hisense says it also helps the freezer maintain its -2 temperature when you're adding a bunch of unfrozen (or partially unfrozen) items to the freezer at once.
In daily use
After about six months of daily use, I can confidently say this fridge has made our lives better. We cook a lot, so having a fridge that not only stores all the different foods, sauces, and drinks we like to have on hand, but also keeps it all organized makes preparing meals so much easier. When you can find what you're looking for in seconds instead of minutes, you don't ruin your meal or your mood.
The many different shelves in the fridge door made it super easy for us to organize all our sauces and keep small containers off the large main shelves. Now we can use all the space for larger foods and actually see all the food we have. Our drinks are also much cooler – I don't think I realized just how badly our old fridge was working until I had a point of comparison.
We also love having the freezer at the bottom. It is so much easier to find things in the fridge when you don't have to bend over, kneel down, or as I often did, sit on the floor while rummaging around in the crisper drawers looking for the garlic.
The bottom line
- Should you buy it? Yes – if you have a small kitchen or you simply prefer a smaller fridge, it's a great choice, thanks to its spacious interior. It's also a good option for anyone who wants a fridge with the freezer at the bottom. It is reasonably priced when compared to fridges with a similar capacity, and it is one of the only bottom-freezer fridges with a similar capacity that you can buy for less than $1,000.
- What are your alternatives? There are so many fridges to choose from, so you have a lot of alternatives. You can check out our guide to the best fridges under $2,000. At The Home Depot and Lowe's, there are no bottom-freezer fridges with a similar capacity for less than $1,000 (at the time of writing). You can find several fridges with a freezer at the top and a similar capacity for a bit less – prices at The Home Depot start at $710 and go up to about $800 (at the time of writing) – but you won't have that nifty bottom freezer.
Pros: Slim enough to fit in small spaces, spacious interior, bottom freezer is convenient, easy to set up, two freezer compartments, Energy Star rated, relatively affordable, reversible door, adjustable temperature, ample shelving
Cons: Not the biggest fridge, no fancy features, can't fit a gallon of milk with all three shelves inside, top freezer drawer can get off the tracks if overloaded
17.2-cubic-foot Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator (small)