I have a galley kitchen in a 1940's style house. The design allows room for a refrigerator not more than 24 inches wide. To widen this space would mean having to part with my 1930's era 5 foot Monel metal sink/double drainboard unit, which is a constant conversation piece, and the focal point of the kitchen. Needless to say, the search was on for a quality refrigerator to fit the space provided.
Recommend this product?
In my experience, most of the "apartment size" refrigerators are of low quality, built for the short term, with freezers barely able to sustain ice cubes. The low demand for these appliances has some American manufacturers re-badging Asian sourced units as a way to provide product for all their market segments.
What it really is
The Summit CP-171SS is in reality a Vestfrost SZ Solid Series refrigerator-freezer, built by A/S Vestfrost of Esbjerg, Denmark. Imported for the Summit Commercial line of appliances, it resolves the limited space issue with increased height rather than width. By increasing the height to 78 3/4 inches, they have achieved a remarkable 12.5 cubic feet of total capacity.
The unit comes well-packed from the factory. All removable components, such as shelves, drawers and bins are either taped in place, or protected by cardboard or styrofoam. A protective layer of plastic is bonded to the stainless steel doors, and requires a moderate amount of effort to remove.
The interior of the refrigerator compartment measures 35 inches high x 19 1/2 inches wide x 17 1/2 inches deep. The sides of the interior are plastic and utilize graduated notches to accommodate the three glass shelves to an assortment of shelf-height options. A five-bottle wine shelf is provided. Resembling an oven rack, only smaller, it is coated with white plastic to match the interior, and has indentations to hold standard bottles in a reclining position. A fourth glass shelf is positioned just above the two clear plastic crisper drawers. The temperature for these drawers is controlled by a small sliding grill that can be adjusted to achieve the desired result.
Both the refrigerator and freezer doors are designed with a convex bow, which allows for more storage space on the inside of the door. The door shelf configuration consists of four adjustable clear plastic shelves, with white plastic restraint bars. There are two clear covered dairy storage boxes, cleverly sculpted to fit the curved door panel. An egg storage rack is provided to store up to eight eggs - what to do with the remaining four is up to you. A temperature setting of 6 (0-7) keeps the refrigerator at a constant 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
The inside freezer dimensions are 28 1/2 inches high x 17 1/2 inches wide x 17 1/2 inches deep. The freezer design employs three sliding drawers with recessed handles. The two top drawers are big enough to be quite heavy when full. The bottom drawer is abbreviated to accommodate the placement of the compressors, located under the freezer compartment. There is a sliding full-width service tray located at the top of the freezer to hold ice cube trays. Three substantial banks of cooling coils are located between the drawers. With the thermostat set at 3 (0-7), my top quality freezer thermometer reads minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can easily maintain the sub-zero temperatures required for safe long-term freezing.
The manufacturer has installed what the manual refers to as a "high quality skin condenser". Heat from the interior cabinets is absorbed by the refrigerant, and dissipated through the side walls of the appliance. The slight warming of the sides is often the only way to tell that it's running. The upside of manual defrost is the lack of fan noise. Occasionally, you may hear a compressor click on or off, but that's the only noise it makes.
The fit and finish are excellent. The gaskets seal perfectly, and inside, all the intersecting points between surfaces are rounded for easy cleaning. The stainless-steel doors have a quality look, and the top and sides have a flawless powder gray metallic finish.
The control panel is located above the refrigerator compartment, and is accessible when the door is open. The design of this appliance utilizes two compressors, which allows for separate thermostats for the refrigerator and freezer. Both thermostats have a range from 'off' to 7 (0-7). A "deep-freeze" cycle is operated by a rocker switch located on the control panel. A rotating barrel-type temperature indicator gives the current freezer temperature (Celsius). An indicator light on the front upper left corner of the unit glows red when the freezer temperature is higher than normal, yellow when the deep-freeze cycle is activated, and green when everything is normal. There is also an audio alarm that activates if the freezer temperature becomes higher than normal. A hooded 12-watt light is mounted in the center of the control panel, designed to illuminate both the interior of the refrigerator, and the door shelves - and it succeeds. The freezer is not lighted.
It is very difficult to find a freezer in a unit this size that is frost-free. The very upscale German-built Liebherr is the only one that I'm aware of. But defrosting this freezer is not as bad as you may think. The separate compressor technology allows you to shut down only the freezer. You can even wrap your frozen food in towels and store it in the refrigerator while the freezer is down. Living in New England has its advantages - I remove the drawers of frozen food and put them outside in below freezing weather. The freezer coils are fully exposed when the drawers are out, so they defrost quickly. The compartment bottom is sloped and channeled to a convenient retractable drain spout that guides the run-off to a waiting container. Sponge it clean, wipe it dry, replace the drawers, power it up and you're ready to go. The process takes less than an hour.
The owner's manual
The instructions for use booklet can only be described as vague. For instance, the deep-freeze cycle is described in one sentence. Flip the switch if you want to deep-freeze. It says nothing about what temperature it will achieve after however long. On the other hand, having been printed in Europe, the three pages of dire warnings you usually see are replaced by a simple "please read these instructions carefully". When most manuals are translated, it's the syntax that suffers. This one has fared pretty well.
Conclusions and opinions
The best thing about my Summit, er... Vestfrost.. whatever, is the reaction I get from everyone who sees it - It's as if I had a polar bear in a cage in my kitchen. They point, they stare, they ask questions - it's great. I'm 6 foot 3, so the refrigerator compartment is at the perfect height for me. My friend Arlene is a foot shorter, and she's not as happy.
I purchased my Summit from my friendly neighborhood appliance dealer for $1,099.00. Delivery was free. That was in January, 2005, so enough time has passed to be able to give it high marks in all categories. From the amazingly powerful freezer to its silent operation, sleek Danish design and quality, and German components (the compressors are German built), the Summit CP-171SS is an excellent value.
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