Big Fridge for Small Spaces - Summit Delivers for Manhattan-sized Kitchens
Dec 20, 2005 (Updated Jan 5, 2006)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Unless you're willing to spend beaucoup bucks, chances are the apartment you buy in Manhattan will not come with a large kitchen. Ours is galley-style, like many (the alternative is usually the "nook", a depression off the main room), with a row of cabinets along both sides and some walking space between.
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There's one entrance to the kitchen. This means that there are only a few useful places to put a new refrigerator, and when one looks at the general stock of refrigerators for sale today, one sees precious few that would not stick out into the passageway. See, from wall to wall as you enter the doorway, the kitchen measures slightly under seven feet wide. Since cabinets are a standard 24" deep (26" with the counter overhang), even a few extra inches of depth in the appliances destroys any semblance of space, such as it is, in this kitchen layout.
Given that the kitchen being renovated is under seven feet square, and given that I like to have lots of refrigerator space for beer, and sometimes a little food, we wanted as much refrigeration and freezeration as we could cram into a two-foot-square footprint. Height is not a factor here; the ceilings are plenty high and I can reach any top shelf. Width and depth had to be kept to a minimum or the rest of the renovation would fall flat.
Basically, we'd tiled ourselves into a corner, but fortunately it was a corner with some possibilities. These possibilities ranged from a $4500 Sub-Zero to those few-hundred dollar models normally found in rental apartments -- but those are less than five feet tall, narrow, shallow, and not very nice looking.
After an enormous amount of homework, it came down to two real choices, and not surprisingly, both were European. The Summit, known as the Danish Vestfrost in Europe and also as the Conserv Equator (375 Series), jockeyed for position with the Liebherr. Since Summit offers their refrigerator, the sleek CP-171SS (SS for stainless steel, natch) for half the price of the Liebherr, we were sold, and the refrigerator was delivered to our door, still with the Vestfrost nameplate instead of the Summit one, for under a grand.
I Am Summit, King of Refrigerators
The Summit is a commercial-class bottom-freezer refrigerator, though it's not got the most capacity you'll ever see. It is 79 1/2" tall -- several inches taller than me, but fitting neatly under the vent in the back corner of our kitchen. Strangely, while the total cubic footage, 12.0 cubic feet, is listed, it isn't broken out into top vs. bottom. Cocktail-napkin calculations seem to indicate about 4.6-4.8 cubic feet of frozen space, the remainder for refrigerated items.
Since the freezer's on the bottom, it saves a bit on cooling costs and also makes stooping to retrieve refrigerated items a "thing of the past"! (Wow, that's so marketeering.) I do like not having to squat to check out what beer I may have left on the bottom shelf in the fridge, though.
The refrigerator compartment is designed for compactness and utility. There are three shelves in the 40" tall compartment, and two shallow drawers under the lowest shelf. More drawers are available if the shelves are configured differently; you can use the big crisper drawers under the bottom shelf, and keep the shallower shelves for under a higher shelf. We removed some simply because we don't need them, as any vegetables we buy get used pretty much right away.
The door storage consists of lots of plastic dividers and so forth; the egg rack was removed first, and the dividers are nice, but not what we needed. They're pretty, being clear tinted blue plastic, but not functional with our needs. The top is fitted with a couple of butter boxes, and, well, those are packed away too. Really, we just wanted door shelves, and the three positionable shelves on the Summit door fit all our condimentary needs.
The bottom door shelf holds three half-gallon beverage cartons/jugs, and another several containers, in its 24" length. When the fridge door is open, the space taken up by the door storage doubles as a useful place to set your favorite glass in order to pour your favorite beverage. This is useful when your countertops haven't been installed yet -- or once they have, if you're lazy.
Inside, the glass shelves are easy to move about to configure for your particular needs. Since all our drinks seem to fit on the door, we keep the shelves fairly evenly spaced. The bottle rack along the top -- admittedly, a bit out of reach for short people -- keeps five to six bottles (up to 1.5 liter size) on their side, above the shelf underneath, saving a little space too. So alcohol is the natural choice up there, along with extra bottles of water.
A Brita pitcher really won't fit in the refrigerator without using a large percentage of the space for one shelf.
The freezer compartment, nearly 33" tall, consists of three drawers. Two of these measure 9 1/2" tall and as deep as the freezer -- about 15 inches deep per drawer. Again, the motor and other electrical and cooling components are housed behind the freezer, to allow more depth for the refrigerator.
I was skeptical at first, but the two bigger drawers easily held all the frozen goods from the outgoing freezer. Two half-gallon bricks of ice cream, or the cylindrically-shaped ones, will fit in a drawer with other items. We haven't tried a Thanksgiving turkey (yet), but one, fresh turkeys taste better than frozen, and two, it looks like it would fit a 12-14 pounder fairly comfortably if you can spare most of one drawer.
The bottom drawer is shallower by a lot -- it measures but 7" deep, by 8 1/2" tall. We use this for ice cube storage and little things, like egg whites.
The remaining appliance height is taken up with airspace under the freezer and the feet, and likely a bit of the wiring. It towers in the kitchen, but there's no worries as it's got a very low center of gravity.
First, the door needed to be switched. The instructions looked pretty simple, and it was surprisingly easy to switch both doors. There are allen wrenches included to facilitate matters, and soon both hinges were removed. The kick-plate also needs to be removed to switch the bottom freezer hinge, and I was a little scared to pull on it (it's silver-colored plastic), but it gives way if the unit is tilted back slightly. It snaps right back on, also.
Once the doors were switched, all was back to normal, except for a little creakiness in the fridge top hinge. That seems to have settled a bit recently, however.
This kick-plate also needs to be removed to properly set the feet, which are screwed in or out using the other supplied tool. This too was fairly simple.
The Summit CP-171SS is the quietest refrigerator I've ever not heard. The old unit, recently retrieved by NYC Sanitation, would click on, dim the lights on its circuit, and hum rather loudly, to the point where the television or stereo volume would need adjusting. The Summit/Vestfrost? Rarely a blip in the light output, a faint 'click', and then... nothing.
There are two compressors, one for each half, and that's all the more enjoyable. The literature states that this unit uses more energy than is allowable for "household use," but if you look online -- see Vestfrost, and Equator, another Vestfrost dealer/distributor who rebranded this unit - as the Conserv - and which has now been discontinued in favor of this Summit CP171SS model (whew!) -- you can see that these refrigerators are lauded by environmentalists as using less energy than other refrigerators of its size. I didn't notice a spike in our power bill, at any rate, and I don't expect one in the future.
Temperature - Quick Freeze ROCKS!
The refrigerator temperature holds steady at whatever setting you ask for. We haven't tested whether adding hot foods directly to the fridge will upset the balance of nature, but at a '5' setting (on a 1-7 scale), we're achieving a steady 43 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezer can go to -18 degrees Fahrenheit, far lower than we really need; a '4' setting gives us around a zero degree reading.
The main draw, for me, is the "Super Freeze". Activating this will cause the compressor to run constantly instead of cycling, so if you do pick up a big turkey that might unbalance the temperatures, or you need to freeze lots of meat in a hurry -- remember, this is a commercial unit -- you can get things as cold as possible, drop in the new items, and keep Super Freeze on for a few more hours in order to be as 'safe' as possible.
Defrosting. Yes, Defrosting
The refrigerator compartment is automatically defrosted, and as they say in the manual, the defrost water is piped into a tray above the compressor, where it evaporates. Probably the same for all refrigerators.
It's a shame it has to be this way, but I suspect that the design, and energy concerns, mean that the freezer compartment will collect frost. I'd say this is a drawback to the unit, but apparently the frost layer does not build up particularly quickly. At least the manual offers helpful advice, such as hitting the Super Freeze button first to make all the frozen food as cold as possible.
Once the freezer's empty, it's a matter of pulling out the drain spout, setting a hot water bowl in the compartment, and collecting runoff. It's a far cry from the effort required with the freezer in the old apartment, where makeshift chisels were employed, but I dread the day this needs to be done.
After using this fridge for a month now, I'm generally quite pleased. There's been no frost buildup in the freezer; ice cubes and ice cream remain frozen; and our semimonthly visits from the FreshDirect fairy fit comfortably in the space the Summit/Vestfrost allows.
Since we don't really buy anything in bulk, there's no space issues. The footprint is absolutely perfect for cramped apartment living. Plus, it's designed to look really swank, a definite plus when we eventually sell and move to the exurbs.
As for a warranty, I expect it's got a standard one-year set up, but nothing in the literature supplied, online sources, or anywhere else seems to allude to what exactly we do get. To be honest, a warranty card was not delivered with the unit, either. It seems that simply calling will do the trick; we will certainly call if there's ever a problem.
In a nutshell, if you can spend a thousand to get the most possible space from a two-foot-square footprint, you'll not regret the Summit CP171SS.
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