Remodel a kitchen, and one of the most important pieces of equipment to select is the refrigerator/freezer. At the top of many wish lists is a Sub-Zero, known for its superb quality, durability and sleek good looks, often with a stainless steel or glass front, or painted or natural wood panels that match a kitchen’s decor.
But it’s also considered one of the biggest kitchen ticket items a homeowner might pick. Its price tag usually is about $7,350 for a 27” combination refrigerator/freezer with stainless front and integrated design, so it looks like part of the cabinetry. For a similar style and even larger 36” model, it will cost even more—about $8,650. And both are costlier than many comparable-sized units from other quality manufacturers. GE’s 36” Monogram combination model runs about $6,800 and Kitchen Aid’s is a bit higher at $7,000.
If you opt for a much less expensive model such as a 36” LG, your price tag can drop precipitously to about $3,000, but the downsides are that it’s freestanding, has to have French doors to support its weight since it isn’t built in or integrated, and requires more space because both doors have to open wide and need clearance. Yet, the LG is certainly a good piece of equipment that will last. Consider it, if that’s more in line with your budget. But back to our original question: Why does the Sub-Zero cost that much?
For our answer, we went to straight to two experts: Chicago-based kitchen designer Mick deGiulio, who often specs a Sub-Zero refrigerator/freezer for the hundreds of kitchens he remodels yearly. He used one when asked to design the Chicago-Tribune newspaper’s test kitchen, and to Stephen Weiner, general manager at Abt Electronics, Glenview, IL, which retails audio, video and appliances and sells hundreds of Sub-Zeros.
Is this item really worth the extra dollars? “Absolutely,” Mick answered, “I tell people to cut back on something else when remodeling to afford it.” Stephen says yes, too. “The typical Sub-Zero will last 19 to 20 years versus eight to 10 for many other models. It offers the best value even if the cost is higher,” he says. Here, are their reasons why:
• Two compressors. Unlike other designs, a Sub-Zero has two compressors, one for refrigeration and the other for freezing. Putting less load on a single compressor helps the appliance last longer. The separate compressors also improve the food quality since fresh foods do best in a chilly setting while frozen and convenience foods fare better in dry, frigid air that prevents decay and freezer burn. “Other companies use one compressor to cool both zones, but as a result neither works ideally,” Mick says. According to Stephen, “Fresh food lasts 40 to 50 percent longer in a Sub-Zero than in other models and frozen food lasts 200 to 300 percent longer. Add to that that the average American tosses $750 worth of food away annually, which means the equivalent of $7,500 over a 10-year-period.”
• Patented air-filtration system. Having this feature scrubs ethylene gas from the air that apples, melons, peaches and other produce emit and which hastens spoilage and creates a bitter taste, wilting and discoloration of other fruits and vegetables. The system also reduces odors by removing bacteria, mold and viruses.
• Tighter sealed doors. The one-piece construction with extra heavy insulation, tight hinges and magnetic gaskets around each door and drawer also helps keep food fresher. Even the glass-door models are outfitted with high-performance, triple-pane glass for tightness. “If you shut the door and don’t open it for 15 seconds, you’ve created a vacuum. This is one of the few refrigerators that does this,” Mick says. The hinges also help side compartments hold heavy loads without sagging.
• Microprocessor control system. This adjusts to individual climates and schedules and monitors each refrigerator and freezer section, so foods are kept at the optimum temperature. It also allows homeowners to adjust lighting, the cooling fan, and be notified if a door or drawer is left ajar with an alarm sound.
• Camouflaged design. Remember when all refrigerators were freestanding boxes? Sub-Zero does since it created the built-in and integrated categories to make them disappear into cabinetry rather than look like the functional equipment they are. In fact, a Sub-Zero can be lined up seamlessly next to a cabinet with a gap of only about 1/8”, which is barely noticeable, Stephen says, adding, “Most disappear.”
After looking into construction, internal system advantages, and design integrity, we really feel that it has that added value that makes it worth the extra cost.
Let us hear your thoughts.