Thinking of buying a fridge?

A recent survey of their web sites leads us to speculate on where retailers see themselves: most plump for the present,  but a few appear to favour the last century.

Trading Standards consider that measurement of quantities (other than draught beer and cider) should be in metric measures and that product descriptions can be in any measures you choose: metric, Imperial, US customary, Babylonian. Anything goes.

One of our readers has carried out a survey of descriptions of domestic refrigerators on sale by major national retail chains. This shows no agreement between them on the primary measurement unit for that vital feature – the volume of food that can be stored.

Retailers giving prominence to cubic feet for volume or capacity of fridges include:


It must be said, both provide information about capacity in litres in the small print on their web sites and give the dimensions of appliances in centimetres only.

Those using litres include:

Appliances Direct
Asda Direct
BHS Direct
Empire Direct
House of Fraser
John Lewis

Test reports published in Which? also give the ‘usable volume’ in litres only.

Finally, Homebase gives equal prominence to capacity in litres and cubic feet.

It is likely that the situation for domestic freezers is equally confusing. Both make product comparison difficult, and illustrate the problems we all face due to the UK’s continuing measurement muddle.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that there are any retailers sticking to old measures – 85 litres sounds so much larger than 3 cubic feet! Could inertia be to blame?

9 thoughts on “Thinking of buying a fridge?”

  1. What is particularly bonkers here is that every electrical product sold in the UK has to have an energy label on it. As well as displaying volumes for fridges and freezers, they also show wash loads (in kg) for washing machines and water consumption in litres for washing machines and dishwashers. Even electric ovens have their capacity marked in litres. So quite why the likes of Currys and Homebase (and presumably Argos, their bigger sister company) go to the effort of converting backwards is beyond me. The only reason I can see is that they do not want their sales staff doing the conversions at a customers request, then get the sums wrong and end up having to Uplift an item from a customer because it wasn’t the right size!


  2. I personally tend to buy a fridge on the basis of the manufacturer (one whom I trust) and the price (what I wish to pay). However, when I am comparing between different models, energy efficiency and internal volume are important considerations. The energy label is a standard feature across all models but I would be tempted to disregard models if the specification of volume is not in litres as I cannot immediately compare them with those that are. Retailers should bear this in mind. Buyers may not actively complain about antiquated imperial units which they do not understand when they see them in the store but they will put their money – and their trust – in the retailers whose advertisements and in-store labelling are readily understandable and allow for ease of comparison across stores.


  3. I have found in the past that cubic feet are used for the gross volume of the fridge or freezer (i.e. using the external physical dimensions) whilst litres are used for the useable internal space. A highly dubious practice!


  4. Currys’ practice of using cubic feet for fridges and freezers is surprising as it uses metric for most other products. Its 2/3 page advert in yesterday’s i newspaper included these descriptions:

    Oster Pump Espresso Machine
    1.5 litre capacity, 15 bar pressure, 300ml milk container.

    Tefal Actifry Plus Fryer
    1 spoon of oil for 1.2kg of real crispy French fries.

    Kenwood Chef Kitchen Machine
    800w (sic) – includes 4.6 litre bowl, 1.5 litre plastic liquidiser …

    Delonghi Icona Kettle …
    1.7 litre kettle, …

    It surely can’t be long before Curry’s brings the information it provides on fridges and freezers into line with the units it uses for most of the rest of its product range.


  5. No doubt the likes of Curry’s would say that they quote cubic feet because that’s what their customers expect.

    One has to suspect that the use of cubic feet for the exterior volume and litres for storage capacity is a convenient way to obscure the difference, especially that taken up by the housing for the compressor (usually at the bottom). In my experience this is common practice among major retailers.


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