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Built-In vs Freestanding Compact Refrigerators (Prices/Reviews)

Eddie Jacob  |  October 10, 2012  |  3 Min. Read

Frigidaire  |  Undercounter Refrigerators  |  U-Line

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So you want to place a refrigerator between cabinets and under a counter? You are probably wondering the reason for the $1,000 cost difference. It was a pretty common question back when I was selling appliances on the floor (in the dark ages). Following is the answer by Eddie Jacobs.

Built-In vs Freestanding Compact Refrigerators (Prices/Reviews)

Built-In Compact Refrigerators

Compact refrigerators are available in both “Built-in” and “Freestanding” types. Built-in compact refrigerators vent out the bottom in the front. This would also mean that the unit can be totally enclosed on 4 sides (left, right, rear and top). These units are surrounded by cabinetry and enclosed under a counter. They can also be installed with a custom panel and are manufactured with steel chassis.

Freeetanding Compact Refrigerators

Freestanding means exactly as it reads. The unit cannot be enclosed in a confined area with the inability to vent properly. These types of units are often referred to as “College Dorm” fridges. Freestanding compact refrigerators have become popular as they have expanded the category into wine coolers and other types of compact refrigeration. Freestanding units, however, vent out the back, so they cannot be used in a built-in application. These units are manufactured with a plastic, not metal chassis.

For comparison purposes, the following will be specific to one of the more popular types of configurations, beverage centers: The Built-In U-Line 1000 Series vs the freestanding Frigidaire FFBC46F5LS.


U-Line is celebrating their Golden Anniversary this year. Founded in 1962, they have branded themselves as “The Built-In Undercounter Market Leader”; with their corporate headquarters located in Milwaukee, WI. They are a niche compact refrigerator manufacturer with products like icemakers, wine storage, freezers, combination units as well as refrigerators.


Frigidaire is known for their value. I would nornally write about their reliability, but they import this refrigerator like most in this category.

U-Line 1075BEV vs the freestanding Frigidaire FFBC46F5LS

uline built in beverage center 1075BEV


frigidaire freestanding beverage center FFBC46F5LS

U-Line Built-In Beverage Center
- $1,239.99

  • Comes standard with a glass door & a stainless frame. The unit is shipped as a right hinge, but door is field reversible
  • 5.5 cu. ft. capacity – 16 bottle wine capacity (750 ml) on two roller glides and 65 can capacity on two glass shelves
  • Double-zone cooling system provides a stable and consistent environment for optimum beverage storage
  • Easy access mechanical dial control
  • Temperature setting from 34 to 45 degrees F
  • Lighted white interior optimizes elegant display and easy viewing of contents

Frigidaire Freestanding Beverage Center FFBC46F5LS - $499.99

  • Comes standard with a glass door and a stainless steel frame
  • 4.6 cu. ft. capacity – 138 can-capacity - three glass shelves and digital controls with temperature display
  • Cabinet color is black with field reversible doors
  • Does not accept custom cabinet front and can NOT be used in a built-in application

There are two takeaways to this post. You cannot build in a freestanding unit or it will burn out within a year. However, you also do not have to spend the money to buy a built-in when it is not enclosed in cabinets.

Additional Resources

Read a Yale Buyers Guide for unbiased, updated information about all aspects of home improvement.


A few review sites have placed this at the bottom of their articles. So here is our take: Our mission is to find reliable products for you to buy. Other review sites may say this as well.

However, we don’t love every product. Quite frankly, it costs us way too much money in repair costs to support less reliable brands.

In fact, we sell fewer brands than most appliance stores. Here is why:

We feel it is our responsibility to repair your appliances after you buy them.

We now have 30 service technicians, each averaging 8-10 calls a day Monday through Friday, plus another 110 on Saturday. That's over 30,000 service calls logged in one year.

The labor rates of fixing an appliance do not come close to the true cost in any product’s warranty period.

That is why no major retailer has a service department. It costs too much labor, money and time.

Our Blog is a bit different than most others you will read. We cannot write glowing reviews of unreliable products.

Hopefully, the bloggers and organizations who write such glowing product reviews for every brand consider servicing these products first. Only then they will understand the consequences of their marketing.

Eddie Jacob

Eddie Jacob has 15+ years of sales & consulting experience and is in the appliance sales department at Yale Appliance. He takes pride in total customer satisfaction and enjoys coaching youth soccer.

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A Note About Pricing

Pricing on this blog is for reference only and may include time sensitive rebates. We make every attempt to provide accurate pricing at time of publishing. Please call the stores for most accurate price.

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