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Is a Sub-Zero Refrigerator Worth the Money?

August 18th, 2023 | 10 min. read

By Steve Sheinkopf

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Sub-Zero and Wolf Kitchen

You probably wonder, "Is a Sub-Zero refrigerator worth the money?"

About two years ago, we wrote this article about whether Sub-Zero is worth $12,000-$20,000.

Now Sub-Zero has new models and a new cooling system, but the central question remains: Do you need a $12,000+ refrigerator in your kitchen?

In this article, you will learn about Sub-Zero's refrigerator features to keep food fresh for a longer time, like their compressors, cooling system, air purifiers, and vacuum seals.

Freshness comparisons with fruit and vegetables between Sub-Zero and other refrigerators will also be seen.

Lastly, we will compare Sub-Zero to the new True, Thermador, and Monogram refrigerators.

Ultimately, you can determine whether Sub-Zero might be right for you.

Let's get started.

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A Brief Introduction to Sub-Zero

Sub-Zero and Wolf Kitchen at Yale Appliance in Hanover

Foreign conglomerates dominate the high-end appliance world. For example, the German BSH Home Appliance company owns Gaggenau, Thermador, and Bosch

In addition, Samsung, a Korean conglomerate, owns Dacor, while its Korean rival LG owns LG Studio and Signature Kitchen Suite. Haier based in  China owns Monogram. JennAir is owned by an American conglomerate, Whirlpool.

Yet Sub-Zero is the anomaly in that it's family-owned and American-based in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Bakke family has owned Sub-Zero since its founding in 1945.

Westye Bakke built the first Sub-Zero out of scrap metal in his basement to manage his son's diabetes.

All the Sub-Zero refrigerators are made in their Arizona or Wisconsin factories. They are also responsible for most refrigerator innovations worldwide.

They were the first with professional refrigerators, integrated refrigerators, and wine units to store wine long-term. Sub-Zero invented counter-depth refrigerators and two compressor models.

Refrigeration is their heritage and specialty. They also are the manufacturers of Wolf cooking appliances and Cove dishwashers.

Now, let's look at why you should consider a Sub-Zero refrigerator.

9 Reasons to Choose a Sub-Zero Refrigerator

First, let's look at the main features and benefits of a Sub-Zero refrigerator.

1. Two Compressors


Sub-Zero was the first refrigerator with two compressors (shown above). One compressor for the refrigerator and one for the freezer.

The air in the refrigerator and freezer stays within the same compartment.

This prevents odors and tastes from the refrigerator from migrating to your freezer and vice versa.

With two compressors, your frozen food will taste better.

Also, the warmer refrigerator air is never circulated to the freezer. This means there will be less frost in your freezer.

In 2023, most refrigerators are either two compressors or one compressor with two evaporators.

You will see a test of food preservation between these refrigerators later in the article.

2. Vacuum Seal Door


Sub-Zero has an active vacuum seal (pictured).

Opening the door can be more challenging, but outside air does not infiltrate the refrigerator.

The vacuum seal's main benefit is that food stays fresh with less exposure to the warmer air outside.

The refrigerator drawers are magnetized to maintain food freshness by not letting air in or out.

3. GUI Temperature Screen Interface


A GUI temperature screen (shown above) is like your phone's display.

You can control the temperature by one degree in both the refrigerator and freezer.

Sub-Zero has less temperature deviation than other brands. The average refrigerator can deviate 5-10 degrees.

4. Air Purification Scrubber


When food spoils, it emits ethylene gas. Sub-Zero employs an antimicrobial air scrubber (pictured above).

This scrubs the air of ethylene, mold, viruses, and bacteria every 20 minutes.

This slows the spoilage process for your food by scrubbing gasses. It also limits cross-contamination with other foods.

In 2021, air purification has become more common. It's almost a buzzword.

KitchenAid, Bosch, and Beko use filters. Thermador has its green crisper designed to trap ethylene gasses.

However, none are as efficient as Sub-Zero.

5. Magnetic Crispers


The refrigerator crisper drawers (shown above) are designed to keep fruit and vegetables "crisp." Sub-Zero has magnetized crispers so air cannot infiltrate into the crisper.

6. Spill-Proof Nanotechnology Shelving


Ever spilled any milk or soda in your refrigerator?

You are finding those droplets for months afterward, even after a thorough cleaning.

Every shelf in a Sub-Zero is coated with nanotechnology to congeal spills.

This stops the liquid from spreading to other parts of the refrigerator.

7. Best for Food Freshness

A Sub-Zero factory rep once asked me if a Sub-Zero was dead upon installation. I could not remember any instance in my 32 years at Yale.

Every unit is tested before it ships. Most factories may test one or two units per manufacturing run.

Does Sub-Zero keep food fresher than any other brand?

Our "Project Produce" experiment tested Sub-Zero along with Thermador, Samsung, Beko, and Bosch with identical fruit and vegetables.

Each company has unique claims of food freshness.

Sub-Zero won the experiment and had the freshest fruit and vegetables over one month.

You can see the video here:

Read More: Which Refrigerator Keeps Food Fresh the Longest?

8. Many Design Options for a World of Possibilities

Sub-Zero has the most built-in options for any manufacturer from 18-48 inches. You can choose any size of stainless, paneled, or glass door options. You also have several refrigerator and freezer options and columns in every series.

9. Sub-Zero Resale Value


I had lunch with an old friend from Hingham a few years ago.

He was our lighting rep and later joined his family's lighting business.

He explained the process of selling his house. He was talking to his realtor, telling her about his home's improvements.

She explained his house would sell better because it had a Sub-Zero and Wolf kitchen.

All the other improvements, like his lighting, would not resonate with potential buyers.

5 Types of Sub-Zero Refrigerators

1. Pro Series

The Pro is available in 36 and 48-inch sizes. It is designed to look like a commercial refrigerator with its restaurant look. You can choose this style with or without a window. 

Keep in mind, you generally do not want to place an actual commercial refrigerator in your house. They are not designed for households. They use a ton of energy and do not have basic features like shelving on the door.

Pro Tip: Pro and built-in refrigerators can weigh up to 800 pounds. They will indent your new floors if left in the middle of the room before installation. So place it on a sheet of masonite.

You can find all sorts of delivery tips to prevent damage in our Free Delivery Checklist.

2. The Built-In Classic Series

The Classic series features a compressor on the top, like the Pro. However, it can be ordered in several ways.

You can order it as one large refrigerator with no freezer, or you can order it with the freezer. It's available in 30, 36, 42, and 48 inches.

French doors (side-by-side doors on the top with a bottom freezer) are available in 36, 42, and 48-inch sizes.

The 42 and 48-inch are available with dispensers as well. You can buy this series in all stainless or add a custom panel with your cabinet fronts as an option.

Differences Between Pro and Classic Refrigerators

The Classic has more sizes and can be installed with custom panels to match your cabinetry. The Classic has an air scrubber as well.

The Pro emulates the restaurant style. It has more cubic footage with easily accessible crispers, an icemaker, and a freezer drawer.

The interior is all metal as well. Metal absorbs cold better and is more hygienic. The Pro costs $6,000-$8,000 more.

3. The Designer Series

The Designer Series is available in 18-inch to 36-inch sizes. All refrigerator and freezer combinations are available in several configurations.

You can also customize your refrigeration to be placed anywhere.

Instead of a 48-inch refrigerator, you can have two-column refrigerators. For example, you can have a 30-inch refrigerator next to an 18-inch refrigerator.

The 30 and 36-inch units have two drawers for all refrigerators and different refrigerator/freezer combinations.

Differences Between the Designer and Classic Series

You can choose more options in the Designer series.

However, the Designer Series is integrated and blends seamlessly with the cabinet.

The door will protrude in the Classic series but will have more cubic footage with the added depth.

The Designer series looks great with custom cabinet panels with that seamless look. The Classic is impressive in stainless steel.

4. Undercounter Refrigeration

Sub-Zero offers a wide range of undercounter refrigerators that cater to various needs and preferences. In addition, Sub-Zero provides refrigerators and icemakers that are UL-approved for outdoor placement. 

5. Wine Storage

Earlier in the article, I said that Sub-Zero was the best storage for wine because it was designed for wine.

That seems like a strange statement,

However, the 1990s started the popularity of wine and wine units. Most manufacturers just placed wine shelves in existing refrigerators.

Sub-Zero's wine coolers were designed from scratch with a Low-E door to refract harmful light.

Vibration can disturb the tannins in the wine, so Sub-Zero used roll-out shelves and mounted their compressor on grommets so it wouldn't vibrate.

Lastly, you have precise temperature controls to the degree and two distinct zones versus a dial and one zone of many wine refrigerators.

Read More: Should You Buy a Sub-Zero Wine Cooler?

New Sub-Zero Refrigerator Features

Split Climate

Split Climate controls now employ two fans to consistently optimize the refrigerator to within one degree of the set point.


"ClearSight" lighting is now under each shelf as well as overhead.

Temperature Controlled Crispers

You can now set the temperature for meats, fruit, or veggies in each bin.


It's not new (new since the article), but Sub-Zero is now Wi-Fi enabled, so you can monitor temperatures and receive alerts on your phone.

What Sub-Zero Refrigerators Do Not Have

Motorized Shelves

Integrated refrigerators are a bit taller, so having a motorized shelf can be handy. At this writing, only Gaggenau and Thermador have that type of shelving.


Although Sub-Zero has many options, especially for panels, you do not have a color option. BlueStar has 1,000, and True has 12 plus six hinge accents.

Read More: 10 Best Kitchen Appliance Brands for Color

Are Sub-Zero Refrigerators Reliable?

Sub-Zero was the most reliable built-in refrigerator in 2022.

Most of those service calls were installation, not product related.

As I said earlier, in my 37 years at Yale, there has never been a Sub-Zero failure out of the box - a testimony to Sub-Zero's manufacturing and testing.

My parents had their first repair after 18+ years. The Sub-Zero in my house has been working without repair for seven years.

What's Included in Sub-Zero's Warranty?

The warranty on the Sub-Zero is amongst the best in the industry.

It's a five-year full warranty with 12 years on the sealed system components, compressors, and evaporators.

Sub-Zero Refrigerators vs. the Competition

This next section compares the best Pro, Classic, and Designer refrigerators.

Pro Refrigeration

There are fewer competitors for professional refrigerators than integrated, designer styles.

Energy efficiency could be a reason. It's harder to build the larger Pro types to the tougher standards.

Monogram, Viking, and True are the only brands marketing a professional or classic type built-in refrigerator.

Of those three, True, BlueStar, and Monogram are the best competitors.



True has newer pro refrigerators.

As a company, they have a similar profile as Sub-Zero. They are family-owned, based in the US, and specialize in refrigeration. They are a large commercial refrigeration company.

You removed a frozen item from a True freezer if you shopped in Whole Foods, Wegman's, or likely any other supermarket.

Their Pro has solid hinges and similar temperature controls as a Sub-Zero.

You can customize a True with 12 high-fashion colors and six accents.

So if you want a color statement piece, consider a True. It is a reliable refrigerator and all stainless inside and out.

Yet, Sub-Zero has a better warranty, an ethylene air scrubber, and more styles. You can't panel a True refrigerator.

Read More: True vs. Sub-Zero Professional Refrigeration



Monogram is now viable again after massive investment from its Chinese parent Haier.

Their Air Tower cooling system provides sensors and vents to provide a consistent temperature throughout the unit.

Their bins are like Sub-Zero displaying temperature, but they also allow you to "Express Thaw" or "Express Chill" your food.

So you can super chill that white wine before serving or thaw the package of chicken breast in the bin.

Monogram has a lower price plus another $3,000 in rebates for other Monogram appliances with the refrigerator and a Monogram range purchase.

However, Sub-Zero has a better overall system for keeping food fresher longer with a tighter seal, magnetic crispers, air scrubbing, and better nanotechnology shelves.

Read More: Sub-Zero vs. Monogram Refrigerators



BlueStar is the fastest-growing premium appliance company, mostly due to its high output ranges.

BlueStar redesigned their refrigerators with twin compressors, evaporators, and stainless steel interiors.

You order BlueStar in 1,000 colors and eight trim styles for a totally unique refrigerator.

Integrated Refrigerators

There is a wide variety of companies manufacturing designer-style and integrated refrigerators.

However, two brands dominate the appliance industry: Sub-Zero and Thermador

In this section, we'll compare both.



Thermador is their main competition for integrated refrigeration. We compared the two refrigerators in this blog post: Thermador vs. Sub-Zero Refrigerators.

Thermador has some great features with its customizable bins, TFT interface, and handless design.

Their new models are stainless steel interiors. Their 36-inch French door is extremely popular, while Sub-Zero doesn't market one in an integrated refrigerator.

Yet, Sub-Zero still has a better seal, shelving, and air filter.

Read More: Sub-Zero vs. Thermador Column Integrated Refrigerators

Is a Sub-Zero Refrigerator Worth the Money?

Sub-Zero is the best refrigerator sold at Yale and still the most reliable in its class.

Many competitive brands have improved, but none keep food fresh better than a Sub-Zero.

The features and branding are still the best in the industry. That said, is it worth spending $10,000 plus on a refrigerator?

It depends.

I used to tell builders to buy Sub-Zero during the recessions (pick one). It would help distinguish their property from their competitors.

In a seller's market, it's not as important.

For most of us, a $10,000 refrigerator is not an option.

You can buy whole kitchens of affordable luxury appliances for less and have another $5,000 to spend.

However, if you're planning your dream kitchen or are a builder, Sub-Zero is still your best choice.

Additional Resources

Download the Yale Counter Depth Refrigerator Buying Guide with features, specifications, and inside buying tips for regular, pro, and integrated counter-depth refrigerators. Well over 1 million people have read a Yale Guide.

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Looking for answers about Refrigeration?

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Steve Sheinkopf

Steve Sheinkopf is the third-generation CEO of Yale Appliance and a lifelong Bostonian. He has over 38 years of experience in the appliance industry, and he is a trusted source of information for consumers on how to buy and repair appliances.

Steve has also been featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Consumer Reports, The Boston Globe, Bloomberg Radio, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur, for his knowledge of how to buy appliances and appliance repair.

Steve is passionate about helping consumers find the best appliances for their needs, and he is always happy to answer questions and provide advice. He is a valuable resource for consumers who are looking for information on appliance buying, repair, and maintenance.

Despite being the worst goalie in history, Steve is a fan of the Bruins and college hockey, loves to read, and is a Peloton biker. The love of his life is his daughter, Sophie.

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.