At a Glance
- What Is Column Refrigeration?
- Where Sub-Zero and Thermador Don't
Compete in Refrigeration
- Benefits of a Built-In, Integrated
Refrigerator and Freezer
- Problems With Integrated Refrigerator
and Freezer Columns
- Sub-Zero Refrigeration
- Thermador Refrigeration
- Sub-Zero vs. Thermador Refrigerator and
Freezer Columns: Which is Better?
- Key Takeaways: Sub-Zero vs. Thermador
Built-In Column Integrated Refrigerators
Refrigerator columns have become extremely popular in high-end kitchens, with Sub-Zero and Thermador being the most popular by far.
Ten years ago, you bought a Thermador column for a lower price than the better featured Sub-Zero.
However, Thermador's newer series released in 2018 narrowed the price gap. Both have recently changed their refrigerators in 2021, so the price is not as wide as in years past.
In this article, you will learn every important aspect of buying column refrigeration from both Thermador and Sub-Zero, including sizes, configurations, door storage, controls, and shelving.
You will also see a comparison of their most popular 36-inch models, the Sub-Zero IC-36RID, vs. the Thermador T36R905SP.
In the end, I will show you how Sub-Zero and Thermador stored fruit and vegetables over four weeks with video and time-lapse photography (which is pretty cool).
First, let's define what a column is.Short on time? Get our free Refrigerator Buying Guide
What Is Column Refrigeration?
Some people refer to columns as all refrigerators and all freezers in the integrated, shallow refrigeration style.
Others refer to columns as any integrated refrigerator, including refrigerators and freezer combinations.
Since Thermador's and SubZero's most popular units are refrigerators with a freezer combination, we will use both.
We will compare the most popular 48-inch size with a 30 inch all refrigerator and an 18-inch all freezer.
Then you will see a comparison of the most popular 36-inch combination units.
The terms "built-in" and "integrated" are used interchangeably in this article.
Where Sub-Zero and Thermador Don't Compete in Refrigeration
Sub-Zero has a more complete line with their "Classic" line of restaurant-style refrigerators (shown above).
You may have seen these in showrooms identified by the compressor on the top.
They can be paneled with a custom cabinet front but look better in stainless steel.
The difference between a professional (pro) refrigerator and a built-in is depth. Built-ins are flush, whereas the door on a pro refrigerator protrudes three inches.
Built-ins are flush to the cabinet, but a pro will have greater capacity due to the increased depth.
Thermador no longer markets a pro-style refrigerator after years of outsourcing from KitchenAid.
Built-ins are more popular because of their smaller capacity and are easier for manufacturers to comply with energy efficiency laws.
Only Sub-Zero and, to a much less extent, Monogram, Dacor, and Viking produce a pro, whereas every manufacturer builds built-ins.
If you need a quick recap of the differences between regular counter depth, professional, and integrated refrigerators and columns, check out our 2-minute video below, or feel free to breeze by it.
Benefits of a Built-In, Integrated Refrigerator and Freezer
You can place columns anywhere in your kitchen because the freezer is not tethered to the refrigerator.
If you are a lefty, for example, you can place the refrigerator on the left.
It also allows you to truly customize your kitchen.
If you are not in your freezer much, you can buy a smaller undercounter freezer or place a freezer column, not in the central part of your kitchen.
Problems With Integrated Refrigerator and Freezer Columns
Their depth is even shallower than a pro-style refrigerator with the compressor on the top, so there is roughly 15% less total capacity.
An integrated column is also the most expensive refrigerator per cubic foot on the market.
Let's look at the brands and products.
Sub-Zero was the original industry pioneer for built-in refrigeration about sixty years ago.
Today, they are a leader in manufacturing high-quality refrigeration and wine preservation.
They were the first to market a column, albeit in an odd 27-inch size discontinued years ago.
Now they have the standard sizes.
Refrigerators follow cabinet sizes like other appliances. For example, 30 inches is the common size for a stove because it fits a 30-inch cabinet.
You are probably considering a 36-inch refrigerator for the same reason.
Sub-Zero specializes in refrigeration and owns the cooking company Wolf and now the Cove dishwasher line.
There is some promotional packaging when combining Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove.
Sub-Zero Refrigerator And Freezer Columns Configurations
- IC-36RID with water dispenser - $8,480
- IC-36R - $8,120
- IC-30RID with water dispenser - $8,090
- IC-30R - $7,680
- IC-24R - $7,310
- IC-36FI with ice maker - $8,350
- IC-30FI with ice maker - $7,850
- IC-24FI with ice maker - $7,470
- IC-18FI with ice maker - $7,030
Sub-Zero Refrigerator/ Freezer Built-In Combinations:
- IT-36CI - $8,850
- IT-36CIID - $9,180
- IT30CI - $8,390
- IT30CIID (with Water Dispenser) - $8,730
- IT30CIID (With Dispenser)
- IC-24CI - $7,200
Sub-Zero has drawer and double drawer types in their combos.
Their 24 inch has a separate interior freezer door and is available with or without an ice maker.
- Sub-Zero has a drawer and double drawer types in their combos.
- Their 24 inch has a separate interior freezer door and is available with or without an ice maker.
- Sub-Zero Refrigerator And Freezer Column Features:
- Made in the United States
- Nano-coated spill-proof shelving is durable and can prevent spills from spreading
- Soft-on LED internal lighting
- Tested in US facility for 20 years of heavy use
- Soft-close doors and drawers
- Touch controls to regulate temperature
- Air purification system to remove ethylene gas to keep food fresher longer
- Option for an internal filtered water dispenser in the refrigerator
- The automatically filtered ice maker in the freezer with max-ice feature
- New Feature: Wi-Fi. You can change temperature and receive alerts when the door is open or the filter needs to be changed.
Hallmarks of Sub-Zero Refrigerator and Freezer Columns
Sub-Zero was the original two compressor refrigerator.
The moist warmer air doesn't blend with the freezer's dry colder air in a two compressor system.
Food tastes better, especially in the freezer. You also have less frost.
Most premium refrigerators are two compressors now, including Thermador.
However, Sub-Zero has a vacuum air seal keeping outside air out of your refrigerator. It's even designed to be harder to open than any other refrigerator.
The NASA-inspired filter scrubs ethylene gases off foods so they stay fresh longer.
It also eliminates cross-contamination to other foods keeping them fresher as well.
Magnetic Crisper Drawers
The crispers close shut so air does not infiltrate from other parts of the refrigerator.
All these core elements are designed so food stays fresh longer.
Spill-Proof Nanotechnology Shelves
Sub-Zero shelves have a coating, so spills congeal rather than spread.
It's a great idea for a refrigerator because it is impossible to clean that sticky juice spill from every crevice and cranny of your refrigerator.
Thermador is a premium appliance brand owned by the BSH Corporation. They were primarily known for manufacturing cooking products like pro ranges, cooktops, and wall ovens.
Their refrigeration is made in Turkey, along with Gaggenau, Bosch Benchmark, and Miele.
Sub-Zero was the first with its 27-inch columns.
However, Thermador was the first to introduce their "Freedom" integrated columns in the other standard sizes of 18, 24, 30, and 36-inch widths.
Thermador was also one of the first brands to have a "Freedom Hinge" so that their refrigeration could integrate completely flush with your cabinetry.
Their rebate program is the best in the industry, dubbed the "1, 2, Free" with free dishwashers and hoods with qualifying purchases of Thermador cooking appliances and refrigerators.
After improving their refrigerators in 2018 and again last year, Thermador is competitive to a Sub-Zero for features.
Thermador Refrigerator and Freezer Columns
- T36IR905SP - $7,599
- T30IR905SP - $6,899
- T24IR905SP - $6,299
- T23IR905SP - $6,099
- T36IF905SP with internal ice maker - $7,599
- T30IF905SP- $6,899
- T24IF905SP - $6,299
- T24ID905 LP/RP - $6,899
- T18IF905SP - $5,799
- T18ID905 LP/RP - $6,299
Thermador Refrigerator/ Freezer Built In Combinations:
- T36IB905SP - $7999
- T36IT905NS - $8299
- T36BB915SS - $9099
- T36BT915SS -$9599
- T36BT925SS - $9599
- T30IB905SP - $7499
- T30BB915SS - $8799
- T30BB925SS - $8799
- Made in Turkey
- Half-gallon produce bins on the door for more fresh food space
- Door shelves and produce bins can be adjusted to any level on the door for more flexibility
- Open door assist, the door can open with a light push to the panel, great for full integration with handless kitchen cabinets
- Humidity controlled crisper drawers
- Super Cool, a feature in the refrigerator, allows you to reduce temp to cool foods quickly temporarily
- LED internal theater lighting
- Soft-close doors and drawers
- TFT touch controls to regulate temperature
- Option for filtered external ice/water dispenser on 18" and 24" freezer columns
- The automatically filtered diamond ice maker in the freezer
- Stainless interior, easy to clean and keeps food colder
- HomeConnect Wi-Fi
- The reversible hinge on non-dispenser models
Hallmarks of Thermador Refrigerator and Freezer Columns
The redesigned models have a new robust TFT control panel governing every possible aspect of the refrigerator.
The refrigerator bins are fully customizable for different foods.
Push to Open Door
The refrigerator has a push-to-open function. I used to think it was gimmicky.
You can push the door open with your hands full rather than pulling on a handle.
It's also a nice design element because you can also have a handleless refrigerator.
You can set the temperature on the crisper drawers independently from the control panel.
Sub-Zero vs. Thermador Refrigerator and Freezer Columns: Which is Better?
Column Refrigeration Doors
Thermador has a new type of door that's handleless (show above). You can now push to open without a handle assist. It is a benefit if you have your hands full.
You will also like the storage on the Thermador door with bins for mushrooms, veggies, and other more delicate foods.
The storage may be better with a Thermador, but Sub-Zero has a better seal.
It's almost hard to open by design and allows less air into the refrigerator.
They are both pretty robust, but Thermador has updated many user guides directly into the controls themselves.
You have monitoring and better diagnostic capabilities with Thermador, but their Wi-Fi is about the same.
Ever spill anything in your refrigerator? You are still finding it days, weeks, and years later. Milk and sticky fruit juice all seem to linger.
Sub-Zero has a nanotechnology film, so spills do not spread. They congeal.
Thermador has regular shelving.
Thermador has upgraded its interiors to stainless steel (shown above).
Stainless absorbs cold better, so place your milk next to it from the grocery store for a faster cold.
It's also non-porous and the easiest to clean. Lighting is technically a bit better with the cross illumination (I used to blog about lighting).
However, you probably have plenty of lighting in your kitchen with the improved LED recessed next to your refrigerator.
I am surprised Thermador did not duplicate this feature.
Sub-Zero has an air scrubber, so it scrubs ethylene gases of foods reducing spoilage and cross-contamination.
Sub-Zero is still built better with magnetic crispers and designed to keep air out of the refrigerator.
Thermador does have independently controlled crispers, so you can set specific temperatures for fruits, veggies, and meats.
Ice and Water Dispensers
Sub-Zero offers internal water dispensing on a few models (shown above). Thermador offers outside dispensing on some of their freezers.
Differences Between Sub-Zero and Thermador 30-Inch All refrigerator Columns and an 18-Inch Freezer Column
The most popular combination is the 30-inch refrigerator and 18-inch freezers because it fits a standard 48-inch cabinet.
Below is a chart with their major differences, including the prices of their stainless kit and all the parts needed for installation.
30” Fridge Column T30IR905SP - $6,899
- 30” Panel TFL30IR800 - $580
- 36” Handle PR36HNDL20 - $160
18” Freezer column T18IF905SP - $5,799
- 18” Panel TFL18IR800 - $475
- 36” Handle PR36HNDL20 - $160
Total Price for Thermador: $14,073.00
30” Refrigerator Column IC-30R-RH - $7,680
- 30” Panel kit with handle 7025304 - $760
- Joining kit 7023628 - $240
18” Freezer Column IC-18FI-LH - $7,030
- 7025325 550.00 18” Panel kit with handle
Total Price for Sub-Zero: $16,260.00
The total price difference between Sub-Zero and Thermador 18" and 24" column refrigerators is $2,187. It's more for the Sub-Zero set.
Thermador also has the 1,2, free program for free dishwashers and hoods with other qualifying purchases, as we mentioned previously.
Sub-Zero has a $1,000 off promotion with other Wolf cooking products.
Differences Between Sub-Zero and Thermador 36-Inch Column Refrigeration
Thermador T36R905SP| Sub-Zero IC-36RID
The two most popular models are roughly the same in cost. The Sub-Zero's capacity is 0.1 Cu. Ft. more than the Thermador.
Thermador will have 0.7 Cu. Ft. more in the refrigerator. Both are the same height, width, and depth.
Although they look different, the capacities are almost the same.
So are the problems.
Both are 84 inches tall, so the items on the top shelf can be hard to reach, especially if you are under 5" 6".
Which Refrigerator Keeps Food Fresh the Longest?
We tested Sub-Zero and Thermador refrigerators over four weeks. Sub-Zero was better, but Thermador was fairly close out of the five refrigerator brands tested.
You can look at a timelapse video below.
Which Is More Reliable, Sub-Zero or Thermador?
According to our internal service numbers, based on over 1500 units sold, Sub-Zero is 8% more reliable than Thermador.
Both do have service departments and are amongst the best in the industry for after-sales support.
Key Takeaways: Sub-Zero vs. Thermador Built-In Column Integrated Refrigerators
Both are excellent. You should consider both for your kitchen.
Depending on when you are reading this, one of the main priorities is buying one.
Like all refrigerators, both Sub-Zero and Thermador have availability problems. Lead times can be six months on certain models or even more.
In comparison, this close, you may want to consider sacrificing brand preferences for availability.
Thermador has good storage on the door, a stainless interior, and some pretty cool controls.
It is still a less expensive option after any package rebates.
However, for keeping food fresher longer with its air scrubber, vacuum seal, and magnetic crisper, Sub-Zero is still the best and most reliable built-in refrigerator.
One last consideration (that should probably be first): Servicing an integrated refrigerator is not easy.
You may want to buy the brand with the best service in the area.
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A Note About Pricing