At a Glance
- What Is the Difference Between
Built-In and Integrated
- Types of Integrated Refrigerators
- Why You Should Not Buy an
- Best Integrated Refrigerators for 2022
- Differences Between Integrated
- What Are the Most Reliable
Integrated Refrigerator Brands?
- Which Integrated Refrigerator
Should You Buy?
- Frequently Asked Questions
With an integrated refrigerator, you cannot tell the difference between the refrigerator and the actual cabinet.
You need to plan for a 25" deep cabinet for your refrigerator to achieve a seamless look between your refrigerator and cabinets.
Most cabinets sit 24 inches in depth. However, some refrigerator units may be more than 24 inches, and you'll need that extra depth so the unit sits flush.
You have plenty of good brands in this niche like Thermador, Sub-Zero, Miele, and Signature Kitchen Suite (SKS).
However, the price is higher, and you lose cubic footage with less depth.
In addition to showing you the five best-integrated refrigerators, you will also learn a few tricks to turn any refrigerator into an integrated flush look.
First, you should know the differences between built-in and counter-depth refrigerators. The terms column, integrated, shallow depth, counter depth, and pro counter depth are often used interchangeably and are admittedly confusing. So, we will straighten that out for you as well.
Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below. The focus is on panel-ready models, and you will see prices for all the models in each brand plus their most popular units.Short on time? Get our free Counter Depth Refrigerator Buying Guide
What Is the Difference Between Built-In and Integrated Refrigerators?
Sub-Zero Integrated Refrigerators with Custom Cabinet Panels
Both are considered built-in refrigerators and accept panels. Both will be called "shallow depth" as well. The main differences are width and depth, although integrated refrigerators are also shorter.
The compressor is mounted on the top of the "professional" built-in units versus the bottom of the integrated models.
Integrated Refrigerator Width
Integrated refrigerators are smaller and are mostly designed to be purchased in sets of two in the larger 42- and 48-inch sizes.
For example, you buy a 30 and 18-inch refrigerator and freezer in place of a 48-inch refrigerator. You can customize more and place your refrigeration anywhere with two units. You can put your refrigerator on the left with two units. You can also place the freezer somewhere else since you are not in it regularly.
Sizes range from 18 inches to 24, 30-, and 36-inches widths versus 30,36, 42, and 48 inches for the pro counter depths. Thirty-six inches is the most popular size for both.
Built-in refrigerators are deeper for total cubic footage than an integrated refrigerator. It's also less expensive per cubic foot than an integrated unit.
There are two counter-depth refrigerators ranging from 24 inches to 48 inches:
- "Professional" refrigerators have the compressor on the top to look like a commercial refrigerator.
- "Regular" counter-depth refrigerators look like regular refrigerators, just shallower than a normal refrigerator.
Integrated Refrigerator Depth
An integrated refrigerator's depth is designed to flush your cabinet with a panel.
Counter-depth varies, but the refrigerator depth is 24 inches plus the depth of the door. In other words, the integrated is flush, whereas the door will protrude on the counter depth.
The costs of a pro counter depth, integrated refrigerator, or column can cost between $10-18,000, depending on what you purchase. KitchenAid has the only regular counter depth with the ability to accept panels. However, it has a black trim around the door, which ruins the look.
Types of Integrated, Built-In Refrigerators
Sub-Zero Integrated Column Refrigeration with Custom Cabinet Panels
Integrated built-ins are available in all assorted styles. You have what the industry calls "columns." Just another tricky parlance to mean either all-refrigerator or freezer, but sometimes people can call a combo a column.
It can also mean both depending on the company or your salesperson (if they know). Then you have all different types of combinations. Thermador will have a French door, while Sub-Zero has several different drawer types of configurations.
Just know you can buy an integrated refrigerator in tons of separate ways, all refrigerator, freezer, French door, bottom mount, and bottom mount with two drawers.
Pro Tip: Both integrated and counter depth refrigerators can be paneled or stainless. Depending on what you do with your cabinet, integrated looks better with a cabinet, whereas a professional refrigerator looks a bit better in stainless.
Why You Should Not Buy an Integrated Refrigerator
I authored an article with this title just to make people think. Integrated is a good look in your kitchen. I have one. However, you lose about 10% of the total cubic footage in the same width.
Although these refrigerators look big, they have less cubic footage due to the shallower depth.
Pro Tip: If you build your cabinets out to 27 inches, you can integrate any counter-depth refrigerator. You can design any counter depth to integrate this trick.
The Best Integrated Refrigerators for 2022
1. Sub-Zero Integrated Refrigeration
- Most Popular: Sub-Zero IT-36CIID Integrated Refrigerator - $10,570
- Integrated Column Refrigeration: Sub-Zero IC-30RID-RH & IC-18FI-LH - $17,130
Sub-Zero was the original industry pioneer for built-in refrigeration about fifty years ago. They manufactured the first column at an odd, now discontinued 27-inches.
They still have the best seal, so air cannot infiltrate into your refrigerator to spoil your food.
Crispers are magnetized, so they close better, not letting air into the crisper.
Their air scrubber "scrubs" the ethylene gas off spoiling foods and eliminates cross-contamination, so foods stay fresher longer.
Sub-Zero makes more options that are 30" or 36" all-refrigerator or all-freezer bottom mounts. Their new units now have stainless on the inside as well.
Pros: Most model options, years of manufacturing, made in the US, options for internal water. Best filtering and air scrubber to prolong food life.
It has the best seal and is the only air scrubber for longer-lasting and fresher food. Sub-Zero is number one because food lasts the longest in their refrigerator. Over four weeks, we tested Sub-Zero against four other brands with fruit and vegetables. Sub-Zero performed the best.
Their new Wi-Fi allows you to change the temperature and alert you when the door is open or when the air scrubber or filter needs to be changed.
Cons: No external icemaker
- Made in the US
- Dual Compressor and Evaporator
- Accepts custom or stainless-steel panels
- Double freezer drawers for optimal organization
- Full height door - True cabinet integration without exposed venting grille
- Internal water dispenser (optional)
- Air purification system scrubs the air of ethylene, keeping food fresher longer
- Crystal interior with Nano-coated spill-proof shelving
- Soft-close doors and drawers
- Soft-on LED lighting gradually illuminates refrigerator interior
- Smart-touch control panel for user-friendly precise temperature management
- Low temperature and high humidity-controlled storage crispers
2. Thermador Integrated Refrigeration
- Most Popular: Thermador T36BT925NS Built-In Refrigerator - $10,999
- Integrated Column Refrigeration: Thermador T30IR905SP & T18IF905SP - $13,998
Thermador, Gaggenau, Miele, and the Bosch built-ins are all Turkish factories. Until recently, Gaggenau was premium with a stainless-steel interior. Miele has the best lighting along with their MasterCool crisper controls. Bosch was the least expensive.
Thermador's integrated refrigerators have customizable bins, a touchscreen display, and a push to open door.
They also have a stainless-steel interior to keep food colder. The water purification has been upgraded to filter 99.1%. They added Wi-Fi so you can access the refrigerator remotely through your phone via Thermador's' HomeConnect app.
- Made in Turkey
- Half-gallon 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.
- A super cool 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
- Automatically filtered diamond ice maker in the freezer
- Stainless Interiors
- Enhanced Purification
3. Miele Integrated Refrigeration
- Most Popular: Miele KF2982SF Built-In Refrigerator - $10,199
- Integrated Column Refrigeration: Miele K2802Vi & F2412Vi - $15,698
Miele is a high-quality brand known for its dishwashers and incredible laundry. I interviewed their CEO (US), Jan Heck, for our Behind the Brand series on YouTube. I told him they weren't known for their refrigerators.
He Said, "Wrong, Steve. Wrong," and said Miele would be out with new differentiated products.
Their refrigerators are made in the same plant as the Thermador, which is why you are having a tough time comparing the two.
One of my friends just moved into a condo in Boston with a Miele fridge. It's well-lit with lights on either side. It's impressive. They also have their MasterCool crispers to store veggies and fruit more precisely.
- Push2open Door
- SmartFresh - Helps food stay fresh up to 3x longer
- BrilliantLight - LED interior lighting
- MasterSensor - Full color touchscreen display
4. SKS Built-In Refrigerator SKSFD3604P - $9,999
SKS (Signature Kitchen Suite) is the premium brand of parent company LG based in Korea. They have tons of features and one large basic problem.
They tout themselves as the largest. SKS is 18 cubic feet (about twice the bathtub volume) in their 30-inch refrigerator column versus 16.8 for Thermador.
It is all stainless steel on the inside like Thermador and Wi-Fi enabled through LG's ThinQ app. SKS will be beta testing the service component shortly, where the refrigerator will notify other service providers and us of potential problems before they become issues.
Pros: You have an internal dispenser for water, and the SKS is the quietest unit on the market at a noiseless 39 DB. But their biggest feature is you can buy it and have it delivered quickly. Most manufacturers are at least six months to a year out.
They have the base sizes covered except for one:
- The refrigerator is 30- and 34-inch in width.
- The freezer is 18-, 24-, and 30-inch in width.
Cons: What's missing is the 36-inch size, which is the most popular size on the market. Still, SKS is a brand worth considering in the larger 42,48-, and 60-inch sizes.
- 36-inch Built-in French Door Refrigerator
- Convertible middle drawer
- Purposeful design
- Precise preservation
- Seamless kitchen design
Fisher & Paykel is an appliance company based in New Zealand now owned by Haier. They are best known for manufacturing narrow width, counter depth refrigerators, and dishwasher drawers in the US market.
Fisher & Paykel is the only basic refrigerator on this list. It looks like a regular refrigerator, and at $6,000, it's the least regular integrated unit by far.
Pros: The price is aggressive and the lowest on this list.
Cons: It's tough to install a panel on this unit. It's available in just one size, 36 inches. It also lacks height like other column refrigerators.
The availability has been poor on this unit, but then again, availability has been poor for every brand.
- Active Smart technology maintains consistent temperature and monitors your habits to operate efficiently
- Ice maker with a filter built into the refrigerator (different than other freestanding Fisher & Paykel models)
- Fast freeze allows you to lower the temperature temporarily so that you can make sure your groceries get cold quickly
- LED internal lighting
- Stainless panel option sold separately
- Accessory kits available to extend height to fit old refrigerator cutouts
Differences Between Integrated Refrigerators
|Sub-Zero||Thermador||Miele||SKS||Fisher & Paykel|
|Sealed Door||Vacuumed sealed||Soft close door||Soft close door||Soft close door||Soft close door|
|Push to Open Door||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Air Scrubber||Yes||No||Active CleanAir Filter||No||No|
|Bins||Magnetic crispers||Customizable bins||Yes||Life & Go Bins||Removable Bins|
|Temperature Management||Touch controls for precise temperature management||Yes with Proprietary Cool Air Flow technology||Yes with MasterCool||Yes with Precise Preservation||Yes with ActiveSmart technology|
These are the best integrated refrigerator brands with their most unique features.
Sealed Door: It's tough to open a Sub-Zero door because it's designed to keep air out of your refrigerator.
Push to Open Door: Thermador has this feature. It's interesting and useful because you can open the door even if your hands are full. On certain models, you at one time could buy the additional accessory to have the press-to-open feature for a Sub-Zero refrigerator.
Air Scrubber: Sub-Zero, known for keeping food fresher for a longer period, has an air scrubber to remove gas from spoiling foods and prevent cross-contamination. The others do not have an air scrubber.
Bins: Sub-Zero's magnetic crispers prevent air from infiltrating your bins to keep food fresh, while Thermador's are fully customizable. Thermador's customizable bins on the door are exceptional. You can order whatever kind of bins you use.
Nanotechnology Shelving: Sub-Zero has nanotechnology shelving, making cleaning spills easier while not spreading or leaving juice or milk rings.
Wi-Fi Connectivity: All now have Wi-Fi connectivity
Touchscreen Controls: Thermador has TFT controls. You can access all your functions and controls on the top of the refrigerator.
What Are the Most Reliable Integrated Refrigerator Brands?
Sub-Zero is the most reliable integrated refrigerator, followed by Thermador and Miele. The difference is about 2.6%. Only Sub-Zero is less than the average appliance service rate at 9.5%.
SKS will be interesting to see how they fare. Their parent company LG was repaired least for refrigeration at just 4.5% in the first year.
The three top complaints about integrated refrigerators are Door not closing properly, which is an installation issue. A refrigerator running loud would be the second, followed by the ice maker not working.
Which Integrated Refrigerator Should You Buy?
Integrated is the new growing trend for upscale refrigeration. As they all improve, the product is beginning to look the same. They now have all stainless interiors, Wi-Fi functionality, and similar sizes.
Sub-Zero has most of the features available with their new release, plus the nanotechnology shelving and air scrubber unique. Thermador is a good lower-priced alternative with their rebate program. Miele has the best lighting and crisper drawers.
Fisher & Paykel and SKS have become more interesting because they are the most available. SKS offers a larger size at a better price.
A tie-breaker is service availability. Integrated refrigerators are reliable but fixing them is not easy. Make sure that it can be fixed in your area.
Best Integrated Refrigerator Brand by Feature
To help you decide, we broke down few of the best features for buying an integrated refrigerator below.
The Best Control Panel: Miele
Miele's MasterSensor touchscreen controls have a full-color display. All of Miele's integrated refrigerator settings can be adjusted or set with the tap of a finger.
Sub-Zero and Thermador also offer a comprehensive TFT display to adjust refrigeration conditions.
Best for Contemporary Kitchen Design: Thermador
Thermador's new integrated refrigeration can be touch-to-open, perfect for handleless kitchen designs.
Best for Running Water: Sub-Zero and Thermador
Sub-Zero offers a filtered internal water dispenser on many of their integrated models that maintain the seamless aesthetic of integrated refrigeration outside and do not affect internal refrigerator capacity.
Thermador makes select freezers with external ice and water. However, the ice maker does take up a huge portion of the total cubic footage.
Least Expensive: Fisher & Paykel
For years, the industry begged for a fully integrated counter-depth refrigerator. Fisher & Paykel is the first to market with a solution under $6,000.
Best Bins: Thermador
You can customize the bins for whatever you use.
Best Cooling System: Sub-Zero
The goal is to make your food cold. Sub-Zero is the most advanced temperature control in conjunction with an air scrubber system to remove ethylene gases.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is an integrated refrigerator?
An integrated refrigerator is a specialty refrigerator. Integrated refrigerators sit seamlessly with your cabinets and look great.
2. What brands make integrated refrigerators?
For example, GE, Whirlpool, and Frigidaire either do not manufacture an integrated refrigerator or sell a small amount through a subsidiary like GE Monogram.
Only niche companies like Viking, Thermador, Gaggenau, Liebherr, Sub-Zero, and Bosch actively market the product.
3. What's the difference between built-in and counter-depth refrigerators?
A counter-depth refrigerator is a less deep freestanding refrigerator that comes side by side or French doors with a freezer on the bottom. They are 24" depth models designed only to have handles and doors to protrude from your cabinets. Most models are 36" wide.
Built-in refrigerators are built into the cabinetry. They are only 24" deep. They are 84 inches tall. They can run 30 to 48-inches wide. They accept wood panels that make refrigerators blend into the cabinets for a seamless look. They can also come in a stainless-steel finish that gives you a professional look.
Integrated refrigerators are flushed to the cabinet. Nothing protrudes. While the other two are noticeable, integrated refrigerators will look more like your cabinets.
Column Refrigeration vs. Refrigerators and Freezers
Integrated refrigerators are available at 30", 36", and sometimes 42" to fit standard cabinet sizes containing a refrigerator and a freezer.
Columns are 18", 24", 30", and sometimes 30" the but are either refrigerator or freezer. You customize columns to how much space you want to dedicate toward refrigeration or freezing.
Since I tend to use a lot of refrigeration space, I would place a bigger refrigerator column in my kitchen's central location. A smaller drawer integrated freezer can be placed anywhere since I use it sparingly.
4. Do integrated refrigerators last longer?
The integrated refrigerator is a higher quality product. They are new, so it is hard to say. However, most lack the heavily serviced water and ice dispenser. Buying both units should add years as well.
5. What are the most reliable refrigerator brands?
The most reliable integrated refrigerator brands for 2022 are Sub-Zero and JennAir, with service rates below the average of 9.8% for integrated refrigeration. The most reliable refrigerator brands for standard counter-depth refrigerators are LG, Samsung, GE Profile, Café Appliances, and Bosch.
Read More: Most Reliable Appliance Brands for 2022
Download the Yale Counter Depth Refrigerator Buying Guide with features, specs, and inside buying tips to all the major brands of regular, professional, and integrated counter depth refrigerators. Well over 1 million people have read a Yale Guide.
Steve is the third-generation CEO of Yale and a lifelong Bostonian. He currently resides in Boston, one mile from where he was born. Despite being one of the worst goalies of all time, he is a huge hockey fan of college hockey and the Boston Bruins. The love of his life is his daughter Sophie.
Steve has also been featured in numerous publications such as 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.
A Note About Pricing