Refrigerators

Kenmore 51783 Refrigerator Review

Low price can't save this mixed bag

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Mid-range side-by-side fridges are enigmas that can be difficult to crack. The design and layout are often great—or at least good enough—but the performance typically has some glaring flaws that can’t be fixed. Such is the case with the Kenmore 51783 (MSRP $1,699.99), a new side-by-side that retails for roughly $1,275 at Sears. It's a great deal, but if you can afford just about $150 more, we might suggest a superior alternative.

Bright LED lights, glass shelves, and a door-mounted icemaker all look great. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around warm temperatures that are inconsistent over time. Playing around with the thermostat will improve the product’s performance, but it will never be a perfect fridge.

The Cold Hard Facts

The Kenmore 51783 (MSRP $1,699.99) looks great, but we’re mostly interested in how it functions. In that regard, this side-by-side leaves something to be desired.

Temperature Performance

Temperature shifts from top to bottom weren’t outrageous, most side-by-sides suffer in this regard to one degree or another. In the fridge, we recorded average temperatures of 38.36°F at the top, 39.63°F in the middle, and 41.92°F at the bottom. That’s definitely too warm, but you can help fix that by turning the thermostat down by about two degrees. What you can’t change is the ±0.57°F temperature deviation over time, a substantially wide range for a fresh food section.

If the fridge is bad, then the freezer is worse. Average temperatures clocked in at -2.1°F at the top, all the way up to 1.15°F at the bottom. What’s worse is that we recorded temperature fluctuations of ±1.54°F. We normally see shifts of ±0.7°F on average in the freezer, this one more than doubles the norm. Don’t leave anything in the freezer too long, otherwise freezer burn may appear sooner than you expect.

Design & Usability

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Lots of style, lots of space

From the outside, this fridge looks like a standard side-by-side. The stainless finish is nice enough, but smudges easily. The control panel has slim black buttons as opposed to an actual touch screen, with bright green lights that are easy to read. They disappear when not in use.

On the inside, plenty of LED bulbs in both the fridge and freezer ensure that you’ll never have to dig around in the shadows for anything. Glass shelves are sturdy, but still light enough that it's easy to make adjustments or remove them for cleaning.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of alternative slots on which to put those shelves. In the fridge, you’re always going to wind up stuck with at least one short shelf near the bottom.

The freezer is a little better, though some awkwardly protruding light fixtures take up too much space. Door storage, on the other hand, is flexible (on the fridge side, anyway), with deep buckets for gallon-sized storage.

Performance & Features

Take care with delicate food

Due to their tall, narrow interiors, side-by-sides almost always fall victim to temperature inconsistencies. This Kenmore showed substantial shifts from top to bottom and also displayed massive shifts over time in both the fridge and freezer.

For optimal performance, we recommend you turn the thermostat down by about two degrees in both sections. Otherwise, this was a decidedly average fridge. The lone crisper drawer did a decent job, and energy efficiency was unremarkable.

Extra features are pretty slim. Inside the fridge section, you’ve got both an air filter and water filter up at the top, near the lights. Other than those and through-the-door ice and water, the only extras on this model are an Acceler-Ice mode for generating ice more quickly, and a lock for the controls.

For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.

Moisture Retention

The fridge’s lone crisper did a decent job. Test materials lost an average of 0.24 grams of moisture each hour over the course of a three-day period. That’s not bad enough to have a hugely detrimental impact on your produce, but it is slightly worse than average.

Freezing & Thawing

Freezing something in this Kenmore from room temperature to 32°F took about 1 hour and 25 minutes. That’s acceptable, but we’d suggest thinking twice if you want to store something delicate or expensive.

Fortunately, retaining cold air wasn’t a problem. After 36 hours without power, the Kenmore’s freezer temperatures had peaked at a mere 29.6°F.

A Bargain?

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Not necessarily worth the savings

The Kenmore 51783 is about as mixed a package as one can get. It looks great, handles as well as a budget fridge ever did, and is priced at an incredibly competitive rate. Sears has it on sale for just $1,2749.99—a steal for a side-by-side this large.

Unfortunately, the performance leaves a bit to be desired, with temperatures inconsistencies that can't all be corrected by fiddling with the thermostat. At the end of the day, you're paying an exceptionally low price for a mostly average fridge that has some unfixable flaws. If you want something that'll do a better job preserving but can't afford a higher-priced unit, consider the Whirlpool WRS325FDAM, which retails for just under $1,100 at most retailers.

Storage Space & Energy Efficiency

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Despite some issues with the accessibility—shelf slots result in some awkward storage—the amount of space is fairly decent. A combination of shelves and drawers, as well as deep bucket storage on the fridge door, serve up 9.84 usable cubic feet of space.

The freezer is decent, as well, if cramped. The door-mounted icemaker means door storage is minimal at best. All told, you’ve got 4.76 usable cubic feet of frozen food space.

Energy consumption, while quite efficient, doesn’t quite reach the levels of the most efficient appliances on the market today. Each cubic foot of usable storage space requires 0.08kWh to keep cool. Assuming a fixed rate of $0.09 per kWh—and with the icemaker running—you can expect an annual electric bill of about $36.95 for this fridge.

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