If you’ve ever looked inside a budget top-freezer, you’ll know what to expect from the 78822: Incandescent lights, full-width glass shelves, and white plastic trim.
Fresh food storage is moderately customizable, especially on the door, while freezer space is only adjustable if you don’t plan on using the built-in icemaker. There’s a wide deli drawer in the fridge, but vertical storage is at a premium. You’ll probably end up storing taller items like milk jugs or wine bottles in the door-mounted, gallon-deep buckets.
Controls are very basic. A small dial located near the front of the fridge manages the lower cavity, while a dial in the back of the freezer handles the chilly section. Both use unnumbered scales running from Cold to Colder, and both Normal settings proved too warm in our tests. You’ll want to invest in an external thermostat for optimal calibration.
A little warm, but otherwise good
The biggest issue with the 78822 is temperature calibration. We set our fridges to the recommended manufacturer setting—in this case a dot labeled Normal on each control knob. Both compartments ran warm, especially in the freezer, which averaged over 12ºF. The fridge was at least consistent, so turning down the controls might make up for any issues.
There's only one problem with that: Basic fridges like the 78822 only use one compressor and a fan to circulate the right amount of cold air to each compartment, so turning down either the fridge or freezer will have some impact on the other compartment.
The 78822’s crispers were surprisingly effective at retaining moisture, which is great news for produce lovers. Freezing times were adequate, too, which would be good for folks who like to store sale-priced meats, if you can get the freezer to stay below 0ºF—necessary for staving off freezer burn over time. Energy consumption was also satisfyingly low. If you don’t mind calibrating the fridge yourself, then you’re left with a fairly well-performing budget top-freezer. A built-in icemaker doesn’t hurt, either.
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Not a bad fridge if you keep an eye on the temperature
While the Kenmore 78822 had issues with temperature calibration, it did well—sometimes exceptionally so—in nearly every other test we put it through. Sears’ retail prices put it at about $670, about the same price as other comparable machines.
If you’re looking for a moderately priced top-freezer and this one is on sale, go ahead and purchase the 78822. As long as you're willing to pay attention to temperatures and don't mind some of the inherent drawbacks of a budget top-freezer, this one shouldn't disappoint.
Some of the issues our tests uncovered about the Kenmore 78822 (MSRP $839.99) could be correctible, but the fact that this is a single compressor machine means each compartment serves at the whim of the other. Cool down the fridge, and the freezer could still be too warm; cool down the freezer, and the fridge becomes too cold. Otherwise, this basic top-freezer was surprisingly effective and aced nearly all our tests.
Don’t trust the recommendations
Adjusting the controls to the labeled Normal settings produced warm temperatures all around. In the fridge, that meant average readings of 38.42ºF at the top, 38.48ºF in the middle, and 42.01ºF around the crispers. You’ll absolutely want to turn the temperature down, as food stored above 41ºF can lead to increased bacterial growth.
Fortunately, the closeness in temperatures near the top and middle means this model is very consistent. A little extra warmth near the bottom is actually better for storing produce—as long as you get it below 41ºF. With average fluctuations of about 0.46ºF, fresh food storage will be quite effective once you find the ideal setting.
The freezer was more problematic. Average temps of 11.4ºF at the top and 13.79ºF at the bottom indicate that the Normal setting is anything but. To get it down to the ideal 0ºF means you really have to crank the controls down. Even if you do hit the desired 0ºF mark, temperature fluctuations of about 0.79ºF indicates that you’re probably going to see some freezer burn accumulate on anything left in the freezer for too long regardless.
Cool, crisp veggies
On an unabashedly positive note, the 78822’s crisper drawers were excellent at retaining moisture. Over the course of 72 hours, our test materials only lost an average of 0.12 grams of moisture per hour. That’s great news for the celery lovers of the world.
A satisfying chill
Despite its unusually warm temperatures, the 78822’s freezer did a solid job cooling things quickly. Room-temperature test materials crossed the 32ºF barrier after 1 hour and 27 minutes, faster than average and good news for folks who like to stock up on meat or chicken. The bad news? Temperature fluctuation may cause freezer burn regardless.
The 78822 also aced our power-loss test. After 36 hours without power, our test materials were still sufficiently cold, and had only warmed up to 29.15ºF. That’s pretty close to thawing, so if you’re in an area with frequent outages and slow repairs, you’ll want to keep an eye on the clock.
Roomy fridge, tiny freezer
Most of the 78822’s usable space is in its fresh food compartment. Three full-width shelves—two of which are adjustable—make up the bulk of the storage, supplemented by two matching crispers and a full-width deli drawer. The door sports four adjustable buckets deep enough to hold gallon-sized containers, as well as a dairy bin and a wide shelf at the bottom. All this totals a sizable 10.83 usable cubic feet of space.
The basic freezer has one shelf dividing its main cavity into an upper and lower section. It’s adjustable, but moving the shelf up a rung means the ice bucket won’t fit under the dispenser. The door holds two full-width shelves for additional storage. It only adds up to 3.36 usable cubic feet, making this freezer a bit more cramped than average.
With such a simple design, it’s no surprise that the 78822 uses so little electricity. At a rate of $0.09 per kWh, we determined that this fridge should only cost you about $21.90 per year to run with the icemaker on. That translates into just 0.5 kWh per usable cubic foot (less if you don’t plan on making any ice), which is very energy efficient indeed.
Meet the tester
Logistics Manager & Staff Writer@ReviewedHome
Matthew is a native of Brockton, MA and a graduate of Northeastern, where he earned a degree in English and Theatre. He has also studied at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin and spends most of his free time pursuing a performance career in the greater Boston area.See all of Matthew Zahnzinger's reviews
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