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Sep 19, 2007 12:10 PM

New Sub-Zero coming in tomorrow

The bad news was that the 1994 Northridge earthquake essentially destroyed the part of my house containing the kitchen. The good news was that there was a considerable amount of insurance money available. The bad news was that there wasn't quite enough insurance money to do EVERYthing I wanted to do, but the good news was that I was able to design a really nice kitchen anyway, without having to dip too far into non-insurance money. The bad news was that I made two mistakes: I should have chosen a different faucet for the sink, and I DEFINITELY should have chosen another refrigerator.

See, when I designed the counters and cabinets I decided that what would work best would be a 24" deep, 42" wide fridge. I was right about the 24" depth, but I should have thought more about the width -- after all, 48" wide would have meant a loss of only 3" of counter/cabinet space on each side of the fridge, which wouldn't have been much of a loss. But water under the bridge, right? The fact is, I decided on 42", and at that time there were only two choices: Sub-Zero and GE Monogram. And I decided -- solely on the basis of the $1500 or so difference in cost -- to go with the GE.

Now, it is not a BAD refrigerator. On the other hand, it is not a very GOOD refrigerator. The main problem has to do with the way the freezer side drains after it runs through its defrost cycle -- or, more precisely, after 9 years the way it DOESN'T drain. According the my repair guy, in these machines the tube that is supposed to carry the water from the top of the unit down to the drain pan at the bottom eventually gets clogged, so that the water doesn't drain at all; instead, it pools up above the ceiling (so to speak) of the freezer and refreezes. When enough of it gets up there, what happens when the freezer goes through the defrost cycle is that the ice up there melts and drips down the inside of the freezer, creating ice streams down the sides and a layer of ice at the bottom. Moreover, when there is enough water up there, and it freezes, it stops the operation of a fan up there that is supposed to carry cold air from the freezer side into the refrigerator side. So what happens is, every 2 - 3 weeks both the freezer and the refrigerator slowly stop staying cold enough. And since water keeps building up and frerezing above the ceiling of the freezer, the only way to remedy it is to take everything out, turn the machine off, and let all that built-up ice thaw and drain down to the bottom of the freezer. In the meantime, my dry-ice bills keep getting run up and up.

Enough, as they say, is enough. A few weeks ago I did what I should have done in the first place: ordered a new Sub-Zero 42"-wide refrigerator. This morning Crew #1 came and removed the GE (R.I.P.); this afternoon Crew #2 will come and move the electric outlet and water line to accommodate the new machine; and tomorrow Crew #3 will deliver and install the Sub-Z. With any kind of luck at all, by tomorrow night I'll be able to empty out all three of the ice chests, put the stuff into the new box, and get the kitchen back to some semblance of normalcy.

So. Here's what I want reassurance about: Have I spent over $7,000 wisely? Will I be happy with my Sub-Zero? Or will I be back here at some point, once again bemoaning my fate at the hands of the refrigerator gods?

Any and all feedback re folks' experiences with Sub-Zero 42" refrigerators (or, indeed, with Sub-Zeros in general) will be welcome.

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  1. I did a custom kitchen back in the day.early"90s". It had a sub-zero. When I sold the house I pined for that fridge and still do. It was the perfect fridge. Am I the only person who pines for a fridge???????? Anyway, the best part about the fridge was the shelf space. You have plenty of room for large platters, whole turkeys, watermelons, a side of beef, or the whole cow for that matter. Its a party fridge, enjoy it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hipchick47

      If we ever move, I'm sure all pine for our fridge. When we bought it, I wanted to for for a cheaper model but (surprise) my wife won out. Now that we have it I wouldn't trade it, not sure why, but it just seems well designed, easy to see where everything is, easy to get to what I want, well lit... it's the small stuff.

    2. You ought to get a lot of folks weighing on the problems/merits of SZ. Personally I think that the reason for MANY of the poor ratings it has in "repair history" that CU has to do with owner expectations -- a whole lot of people that spend $5K on a fridge expect that it will cool foods faster than any other and make more ice than any other. Well, it won't. You can get ice twice as fast from fridges that cost less than half as much. And no fridge really cools faster than any other, the biggest factors are a) how warm is the food before cooling & b) how much other well chilled stuff is already in the fridge.

      Practically no other home fridge is built as well as a SZ -- 15 or 20 years and they can still look like new.

      Few if any fridges has as much usable space inside as a SZ, give the location of the compressors.

      Few if any fridges run as quietly and maintain temp so well.

      No other fridge as big as a SZ has so little interference with adjacent cabinets.

      Decent list of "pros".

      On the CONS:

      #1 is high initial cost & the lack of discounting

      #2 relatively few well trained technicians -- and I mean everyone from installers to 'troubleshooters" to actual field service people. In certain areas this can mean you are without a working fridge for a long time.

      #3 -- that's about it

      1. Progress report: (1) Crew #1 came on time and removed the old refrigerator. (2) Crew #2 (actually, just one guy) came and moved the outlet. No need to move the water supply.

        So far so good. Let's see what happens tomorrow. All fingers are crossed.

        1. I have had separate SZ fridge & freezer units for five years with (knock wood) not a single problem. Purely love 'em. Lots of room for large items as well as great shelves that are easy to move.

          My son did a kitchen remodel last year and chose the 42" SZ. This is the only refrig-freezer unit that he found with separate condensers (?). That means the temp of the freezer and temp of the 'fridge are completely separate, i.e. your freezer can maintain zero degrees without freezing the lettuce.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sherri

            Sub-Zero side-by-sides of all sizes are made this way, i.e., with one condensor for the freezer and a separate one for the refrigerator. And you are right: only Sub-Zero, of all the manufacturers that (now) make 42"-wide refrigerators, does this. It's one of the reasons that Sub-Zeros are more expensive than other manufacturers' machines. The big advantage is not so much that the freezer can stay at zero degrees without freezing the lettuce in the refrigerator; I think most side-by-sides can do that pretty well, though having the two sides operate completely separately means that the Sub-Zero can probably do so with more precision. Rather, it would seem the big advantage is that the two sides operate independently -- so if the refrigerator condensor fails, you don't lose your frozen stuff as well as your cold stuff. The downside, of course, is that there are two condensors that can fail, and condensors are expensive. (But modern-day condensors don't fail all that often, so I'm hoping it will never be an issue.)

          2. Final update: The crew that came yesterday and removed the defunct GE came back today and installed the new Sub-Zero without a hitch at about 10 this morning. By the time I get home from work it should be fully cooled down and ready to accept food. Now the only things left to do are (1) install on the front of the new machine the wood panels that were on the front of the old one (and do whatever tweaking is needed so they will fit -- which should be minor) and (2) replace the railing from the front porch, which I had to remove yesterday to provide enough space for the new machine to be brought in through the front door. Wish me luck!

            3 Replies
            1. re: ozhead

              Did I say "final update?" I'm as bad as Dan Rather! THIS is the final update: The machine arrived and works great (fridge 37 degrees, freezer 0), all the food is back in it, and the railing is replaced. All that's left is installing the wood panels.

              Wait -- maybe THAT will be the final update!

              1. re: ozhead

                Hi there,

                Last year, we re-did our kitchen and it was a major overhaul - moved stairs, walls, doors, etc.

                We spent the big bucks and got the 48 counter-depth (24") Subzero.I've never regretted it and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. You'll love it.

                Have fun!


                1. re: ozhead

                  Hope it went well with the wood panels. When my parents replaced their old SZ with the "new" one a number of years ago, the wood panels were too small. Apparently, the specs on the door frame had changed...someone came up with the idea of adding an additional layer of wood, slightly larger, on which the wood panels which matched the cabinets were mounted. Unfortunately, the wood added a bit of weight to the doors and tended to pull down the hinges a bit and sorta keep it from closing tightly every now and again. Eventually, my parents elected to just get the stainless steel inserts, which weigh far less, and that seemed to cure the problem. You just have to be a bit careful while cleaning the doors that you use the right cleaner and don't end up with an interesting swirl pattern on the stainless.