The Appliance Dude reviews the SubZero 36″ French Door Fridge vs Thermador’s 36″ Offering
When customers visit Curto’s and are seeking a new refrigerator, more times than not they will walk out having purchased a french door refrigerator.
French door refrigerators are typically 36” wide (though it can also be 30” and 42”) with two adjacent doors framing the refrigerator and one pull out freezer door underneath.French door refrigeration is one of the most popular styles of refrigerator sold in the United States. The dual refrigerator doors have two succinct advantages:
For 30” standard depth and 36” standard and counter-depth refrigerators, the most popular models can be found from LG, Bosch, GE Profile and JennAir. These fridges would range in price from $1799 on the low side to a tick above $3000. For many years 36” wide and 72” high were the standard measurements for french door fridges. Then in the mid 2000’s the premium brands began to introduce french door styles at 36” or 42” and 84” in height.
The first wave of these premium had one very noticeable holdout – SubZero. I took a trip to their factory in 2006 and asked their engineers if they were planning on introducing a french door refrigerator and they said they had not released one yet because they did not feel as if they had figured out certain intrinsic design flaws of the style (like the door gasket which did not allow for a tight seal) so they did not want to attach the SubZero brand to the product style until it could be improved. Their engineers were apparently working on something, because a short number of years later they introduced the BI36UFD/S, a 36” built in french door model.
One of the early adherents to the French Door style on a built-in premium fridge was Thermador. Known primarily as a cooking company, Thermador first introduced refrigeration in 2003-2004 (it was produced for them by KitchenAid/Whirlpool) and shorlty after their parent company opened a refrigeration plant in Turkey where columnar refrigeration for Thermador, Bosch, Gaggenau and Miele would be produced.
Through the ensuing years Thermador has arguably done the best job at competing with Sub-Zero as they have not only been able to compete on price, but they have also focused on product innovation (they introduced the concept of columnar refrigeration back in 2006).
TALE OF THE TAPE
FREEDOM® Hinge enables true flush design
Full height door – True cabinet integration without exposed venting grille
ALL LED sidewall and theater lighting
Flat stainless steel door panels, pre-assembled
Professional handles, pre-assembled
Frame kit for flush installations (25″ deep cut-outs) or framed installations (24″ deep cut-outs) , pre-assembled
Dual compressor and dual evaporator
Electronic controls for precise temperature management
Full width meat drawer
Carbon air filter reduces odors and keeps air clean and fresh
Full length cantilever racks for ultimate adjustability
Full width glass shelves with metal trim
Full extension drawers at 90° door opening angle
Gallon door bins
Large capacity freezer drawer
SuperCool – Chills food quickly
SuperFreeze – Freezes food quickly
Door open alarm
ENERGY STAR® Qualified
19.6 Cu. Ft.
SubZero 36” French Door Specs:
21.0 Cu. Ft
Dual refrigeration system ensures the freshest food and energy efficiency
Electronic microprocessor constantly monitors entire unit to ensure proper food storage environment
Air purification system reduces odors, bacteria, viruses and ethylene gas
Advanced water filtration system
Illuminated touch control panel
Bright interior lighting throughout, including storage drawer area
Adjustable spill-proof glass shelves, door shelves and dairy compartments
Soft-close crisper and deli drawers form a lower temperature zone ideal for produce and meats
Easy-access flip-up grille
Full-extension, roll-out freezer drawer
Max ice feature increases production for a 24-hour period
For years (actually, decades) Sub-Zero was pretty much the only game in town that offered two compressors was SubZero. What is the advantage of a variable speed dual compressor system? Aside from being more energy efficient, it prevents air exchange between the refrigerator and freezer. This means that the system does not have to work as hard as air does not have to be moved throughout the entire chassis by one system. Without dry freezer air meeting the warmer fridge air you don’t promote exchange of flavor and odors from one section to the other. So for example your ice cubes or ice cream won’t taste like last night’s Chicken Tikka Masala leftovers.
Most customers (especially ones who opt to use custom panels) are installing flush inset refrigerators which are flush with cabinetry. Sub-Zero offers a flush install, but it will leave a gap around the door. You also need to bring the cabinets out to 26 3/16ths for a flush install.
Thermador is an integrated refrigerator, so it is completely seamless to the cabinets for a flush and custom look.
Thermador 36” french door fridge with pre-assembled stainless panels, pro handles – $7999 UMRP
Subzero BI36UFD/S/PH, 36” fridge in stainless, pro handels – $10,370 MSRP
Sub Zero refrigerators are manufactured in Madison, Wisconsin and Phoenix, Arizona.
Thermador refrigerators are currently produced in Turkey but there are plans afoot to bring production to the United States in the next few years.
Warranty and Service
Thermador offers a limited two-year warranty, entire appliance, parts and labor on any part of the refrigerator that fails because of a manufacturing defect
SubZero also offers a 2 year warranty. Service for the fridges is important and overlooked fact. Sub-Zero is the gold standard in the appliance industry when it comes to customer service, which makes the high price tags more palatable. As I’ve told customers countless times, when you buy a Sub-Zero in some ways it is like you are joining a club that is focused on serving customers. From the way friendly way they answer the phone (and in a timely manner!) and the expedient way that service is coordinated and parts are handled, it truly is a stark difference from dealing with service issues with many other appliance companies.
Depending on where you live, Thermador offers factory service (the technicians are typically versed in Thermador and their sister company Bosch). Service is well represented throughout the contiguous United States and in major metropolitan areas there are also typically numerous independent service companies available as well.
Both Thermador and Sub-Zero make stellar products. You’ll pay more for the Sub-Zero but with that price tag you are receiving a product built along the lines of a tank and which offers incomparable service. Thermador’s french door fridge is compelling as well, especially if considering a Thermador package, which would qualify you for a Thermador hood and a savings of several thousand dollars on your package.
When we sell these I rarely, if ever, hear about post-purchase issues. The only negative comments I every hear is that people feel that the SubZero is very expensive and that Consumer Reports does not rate them highly (which is a very flawed comment unto itself), and on the Thermador side people who are shorter complain that the top shelf is too high (remember, Thermador’s compressor is on the bottom which elevates the shelves somewhat). Aside from those comments, people buy these in droves and are very, very happy post-purchase.
If you have any further questions about Sub Zero or Thermador french door refrigeration please visit us at Curto’s or call us at 914-793-5600.