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.
you can use the full width (36” or 42”) for storage including larger items like trays or platters.
Since french door refrigerators have narrower fridge doors they are better for applications where an island is adjacent to the refrigerator and could potentially be impacted by the larger fridge door on a single-door 36”
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.
Thermador’s 36″ French Door Fridge
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
Thermador 36” French Door Specs:T36BT820NS
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:
36″ French Door Refrigerator Bi36ufd/s/tH
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.
Amazing how much interest there is in Thermador lately. Traditionally known for their wall ovens (yes, that was a Thermador oven that both Julia Child and Alice from the Brady Bunch used), Thermador has spent the last decade rolling out more and more great product to the point where they now have everything covered save for outdoor grills and undercounter refrigeration (though I’ve heard rumors about that category becoming a reality).
Alice rocking the electric cooktop with a Thermador oven behind her.
One category where they have improved exponentially is in the cooking ranges sector. Remember, Thermador offers 2 series of ranges:
Pro Harmony – 24″ deep
Pro Grand – 27″ deep, self clean, soft close door, etc
Thermador Pro Grand PRG366JG
The Pro Harmony ranges still outsell the Pro Grand (PRICE POINT!) but if we’re going to get fractal there is something deeper to explore – what if you were to roll with a Thermador Pro Grand but you had the option of doing either a dual fuel or a gas range? What would the differences be?
Usually the immediate difference between a gas and dual fuel range is the self cleaning option that dual fuel offers. However, Thermador does offer a self clean mode in their gas Pro Grand ranges.
So what are the differences between the dual fuel and gas save for the price
$8699 for the PRD366JGU 36″ duel fuel, six burner
$7299 for the PRG366JG 36″ gas six burner
DIFFERENCES – More Cooking Modes in Dual Fuel
The dual fuel models offer true convection; meaning they have a third, circular heating element wrapped around the convection fan allowing for additional cooking modes not possible in the gas model. These include convection broil, convection roast, and the capability to multi-rack bake in convection bake mode.
The broiler element on the ranges are different as well. The Duel Fuel will offer 4000watt 8-pass broiler whereas the gas range will offer the killer 17000 BTU infrared broiler which is perfect for searing steaks. You’ll also see a slight difference in oven size – the dual fuel is 5.7 and the gas is 5.5.
So where do you lie in this equation?
As I tell all of my customers, if you bake, go dual fuel.
If you roast, get the gas.
if you don’t care, get the gas.
It’s really a question as to whether those additional cooking modes mean something to you.
To see the full line of Thermador appliances visit the Curto’s showroom which offers the largest Thermador display in Westchester County and Manhattan.
Thermador is about to bring an elephant gun to the high-end cooking competition.
Introducing the PRD48JDSGU….code for their new 48″ duel fuel monster…$13,999 will get you the following:
– porcelain surface
– telescopic oven racks (all)
– 5 burners rated at 18K BTU’s, and one power burner at 22K!
– precision simmer at 375 BTU’s (or 100 degrees F)
– two ovens + a warming drawer
– smaller oven is steam and features 27 easy cook programs
– warming drawer offers all-glass smooth surface and holds up to 11″ dinner plates
This can go one of two ways. For starters, NO ONE is offering anything like this. Much like SubZero experienced when the PRO48 was released, people can say that Thermador has placed itself in its own league, feature and price-wise and any demand that comes its way will be based on the uniqueness and value proposition that it is offering so it then becomes a successful, NICHE product.
The other direction will be that people howl at the price tag, complain that they are trying to fit too many functions into one product, and it bombs. While you may question Thermador’s sanity at offering this product while the economy is still an unmitigated disaster, the difference between Fall 2011 and Fall 2008 is that there are more people making a boatload of money at the high end who aren’t shit-scared that the stock market and Western civilization are going the way of the dodo bird, and that’s the demo that this range is squarely pointed at. I’m not anticipating having Bob and Laura drop into my showroom and rack their minds over whether they should score a GE Cafe gas range at $2150 or this piece at nearly $14k. The people who are going to consider this piece look at $14k as a rounding error.
One industry expert that I spoke to (with absolutely no skin in the game as to whether Thermador succeeds with this) thought they were placing too many functions into one product. I disagree. I think it’s kind of cool and I applaud Thermador for showing absolute cajones by bringing this to market. This product will definitely get people talking about Thermador ranges which is just what they want.
Thermador Whips Out the Elephant Gun - Make Way for the PRD48JDSGU
While I always tell shoppers that when shopping for pro ranges you can’t base your decision on the BTU power that manufacturers report, alas, many people are still hung up on these numbers.
That said, with the idea that I won’t to put as many accurate information at consumers’ fingertips so they can make the right purchase decision, here is a breakdown on three popular 36″ pro ranges.
We’ll focus on Burner BTU’s and then Oven BTU’s and capacity.
DCS RGU366 – max 17,500 btus, min 3000 btus
Wolf R366 – max 16,000, min 500 btus
Thermador PRG366EPG – max 15,000 btus, min 375 btus (on the 2 ExtraLow burners)
DCS RGU366 – 5.3 cu ft
Wolf R366 – 5.5 cu ft
Thermador PRG366EPG – 5.7 cu ft
Oven Bake BTUS
DCS RGU366 – 30,000 btus
Wolf R366 – 30,000 btus
Thermador PRG366EPG – 30,000 btus
Oven Broil BTUS
DCS RGU366 – 19,000 btus
Wolf R366 – 18,000 btus
Thermador PRG366EPG – 17,000 btus
I love Wolf gas ranges. While they are now outsold by the Wolf dual fuel ranges (and by quite a large margin as I have been told) I still believe that the
value lies in the gas range. When you are talking a 36″ or a 48″ model, the difference between the gas and the dual fuel product runs into the thousands.
I’m also a fan of the traditional Wolf red knob found on the gas range, as opposed to the thicker one found on the dual fuel range (being that I am a sucker for aesthetics).
There’s not much to say here…Wolf is a Wolf. The leader of the pack.
Thermador ranges are simply beautiful products and they seem to resonate big-time with women. When I’m working with a couple at Curto’s, countless times the wife will comment on the Thermador’s design…while hubby focuses on BTU’s. As I tell everyone who stops in and asks about Thermador ranges, I feel that Thermador’s lead products are their wall ovens, HOWEVER they have invested crazy R & D into their ranges and I’m anticipating a bump in their sales. You also have to love their new 48″ combo steam range which will be hitting the Curto’s showroom imminently. It’s priced over $13K but this thing sings!.
The DCS range is the underdog here. They don’t have the consumer mind share that Wolf or Thermador have. They also don’t have the presence on showroom floors that Wolf and Thermador have. But what they do have is total kick-ass product that has been improved upon and is also less expensive than the other two brands we’re discussing here.
For some folks they might feel like they are taking a risk with a DCS product bc it’s not featured in every other kitchen on the Food TV Network (it’s actually the sole appliance featured on America’s Test Kitchen) nor is it prominently featured in Kitchen magazine spreads. What they do have is a heritage that goes back about 15-20 years for making killer cooking appliances. They also have a pretty solid service network across the country in case you do encounter hiccups with your range (hey it happens to the best manufacturers).
The bottom line is that any of these brands deserve to be in your kitchen. You’ll just have to decide how important price is as well as the brand-name factor. Performance-wise they all rock, though I’d put the DCS and the Wolf ahead of the Thermador in that category, but Thermador is aiming to cut the lead down. Should be interesting.