Kenmore 51132 Refrigerator Review
Inexpensive to buy, but our tests didn't favor this fridge
The Kenmore 51132 (MSRP $1,529.99) may be one of the cheapest side-by-sides available, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bargain. The only things this fridge really has going for it are lots of internal space and some excellent energy efficiency. Aside from that, we found inconsistent temperatures in the fridge and freezer, a cramped shelf arrangement, and woefully ineffective crispers.
Design & Usability
Well lit, but a tight squeeze
In terms of visual aesthetics, there’s very little about the 51132 that disappoints. Lot of bright lighting in both compartments will illuminate your food, and lightweight shelves are easy to remove for cleaning.
Problems arise, however, when it comes to actually interacting with the appliance. For instance, of the five regular shelves available in the fresh food section, only two of them have enough vertical space to make it easy to access your food no matter how you arrange them. The drawers are acceptably smooth and door storage—including two gallon-depth shelves—is wonderfully customizable, but the bulk of your fresh food storage will be buried at the back of a shelf.
The freezer is served a bit better, with more space between shelves. Some cavities are even tall enough to fit frozen pizzas that would be too wide to put on their side. The in-door icemaker also takes up very little space, and proves no problem to remove for bulk ice access.
Controls are surprisingly convoluted given the fridge’s straightforward functions, and most options—including temperature adjustments—require you to hold down buttons instead of just pressing them once. While the symbols on the control panel glow a dull, unflattering green, the nook for the ice and water dispenser utilizes a more pleasing pale blue light. The cavity is also large enough to fit a tall drinking glass, and the tray can slide out to accommodate slightly larger receptacles.
Performance & Features
Temperatures aren’t supposed to shift this much
Side-by-sides on the whole tend to have temperature consistency issues, but the 51132 takes it to a new level. Neither the fridge nor freezer managed to deliver steady, regulated temperatures at any point. Degrees shifts almost hit a full degree and a half in the fridge, with fluctuations of nearly three degrees in the freezer. That means there’s a greater risk of rising above 41ºF in the fridge—increasing the chance of spoilage—and that temps in the freezer will rise above 0ºF—increasing the risk of freezer burn.
With the exception of staples like margarine or mayonnaise—items that have some hearty resilience to them—that sort of inconsistency will lead to faster-than-average spoiling times and the onset of freezer burn.
Even if temperatures were better, the crispers wouldn’t do much good preserving produce. They lost a substantial amount of moisture over time, rendering them almost completely ineffective. Aside from energy efficiency—with was on par with some of the best machines available today—our tests didn’t uncover a single performance point in this fridge worth praising.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
The Deep Freeze
A cold shoulder for an inconsistent fridge
It’s a shame that the Kenmore 51132 performs so poorly. The low price tag—Sears retails it for about $1,300—combined with the large storage capacity is a great combination for large families on a budget. If the cramped fridge layout isn’t enough to turn you off, the atrocious temperature (in)consistencies make this model a product you should definitely avoid. If you can afford an extra $150 or so, you can find something much better—like this Frigidaire Professional, for instance.
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