Thinking outside the white box, Sears and its manufacturer partners have developed two innovative new refrigeration platforms that will be introduced early next year.
The Kenmore Elite SpaceStation and Kenmore Elite Trio represent entirely new configurations for refrigerators, which were inspired by consumer research and usage patterns.
The SpaceStation, made by Whirlpool, serves as an all-in-one second refrigerator and freestanding freezer, and was designed for placement in garages, basements or utility rooms. The freezer comprises two-thirds of the unit, with the smaller fresh food compartment on top.
The freezer features a long-item storage container for such foods as garlic bread, and adjustable door bins for frozen dinners or ice cream. A special pullout pizza shelf with a "stack-n-snug" divider allows multiple pies to be stacked horizontally to help keep pizza toppings in place.
Amenities within the fresh food compartment include an in-door beverage rack that allows easy access to up to 28 canned or bottled drinks. The fresh food area can also be converted into a freezer with the turn of a knob, to provide extra freezer space.
What's more, the SpaceStation was designed to withstand the rigors of garage placement by locating the defrost heater within the fresh food compartment. This allows the compartment to maintain stable temperatures, unlike traditional refrigerators whose interior temperatures can fall below freezing in winter climes, which can damage perishable items.
Putting the heater in the fresh food section also reduces the average temperature change within the freezer compartment during the defrost cycle to less than 10 degrees, providing exceptional deep freeze performance, Sears said.
According to Sears' refrigeration buyer Kathy Goodwin, the SpaceStation meets the lifestyle needs of consumers who buy their groceries in bulk and are either replacing a freezer or considering buying a second refrigerator. It also addresses consumer research that shows that while some households use their second refrigerators to keep drinks cold, most use them for extra freezer space.
"When focus groups have seen this product," she said, "the response has been, 'Gee, why didn't someone think of this sooner?'"
SpaceStation, which is set to hit Sears stores this spring, will be offered in 19-cubic-foot capacity in white or bisque finish, priced at $1,199.99, or stainless for $1,399.99. A 22-cubic-foot model will be released later in the year. Pricing has not yet been set.
Whirlpool's own version, also due out next year, is dubbed The Freezerator and is part of the company's new Gladiator GarageWorks line of modular storage containers, workbenches and appliances (including compactors and compact refrigerators) designed specifically for the garage.
SpaceStation's Amana-made sibling, the Trio, combines the increasingly popular bottom mount configuration with the convenience and style of a side-by-side refrigerator. The 25-cubic-foot unit is as large as a comparable, traditional side-by-side, but can hold sheet cakes and deli trays in the double-door fresh food compartment and up to 100 pounds of food in the freezer drawer.
"Today's lifestyles demand appliances be used in new and different ways," said Goodwin. "People want convenience, but they don't want to sacrifice performance or style to get it. This product excels in all three areas to make life easier for our customers."
Features within the fresh food compartment include a water dispenser with retractable water filter, and a special wide drawer with separate temperature controls that can accommodate party trays, casseroles or other dishes.
The freezer features an adaptive defrost system, a Kenmore exclusive in the bottom mount category, that uses a microchip to monitor frost buildup on freezer walls. This eliminates over-defrosting that can occur with an automatic defrost system.
The unit also employs two independent sensors to automatically maintain temperatures within 2 degrees in both the fresh and frozen sections of the refrigerator.
The Trio will debut in Sears stores this January for $1,799.99 in white, black and bisque finishes and $1,999.99 for stainless.