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As refrigerator categories go, top freezers are the least exciting. They're safe, they're simple and they typically miss out on the kinds of cool features and eye-catching designs you'd expect to find in fancier, French-door models.
Enter GE, which saw an opportunity to stand out by giving the $1,000 GAS18PSJSS top-freezer fridge an intriguing new feature that you won't find anywhere else. It's called the Autofill Pitcher, and it's exactly what it sounds like: a pitcher that the fridge will automatically fill with fresh, filtered water whenever you dock it in place on the top shelf. It's an admittedly cool feature that works well and makes a lot of sense, especially if you already like to keep a pitcher of filtered water on hand on the fridge.
The Autofill Pitcher is appealing enough for this appliance to earn my approval, but it's really all the GAS18PSJSS has going for it. It's a smallish refrigerator for the price, it was fairly mediocre in our cooling tests and, like most top freezers, it isn't anything special to look at. Autofill is worth it, but only if you can forgive this fridge's shortcomings.
If you're wondering why no one thought of an auto-filling water pitcher before now, you should know that this isn't the first time we've seen it. The Autofill Pitcher was actually the very first project to come out of FirstBuild, which is essentially a collaborative, open-door R&D department for GE. Back then, the Autofill Pitcher was a DIY retrofit kit that you could buy and incorporate into your existing GE fridge.
"We hypothesized that people in the maker movement would be willing to take a refrigerator and drill a hole, tag on our electronics, and add this feature," said GE director of Research and Development Natarajan "Venkat" Venkatakrishnan when I interviewed him for a piece in CNET Magazine. "It didn't go so well. We made about 15 and we sold about 4."
GE didn't give up on the idea, though -- and it's a good thing. The Autofill works like a charm, filling the pitcher to the brim in about 30 seconds. And don't worry about overflowing: The dispenser shuts off automatically when the water level hits a clever floating sensor at the top of the pitcher. There's also a timer at play, so if the water runs for longer than usual for some reason, it'll shut off on its own before flooding your fridge. I'd advise patience, though -- if you pull the pitcher out of place halfway through a fill-up, the dispenser dribbles.
|GE GAS18PSJSS||LG LTCS24223S||Frigidaire FGHT1846QF||Whirlpool WRT511SZDM|
|Fridge capacity||13.5 cubic feet||17.6 cubic feet||14.2 cubic feet||15.2 cubic feet|
|Freezer capacity||4.0 cubic feet||6.2 cubic feet||4.1 cubic feet||6.1 cubic feet|
|Total capacity||17.5 cubic feet||23.8 cubic feet||18.3 cubic feet||21.3 cubic feet|
|Finish||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel|
|Available in Black Stainless Steel||No||Yes (+$100)||No||No|
|Energy Star Certified||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Yearly energy consumption (kilowatt hours)||399 kWh||501 kWh||363 kWh||443 kWh|
|Yearly energy cost ($0.12 per kWh)||$48||$60||$44||$53|
|Energy efficiency (yearly cost per cubic foot)||$2.74||$2.52||$2.40||$2.49|
|Suggested retail price||$1,000||$1,200||$1,100||$1,100|
|Lowest retail price (as of 7/19/16)||$900||$1,075||$850||$900|
Still, it's a great feature, and one that makes a lot of sense if you're already used to storing a pitcher of water in the fridge. With Autofill, you'll never need to nag your kids or your roommate to fill it back up after emptying it.
That pitcher costs you some storage space, though. With a 13.5-cubic-foot capacity in the fridge compartment, this is already a smaller-than-average top freezer for this price range, and with its dedicated spot on the top shelf, the Autofill Pitcher eats up about a half cubic foot of precious real estate. As such, I wasn't surprised that the GAS18PSJSS didn't do terribly well in my storage tests. After squeezing in our load of test groceries, I was only able to cram in two of our six large stress test items. The $1,100 Whirlpool WRT511SZDM and the $1,200 LG LTCS24223S both did far better.
And, if you're hoping for more features beyond that Autofill Pitcher, you might be out of luck. Aside from the spill-proof shelves, there really isn't much of anything else going on inside this fridge.
The other key shortcoming of the GE GAS18PSJSS is performance. Though it passed our cooling tests with stable, steady temperatures in each region of the refrigerator, it did so by only the slimmest of margins, with average temperatures in the body of the fridge (the blue lines in that graph above) just barely coming in below 40 degrees F, a benchmark for food safety set by the FDA.
As for the rest of the fridge -- the door shelves, the deli drawer and the crisper bins -- everything was at least a few degrees warm, as evidenced by the preponderance of orange in that first heat map on the the right. I can give the door shelves a pass since door shelves typically run a bit warm, but the crisper bins and deli drawer are less forgivable.
Thankfully, things were a lot better at the coldest setting, where the GAS18PSJSS actually impresses. Most refrigerators aim for an average temperature of 33 or 34 degrees at the coldest setting, and GE nails it, with the body of the fridge averaging out to 34.07 F. The rest of the fridge was still a bit warmer, but only the bottom door shelf came in above 40 F.
Still, that default, recommended setting is what really matters most, and with this fridge, the recommended setting is barely passable. If I owned the GAS18PSJSS, I'd be sure to dial it down toward that coldest setting. That makes for less efficient performance, but only slightly so, given that this is a smallish fridge that doesn't draw a whole lot of power to begin with.
If you're in the market for a top freezer, then chances are that you just want a simple, affordable fridge that'll get the job done, and you aren't holding out for any special features. In that sense, the Autofill Pitcher in the GE GAS18PSJSS is a nice, unexpected bonus -- a unique top-freezer feature, and one that's actually pretty practical for day-to-day use.
That said, there are more affordable top freezers out there that will do a better job of keeping your groceries cold. It doesn't have an Autofill Pitcher or anything like it, but GE's own GTE18GMHES top freezer jumps out as a better bargain at its $800 starting price, especially given that it did a better job in our cooling tests. Unless you're totally sold on adding Autofill to your kitchen, the GAS18PSJSS falls well short of "must-have."