GE GFD28GELDS Door in Door Refrigerator review: Don't buy this -- or any other -- door-in-door refrigerator
Door-in-door compartments let you open the front panel of your refrigerator door to access the in-door shelves without actually opening the door itself. LG was the first to popularize the feature, followed closely by Samsung. Whirlpool's in the mix, too, with a recently-announced door-in-a-door fridge of its own. Now, GE wants in, with a number of new "Door in Door" refrigerators in its roster, including the GFD28GELDS, which retails for $3,100.
Full disclosure: I think door-in-door compartments are largely a gimmick, but lots of shoppers seem to like them, so it's understandable that GE would jump in with the feature. And, to the team at GE's credit, they helped distinguish their Door in Door compartment from the competitors by giving it a specially designed shelf that rotates out of the fridge on a thick, sturdy metal hinge.
But like many of the door-in-door compartments that came before it, the one in this refrigerator causes those in-door shelves to run warmer than the rest of the fridge. That's a steep trade-off for a feature that doesn't offer much actual utility -- and it's really the only notable feature this fridge has to offer.
If getting a door-in-door compartment into your kitchen is really your top priority, then I say go with a less expensive side-by-side fridge that has the same feature, like the Samsung RH25H5611SR (the performance won't be any better, but with a side-by-side, that door-in-door compartment will be twice as big). Otherwise, I think it's a feature that just isn't worth it on its own, and that makes the GFD28GELDS a tough fridge for me to recommend.
Design and features
The GFD28GELDS sports GE's "black slate" finish, which, as the name suggests, is just a darker version of its standard slate finish. Like before, black slate is a little less shiny than traditional stainless steel finishes, and it's also a little better at repelling fingerprints.
Aside from that (and aside from the Door in Door compartment), this is a pretty typical French door fridge, and not one that's loaded with many extra features. Unlike other GE models, there's no auto-filling water dispenser or auto-fill pitcher, no Keurig coffee-brewing accessory, no temperature-adjustable drawer and not even any shelves in the fridge that slide in or fold up and out of the way. That Door in Door compartment is really the only thing elevating this fridge above entry level, at least as far as features are concerned.
The one notable thing about that Door in Door compartment, at least as far as door-in-door compartments are concerned, is that the middle shelf sits on a thick, sturdy slab of metal that rotates out of the fridge for easy access. That metal is actually a pretty thoughtful part of the shelf's build -- it's meant to keep your kid safe should he or she ever try to pull it out of the fridge and climb on it.
Still, I'm not sure that I see the point. Is being able to rotate a shelf a few inches out of the fridge really such a convenience? Is it even worth it if it's going to invite your kid to do pull-ups in the first place? I applaud GE for the creativity and the thoughtful execution, but the appeal of that shelf eludes me.
Sizewise, this is a fairly roomy refrigerator. Inside, you'll find a total of 27.8 cubic feet of storage space, 18.6 of which are allocated to the fridge. Similar-size French door models with ice dispensers from brands like Whirlpool, LG, and Samsung all retail for at least $2,700 or so even before you start adding in door-in-door compartments, so at $3,100, I wouldn't say that the GFD28GELDS is unfairly priced for what it offers.
It's still expensive, though, and it doesn't offer enough of a variety of features to feel like a well-rounded, worthwhile splurge. In other words, you'll need to really love that Door in Door compartment in order to feel like you're getting your money's worth.
At its default, 37-degree setting, the GFD28GELDS was able to hold temperatures in the body of the refrigerator down below 40 degrees F, a food safety benchmark used by the FDA. That's a good result, but it's probably not the first thing you notice in that heat map above, not with bright orange hot spots filling the entirety of the Door in Door compartment.
I can't say that I'm surprised. Almost every door-in-door compartment I've ever tested tends to run warm, because none of them are as well-insulated as a standard door would be. With hot air on the outside and cold air on the inside, every refrigerator wages a war against entropy. Adding an extra set of seams to the door while stripping out some of its insulation just weakens the front line.
GE knows this, obviously, and that's reflected by the refrigerator's power consumption. With a yearly draw of about 796 kWh, it uses roughly 10 percent more energy than an identical GE fridge that doesn't have a Door in Door compartment. In other words, GE cranked up the cooling power to compensate for that compartment's shortcomings -- and it still runs warm.
Another bad sign: dialing down to the coldest setting of 34 degrees made very little difference in how cold things were. Despite dropping the target temperature by 3 degrees, the average temperature drop throughout the entire fridge compartment was actually only 1.15 degrees. Even one of the refrigerator's main body shelves yielded an average temperature that was still up above 37. The biggest drops came in the Door in Door compartment, where the temperature on those three shelves fell by an average of 1.4 degrees. That was enough to bring all of them down below 40, but only just barely.
In sum, that 34-degree setting felt more like what you'd want to see from the default, 37-degree setting. I expect better from a $3K fridge cranked down as cold as it'll go.
One last thing: Whenever we test fridges, we make sure to spend five minutes opening and closing the doors twice a day in order to simulate usage. With this fridge, I ran a second week of tests at the coldest setting, and I replaced those fridge door openings with Door in Door compartment openings to see if there'd be any impact on performance.
If there was, it was negligible. Temperatures throughout the fridge all jumped by nearly identical amounts after each of my door openings, and in the end, the averages came back just 0.16 degree colder than the first test. Put another way, the Door in Door compartment does nothing to improve performance even if you're using it exclusively, and never opening the fridge at all.
In fairness to GE, I could say the same of door-in-door fridges from other brands, too -- so can we please stick a fork in this feature, already?
In case you couldn't tell, I don't like door-in-door compartments very much. They do nothing to make your refrigerator better or easier to use. They do nothing to make your fridge more efficient -- on the contrary, they actually tend to bring performance down, and your power bill up. As features go, they're a pretty lousy reason to spend extra on an otherwise unexciting appliance.
And that's what you get with the GFD28GELDS -- a fairly bland and unremarkable French door fridge that costs extra because it has a feature you really shouldn't want and definitely do not need. If you have the budget to spend more than $2,000 on a refrigerator, you can do a whole lot better than that.