Note: This article has been updated for 2019.
2019 seems to be the year for Sub-Zero replacements, as many older Sub-Zero 532, 632, 561s and a host of other 20+ year old models come to their relative end-of-life.
At a certain point, it does not make sense to repair a Sub-Zero, and in this article we’ll go into detail on when is the best time to hang up the towel on your elderly refrigerator and make the investment in a new model.
Many of the units we are replacing right now are around 22-27 years old, and the internal design and features have changed quite a bit since then.
There comes a point in any appliance’s life where there is a diminishing rate of return on repairs.
For most built-in refrigerators, we believe this is around 13 years. If your unit is over 13 years old, putting $2,000 in repairs into it may not be the best investment.
Replacement Model – Cheat Sheet
Sub-Zero’s Built-In Refrigeration line up has grown quite a bit. Here are some of the options you’ll find in their various sizes. Here are some Sub-Zero Refrigerators that will work as replacement models.
|Old Model Number||Compatible Replacement Models||Notes|
|Sub-Zero 511 / 611||BI-30U||Retrofit Kit, Louvered Grill, and Handle Kit required to reuse old overlay panels from 511 and 611 Sub-Zero models.|
|Sub-Zero 550 / 650||BI-36U,BI-36S,BI-36UFD, BI-36UFDID||Retrofit Kit, Louvered Grill, and Handle Kit required to reuse old overlay panels from 550 and 650 Sub-Zero models.|
|Sub-Zero 561 / 661||BI-36S (direct replacement),BI-36UFD, BI-36UFDID||Retrofit Kit, Louvered Grill, and Handle Kit required to reuse old overlay panels from 561 and 661 Sub-Zero models.|
|Sub-Zero 542 /642||BI-42S (direct replacement), BI-42SID, or BI-42SD (cannot reuse old wood panels on SD model)||Retrofit Kit, Louvered Grill, and Handle Kit required to reuse old overlay panels from 542 and 642 Sub-Zero models.|
|Sub-Zero 532/632||BI-48S (direct replacement), BI-48SID, or BI-48SD (cannot reuse old wood panels on SD model)||Retrofit Kit, Louvered Grill, and Handle Kit required to reuse old overlay panels from 532 and 632 Sub-Zero models.|
|Sub-Zero 590 /690||BI-48S, BI-48SID, or BI-48SD (direct replacement)||You cannot reuse any wood panels from a 590 or 690 Sub-Zero due to dispenser location change.|
To Repair or Not To Repair, That Is The Question
There are many points of failure in a built-in machine. After a certain point, you begin to throw good money after bad.
What use is $2,000 repair if two years later a different part in the other sealed system goes bad. You’re going to end right back where you started. Investing in a new machine before paying the repair bill may have put you ahead of the game for a decade or (likely) more!
If you do repair, make sure to use a Certified Repair Company
Repair estimates for old Sub-Zero units range wildly, from as low as $800 to as high as $3,600, depending upon the parts and time required. The most important piece of advice I can give to any Sub-Zero owner is to make sure you are using a Certified Repair company.
Right now there are many companies out there that are not affiliated with Sub-Zero / Wolf in any way purposely advertising for Sub-Zero / Wolf repairs. They are charging large “visit fees” and quoting very high replacement part prices. Many times they are using chinese-made parts instead of OEM Sub-Zero compressors and evaporators.
Always check on Sub-Zero’s Service Finder, or better yet, call Sub-Zero customer care ( 1-800-222-7820 ) when you are in need of service. They are always happy to direct you to the closest certified repair company.
In the appliance business, prices only go in one direction: Up!
“Wow…” is usually the first response I get when I quote the price of a new Sub-Zero to someone looking to replace theirs.
“That’s a lot more than I paid for the last one.”
Indeed. Everything from automobiles to air-conditioners have increased dramatically in pricing in 25 years. With a three-fold price increase in the past 25 years, pricing can sometimes shock a customer. Think how hard it would be to swallow the price of a new car, if the last time you bought one was 25 years ago.
Custom size cut-outs on built-in refrigerators limits the replacement options.
On the up-side, the new Sub-Zero units feature even MORE storage space, and requires ZERO changes to existing cabinetry or electrical work. As far as exterior size goes, it is identical to the older units. And unfortunately, unless your doing a complete remodel, a different built-in unit from another manufacturer is likely to require some retrofitting.
Replacing an Old Sub-Zero
In replacing the Sub-Zero 532, you’re moving from the flagship model which was produced during the late 1980’s all the way through the mid-1990’s. The unit had dual compressors, two sealed systems – which was the innovation of it’s time. It was also one of the only built-in fridges on the market at the time.
Then came the Sub-Zero 632, featuring an automatic defrosting system and a much improved storage layout. This refrigerator was in production unit 2008 when the new “BI” units were introduced to market.
The BI-48 (stands for “Built-In 48”) came to the market as an major leap in design improvements, with new interior design, a revolutionary air purification tech, and a built-in water filtration system. Today’s price on a BI-48?
We are the Sub-Zero Refrigerator Experts
Call and speak with one of our refrigeration specialists today. We are one of the oldest Sub-Zero dealers in South Florida, in business since 1989. We’ve seen it all and can walk you through any replacement situation.
Call or email us today!