I am searching for a new fridge. Am I required to buy a fridge with a “Shabbos switch,” or can I buy a regular fridge and take out the light bulbs?
In the past, many poskim maintained that it was permitted to open and close a fridge on Shabbos, provided the light bulb has been disabled [some authorities write that the fridge should only be opened while the motor is running, but many opined that it is permitted to open it at all times].
However, new modern fridges involve several issues that can be problematic, such as fans, defrost devices, LED displays, and so on, all of which are influenced by opening the fridge. The Shabbos switch is therefore highly recommended.
When it is for some reason not possible or inconvenient to but a fridge with a Shabbos switch, a posek familiar both with the halachah and with the modern mechanism installed in fridges should be consulted. The Institute for Technology and Halachah can be consulted at 02-6424880 (or fax: 02-6420949), 1 Hapisga St., Jerusalem.
Sources: See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah (new edition, 10:12-14); Orchos Shabbos, vol. 3, chap. 26 (where various potential problems concerning new fridges are listed).