Choosing the Right Wine Cellar Cooling Unit

 Wine Cellar

The core pieces in the wine cellar puzzle are the wine cellar cooling units. Note the operative word is cooling.

A Word About Wine Cellars

The whole point to building a wine cellar is to store one's wine. Whether your bottles of wine are meant for everyday sipping or to be stored as collectibles,there are a few proper storage points to keep in mind:

  • Maintain a constant temperature that's not too cold and not too hot.
  • Keep the relative humidity in the cellar under control - This will prevent the corks from drying out and allowing oxygen to enter and spoil that bottle of '85 Lynch & Bages.
  • Be sure the cellar isn't too humid - You don't want it damp enough to grow Portobellos on the cork either.

Remember, when you're planning your wine storage cellar, cabinet, closet, basement, cave, tomb or whatever; the aim is to keep your precious wine from environmental fluctuation in temperature, humidity, light and vibration.

Cellar Design

Okay, you've noticed that it's a tighter squeeze getting your car into the garage when the back wall is stacked three deep in wine boxes or there's no room for the vacuum cleaner in the utility closet because it's stuffed to the gills with Cabs and Pinots. So, you're getting crowded out of the house and getting concerned over your wine's health. You've decided it's time to take action. The choices are few; drink all the wine, stop drinking, move it in a wine storage facility, buy a wine cabinet, or build your own wine cellar. Of these, the preferable option is to build a wine cellar.

Some people build out a big fancy cellar that can hold thousands of bottles and has its own tasting room...but you don't have to. An unpretentious one the size of a closet that holds a few cases works just fine too and is less expensive. So whether it's grandiose or modest, besides the wine and the wine racks, wine cellar cooling units are the most important component that helps to maintain and age your wine investment. Don't fret about whether to go with rosewood or cherry wood as much as the size, cost, reliability, and installation of the cooling unit.

Be sure to buy a unit that will adequately cool the cubic foot area of your cellar. This means if you are building a 2000 cubic foot cellar; get a cooling unit that is designed to cool that large of a space. In some cases this could mean getting two cooling units. Conversely, if you're only converting a small walk-in closet that is less than 200 cubic feet, it's overkill to install a cooler rated for 2000 cubic feet.

Selection Criteria

Regardless if your wine cellar is a do-it-yourself project or you are having a wine cellar expert design and build it, the following are some factors to consider when selecting your wine cellar cooling unit. Remember you're targeting an optimum temperature of 55° F. but it can be a few degrees higher without worry. It's actually more important that the temperature doesn't flucuate dramatically--no more than 2° during a 24-hour period. Humidity is best at about 75%. Unfortunately most cooling units are not humidification systems and you should consider getting one to control the wine cellar's humidity.

  • Size

Choose a cooling unit that will cover the territory. If the area size is 12' x 12' x 8' then you will need a cooler that covers at least 1152 cubic feet, with some cushion in reserve. Also, installation will be easier if the unit is compact enough to fit between the wall studs in the room.

  • Power Consumption

Green issues aside, it's also best to use a cooling unit that is efficient and uses less power. After all, having a wine cellar is like running another refrigerator. Look at the manufacturer's specs for power consumption information.

  • Noise

Be aware that all cooling units are not equal, in terms of noise that is. If the wine cellar is located in the house where noise is a consideration, you should choose a wine cooling unit with a lower decibel rating.

  • Price

Shop around for the best deal. A small wine cooling unit that covers less than 1000 cubic feet can be found for less than $500. Prices go up from there with the industrial-grade cooling units going for several thousand dollars.

  • Installation

Here's where it may get tricky. In some cases an HVAC technician may be needed. Most of the cooling units need to vent hot air and it's self-defeating to vent it back into the wine cellar. Ideally, you want to vent to the outside rather than another room. Also keep the noise level in mind and try not to install the cooling unit on the wall next to the master bedroom. There's nothing worse than waking up every time the fan kicks on.

  • Warranty

Most quality cooling units will have three to five year warranty on the condenser and parts.

  • Reliability

Shop smart, ask around or search the web to get some perspective on the cooling unit's reliability.

Wine Cooling Unit List

Here's a sampling of some of the most common cooling units.

Has a large selection of cooling units for small to large areas. Also has split systems that have separate condenser and evaporator modules that are mounted outside of the cellar. These need to be insulated and vapor sealed and require professional installation.

Low-priced cooling unit for up to 900 cubic foot areas for in-wall mounting preferably over a door.

This is an easy-to-install in-wall cooling unit.

A Ducted System for cooling, heating and humidity control.

Wine Cellar Experts and Suppliers

Many cooling unit suppliers also custom design and build cellars.

Designs and builds wine cellars.

A popular site for wine accessories and related products.

Wine storage supplier and expert that can help you design your cellar.

Final Word

No matter what cooling unit you decide on, remember that the optimum temperature is 55° Fahrenheit with a relative humidity level of 75%.

Choosing the Right Wine Cellar Cooling Unit