Wine cellar cooling units work by detecting temperature on the inside of the cellar, and adapting their cooling accordingly. There are several different types of unit that work in different ways, so read on to understand more about each system:
Self-Contained Through-The-Wall Cooling Units
Through-the-wall self-contained systems are installed through a hole in the wall, with the air intake and exhaust pointing into a separate room to the wine cellar.
Through-the-wall self-contained units are ideal for a small wine cellar.
These systems have several advantages:
- Most budget-friendly option.
- Easiest to install.
- Offer both temperature and humidity control.
They also have some disadvantages though:
- Only specifically designed homes can make use of a self-contained through-the-wall unit. If you have one of the many units that are designed to be placed on an interior wall, remember that they will vent heat and exhaust into an interior room. This means that you will need a large room that is well ventilated and not used much because of the noise and hot air. For this reason, wine cellars that are located in basements with a utility room of some sort next to it are ideal.
- There are some cooling units that can be mounted on an exterior wall, but they will need to be efficient of at least up to 105°F or even higher if your home is located in a very hot climate.
- Through-the-wall self-contained cooling units can be extremely noisy.
- Large cellars do not get cool enough with this type of unit. The higher the square footage of your cellar, the more expensive the cooling unit.
- Self-contained through-the-wall cooling units are not aesthetically pleasing as they stick out of the wall.
- Repairs are often not easy as you likely will have to uninstall your cooling system and ship it to the manufacturer.
Ducted Cooling Units
A ducted cooling unit uses ducts to transfer air in and out of the wine cellar, with the evaporator and condenser located outside of the house, and ducting transports the cool air into the wine cellar.
They have several advantages:
- Quiet: Because there is no need to vent the hot air, these are the quietest of all the cooling systems.
- Consistency: These systems are very consistent, and are ideal if you have collectible fine wines in your cellar, offering exceptional wine cellar climate control.
Ducted units are perfect for large wine cellars.
There are a few downsides:
- The installation is time-consuming and difficult as the ductwork will need to be installed.
- Getting a professional to install your ducted cooling system is necessary and expensive.
- This is the most pricey of all of the cooling units.
Excess moisture in your cellar can cause mold and your labels to deteriorate, which are big issues for your wine collection.
That's why some units come with an optional extra of an integrated humidifier and heater within the appliance, keeping your cellar at a constant temperature and humidity level, such as the CellarPro Air Handler 8500 Vertical #7109.
Ductless Split System Cooling Units
A ductless split system does not require as much expensive installation because it isn't using ducts. The evaporator (the cold side) is usually placed close to the wine cellar, while the condensing unit (hot side) can be placed outside. The condenser and evaporator are split but connected by a copper pipe.
If you have a large wine cellar, this is a more budget-friendly option than the ducted cooling unit.
In addition, it is quiet when compared to the self-contained system, and any repairs can be done without uninstalling and sending it to the manufacturer.
The disadvantages include:
- It's a more expensive option than the self-contained cooling system.
- It makes more noise than a ducted unit.
- It does not come with the option to upgrade to control the humidity in your wine cellar.
We also stock ductless ceiling-mounted units, such as the WhisperKOOL Ceiling Mount 8000 Wine Cellar Cooling System.
How to Choose Your Cooling System
How you should choose a wine cellar cooling unit comes down to the following factors:
1. Size & Thermal Load
Cooling units often come in nominal sizes based on generic cellar volumes, eg 1,000/2,000 cubic feet. However, remember that these nominal sizes are based on certain assumptions about several things including:
- Insulation Type and Vapor Barrier
- Residential vs Commercial Cellars
- External Temperature
- Ducting length
When you consider these four factors, you may find that the actual conditions in your wine cellar may require a more or less powerful cooling unit.
The smarter choice is to choose the size of your cooling unit based on your cellar’s thermal load, not just the size of the cellar. A thermal load is defined as the energy required to cool a space to the desired temperature in one hour. It is measured in BTUH (British Thermal Unit per Hour).
Measuring thermal load requires a person to consider all of the variables that impact the wine cellar’s inside temperature, including the type of insulation, ambient temperature, and ideal cellar temperature.
For a non-water-cooling unit to operate effectively, one side of the unit must have access to fresh air. If the hot side of the unit has access to fresh air it can efficiently generate hot air exhaust. This hot air exhaust must then have sufficient room to disperse. If it does not have space and good enough airflow around the unit's hot side, you will need to consider a split or ducted system rather than a self-contained cooling system.
All cooling systems generate some background noise because of the compressor and fans. If you can, place the unit so that the hot side faces away from any living spaces in your home. If this is not possible because of your cellar's location, you might want to consider a ducted or split cooling system. With this type of unit, you can place the louder section of the cooling unit in a more remote location.
If you are on a budget, you may want to consider the less expensive self-contained cooling system. Not only is this type of unit more affordable to buy, but it also does not require professional installation by an HVAC technician like the others, making it much cheaper to install as well. Unfortunately, some cellars are not suitable for a self-contained cooling system and require a split or ducted system.
We have a full guide on Wine Cellar Cooling here.
Related reading: DIY Wine Cellar vs Hiring Someone
Wine cellars require a certain degree of humidity so if your cellar is in a low-humidity location, you may need to consider an additional humidifier. Some cooling systems come with an option to connect to a water line that can dehumidify your space.
Learn more here: 4 Ways to Lower the Humidity in Your Wine Cellar
Sometimes a wine cooler can get too cold, especially if the ambient temperature is not controlled. In this case, you may need a cooling system that can also provide heat for your cellar.
You can find some cooling systems that have a heating upgrade option. With this type of system, you will have much more control over the temperature of your wine cellar.
Full guide: How to build a wine cellar
How to Install
If you want a ducted or split wine cellar cooling unit, the installation may have to be handled by a professional. Still, the homeowner can safely install other cooling units, although it will take a bit of work and know-how. If you install a self-contained through-the-wall unit, you will need to create an opening between the wine cellar and the room next to it. You will probably want to add a frame around the opening you have created to support the cooling unit’s weight. It may even be necessary to add a shelf of some kind to keep the unit supported and balanced. Finally, connecting a drain line to the unit is necessary to clear away any built-up moisture.
If you are using a Split System in your wine cellar, a professional installer is required. As the name suggests, there are two separate pieces to a split system. A split system consists of a silent internal blower (fan coils) and an external condenser. If need be, the condenser can be placed up to fifty feet away from the wine cellar. The installer will connect the two pieces by setting up pressurized lines.
For Ducted Self-Contained Systems, your system can be placed in any convenient spot. It is an all-in-one unit that cools the air before sending it through a system of ducts into your wine cellar. The warm air is ducted outside or another space. Although it is possible to install a ducted system yourself, our recommendation is to allow a qualified professional contractor to handle the installation of your ducted wine cooling unit.
You want to make sure the room also has a vapor barrier, which prevents moisture from entering or exiting.
This is true of above-ground and basement wine cellars.
You may also enjoy this article: Building the Perfect Underground Wine Cellar
How do the units work?
Wine cellar cooling units are meant to cool your cellar and remove humidity from it. The temperature and humidity levels in your wine cellar can fluctuate daily, so it is important to have a cooling unit that keeps the temperature and humidity levels steady. They work by cycling the warm air through the compressor. The compressor pressurizes the low-pressure gas turning it into high-pressure gas. When the high-pressure gas leaves the compressor, it enters the condenser. The condenser works by changing the gas into a liquid and as the pressure decreases, so does the temperature, introducing cooled air into your cellar. Excess humidity is removed through drain lines or the cooling unit’s system of evaporation. The optimal temperature for a wine cellar is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Some more advanced wine cellar cooling units will keep the temperature constant in even the coldest or hottest climates.
Does a wine cellar need to be cooled?
For many wine enthusiasts, a wine cellar cooling unit is essential to maintain a perfect environment for treasured wine. If wine is stored at a temperature that is too cool, it will barely age, and if it is too hot, the wine will spoil. It is generally agreed that wine should be stored at a temperature of 55°F with a humidity of between 60-70%.
Most basements do not hold consistent temperatures throughout the year, and even a small fluctuation in temperature can wreak havoc on your precious wine. The same is true for humidity. If the humidity does not constantly remain between 55 - 75%, the corks on your wine bottles will dry out or conversely get over soaked and even become moldy.
Install a temperature and humidity gauge in your basement to see if your temperature and humidity remain consistent throughout the seasons. If you are one of the blessed few that has a basement room that consistently stays between 53 - 57 degrees, 55 - 75% relative humidity, and you are able to keep it dark with no vibration or harmful odors; you will be able to store your wine without the use of a cooling unit.
Unfortunately, most people have conditions that fluctuate, and if they want to ensure the best environment for their wine, they must invest in a wine cooling system. This is the best way to be sure that your wine will be fully protected and age beautifully.
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