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Wine Cellar Cooling Units: Choosing the Best Option for You

 
Thursday, August 30th, 2012 at 10:22:38 AM
by Marshall T., Wine Enthusiast Companies

I am often asked by our wine cellar customers which cooling unit would be the best option for them. Wine cellar cooling units can range from the simple to the intricate, from the forced air unit to the split cooling system and from the somewhat reasonable to the very expensive. There are significant differences between these units based on the way they vent, the decibel level (amount of noise the unit produces), how they get installed and how long they will last. To help navigate through these different cooling units, we have provided a breakdown of the three main types of cooling units along with some of the features and benefits which will help you decide what unit is best suited for your particular wine storage needs. I’ve laid the details out in the chart below, and then I will expand upon each option.

Cooling Unit Style Through the Wall Ductable Split
Life Expectancy 5-8 years 10-15 years 12-20 years
Venting Interior only Interior/Exterior Interior/Exterior
Max Ambient Temp 80 degrees Up to 110 Degrees Up to 110 Degrees
Installation Easy Contractor/HVAC HVAC Required
Decibel Level 55-65 35-55 35-60 *
Cost $1,000-$2,800 $3,000-6,500 $2,500 and up

*Higher decibel levels are for the condenser which is not inside the wine cellar

THROUGH THE WALL/FORCED AIR
The basic type of wine cellar cooling unit is called either a forced air or a through-the-wall cooling unit. These units are reminiscent of a window air conditioner with a few major differences. The first, and most important, difference is that they CANNOT vent to the outside.* These units are only capable of venting into an interior adjacent room that is bigger than the maximum cooling capacity of that particular unit and stays between 50-80 degrees F. The upside to one of the units is that they are fairly cost effective and quite easy to install in a standard sheet rock wall. However, they may not last as long as some of the higher rated ductable and split systems (standard shelf life is about 5-8 years) and they will also be a little louder, so we would not advise venting these units into any real living space. Some of the better through-the-wall units include the N’FINITY, WhisperKool and Wine Guardian.

*One exception is the WhisperKool Extreme. It is the only forced air cooling unit that can vent to the outside, but it is considered a ductable unit as well.

DUCTABLE
The next level in terms of quality and functionality would be the ductable cooling units. They are similar to the forced air units in the sense that they are self-contained, meaning the compressor and evaporator are all within the same housing. However these units have the ability to be fully ducted affording you the luxury of situating the unit in a remote location, such as a mechanical room or storage area.  You could then duct the cool air into the wine cellar while venting the warm air to the exterior or another desired location. Certain ductable units, like the Whisperkool Extreme, can even be placed outside as long as they are protected from the elements of weather. They can handle ambient temperatures ranging from 0-110 degrees F. But the majority of ductable units are meant for an indoor application.
These units tend to have a lower decibel rating than the through the wall units and can have a shelf life anywhere from 10-15 years depending on how hard they have to work. Because of their increased function and shelf life, they also tend to be a bit more expensive. The only downside to this style of unit is that the ducts can only be run between 10-25 feet (depending on the manufacturer) and you still want to avoid exhausting the warm air into any kind of living space. A few of the top ductable units available on the market are the EuroCave INOA, the WhisperKool Extreme (with the ducted option) and the Wine Guardian units.

 

SPLIT SYSTEM
The last style of cooling unit is a split system. These can come in two forms: ductless or a ducted. Ductless is more common as the install tends to be a bit easier. Much like a central air conditioning set up, these types of systems have a separate condenser that can be placed outside or in a mechanical room. There are then two refrigeration pipes that run from the condenser to the evaporator that would typically hang on one of the walls of your wine cellar. In a ducted set up, the lines would connect to an air handler that you would then duct into your cellar, but this is typically only necessary in a rather large wine cellar. The benefits to a split system are vast. First of all, the evaporators are extremely quiet as only the fan is producing any sound since the condenser would be located elsewhere. Plus, those refrigeration lines can be run up to 90 feet away allowing for a variety of installation options. Most importantly, these units tend to keep the most consistent temperature and humidity levels which in the long run means the integrity of your prized wine collection is aging with the utmost protection. The shelf life on these units can be anywhere from 12-20 years and they are quite serviceable since they are similar in nature to a standard home split cooling set up.
The downside on these units is the cost. While the price of these units are in the same range as the ductable units, because refrigeration lines have to be run and charged with refrigerant the installation costs can be hefty. You would want to contact a local HVAC company to see what those costs would be before purchasing one of these units. However if it is within your budget this is really the best option for any wine cellar, regardless of size. While there are a number of units available, WhisperKool manufactures the most reliable split systems available, including their mini split for rooms under 500 cubic feet.

 

At the end of the day, there are many factors that go into the decision of which cooling unit to use including room size, venting applications, location and budget to name a few. We always recommend calling one of our Wine Storage Consultants to ensure you are making a selection that is the most appropriate for your particular wine cellar needs. You can reach them at 800-377-3330 and they are always happy to assist.

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4 Responses to “Wine Cellar Cooling Units: Choosing the Best Option for You”

  1. The life expectance of a through the wall cooling system is 5-8 years, but the one I purchased from Wine Enthusiast had problems from day 1. We spent countless hours on the phone with their technicians, asking for a new unit but they kept telling us that our cellar need time to cool down. Well, it never did cool down and now Wine Enthusiast suddenly has no record of phone calls or any problems ever reported regarding the unit. Ironically, our cooling unit is no longer being made by WE because of countless problems. I’ve called customer service and emailed them several times, yet no response from them except for an automated email that says we will respond within 48 hours. Tried escalating to a supervisor, but no return phone calls. I urge everyone caution when purchasing a cooling unit from WE as they don’t stand behind their product, the quality is poor and the customer service is non existent.

  2. Thank you for letting us know about this issue Kristine. we are so happy that we were able to assist in resolving the issue with your cooling unit. If you have any other questions or need additional support, feel free to call us directly at 800-648-6058.

    Thank you,
    Evan – Wine Enthusiast Wine Cellar Technical Service Department

  3. I just wonder which of the three wine cooling unit cost more or which is the cheapest in terms of installation and maintenance running those units.

  4. Good question Jean! Installation costs can vary, but the through the wall and ductable units would be a little less to install than the split. The main reason is the split requires refrigeration lines to be run and charged by a licensed HVAC service technician. That typically will incur a higher installation cost. The same would go for yearly costs to run… the split would be a bit more than the through the wall and ductable. Thanks!

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