Wine cellar cooling systems are designed specifically to maintain a constant temperature between 55 to 57 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels between 50 to 70 percent. The right humidity levels will keep your corks moist and swollen enough thus ensuring a tighter seal while the right temperature moderates your wine’s aging process.
Always keep in mind:
• If humidity is too low, you dry out the corks, thus allowing air to slip into the bottle and if oxidation occurs, the wine will surely be ruined.
• If humidity is too high, you risk growing mold in your corks, labels and wine racks.
• If the temperature is too cold, the wine becomes dormant and would end up tasting flat instead of being fruity and sparkling.
• If the temperature is too high, you risk cooking the wine and aging it prematurely.
Ideally, however, the cellar room itself should be designed and constructed precisely with the right conditions for these temperature and humidity variables to work.
The Wine Room
Before installing a wine refrigeration system, make sure the room is vapor sealed and properly insulated.
• Every wall and ceiling should be scaled with a vapor barrier on the “warm side” of the walls. 6 or 8 mil plastic sheeting is highly recommended.
• Interior walls should be insulated to a minimum of R-19. We recommend using rigid foam board. Additionally, all cracks should be filled with expanding spray foam.
• All walls are finished with moisture resistant green board.
• Doors should be solid wood and/or insulated and weather stripping is vital for an air tight seal.
• Glass should be double pane with a minimum of a 1/2″ gap.
• Lighting should be low wattage.
The Wine Cellar Refrigeration Units
Wine cellar refrigeration unit types and models are usually chosen based on room size, which is usually measured in cubic feet (Length x Width x Height). Other factors to consider are the location of your wine room and the geographical aspects of your home because they can affect the temperature and humidity of your wine room. Measure the size of the room then use a thermometer and hygrometer to test the room’s natural temperature and humidity.
You can now choose your wine cellar refrigeration system based upon your results. There are mainly 2 types of wine cellar cooling units.
The first is the relatively more affordable Self-Contained Cooling System. The self-contained cooling system is a lot like a built-in or through-the-wall air conditioning unit. This system needs to vent to an adjacent climate-controlled room that is usually the same size or larger than your wine room. The WhisperKool XLT Series is one example of a self-contained cooling system.
The second type is the Split Cooling System. This type of wine cellar cooling unit is essentially two separate units, the condenser unit and the evaporator unit. The condenser, which is usually situated outside the house, supplies refrigerant liquid to the evaporator via a compressor, which is normally wall mounted inside the wine room. The evaporator then cools the air that comes into contact with it by turning humid air into liquid, which is then collected outside the wine room.
Split Cooling versus Self-Contained Cooling
Self-contained systems are less expensive and simple to install but possible downsides include the noise it produces during normal operation and a shorter life span (around 5 to 6 years) compared to a split cooling system. The availability of a suitable adjacent room for ventilation can also be a factor but this could be solved by using air ducts to control where the warm air can be vented. One such wine cellar cooling system that uses this method is the Cellarmate Self-Contained System. Of course, there will be additional costs depending on the circumstances surrounding the installation.
Split systems come in handy when dealing with site difficulties or when installation flexibility is needed. On the other hand his wine cellar cooling unit costs more than self-contained ones and requires an HVAC professional to install it. Ideally, the two units must be at least 50 feet apart, which in most cases means that the condenser unit might have to be located outside the house. This means extra costs for the condenser housing, pipelining sets and power source. Split wine cellar cooling systems are more durable, however, and lasts at least a decade longer than self-contained systems.
Both types of climate control systems are popular and selecting one over the other depends on your wine room’s current condition and, of course, your personal preferences. Just make sure you get everything right and your valued wine collection will turn out right as well.