7 Important Considerations When Installing a Wine Cellar Cooling Unit

by / Tuesday, 13 June 2017 / Published in Wine

Chic Dining Room Wine Cellar

Wine deserves a pleasant place to rest that is not only stylish but protects the tasty juice from harsh environments. Some wine storage rooms are situated in subterranean areas that are naturally cool and damp. For the majority of potential storage locations that are not, wine cellar refrigeration allows us to store valuable collections in just about any room in a home or restaurant.

Whether you are a DIYer embarking on a passion project or an architect spec’ing in a major restaurant cellar, here are seven things to consider when creating a climate-controlled environment.

1. There are many types of cooling units

Wine cellar cooling units come as self-contained, ducted, ductless, and in split variations. The first is the most cost-effective and is like a window AC unit. Self-contained cooling systems can be installed by just about anyone.

Ducted systems use ducting similar to your heating and AC systems, bringing in the cooled air from the unit located in a maintenance room or outside, and pulling warm air from the cellar. Ductless systems use the same premise but with refrigeration-style tubing. Lastly, split systems (which can be ducted or ductless), place the evaporator in the cellar and condenser outside. All ducted and ductless systems require a licensed HVAC installer.

2. An air conditioning unit is not the same thing as a wine cooling unit

Air conditioning units blast cold air for short periods of time to get to a certain temperature — a temperature is generally at least 10 degrees warmer than an ideal wine cellar environment. Wine cooling units run much more frequently keep the room at a much colder, constant temperature devoid of spikes. They also regulate humidity.

3. The perfect cellar temperature is 55 degrees, while a target humidity level is 70

There is certainly some room for personal preference based on region/storage goals. These are simply good targets.

4. A wine cooling unit is only as good as the bones of the cellar

If you don’t insulate the walls properly (think R17+) and account for areas of heat transfer (cracks, doors, windows, glass), you will set up the cooling unit for premature failure. For displays heavy on glass walls and doors, expect to double the cooling capacity. Don’t forget a vapor barrier (and make sure the installer puts in on the outside or warm side of the wall; the opposite of normal construction). Closed cell poly foam is a suitable substitute for both the insulation and vapor barrier.

5. It changes the budget of your project … a lot

Creating a climate-controlled environment comes with significant costs when compared to passive wine cellars. The obvious difference is the cooling unit itself, which can start around $2,000 for a self-contained machine and climb based on size of the unit. Beyond that, expect increased costs to properly insulate the space so the cooling unit doesn’t fail. Cost is all perspective though, as some cellars contain 10s of thousands (if not more) in bottles alone.

6. Cellar placement matters

Wine cooling units can only do so much. Putting a display removed from direct sun light, hot exterior walls, and other heat sources will limit the amount of effort the cooling unit is required.

7. There’s a difference between storing temperature and serving temperature

A good red wine is often best enjoyed in the low 60-degree range. White wine is fabulous in the low 50s. Bubbles should be served at around 48 degrees. There are many self-contained storage fridges that can help with serving temperature.

Long term storage puts red wine a little colder and whites a little warmer than ideal serving temps. While 55 degrees is recommended, just remember that the colder a wine is stored the slower it will age.

We work with several wine cellar cooling manufacturers, including:

Building a Residential or Commercial Cellar?

Need help with wine cellar cooling or some inspiration? Request a catalog and we’ll help you through the entire process.

For the Trade

Earn an AIA/ASID/IDCEC CEU while taking our accredited Modern Wine Cellar Design course (online and in-person). 

7 Responses to “7 Important Considerations When Installing a Wine Cellar Cooling Unit”

  1. mike tice says : Reply

    I have interest in a small ductless system

  2. Riyan says : Reply

    Thank you for sharing important considerations about installing wine cellar cooling unit . It helps us a lot.

  3. Doug says : Reply

    I’m Designing layout For a wine cellar in a residence, the home is in the Northeast so you know the cellar is about 58-65 throughout the year.
    The Proposed wine cellar size is currently 100 SF with a ceiling of 7 foot (unfinished). The size may adjust a little bigger or smaller. We are considering R-16 to R-22 insulation value, with an exterior grade door, properly sealed. The floor is concrete, wondering if we should build that up a little and insulate? But the earth below grade is about 55degrees ambient.
    With the rough considerations above, which Unit would you suggest? I’m already leaning towards a self contained unit.
    Please advise!
    Many thanks

    • Jacob Harkins says : Reply

      It’s always difficult to make a recommendation without all the details, but with what you say: Yes, concrete should be fine on the floor. R17+ is great for the walls. All the wine cellar cooling unit manufacturers have great calculators on their site for proper BTUs. Self-contained is a good option for this size space. We will send you an email with specific recommendations for the type and/or any wine racking information you need.

  4. Melissa B says : Reply

    We are starting a new build and have added a wine room, 3.5×8 ft. Plan is to have the builder wrap the framing before the drywall goes up. They said they use “wool” insulation?? This will also be above a 4ft conditioned crawlspace. And use an exterior insulated door, sealed. Would a thru the wall system be sufficient? The exhaust will go into a hallway or small room with fan (5×6). If we have a small fan in this room, is it ok to vent the exhaust here? Any advice would be great. Thank you.

  5. The facts that have been discussed here are really important. Thank you so much for sharing a great post.

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