Which Wine Cellar Cooling Units Really Kick Butt?


The best wine cellar cooling units?

Are the ones that maintain your wine at the proper temperature and humidity levels... and last for years.

What are the proper levels? Something very close to:

  • Temperature - 55°F (13°C)
  • Relative Humidity - 55%-75%


The above figures are often touted throughout wine circles. But since not everyone can afford "the perfect" wine cellar, and wine is nothing if not, well... controversial. :) I've got some different views on what I believe to be much more reasonable here on my home wine storage page.

Each cellar has it's own unique size, shape, and location within your home or grounds. So it's very important to get a unit that fits your circumstance. There is no "one size fits all", nor should there be.

A traditional "cellar" was always in the ground. That's where the lower temperatures and higher humidity was as close to
optimum as you could get for long-term storage of wine.

Image showing a traditional wine cellar.

But with today's cooling units, that's all changed...

What Kinds Of Rooms Can These Cooling Units Be Installed In?

Wine cellar cooling units can be installed in the:

  • main floor
  • basement
  • garage
  • shop
  • closet
  • hallway
  • and although not my first choice... even an attic!

If you can dream it up, then you can most likely install a cooling unit in it. Keep in mind that you should still choose a room that is closest to the above temperature and humidity as you can. That way the cooling unit will have to work far less and will last longer too. 

You can check these pages out if you need some guidance on wine cellar design or building a wine cellar tips. If you follow some of the advice there -- your cooling unit will run less, last longer, and your hydro bills will be cheaper.

There are many things to consider that will make wine cellar cooling more efficient such as:

  • insulation
  • vapor barrier
  • the cooling unit's location in the dwelling
  • shaded areas of the home
  • ventilation
  • cellar door seal etc



Which Brands Can You Trust?

My number one brand for wine cellar cooling units is Wine Guardian. Yes, some of their models can be more expensive... but these cooling units are made from commercial-grade materials and are engineered to last. All of their units ship to you for free.

They are trusted by the leading custom wine cellar companies for a reason.

Other than Wine Guardian, there are a ton of wine cellar cooling units on the market today, so it can be a challenge trying to find a reputable one to fit your cellar. With that in mind, I've rounded up the best in class, as reviewed by the most current and satisfied owners for each specific size:

Updated 2018 ,

For wine cellars up to 350 cubic feet

For wine cellars up to 600 cubic feet

For wine cellars up to 800 cubic feet

For wine cellars up to 1000 cubic feet

For wine cellars up to 1500 cubic feet

For wine cellars up to 2000 cubic feet


For wine cellars over 2000 cubic feet in size I suggest Wine Guardian, in either their ducted or split-system. These are premium systems built for years of service. At this size of cubic feet and over, you're likely getting into some serious volume storage of developing fine wines. Your wine collection is just too substantial to risk. 



The most economical cooling units that still get excellent reviews are manufactured by CellarCool. Each unit is carefully pre-tested and calibrated before they ship them out. These are all through-the-wall units. They're made in the U.S.A. and offer a 2-year warranty, and a 5-year warranty on the compressor. 

For wine cellars up to 265 cubic feet

For wine cellars up to 650 cubic feet

For wine cellars up to 1000 cubic feet

For wine cellars up to 2000 cubic feet


What About Installation Instructions?

Yes, all of the cooling units above come with complete installation instructions. Also, if you want to have a look at these instructions before you buy, you can view the installation pdf for each model. Simply click on the unit you're interested in, and within that page you'll see the pdf link - (technician manual, owners manual etc).

Tip: Check out my cubic feet calculator below so you know what size of cooling unit you need!



The Three Main Types Of Wine Cellar Cooling Units

1. Through-The-Wall

Through-the-wall cooling systems need no ductwork or refrigeration lines.


Infographic of a through-the-wall wine cellar cooling unit.


They can be a little noisier than the other systems, as the unit mounts right in the wall, and vents into an adjacent room. The rule of thumb is to vent into a room that's at least as big as your wine cellar.

If that's not possible, then you'll need to install one of the other types below. Many people who don't get this right, find that the cooling unit is very inefficient and leads to premature failure. 


2. Ducted

Ducted wine cellar cooling units also have both the compressor and the evaporator contained inside the unit.


Infographic of a ducted wine cellar cooling unit.


They differ from through-the-wall systems because you can mount the unit anywhere within @10-25 feet or so of your cellar, and simply run the ductwork back.

These systems can be mounted and ducted in various ways, depending on the model and your specific needs:

  • floor mounted
  • ceiling or joist mounted
  • outside installations
  • this is also the unit to mount in the attic if you need to


If you installed one of these units a good distance away, your wine cellar stays nice and quiet - with only the occasional whisper of air movement. They can also be installed yourself which is really nice.

3. Split

Split wine cellar cooling units can be ducted or ductless.

Ducted-split models can have both the condenser and the evaporator mounted inside the unit itself, or separated by up to 100 feet. These units are usually installed outside the home where they can pick up fresh air and also vent the warm exhaust, with only the ductwork running in to the cellar. All of the heat and noise stays outside, which makes your cellar nice and quiet.

Infographic showing a ducted-split cooling unit.

Ductless-split models usually have the evaporator installed at the top of the wall, or on the ceiling of the cellar. They too, are nice and quiet with the condenser being mounted outside.

Some models have a bottle probe that it monitors the temperature from. This is more accurate than monitoring the ambient air temperature. The probe is placed inside of a wine bottle filled with water to imitate the real thing.


Infographic showing a ductless-split wine cellar cooling unit.


Similar to a central A/C unit, you'll need to run refrigeration lines, so a licensed HVAC technician will have to install the unit for you.

Of all the units, the split system will hold and maintain the set temperature and humidity levels the best. The split cooling units are a premium quality system, and will generally last much longer than the other two types. 


Tip: There are many cooling units that don't include an integrated humidifier. Mount a thermo-hygrometer inside your cellar to check the relative humidity. You might need to buy a humidifier separately if your wine cellar isn't located in a humid enough room. 



How To Figure Out The Cubic Feet Of Your Wine Cellar

Wine cellar cooling units are rated to cool a specific amount of cubic feet. So you'll need to know how many cubic feet your cellar is...

Measure the height, width and length of your cellar, then use the cellar calculator below. Just punch in the numbers, then hit calculate.

 Cubic Feet Calculator 
Height: 
Width: 
Length: 
Total:cubic feet
  

If your cellar is an odd shape, see here to calculate the cubic feet properly. 

Now that you know the cubic feet of your cellar, you'll be able to zoom in on certain models and make some comparisons between brands.

It's important to install the proper size of unit in your wine cellar for efficient wine cellar cooling. That way your system will last, and easily keep up to the right temperature and humidity levels. An overburdened unit will soon crap out on you.

Tip: If your wine cellar has a lot of glass, poor insulation or no door seal... you should increase the cooling unit size to make up for this. Not the ideal solution, but it's the only way the unit will be able to maintain the temperature and humidity without burning out prematurely.


Help! Cooling Units Are Too Expensive... Any Options?

Well... 

I did come across something that might be a little cheaper alternative to wine cellar cooling units. You will need:

Yes, it's not exactly super-cheap, but...

You might be able to find a cheap A/C unit and humidifier on Craigslist or at a yard sale. Be aware that the A/C unit has to have digital controls to work with the Coolbot.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Follow the instructions and connect the Coolbot to your A/C unit. This takes only 2-3 minutes (no tools necessary).
  2. Place the hygrometer on the wall somewhere within your cellar so you know what the humidity is currently at. Once the Coolbot and A/C unit have been operating for a few days, check to see that the relative humidity is between 55%-75%. If not, you should use a humidifier to increase the moisture levels or your corks will dry out.

Here's how it works:

The Coolbot will lower the temperature of the A/C unit past it's lowest setting, right down to 34°F. Obviously you don't need it that low for wine, so simply punch in the temperature that you'd like your wine cellar to maintain. That's it.

I'm sure this seems like another "too good to be true" gimmick. I know it did to me when I first came across the Coolbot. But there are way to many positive reviews to ignore. It's made in the U.S. too.

So... for about $600 or less, you can make and install your own wine cellar cooling units to your hearts content. These nifty little units can be used in the agriculture industry too.

What To Watch Out For

Remember that this "custom wine cellar cooling unit" you just made, is totally relying on the A/C unit. So if the A/C unit you acquired is a poor quality unit or isn't up to snuff - you could have a premature failure. The Coolbot will still work but you'll have to replace the air conditioner.

The A/C unit also needs to vent to the outside as it normally would. 



Why Not Use An Air Conditioner Instead Of A Cooling Unit? 

Why can't you use a standard air conditioner in a wine cellar? Because they:

  • can't get the temperature low enough - usually their lowest is around 60°-65°F
  • cools the air too fast 
  • de-humidifies the air in your wine cellar

That's exactly what you don't want for your wine that is bottled with natural corks. 

On the other hand, wine cellar cooling units replace the air very slowly in your cellar. This helps to maintain the moisture that's already in the room. 

Enjoy.


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