When purchasing a new major appliance for the home, one often-overlooked factor is the added cost to your electricity bill.
A wine refrigerator is a refrigerator explicitly designed for the storage of wine. It can maintain a steady temperature and provide a designated space in which to store your collection. When it comes to wine refrigerators, the added cost on your electricity bill largely depends on the appliance's size, how it is installed, and whether or not it is running a thermoelectric or compressor system.
A wine refrigerator will use less to equal amounts of electricity as a regular kitchen refrigerator. If you are running a large 300 bottle capacity wine fridge, it will use more electricity than a small six-bottle wine fridge. Suppose you are using your wine refrigerator in a busy setting where the door will be opened multiple times a day. In that case, the wine refrigerator's motor will need to kick on more often to maintain the temperature. Another factor is ambient temperature. If you are using a wine refrigerator in a hot room, the motor will need to work harder to keep the refrigerator's temperature cool.
Thermoelectric vs. Compressor Systems
Wine refrigerators are made with one of two different types of technology; thermoelectric or compressor. There are significant differences between the two, and each has its advantage.
Compressor: A compressor wine cooler is similar to a standard kitchen refrigerator. Air is compressed and then released to create a cool temperature inside the appliance. The process is known as the "vapor compression cycle." The compressor wine cooler has refrigeration chambers where refrigerant molecules are compressed electronically. The compressor wine cooler contains the refrigeration chambers in which a compressor is used to compress refrigerant molecules electronically. This increases the temperature of the particles. The particles are then released suddenly, which in turn decreases the temperature of the air. This cold air is blown through the interior of the cooler using a small fan. Heat is expelled at the back of the unit. It is essential to follow all clearance guidelines to ensure the unit functions properly. As soon as the internal temperature rises, the compressor kicks back on and works to cool to the preset temperature. Once the desired temperature has been reached, the compressor will turn off to prevent freezing the refrigerator's contents. The mechanism inside the compressor wine refrigerator allows it to maintain a wide range of temperatures irrespective of the ambient temperature. Compressor technology maintains the temperature quickly by alternating between on and off as needed.
Thermoelectric: Thermoelectric wine refrigerators use an electric current to create a temperature differential between the inside of the cooler and the external environment. The system utilizes a metal rod which is electrolyzed. The heated end faces the exterior to remove the heat from the interior of the wine cooler. The cooler end faces the interior. Similar to the compressor wine cooler, a small fan distributes the cool air throughout the inside. There is no alternating mechanism and no motors or compressors to create excessive noise or vibrations. These units are generally quiet, but there may be a slight noise coming from the fan. Due to the temperature differential, freezing does not happen. The equipment will typically cool the inside of the cooler ten to twelve degrees colder than the ambient environment and automatically maintain it. The design was inspired by the Peltier Effect and is very efficient. Thermoelectric units are moderately efficient at cooling and dependent on the temperature of the external environment. To take advantage of the thermoelectric precise cooling ability, the cooler should be placed in a room with a mild temperature. Additionally, thermoelectric wine coolers are primarily designed for use as a freestanding appliance. This means that to run efficiently, they require proper clearance on all sides of the appliance.
Thermoelectric technology will be phased out because it requires more energy to bring the cooler's temperature down. Compressor wine coolers that use R600 gas are more efficient at cooling while requiring less energy.
How Does Installation Affect the Cost of Running a Wine Fridge?
One of the most significant factors in how efficiently your wine refrigerator will run is installation. Ignoring the installation requirements of your wine fridge may cause it to overheat, have the motor kick on more often, and will ultimately shorten the lifespan of your wine fridge. For wine coolers designated for freestanding installation, the cooler must have 10 inches of clearance to the right and left, 6 inches of clearance at the back, and unlimited clearance on top. They should not be installed underneath a table, countertop, or inside a cabinet. Wine refrigerators with front exhaust designed for built-in or recessed installation, a ¼ inch of clearance is required to the right, left, and top, while 1 to 2 inches of clearance is required at the back of the cooler. The front of the wine refrigerator should be unobstructed to allow the unit to exhaust correctly. With both types of wine refrigerators, be sure to carefully follow the installation guidelines provided inside the owner's manual.
Is a Wine Fridge Worth It?
A wine refrigerator is worth the added cost to the electrical bill, especially if you have enough wine bottles in your collection to justify its use. A steady, cool temperature of 55◦F is necessary for the aging of wine. Wine also favors an environment that is dark where it can rest on its side so that the liquid inside maintains the cork's seal. Wine needs to rest undisturbed, with little to no vibrations. A wine refrigerator can provide all of these critical elements necessary for the aging of wine.
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