Wine Cooler Refrigeration Basics

What is the difference between a freestanding and a built-in unit?
A freestanding unit is meant to stand by itself or on top of counters. Built-in units (also called zero-clearances or undercounters) can be built into counters and cabinetry because of the front venting, which also causes them to be more expensive.

What would happen if I installed a freestanding cooler under my counter?
Since freestanding units do not include front ventilation, the heat produced by the unit during operation will remain within the built-in enclosure and eventually overheat the unit, causing it to malfunction or break. This overheating could also decrease the cooler’s ability to maintain a proper internal temperature for cooling your wine. At the very least, you will run the risk of shortening the cooler’s lifespan significantly because the compressor will be continually overworked. Operating a freestanding unit in a built-in space could also invalidate the included manufacturer’s warranty.

Is there any way I could install a freestanding unit under my counter?
Yes, but you will need to allow sufficient space around the unit for the heat that is produced during operation. A gap of 2-3 inches on each side, as well as on the top and back of the unit, will help this heat to properly dissipate and not overheat your cooler. While you won’t be able to achieve a true built-in appearance with these gaps, it will still allow you to utilize a freestanding unit within a built-in space.

What exactly is thermoelectric cooling?
Unlike the traditional compressor cooler, thermoelectric cooling is used in many smaller wine coolers on the market. Thermoelectric wine coolers contain a “cooling node,” which is a ceramic tile that has an electrical current passed through it. As the current passes through the node, the outside of the tile will heat up while the side facing the cooler will cool down, helping the keep the interior of the unit cool. Typically, a thermoelectric wine cooler will contain small internal fans that evenly distribute the cool temperatures being created by the node throughout the interior of the unit. Thermoelectric coolers produce fewer vibrations than compressor units, which will ultimately mean fewer disturbances of wine sediment in each bottle. However, thermoelectric wine coolers are not completely silent: the internal fans needed to distribute the cold air throughout the cooler will produce at least some noise.

How do I store white and red wines in the same cooler?
Because white wines should be stored between 46º-56º F and red wines at 58º-68º F, the best way to accommodate both wines within the same unit is to purchase a dual zone wine cooler. Dual zone coolers allow you to maintain two distinct temperature zones within the same cooler, that way you can keep your wines at their optimal temperatures. Dual zone units will often offer a larger storage capacity for one style of wine over the other, so you should be sure to purchase the unit that best suits your individual drinking preference.

Of course, you may also store both red and white wines together in a single zone unit. By placing your red wines in the top shelves of the unit, you will be storing them in the warmest section of the cooler. However, there is usually only a 5-8 degree difference between the top and bottom of a single zone wine cooler, so depending on how you set the thermostat, you red wines could end up too cold or your white wines could be too warm.

Could I use a wine cooler to store my other beverages?
The average wine cooler will not offer temperatures below 46ºF degrees. Due to this limitation, we suggest purchasing a dedicated beverage cooler or traditional refrigerator if you wish to store beverages other than wine.

What is the difference between a refrigerator, a beverage cooler, and a wine cooler?
A wine cooler is set to a higher temperature range than a refrigerator or beverage cooler because wine is not stored as cold as other products. A beverage cooler and refrigerator are similar, but refrigerators often have adjustable shelves and door storage while beverage refrigerators do not, but they do often have glass fronts to display their contents. Wine and beverage coolers have wide temperature ranges so they can be interchangeable; but if you want to store both wine and beverages at the same time in the same unit, you’ll want to keep in mind that the wine might be too cold or the drinks might be too warm.

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