How to Choose the Right Climate Control System for your Wine Cellar

“Heat is enemy number one for wine,” The Wine Spectator declares in a story on wine storage basics, going on to say “Temperatures higher than 70° F will age a wine more quickly than is usually desirable. And if it gets much hotter, your wine may get “cooked,” resulting in flat aromas and flavors.”

Don’t think the answer is to place bottles of fine wine you want to age in the fridge. That may be the right climate control system for meat, milk and veggies, but for wine the fridge is only OK on a short-term basis. Long-term it’s too cold and too dry. The lack of moisture will lead to corks getting dried out, letting in air and eventually spoiling the wines.

To properly and safely store and age fine wines, you need to maintain a consistent temperature between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The counterpart to proper temperature is humidity. Proper humidity is vital to ensuring a long life for fine wines, as corks need to stay moist in order to maintain a tight seal on bottles and not allow oxygen to seep in and oxidize the wine. Too little moisture and you risk the quality of the wines, too damp and you potentially invite mold. A level around 60 percent humidity is ideal.

Choosing the right professional climate control system is the key to safeguarding your valuable wines—whether you have a couple of cases being stored in a spare room in the basement for special occasions, or thousands of bottles that reside in a professionally designed wine cellar like the ones Summit Wine Cellars creates for discerning clients across the U.S. and beyond.

See our related blog post on other issues to consider
when storing the wines in your collection

If you work with a wine cellar designer like Fred Tregaskis of Summit Wine Cellars, he’ll guide you through the selection of the best climate control system. If you’re creating a wine storage space as part of a home construction or renovation project, the residential builder or HVAC contractor will be the point person for helping to choose what climate control system to order from a professional provider like Summit.

Let’s breakdown what you and your contractors need to know in order to choose the right climate control system, which involves a cooling system and a wine cellar humidifier.

The first step is defining the space you’re using for wine storage room:

  • Is it a small, self-contained space being repurposed?
  • An open area that needs to be walled in?
  • A basement area enclosed on two or three sides by natural stone?
  • What’s the square footage of the space?
  • Where does it fall in the layout of the home and what’s around it?
  • Is there space behind the walls that can be accessed?
  • Is there a utility room or storage area nearby?

Those factors and more will determine whether you need a through-the-wall climate control system, a self-contained system, a ducted split system, or a ductless split system—and the size of each system is determined by the type and amount of space that needs to be expertly cooled.

Let’s take a look at each of these options in a little more detail, and keep in mind that the cooling systems described below need to be paired with a humidifier unit to keep the humidity level around that ideal 60 percent.

Through-the-Wall Wine Storage Climate Control System:
Simple to Install, Self-Contained, Good for Smaller Spaces

Through-the-wall systems are the plug-and-play essentials of wine storage, favored by the DIY crowd and home improvement contractors. Think of it like a wall air conditioner in the living room. The fully sealed and self-contained unit fills the wine storage room with cool moist air, as it draws out the warm air and expels it into an adjacent area, transforming any room into a convenient wine cellar by providing same controlled humidity and temperature conditions that have been used for ages by the experts. Through the wall wine cellar cooling units are smaller and easier to install than full HVAC units, and are best for smaller wine storage spaces. Summit Wine Cellars offers several choices and brands of through-the-wall systems.

 Self-Contained Wine Storage Climate Control System
Self-Contained, Out of Sight, and No Noise to Be Heard

A self-contained wine cellar cooling system combines the compressor and evaporator within the same housing like a through-the-wall system, but these are typically larger units and situated outside of the wine cellar, perhaps in a nearby mechanical room or storage room. The supply of cool air travels through a duct system to the wine cellar and warm air is returned through a duct to another location up to 25 feet away from the cooling unit. Locating the cooling unit outside the cellar provides a quiet cellar with no sign of equipment in the aesthetics, and no space being taken up by the cooling equipment.

Split System Wine Storage Climate Control Systems
Ducted or Ductless, They Provide the Ultimate Flexibility

Split system wine cooling units provide the ultimate flexibility in how the air is distributed to and from your wine cellar. There are two pieces to the system, an evaporator or air handler and a condensing unit. These two pieces are connected by a liquid line and an insulated suction line.

In a ducted split system, the condenser—noisier than the evaporator because it is exhausting the warm air from the wine cellar—is usually placed outside the wine cellar. The condenser can be up to 100 feet away from the evaporator, which is placed closer to the wine cellar. A ducting system delivers the cool air into the cellar—at a maximum of 25 feet—with the cool air entering at the top of the cellar and the warm air ducted back out at the bottom of the cellar.

Meanwhile, ductless split systems can be mounted inside your wine cellar without installing new ductwork of vents that can detract from aesthetics. Heat and humidity features can be added to the ductless models, allowing you optimal control of your wine cellar’s conditions.

If all of that sounds complicated, it really isn’t, especially once it’s explained by Fred Tregaskis as part of the wine cellar design process.

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Summit Cool Cellars(https://coolcellars.com)and Summit Wine Cellars (https://summit-cellars.com) offers one-stop expertise as a complete wine cellar contractor guiding both residential and commercial clients from concept and consultation through wine cellar design, fabrication and installation. Owner/designer Fred Tregaskis creates dramatic custom wine cellars for fine homes, restaurants, hotels and wineries throughout the world.

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