Wine cellar cooling systems are in place to make sure that the right climate condition is maintained inside the wine cellar room. Wine refrigeration units regulate the air temperature and humidity levels required to age wine carefully. They are probably the most important aspects of a wine cellar. Other elements such as the wine cellar doors, walls and ceilings should all have the necessary properties required to keep the cool air tightly sealed.
Humidity Levels and Temperature in Custom Wine Cellars
Wine cellar cooling systems are designed specifically to maintain a constant temperature between 55 to 57 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels between 60 to 70 percent. The right humidity levels will keep your corks moist enough to ensure a more effective seal while the right temperature regulates your wine’s aging process.
Colder temperatures would throw the wine into a dormant state and would wind up tasting bland rather than being fruity and sparkling. The maturation process involves numerous chemical reactions in the wine that are essential for the development of the wine’s natural aroma and flavor. These essential chemical reactions occur in a naturally orchestrated manner over a certain period of time. Very cold temperatures will decelerate these reactions to a point where they have little contribution to the development of the wine. Simply put, colder temperatures will make the maturation period take longer than usual. Wine cellar refrigeration systems keep the ideal cellar temperature of around 55 degrees Fahrenheit that allows wine to mature within the normal life cycles of most humans.
With higher temperatures, you risk cooking the wine and aging it prematurely. Higher storage temperatures speed up the chemical reactions that normally occur in wine. Unfortunately, even the undesirable ones are accelerated as well. Wine naturally contains organic compounds that create off tastes and nasty odors. Extended exposure to higher temperatures, even in short periods, accelerate these reactions that make the wine end up with an uncharacteristic brown color and syrup-like taste. Needless to say, wine cellar refrigeration systems prevent these factors from happening. Wine refrigeration units also prevent frequent temperature fluctuations. These relatively fast changes in temperature throw the naturally coordinated chemical reactions in wine out of sync.
Lower humidity levels can make the corks overly dry. This increases the flow of air in the corks which will cause oxidation. Oxidation decomposes essential organic compounds, or phenols, that are responsible for producing the desired aroma, color and taste expected for that particular wine. Aside from phenols, the ethanol present in wine can also oxidize into other compounds that may result in flavor taints. Moreover, dry corks also let the wine evaporate at a much faster rate.
With higher humidity levels, you risk growing mold on your corks, labels, and wine racks. The moist environments found in wine cellars produce the perfect conditions for molds to grow. Corks will keep the mold from your wine but the exposed portion of the cork will mold. Aside from the wine itself, labels and corks partially determine the value of wine. Molds would simply damage them.
However, the cellar room itself should be designed and built precisely with the right conditions for these wine cellar temperature and humidity variables to work. The Wine Room
Even though the most important element of custom wine cellars is the wine cooling unit, you must build the wine cellar properly too for it to be effective. The following are a few key notes to consider.
R-value is the rate at which an insulator reduces heat flow through walls and ceilings. Fiberglass and Rigid Foam are more commonly used as insulators since they have higher R-values than the more affordable blow-in method. For interior walls, a minimum of R11 insulation is required while R19 insulation is required for ceilings and exterior walls.
Walls and ceilings should be installed with a vapor seal using a 6 mil plastic sheeting on the warm side of the wall. Use moisture resistant finishing products such as green boards. Flooring materials should be vapor sealed too.
Wine cellar doors must at the least be weather stripped and insulated. A threshold system should be present. Use insulated glass units (IGU) for windows and glass doors.
Lights release unnecessary heat so use them sparingly. Moreover, prolonged exposure to light cause the degradation of otherwise stabilized organic compounds found in wine.
Wine Cellar Cooling Units: Split Systems or Self-Contained Systems
There are primarily 2 basic types of wine cooling units: self contained and split type. Air cooling units are comprised basically of two separate components. The condenser unit, which is usually located outside the house, supplies refrigerant liquid to the evaporator, which is normally wall mounted inside the wine room, via a compressor. The evaporator then cools the humid air that it comes into contact with by turning it into liquid, which is then collected outside the wine room.
Split systems have the two components installed in their ideal locations. The condenser supplies refrigerated air through pipelines that lead directly to the evaporator mounted inside the wine room. Self-contained systems have the two components contained in a single housing. They’re usually deployed via a through-the-wall installation which is much simpler to do.
Split systems, meanwhile, comes in handy when dealing with site difficulties. You could simply install the two components in their proper locations and then use pipes in connecting them with each other. On the other hand this wine refrigeration unit is considerably more expensive than self contained ones. An HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning) professional is required to install it. Ideally, the two components must at least be50 linear feet from each other, which means that the condenser probably would have to be situated outside the house. This means extra costs for the condenser housing, pipelines and power source.
Self contained systems, meanwhile, are more affordable and simple to install. But it produces a great deal of noise during normal operations and usually necessitates a suitably sized adjacent area for an exhaust room. This adjacent room, by the way, have to be climate controlled too making this system inappropriate for exterior walls. This problem can be solved by using the ducted self-contained system but this would mean additional installation and operations costs.
Recent technological innovations in wine cellar cooling systems brought about a third type: the Ducted Self-Contained System. As the name implies, it’s essentially a self-contained type but this time, air ducts are used to ventilate the air. The ducted self-contained system has proven to be the most complete type since it offers many convenient choices.
Coastal Custom Wine Cellars installs wine cellar cooling systems using popular brands of cooling units. Additionally, view this youtube video for a visual look into their wine cellar design process.