Jeff Flowers on September 16, 2014 37 Comments Choosing the right wine refrigerator for your home can be overwhelming due to the many types, options and features available to you. Despite this, we have all the information you need to help pick out the best wine fridge for you and your family. Below we answer some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to wine coolers. Freestanding vs. Built-In Wine Coolers Thermoelectric vs. Compressor-Based Wine Coolers Single Zone vs. Dual Zone Wine Coolers Wine Coolers vs. Beverage Coolers vs. Refrigerators Wine Aging and Humidity Cleaning Your Wine Cooler Have a question we didn’t answer? Let us know in the comments below or give us a call at 1.800.297.6076. Freestanding vs. Built-In Wine Coolers What is the difference between a freestanding wine cooler and a built-in wine cooler? A freestanding wine cooler is designed to stand alone while a built-in wine cooler (also called a zero clearance or under-counter wine cooler) is designed to be built into existing counters and cabinetry as they include a front vent located under the door that channels heat forward away from the unit. Read More: Freestanding vs Built-In Wine Coolers What would happen if I installed a freestanding wine cooler under my counter? A freestanding wine cooler is designed to dissipate heat from the back, so this heat cannot escape from an enclosure and eventually will overheat the unit. This overheating will in turn noticeably decrease the cooler’s ability to maintain its internal temperature and cool your wine. The unit’s compressor will attempt to overcompensate for the overheating unit and may eventually burn itself out. At the very least you run the risk of shortening the cooler’s overall lifespan as the compressor is continually overworked. You also run the risk of invalidating the manufacturer’s warranty by operating a freestanding unit in a built-in space. Read More: Can a Freestanding Wine Fridge be Installed Under the Counter? Are there any options that will allow me to install a freestanding unit under my counter? Yes, if you allow sufficient space around the unit for the heat produced during operation to properly dissipate you will be able to install a freestanding unit into a built-in space. We strongly suggest leaving a gap of 2 to 3 inches on each side of the cooler as well as on top and in the back to create the needed airflow around the unit. You will not be able to achieve a true built-in appearance with these gaps but this should allow you to utilize a freestanding unit within a built-in space. Thermoelectric vs. Compressor-Based Wine Coolers What exactly is thermoelectric cooling? Many smaller wine coolers employ thermoelectric cooling instead of using a traditional compressor and refrigerant. A thermoelectric wine cooler contains a cooling node consisting of a ceramic tile that has electrical current passed through it. As the electrical current is passed through the cooling node the outside of the tile will heat up and the other side (the side facing into the cooler) will cool down. Typically, a thermoelectric wine cooler will contain small fans inside the unit which help to evenly distribute the cool temperatures being created by the node throughout the interior of the unit. What are the advantages of thermoelectric wine coolers vs. compressor-based coolers? Due to the lack of a compressor, thermoelectric coolers will produce fewer vibrations which in turn will equal fewer disturbances of the sediments within the wine bottles. Please keep in mind that thermoelectric wine coolers are not completely silent as the internal fans needed to distribute the cold air within the cooler do produce some noise. However, they are usually quieter than compressor driven models. Thermoelectric coolers also consume less energy than compressor units, so they cost less to operate. On the other hand, thermoelectric coolers are limited in that they can generally only produce temperatures about 20°F lower than the temperature outside the unit. Compressor-based cooling does not have the same limitation. Read More: Thermoelectric vs. Compressor: The Pros & Cons of Each Which is type of wine cooler is right for me, thermoelectric or compressor? If you keep two cases or less on hand, the room where the cooler will be kept doesn’t get too warm, and you want a freestanding wine cooler, then a thermoelectric wine cooler is probably a good choice for you. For warmer rooms and larger collections, you’ll be better served by a compressor-based cooler. Also, most built-in models feature a compressor. Single Zone vs. Dual Zone Wine Coolers What’s the difference between single and dual zone wine coolers? Single zone wine coolers have one temperature control and the storage space is undivided, so the whole cooler is set to the same temperature. This style is best if you tend to keep only white or only red wines, since they don’t have the same optimal temperatures. Dual zone wine coolers have two temperature controls and the storage space is divided into sections which may be set to their own temperatures. This style is ideal for keeping both reds and whites without resorting to two wine coolers. What is the best way to store white and red wines in the same cooler? Typically, white wines should be stored in the temperature range of 46°F to 56°F and red wines will be stored between 58°F to 68°F. The best way to accommodate both wines within the same unit is to purchase a dual zone wine cooler. A dual zone cooler will allow you to maintain two distinct and separate temperature zones within the same cooler. Many times a dual zone unit will offer a larger storage capacity for one style of wine over the other so be sure to purchase the unit that best suits your individual drinking preference. You may of course 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. There is usually only a 5 to 8 degree temperature difference between the top of a single zone wine cooler and the bottom so ultimately either your red wines will be too cold or your whites too warm depending on how you choose to set the master thermostat of the unit. May I use a wine cooler to store my other beverages? The average wine cooler will not offer temperatures below 46°F degrees. Due to this limitation we suggest purchasing a dedicated beverage cooler or traditional refrigerator if you wish to store beverages other than wine. Wine Coolers vs. Beverage Coolers vs. Refrigerators What is the difference between a wine cooler, beverage cooler and refrigerator? A wine cooler is set to a higher temperature range than a refrigerator or beverage cooler because wine should not be stored as cold as other beverages. On average a wine cooler will not offer temperatures below 46°F degrees. A beverage cooler and refrigerator are similar to each other, but beverage coolers frequently do not offer the adjustable shelves or door storage that a refrigerator often does, and they often have glass doors in order to display the contents. A wine and beverage cooler has a wide temperature range so it may be used for either, but keep in mind if you want to store both at the same time you will either have too-cold wine or too-warm drinks depending on how you choose to set the internal thermostat. Wine Aging and Humidity What are the optimal conditions for aging wine? Wine ages through a complex process of subtle chemical reactions that require specific conditions for optimal results. These conditions are a stable temperature around 55°F, a relative humidity around 70%, and protection from direct light. Even short exposures to temperature extremes can cause wine to age poorly as unwanted chemical reactions are created. For these reasons, a cellar is the ideal environment for aging wine. Read More: 6 Tips For Starting a Wine Cellar How can I achieve the best aging results from my wine cooler? The most important thing you can do is to keep the temperature at a stable 55°F – it’s crucial to eliminate variations in temperature. Look for a cooler with UV-tinted glass to minimize light disturbance to your wine, and store the cooler in a dark place. To maintain a humidity around 70%, look for a wine cooler that features humidity control or heavy insulation to help maintain a constant humidity. At the minimum, humidity must be kept at 50% to prevent corks from drying out. Cleaning Your Wine Cooler What’s the best way to clean my wine cooler? Unplug your cooler. Remove all items from it (wine bottles, shelves, etc.) Clean the inside surfaces with a mild cleaner. We suggest you use either warm water alone, or a baking soda solution (try mixing 2 tablespoons of baking soda into a quart of water.) Clean the wire shelves/trays (if you have them) with a mild detergent solution. Clean the wooden shelves/trays (if you have them) with a soft cloth and wood cleaner. Wash the outside of the cooler with a mild detergent solution. Dry any wet parts with a soft cloth. Caution: Make sure to minimize the exposure of water to any electronic or control parts.