Can I Use an Air Conditioner to Cool My Wine Cellar?

“Can I use an air conditioner in my wine cellar?” Sure, you can—but we wouldn’t recommend it! There is a special type of appliance for the job, and it’s called a wine cellar cooling unit.

Aspiring wine collectors often consider routing their home’s central AC to their wine cellar or simply installing a window AC unit in their wine room. It makes sense—the idea behind a wine cellar is to maintain a constant temperature, and that’s exactly what air conditioners do, right? While that is true, there are fundamental differences in the functions between standard air conditioners and wine cooling units that are critical for both short and long-term wine storage. Here’s how the two appliances differ.

1. Most Air Conditioners Can’t Reach Wine Storage Temperatures

When storing wine, maintaining the optimum temperature is one of the most important considerations. If wine sits at an ambient temperature that’s too high, it will “cook. Imbibers can expect an overall flattening of the wine’s flavor and aroma. On the flip side, wine that’s kept too cold can suffer from similarly detrimental effects.

The ideal temperature for wine is typically around 55° Fahrenheit. Most regular home air conditioners cannot reach temperatures below 60° Fahrenheit—and some air conditioners can’t even get below 65° Fahrenheit.

Temperatures in the sixties may feel cool to us, but it’s a little too warm for that special Cabernet you’ve been saving. Consider that the main goal of effective wine storage is to minimize the aging process; excessive heat is largely the number one factor that contributes to the aging of fine wine.

2. Air Conditioners Aren’t Great for Gradual and Consistent Temperature Control

Equally important to short and long-term wine storage is avoidance of radical swings in temperature. If the ambient temperature of your wine cellar or room fluctuates with the weather, the cork can expand and contract in the neck of the bottle. This can allow air to seep into the bottle, resulting in oxidized and spoiled wine. A cork shrinking and expanding can even be pushed out of the bottle, potentially causing leakage.

Another thing to consider is the purpose for which home air conditioners are built. When turned on, an air conditioner’s goal is to cool the room or home as quickly as possible. This is the exact type of radical temperature fluctuation you want to avoid when storing wine. Seasoned collectors know keeping a steady and consistent temperature is critical in allowing wine to age gracefully. Even minimal temperature swings over time where wine is stored could spell disaster for your treasured bottles.

 

3. AC Units Often Cause Vibration

Excessive vibration is another huge pitfall of DIY wine rooms. When the contents in the bottle shift—by even just a few, measly millimeters—energy is added to the chemical aging process. This can radically change and dull the flavors of wine over time.

Home air conditioners and window units are highly prone to cause this type of harmful vibration, as even the best, most expensive units accumulate some degree of wear and tear over time. Whether it’s a loose or bent fan, insufficient lubrication, or improper mounting, many factors can cause a standard AC to vibrate while running.

Wine cooling units and systems-, on the other hand, are specially designed to eliminate harmful vibrations. With recent advances in wine cooling technology, most consumer-grade units are virtually vibration-free, and many of the ducted and split cellar cooling systems run so quietly, they’re nearly silent inside the cellar.

4. Air Conditioners Eliminate Necessary Humidity

Another necessity in safely storing wine, even if just for a few weeks, is control over humidity. At humidity levels of 85-percent or higher, the labels on your prized vintage bottles could potentially degrade, grow mold and the glue may dissolve. If your wine cellar dips below 50-percent humidity, the corks can start to dry out, potentially ruining the overall wine quality.

While window AC units can keep a room cool, they certainly have no ability to maintain or measure humidity. In fact, these units draw all the humidity out of a room, leaving a downright dangerous environment for wine storage. Many wine cooling systems feature humidity control capabilities (called integrated humidifiers), allowing you to effectively control the overall climate in your wine cellar.

Choosing a Wine Cooling Unit System

When building a wine cellar or wine room, the installation of a wine cooling system is non-negotiable. Although air conditioners and window units can cool the space, they simply cannot offer the specialized controls needed to preserve wine quality. There are several types of wine cooling systems available and choosing the right one will depend on several factors, like the size of your space, aesthetics, and budget.

 

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