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How Thermoelectric Wine Coolers Work


If you love wine, drink wine regularly and/or maintain a collection of wines, eventually you’ll need a safe place to store those precious bottles. A wine cellar is the traditional storage place for wine, but what if you don’t have a cellar? Or the money or space to build a wine cellar? Consider investing in a new take on an old technology: a wine cooler powered by thermoelectric cooling.

What is Thermoelectric Cooling and How Does it Work?

Thermoelectric cooling, also called the Peltier effect, was discovered in 1834 by Jean Charles Athanase Peltier. Essentially, a electric charge sent through two pieces of metal joined together with semiconductor wires and covered with ceramic plates are the basis for thermoelectric cooling. The electric charge creates a heat flux, transferring the heat from one side of the device to the other. As a result, one side of the contraption gets hot while the other side gets cold. Obviously the cold side is embedded in the wall of the wine cooler to cool the interior. The hot side extends outside of the cooler, while fans both inside and outside move the air around. A stack of aluminum fins creates a heat sink that efficiently dissipates the unwanted heat.

Thermoelectric Cooling vs. Regular Compressor Cooling

A wine cooler powered with thermoelectric cooling will only reach temperatures down to about 50 degrees F, while a compressor-type cooler (exactly like our home refrigerators) will cool down to about 39 degrees F. A thermoelectric cooler does not produce cold air, unlike a refrigerator, so when the temperature rises above 80 degrees it may not be able to remove enough hot air to keep the temperature inside at the optimal temperature for storing wine. Conversely, they also don’t work well below ambient air temperatures of 50 degrees F because they also do not add heat to the wine cooler. As a result, the temperature inside the cooler will drop right along with the air temperature. This type of wine cooler is definitely for indoor use in the living area of your home, not the garage or an outdoor shed.

Advantages of Thermoelectric Cooling

A big advantage of thermoelectric cooling is that it does not rely on a refrigerant, such as freon, to create the cool environment inside the cooler. That makes thermoelectric coolers environmentally friendly. Feon, released into the air, is known to deplete the ozone layer protecting the earth from the sun’s radiation. This type of cooler also uses less electricity than compressor-type coolers, saving you money. Another advantage of thermoelectric coolers is they are almost silent. Their only moving parts are the internal fans moving the cool air into the cooler and the hot air out of the cooler.

Tips for the Best Performance from Your Thermoelectric Wine Cooler

  • Keep the cooler where the ambient air temperature is between 50 and 80 degrees F.
  • Maintain at least five inches of space on all sides of the cooler for proper ventilation. Not doing this may cause the unit to overheat and fail.
  • Do not install a free-standing thermoelectric cooler in your cabinets. Special built-in units are available with ventilation on the front, similar to a refrigerator.
  • Ensure that the the cooler is on a level surface. Some models have adjustable feet for ease of leveling, just like refrigerators and other major appliances.
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