Typical Electrical Requirements & Running Cost Of A Wine Fridge
When wine drinking gets serious, investing in a dedicated appliance for your bottles is the best thing to do.
Many enthusiasts delay buying a wine fridge concerned about the unit’s impact on their electricity bill.
But, what are the typical electrical requirements and running cost of a wine fridge?
The utility bills are a concern for everyone. But you’d be happy to know that a wine fridge won’t have a cumbersome impact on your monthly consumption.
Read on to find out what to expect and why investing in a wine cooler was my best decision ever.
Average Electrical Requirements Of A Wine Fridge
I bought my first wine fridge many years ago, but I remember all the doubts and concerns like it was yesterday.
I was worried the new appliance would have a high impact on my electricity bill. Back then, the thermoelectric technology wasn’t even a thing yet, so my only choice was a traditional compressor unit.
With the advent of the thermoelectric technology, owning a small wine fridge with a capacity under 30 bottles has an almost zero impact on the electricity consumption. This means you’ll preserve your wine for free, investment money excluded.
But, there is something about the thermoelectric technology to keep in mind before jumping on to conclusions that’s the cheapest. In some cases, it’s not. Let’s dig deeper into the matter.
Thermoelectric vs. Compressor Technology
The compressor wine fridges have been around from more or less the dawn of refrigeration.
They use the same technology present on the kitchen refrigerators which consists of four elements - a compressor which pressurizes the coolant, an exterior condenser designed to radiate the heat into the environment, an expansion valve which turns the coolant gas into a liquid and an evaporator which absorbs heat and produces cold air.
This system is advantageous in keeping the interior of the appliance cold and works intermittently thanks to a thermostat element that activates the cooling system when the internal temperature exceeds the preset threshold.
A thermoelectric system, on the other hand, doesn’t actually cool the air but it is instead designed to draw the hot air out of the appliance, keeping its interior cooler than the room temperature.
The system uses cooling elements called Peltier modules which use electric current to conduct heat from the interior to the exterior by applying a voltage between two electrodes.
A system of fans is then involved in the chilling process - we can’t call this cooling because the thermoelectric system is unstable and influenced by the environmental temperature. That’s why thermoelectric wine coolers are more appropriate for preserving wines than chilling them to temperature.
Now, a peculiarity of this system is that it runs continuously. Otherwise, its efficiency is lost. This doesn’t have a real impact on your electricity bill if you have a small appliance, as the fan and Peltier element consume very little energy. However, things change in the case of a larger thermoelectric wine cooler.
How Many Watts Do Wine Fridges Need?
We’ve talked about theory by now, but you’re perhaps aiming for a more concrete answer. Yet, running to compare specifications may not be the wisest thing.
On average, wine cooler consumes around 90 watts, but there are differences between the type of the fridge you’re looking at.
Like I mentioned above, thermoelectric units run continuously and are affected by the environmental temperature. When it’s too hot, they will operate at an even higher capacity to reach the desired temperature. This translates into higher consumption.
Compressor fridges operate in the same way regardless of how hot it is. You can place your wine fridge in the middle of the Sahara desert and still get the same cooling performance, with more or less the same energy consumption you’d have at home.
But the energy efficiency in both types of units is also dependent on the size and configuration of the wine cooler.
Small Wine Fridges
If you go for a small unit with a capacity below 30 bottles, the thermoelectric fridge is more efficient in terms of electricity consumption. For instance, a 28-bottle thermoelectric cooler uses only 70 watts on average, while a compressor unit of the same size needs 85 watts of running power.
They will both have a negligible impact on your monthly bill, but the thermoelectric fridge will save you some bucks.
Large Wine Fridges
Things flip in favor of the compressor system if you need a larger fridge with a capacity of over 30 bottles. To consider just the next size up, which is a 32-bottle wine fridge, the compressor system still utilizes 85 watts, as there is a small gap in terms of internal capacity between the two units.
However, the thermoelectric unit’s need double, and a 32-bottle thermoelectric wine fridge requires 140 watts on average.
The reason for this huge difference is in the cooling system itself. The compressor fridges can seamlessly use the same size compressor to cool 28 or 32 bottles. A larger thermoelectric system, however, needs more Peltier modules to chill the air in a more spacious cabinet.
Single or Shared Circuit?
Another thing to consider is the type of circuit your wine cooler needs. Typically, small appliances up to 30 bottles may do just fine on a shared circuit, but for safety reasons, it is recommended to predispose single circuits for these units.
Most wine fridges on the market work on either 120V or 240V AC, depending on their size, and require a 20-Amp circuit breaker. The 120V ones usually do just fine on a shared circuit as long as you pay attention to plug the cooler into a dedicated outlet that isn’t shared with any other appliances. Avoid using cord extensions and outlet sharing to avoid overloading.
240V almost always require a dedicated single circuit that connects to the main network, and only an electrician will be able to install your unit unless you’ve predisposed a dedicated circuit in your home before buying the appliance.
How To Calculate Wattage?
Some manufacturers omit to tell the actual wattage of their appliances. If you use the wine fridge in your home and are not really concerned about consumption, this information might not interest you at all. However, if you want to connect the appliance to a power generator during outages, knowing the exact wattage is a must.
What you need to know is that even if manufacturers don’t state the exact wattage, they have to disclose both the voltage and the amperage of the unit.
With these values, getting to the wattage is easy, by using simple math and the following formula:
Volts x Amperes = Watts
Average Monthly Running Costs Of A Wine Fridge
In all this maze of watts and volts and amperes, types of cooling elements and sizes, getting to the core of the question and finding out how much the wine fridge will cost you may confuse. So, here’s a blunt, straightforward answer to your question.
Based on the technology it uses, its size, and age, a wine cooler may cost you between $3 and $9 per month.
Quick math tells us that a small thermoelectric wine fridge using A++ class technology will have an average annual impact of $36 on your electricity bill. On the other side, a large compressor wine fridge using the same A++ class technology will only cost you $108 more every year.
Comparing these small figures with the advantage of keeping wine in a dedicated appliance, you’ll realize all these are well-spent monies.
Owning a wine fridge is inexpensive, and the appliance comes with dozen benefits. You’ll be able to store your wines at the right temperature and humidity, chill them to perfection, and brag in front of family and friends with your new addition.
Are you wondering which wine fridge I prefer? To be honest, I have two of them. An 18-bottle thermoelectric unit I use for long-term storage of my favorites and a 6-bottle compressor I use for chilling wines before serving.
I prefer storing wines in a thermoelectric wine fridge because units of this size cost less to run, they have no impact on the environment, are silent and don’t disturb the sediment in my bottles. However, the compressor just does better in chilling my beverage in the hot Californian weather, so for me, it’s a must.
Knowing the typical electrical requirements and running costs of a wine fridge, you should now be able to decide what type of wine cooler is the best for you; if in doubt, just buy two as I did.