Taking care of a wine cooling system can be straightforward and it goes a long way in preserving the longevity and functionality of the unit. Like owning a car or a house, many of us neglect to make a meaningful commitment to properly maintaining our wine cellars until something goes wrong. Repairs can be expensive and frustrating. However, they can be preventable through routine maintenance services.
Maintenance of Your Wine Cooling System Should Be a Matter of Routine
Most wine cooling systems require attention once a year—a service that will likely cost less than the best bottle in your collection. The reason regular maintenance is so important is that it typically costs less than fixing a unit. If a unit is found to be damaged during a service check, technicians can catch costly problems sooner. Maintenance also ensures that a system is running as efficiently, thereby extending the life of the system.
Maintenance can also be done by the wine cellar owner who is inclined to read the service manual. Manuals typically include detailed instructions and diagrams on where filters, coils, and other gauges can be found. However, there is some risk associated with maintaining a cooling system if precautions are not closely followed. The cooling system contains high voltages and sharp fan wheels, fins, and coils that may be dangerous.
Most distributors and installation companies sell various service plans that might leave wine lovers more confident than conducting system maintenance themselves. However, we do not take advantage of these services or we let them fall by the wayside after a year or two.
What Exactly Does Maintenance Entail?
If a climate control system includes an integrated or freestanding humidifier, the water panel (also referred to as a drip pad or filter pad) will need to be replaced during an annual service appointment.
For wine cellars located in hard water areas, the water panel might need to be replaced more often due to sediment build-up. Hard water contains minerals that may clog the drip pad which prevents the transfer of moisture into the air. Your system may let you know if the water panel needs attention by the inability to maintain the proper humidity level, which can then be reported back to a technician (or replaced by a handy owner).
Both condenser and evaporator coils need to be cleaned once a year. A service technician or homeowner can accomplish this by removing any dirt or build-up with a vacuum.
The drain line serves to remove condensation that occurs on the evaporator coil. In addition to replacing or cleaning the filter, a service technician will flush out any mildew, mold, algae, or dirt that may be obstructing the drain line.
When a technician begins routine maintenance, the first step may simply be to turn on the unit and to listen for unusual sounds or vibrations. They will likely check to make sure the temperature on the control panel matches that of the wine cellar. The difference between the air coming into the room and the air going out of the space is called the delta. The delta of any wine storage space should be between 12-15 degrees. A cellar temperature below the delta might indicate the system needs more refrigerant. A temperature above the delta may be indicative of poor airflow and a dirty filter.
Ducted cooling systems come with a filter on the condenser side that will need to be replaced annually. The filter protects the condenser coil from being covered by or clogged with dirt and dust.
The Finer Points of Maintenance
Technicians are best equipped to check for loose insulation, fasteners, or gaskets. They will also know how to identify faulty connections, check the integrity of cords, as well as examine ducts for any damage.
In addition to listening for any unusual noises or vibrations, be aware of a unit that turns on and off more than eight times per hour. Short cycling is an indication that a system is not functioning properly and needs service. This is less about performing active maintenance and more about paying attention to your system as a matter of routine.
Monthly to annual maintenance of your wine cellar cooling unit may not be something that comes to mind for every wine cellar owner, but creating a schedule of maintenance and checkups helps the system function properly and helps catch potential issues early. In the long run, this means more consistent and better preservation of your wine.