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The Obvious & Hidden Dangers of Using a Comfort-Cooling, Mini-Split Air Conditioner To Cool Your Wine

From modern wine walls to elegant wine rooms, long-term storage has evolved and become accessible to a broader range of people eager to showcase their collections of any size. Most efficiently run and beautifully designed spaces originate with a highly skilled architectural engineer or experienced contractor. For less complex parameters, aficionados might opt to execute a project on their own. Either way, at the heart of any long-term storage room is a thoroughly vetted wine cooling unit, which is necessary to preserve the quality of wine over time. However, not all cooling units are created equal, including, in particular, off-the-shelf mini-split air conditioner systems commonly referred to in layman’s terms as comfort-cooling air conditioners.

Mini-splits are cooling systems designed to control the temperature in individual rooms or spaces where people spend time. But those systems are designed to cool human beings—not wine. The obvious and singular benefit of small A/C units is they can be inexpensive compared to most wine cooling systems.

Conversely, the downsides of utilizing a standard, comfort-cooling air conditioner to maintain wine over a long period are almost enumerable. First, mini-splits function optimally at 72°F—with human comfort in mind—and rarely reach a low point of 55-58°F, which is where wine ages best. If by chance an A/C unit is powerful enough to achieve a lower temperature, with it comes extremely dry air. Since these units target no more than 50% humidity, with the express intention of drying the air to make people comfortable, it is incredibly likely over time that corks will crack and wine will evaporate. Degraded wine is the ultimate risk of inhospitable temperatures and humidity conditions. Wine Guardian systems—and other wine cellar cooling units—are designed to maintain proper wine aging and storage conditions of 55-58°F, with 50-70% relative humidity. Wine Guardian solutions are robust enough to control a standalone humidifier or have one integrated right in the unit.

We are all familiar with the rumble and hum of mini-split units. The vibration might keep us cool and beckon sleep on a hot evening, but it jeopardizes the stability of wine. Similar to heavy foot traffic and noisy appliances, vibrations from A/C systems are detrimental to the aroma and flavor of wine. Cooling systems for even the largest wine cellars are designed to mitigate such disturbances to wine.

Air flow is a more complex issue when considering a comfort-cooling air conditioning unit to cool and age wine. These systems recirculate air from the same spot, making it difficult to maintain a consistent temperature in your wine room. In other words, the space directly in front of the A/C unit will be noticeably colder than at ceiling-level across the room. When a system circulates air this way, the cold supply air often vents back into the return, causing inconsistent temperatures throughout the space. The appropriate solution is a ducted or ducted split system that separates the supply and return of air into and out of a space to uniformly regulate its temperature. Ceiling-mounted ductless systems also ensure that air circulates properly in small- to mid-sized wine storage areas by directing airflow from the diffuser in the optimal direction. A more sophisticated, yet affordable way to monitor a room’s average conditions is through our remote sensors.

Most residential mini-split systems also allow users to vary the fan speed. While flexibility is often a positive feature, the incorrect fan speed might negatively impact the temperature, which must be precise to maintain a pristine environment for wine storage.

Another consideration is maintenance. If a mini-split air conditioner unit ends up requiring repair, a technician will need to enter the area to reach the mechanicals and correct the problem. This activity will disturb the environment you are trying so hard to preserve. Most wine-cellar cooling units are ducted to the wine cellar and therefore eliminate this potential problem.

From a purely aesthetic perspective, a mini-split air conditioner is typically a long white unit that takes up more space than a system engineered for wine storage. In addition to being clunky, they don’t complement the design of most wine cooling walls, rooms and cellars. Wine Guardian cooling systems are either built discreetly into a space by being flush against a wall or painted and installed between the ceiling joists, or they are adjacent to a wine cellar and ducted in.

Wine collectors are not known for purchasing the least expensive wine. It makes perfect sense that a thoughtfully curated collection of wine should be met with a high-quality cooling system specifically designed to maintain pristine conditions. Wine Guardian products are the ideal solution for wine lovers serious about preserving their long-term investment.

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