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Cellar Climate Control

Why Build a Wine Cellar?

Lets face it everything has its optimum storage temperature, meats, fruit, vegetables, even people. Wine is no different.

For those who buy large quantities of wine with the intention of keeping it a while and with the hope it will improve with age, finding decent storage is essential.

There are three criteria for long term quality storage .

Temperature

The universally accepted ideal wine storage temperature is between 10 and 18 degrees celsius. This belief is based on the conditions found in the old wine caverns of Europe.

While it is accepted that high temperatures can destroy wine, it also important to note that the rate of temperature increase can be a factor, a seasonal rise in temperature of 3-4 degrees is far less detrimental to wine than the same increase within the space of a day.

Similarly too low a temperature will slow the ageing and maturation process of the wine.

Humidity

In addition to temperature a humidity level of between 50% and 70% is also required to prevent the corks from drying out.

When a bottle is laying down keeping the cork moist, the humidity level is 100% inside the bottle. In a typical home with air conditioning the relative humidity is generally around 30%. Physics demand that all things come to an equilibrium therefore the wine inside the bottle will be forced through the cork. The space previously occupied by the wine will now be replaced with an air pocket. This air pocket creates oxidation which will taint the taste and colour of the wine.

Levels of Humidity in the cellar above 80% would not damage the wine, but mould will start to form on labels and corks, therefore keeping the wine cellar just below that level is optimum.

Sunlight Exposure

Direct sunlight can also effect wine, causing a chemical reaction that can taint the taste, and even push the cork out of the neck of the bottle, this creates an air pocket leading to oxidation. This is why most red wine is packaged in dark bottles.

Perfect conditions are not easily obtained naturally without going deep underground, however they can be achieved above ground with the correct preparation of a room and the use of modern refrigeration systems.

Refrigeration Units

There are three main types of units used to refrigerate wine cellars.

  • Self contained units
  • ducted systems
  • split refrigeration systems

Self Contained Fondis C25, or C50 Models

The self-contained unit functions like a through-the-wall air conditioner. "Fondis" is a French company that has been in the wine cellar climate control industry for over 25 years . Their self contained "Wine Master" systems operate in the same fashion as the split refrigeration systems, but the components are all cased in the one unit. The units are fitted within their own wooden set in frame that is mounted in the cellar wall, the unit protrudes through the cellar wall to either the outside or an adjoining well ventilated area. This style of unit can either be self installed, or by a builder or handyman.

Two sized self contained units are available. The C25 ( for rooms up to 25 cubic metres ) and the C50 ( for rooms up to 50 cubic metres )

Ducted System, Fondis IN25 or IN50 models

The ducted system works in a similar fashion to the Self Contained unit, but the entire unit is situated within the cellar. Fresh air is drawn in to cool the unit via a flexible duct, the exhaust air is then ducted away to the outside in the same method. These units are ideal where cutting a hole in the wall for a self contained unit is not possible. the kits come complete with all flexible ducts, clamps and wall mounting brackets.

Split Refrigeration Systems. Fondis SP100 or Kirby

Split systems consist of a condenser unit, which is located outside the cellar in a cool well ventilated area, and an evaporator situated within the cellar. At no time does the air within the cellar actually leave the room, it is merely circulated across the coils of the evaporator and cooled.The separate components are connected via refrigerant pipework and wiring. They must however be installed by suitably qualified refrigeration technicians. We sell “Kirby” and "Fondis " brand split refrigeration equipment. “Kirby” are an Australian Company with extensive experience in commercial and residential refrigeration and air conditioning management systems. They have a ceiling mounted system for rooms up to 100 cubic metres. Fondis also have a large floor mounted system with a 100 cubic metre capacity.

Split Air Handler Schematic 1
Split Air Handler Schematic 2

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These Units are not Air Conditioners!

The main difference between refrigeration and air conditioning systems, are the temperatures involved. Most air conditioners will not cool to the 14 –18 degree range required for optimum wine storage. They also cool very rapidly which dries out the air and removes the humidity.

Refrigeration systems operate at much cooler temperatures, and cool much slower than air conditioners, but to operate efficiently they must be installed into a correctly insulated room.

Cellar Room Preparation

By building a climate controlled wine cellar you are essentially trying to create a watertight, medium temperature cool room.

Once the temperature of the room and its contents (wine ) have been cooled to the required level, that thermal mass takes a long time to heat up, if it is insulated from any external factors.

The same logic applies to the humidity. It is normal for the internal component (evaporator) of a system to naturally draw moisture towards it. Therefore if the room is not sealed watertight humidity may fluctuate up or down depending upon the conditions outside.

For efficient operation of any refrigeration system the following room preparation is required

Insulation

Insulation is a critical component, and all of the above units require a minimum insulation level of at least the following, for efficient operation :

  • 75mm thick  closed cell extruded polystyrene foam board. This is a rigid dense foam board product, reasonably new to the Australian Market. Its rigidity, versatility and insulating properties makes it ideal for upgrading of existing rooms to wine cellar standard. 

Existing gyprock lined rooms can be batoned out and extruded polystyrene insulation board sandwiched tightly between batons, then a villaboard lining fastened to the batons.

Concrete or block wall can be either batoned in the same fashion as a gyprock wall, or the insulation board glued directly onto the concrete wall and then a rendered finish applied to the interior.

The foam board is available from Wine Cellar Designs in 2500mm x 600mm x 75mm thick sheets @ $ 90 / sheet  ( ex sydney.)

 

  • 75mm polystyrene sandwich panelling to all walls and ceiling. This product has a metal skin forming a waterproof barrier either side of a polystyrene board. The panels must be sealed at all joints. Wine Cellar Designs has a range of standard sized prefabricated cool rooms avaialble, see our link under from the homepage  "Modular Cool Rooms" 

 

Cellar Door

This is also a critical area as the door is a major contributor to heat entering the cellar. The door should be at least a solid core, exterior grade with a rubber seal around the jam. “Raven” Make two ideal systems, the RP38 door bottom seal, and the RP10 door frame seal. These are available from most hardware or door specialty outlets.

Cellar Floor

If the cellar is mounted on a concrete slab, it is likely that the slab has plastic sheeting beneath to prevent moisture seeping up. If not the cellar floor should be painted with a waterproof sealer to prevent water entering, the same effect can be achieved by laying glazed tiles. If the cellar floor is timber on bearers and joists it should be insulated to the same degree as the walls and ceiling and sealed with plastic sheeting.

Fill in the questionnaire below and our engineers will carry out heat loadings on the room, specify and quote equipment, or make recommendations on improvements required to bring the room up to standard.

Submit Design Requirements Online
Print then Fax the Questionnaire
Call Us at 1800 247 968 or Click to Email