If you’re in the market for a wine cooler to house your wine collection, you’ve probably come across the words thermoelectric and compressor. These two types of cooler look very similar, but the technology behind them couldn’t be more different.
Before you spend £100s of pounds on your cooler, make sure you’re aware of their key differences by reading this.
What are the Differences between a Thermoelectric and Compressor Wine Cooler?
When trying to figure out which wine cooler will be the best match for how you drink wine, it’s important to first understand how each one works.
How Thermoelectric Wine Coolers Work
Thermoelectric wine coolers use a type of technology called the Peltier effect. Discovered by Jean Peltier in the 19th century, the Peltier effect happens when electricity flows through two metal semi-conductors (creating a heat flux), and heat gets transferred. One end becomes hot and the other becomes cool, depending on the flow of the electric current.
In thermoelectric wine coolers, because the core cooling device (or heat pump) is so small, it operates with minimal noise, making it a popular option.
How Compressor Wine Coolers Work
Compressor wine coolers work in a similar fashion to a refrigerator. A liquid refrigerant circulates through a vapour compression cycle. This cycle produces cold air, and externally expels hot air (similar to an air conditioner). The system is made up of these four major parts:
Compressor – pressurises gas.
Condenser – a long coil that runs on the outside of the refrigerator. Refrigerant radiates heat into the environment as it passes through the coil.
Expansion valve – this lessens the pressure of the refrigerant and turns it into a cool liquid.
Evaporator – a long coil that absorbs heat from the air, resulting in cold air that is used to cool your wine.
Advantages of Compressor Wine Coolers
- Can reach colder temperatures – compressor coolers can easily reach -1ºC, at any time of year. Most thermoelectric coolers don’t go below 10ºC, which is why they aren’t recommended for spaces that heat over 27ºC.
- Adapts to Environmental Changes – compressor coolers adapt well to varying loads and temperatures, as they can maintain a consistent internal temperature in a range of conditions. This is a great benefit if you’re planning on putting your cooler in an uninsulated area.
- Storage Capacity – because compressor coolers are usually large, they often have a higher storage capacity, making room for more bottles of wine (and what’s not to like about that?!)
Disadvantages of Compressor Wine Coolers
- Noise – the moving parts of a compressor cooler means that it will produce some noise. While it usually isn’t too loud it is noticeable, likened to a normal refrigerator.
- Vibrations – again, due to the moving components in the cooler, the compressor can vibrate slightly. This is usually rectified using a rubber bushing which absorbs the movement.
Advantages of Thermoelectric Wine Coolers
- Quiet – since there are no moving parts in a thermoelectric cooler, they are almost silent. The lack of vibration is also better for preserving your wine.
- Environmentally friendly – thermoelectric coolers don’t use any environmentally-damaging fluids or refrigerants, and they use very little energy to run.
- Lightweight – minimal machinery is needed for the Peltier effect, making thermoelectric coolers lightweight and easily portable.
Disadvantages of Thermoelectric Wine Coolers
- Not as effective during temperature change – because thermoelectric coolers don’t produce cold air, when the temperature gets too hot (around 27ºC), they struggle to remove enough heat to produce an ideal storage temperature for wine (13ºC). This is because a thermoelectric cooler doesn’t produce air. The opposite occurs when it’s too cold. Because you can’t add heat to the unit, when the outside temperature drops below 10ºC, so does the internal temperature. Both of these factors affect your wine’s storage conditions.
- Placement – the issue above can restrict where in your home you can place the cooler. Because the units vent hot air, heat sinks in the back, and they need a minimum of five inches of space on either side of the unit to prevent overheating.
Wine Coolers: Thermoelectric or Compressor?
As you can see, choosing the right cooler to suit your needs is really more function over fashion.
Wine storage and preservation is all about consistent temperature control in all conditions. Where you’re looking to store your cooler and where you live will help you to decide which is best for you.
For more information on wine see our wine cheat sheets, read our Wine Coolers Buying Guide or our Wine Serving Temperature Guide, or find out Why Proper Wine Storage is So Important and How to Store Wine Properly. Alternatively shop for freestanding wine coolers here, or integrated wine coolers here.