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What is the difference between a Thermoelectric Wine Cooler and a Compressor Based Wine Refrigerator?

A Thermoelectric Wine Cooler uses cooling plates instead of a compressor to cool. Unlike compressor based units, thermoelectric wine coolers do not use refrigerant and usually cannot reach lower temperatures and hold a smaller bottle capacity.

How does a Thermoelectric Wine Cooler cool?

Thermoelectric Wine Coolers use the Peltier effect to cool. When two different metals are attached together and a current is run between them, heat is drawn out of one metal into the other. In a thermoelectric cooler, there is a series of small metal fins called a heat sink. The cool side is inside the cabinet of the cooler, where with the help of a fan, circulates the cold air. The hot side of the Heat Sink sticks out of the outside wall of the cooler, where the fan disperses the heat from the cabinet out.

Benefits of a Thermoelectric Wine Cooler:

Energy Efficient:  Thermoelectric cooling uses less moving parts and requires much less power and energy to operate.

Quiet Operation: Thermoelectric cooling requires very little movement from internal parts, so as a result, generate very little noise when in operation.

Vibration-Free: A thermoelectric wine cooler does not vibrate and disturb the wine within.

Cost Effective: Thermoelectric Wine Coolers are generally less expensive than Compressor Based Wine Refrigerators.

Drawbacks of Thermoelectric Cooling:

Smaller Cooling Capacity: Thermoelectric cooling is not as powerful as compressor cooling, so it is only suitable for small capacity wine coolers.

Ambient Temperature Sensitive: Thermoelectric cooling is not the best for unstable or extra warm or cold environments. A high or low ambient temperature will significantly hinder the cooling capacity.

Freestanding Application: Thermoelectric Coolers must be freestanding with sufficient clearance and circulated airflow around the rear vents; making them unsuitable for built-in spaces.

How does a Compressor Based Wine Refrigerator cool?

In the refrigeration cycle, there are five basic components: refrigerant; a compressor, which controls the flow of refrigerant; the condenser coils (on the outside of the fridge); the evaporator coils (on the inside of the fridge); and an expansion valve.

The compressor sends hot compressed refrigerant gas through the condenser coils. As it passes through the coils, heat is dissipated into the air.

Once the hot compressed refrigerant gas reaches the expansion valve, the gas expands and turns into a liquid.

As the now liquid refrigerant continues to flow through the evaporator coils, it absorbs and removes heat from the items inside the cabinet and flows back into the compressor and the cycle repeats itself.

Benefits of a Compressor Based Wine Refrigerator:

Powerful Operation: Compressor cooled wine refrigerators have a much more powerful cooling capability, reaching lower temperatures than thermoelectric wine coolers, which is why most built-in units use a compressor.

Large Capacity: Because of its powerful cooling, compressor cooling can handle wine refrigerators that have large wine bottle capacities.

Adapts to Environmental Stress: Compressor cooled wine refrigerators can better adapt to varying temperatures and extra heat loads, keeping a stable internal temperature despite environmental conditions.

Commonly Designed for Built-In Application: Compressor cooled wine refrigerators are usually designed for built-in application; although, there are some freestanding compressor based models.

Drawbacks of Compressor Based Wine Refrigerators:

Small Vibrations: Because a compressor has many moving parts and can cycle on and off, compressor cooled wine refrigerators sometimes vibrate slightly.

Slight Noise Output: Again, because of the moving components and flowing refrigerant, compressor cooled wine refrigerators will give off noises such as:

  • The high efficiency compressor may make a pulsating or high pitched sound.
  • Rattling, bubbling or gurgling sounds and slight vibrations are the result of the refrigerant circulating through the cooling coils.
  • Cracking or popping sounds are caused by the expanding and / or contracting of the cooling coils or plate.
  • Water running from the evaporator to the water bin may make a splashing sound.
  • As each cycle ends, you may hear a gurgling sound due to the refrigerant flowing in your wine refrigerator.
  • You may hear air being forced over the condenser by the condenser fan.
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