Going Big with Wine in a Small Home - Wine Coolers in Tight Spaces
Wine enthusiasts tend to think big when it comes to their hobby, and having a quality wine cooler in the convenience of one's home is the next best thing to having a wine cellar (in certain regards, better). But what if you live in, say, a small condo? You're out of lucky, right? Wrong! Wine coolers these days come in a diverse selection of shapes and sizes, though most are designed to be compact and efficient. If you're lacking room in your home, you can still fit a decent-sized wine cooler in various places without sacrificing too much space.
Where can a wine cooler be placed?
Naturally, the most practical places for a wine cooler are in your kitchen or dining room, though many people choose to put them in a garage or basement. But when you live in a small condo or apartment, good placement of a wine cooler often calls for some creativity.
For one thing, you're most likely going to want to look at your built-in options. Freestanding wine coolers can be great, but only if you have the extra area space for them. You need to make sure they are properly ventilated, after all, so even if you put a small, freestanding wine cooler on a countertop or in a corner, you usually can't put it all the way up against the wall.
But built-in wine coolers can literally be installed into cabinets, under counter tops, in walls, in nooks, etc. This means that your biggest range of options is still going to be in your kitchen and living areas, but that doesn't mean you can't look elsewhere as well. For example, if one of your rooms is a home office, you may like the idea of having a wine cooler built into a wall or even into your desk (though depending on the type of work you do, it may not be so wise to have wine this readily available during the day). Likewise, some people have even installed wine coolers into bookcases.
In addition to space, another limitation you may face is the type of surface you can place a wine cooler on. While this won't be so much of an issue with built-in wine coolers, you should know that freestanding ones should not be placed on carpets. This is for the very basic reason that, should anything spill or leak, any carpet below risks developing mildew (and as if this wasn't bad enough, the bad odors could potentially have an adverse effect on your wine). Leaks aren't a major risk, but they're a small possibility nonetheless. So, it's best to take protective measures now instead of wishing you don't end up with a ruined carpet in the long run.
Of course, if you're like a lot of people, your home may not come with the widest range of suitable surfaces. So, if you only have room for a cooler in a carpeted area, you can always put down a waterproof mat or flat square of plastic as a precaution. Just make sure that the surface is as even as possible for the wine cooler. Making sure that the floor below your wine cooler is guarded from water (or wine) damage is even more important if you live in a building where you have downstairs neighbors. After all, the last thing you want is having to fix your floor in addition to paying to fix your neighbor's ceiling.
Types of wine coolers
Now, your installation options are also going to be determined by the type of wine cooler you get. Or rather, your installation ideas are going to influence what kind of wine cooler you buy. There are two main types of wine coolers - compressor and thermoelectric. As you'll find, the majority of your built-in options are going to be those with compressor cooling systems. You see, the temperature of the surrounding environment does not affect the interior environment of compressor wine coolers. And furthermore, their vents tend to be in the front of the unit rather than in the back. This makes them ideal for being squeezed in between cabinets, walls, etc.
Thermoelectric options come with a lot of positive aspects (like no operational noise, more energy efficient power, etc.), but the fact is that they make far better freestanding appliances than they do built in ones. Their interior environments can fluctuate slightly due to differences in the surrounding climate, and perhaps more importantly, the vents are typically located in the rear of the appliance.
As you probably already know from living in a smaller home, light and portable items are far more convenient. While the portability of a built-in wine cooler is virtually nonexistent (unless of course you decide to take it out and reinstall it elsewhere), you have every reason to get a freestanding one that is. This means opting for something compact and lightweight enough that you can easily unplug and carry yourself to other locations. For example, you may keep your wine cooler in your home office or bedroom just to save some space on your countertop, but you may want to move it to the kitchen whenever you're entertaining guests.
Wine coolers vary greatly in weight, but there are models that are lighter, smaller, and easier to manage. Of course, these don't have as high storage capacities (around six regular-sized wine bottles or less). But they are a viable option if you need reasonable portability. If space is really an issue though and you only tend to stock up on wine on special occasions, you may also want to check out single bottle wine coolers - or rather, wine chillers. These hold just one wine bottle, but they are easy enough to use and can be placed almost anywhere. When not using, you can keep it stored away with your other infrequent appliances. So, is it big capacity? No. But is it portable? Yes.
Wine cooler noises - Will the neighbors be bothered
The good news is that thermoelectric wine coolers run quite silently, and many do not go beyond 20 to 30 decibels (for comparison, conversational human speech typically measures in between 60 to 70 decibels). Wine coolers with compressor cooling systems are louder in operation because they contain movable parts, but their hum is normally no louder than your average refrigerator, and how often do you turn to your fridge and wish it were quieter? Chances are you don't even notice the "hum" unless you're being really quiet yourself and listening for it on purpose. Likewise, compressor wine coolers also run pretty quietly as far as appliances go, and they usually only clock in between 30 and 40 decibels.
For those who are more visual, here's how wine coolers generally stack up to your other household appliances:
|Compressor Cooler||Thermoelectric Cooler||Other Appliances|
|20 Bottle - 35 dB||6 Bottle - 20 dB||Refrigerator - 50 dB|
|30 Bottle - 35 dB||12 Bottle - 25 dB||Dishwasher - 47 dB|
|40 Bottle - 41 dB||30 Bottle - 30 dB||Vacuum Cleaner - 85 dB|
Using wine coolers for not just wine
When you live in a small home, you often find yourself getting increasingly imaginative with how to manage your space. Bookcases take on more than just books, wardrobes store more than just clothes and shoes, and wine coolers become available space for more than just wine. So, what else can you store in wine coolers apart from wine?
The truth is you can technically put anything you want in your wine cooler. It is, after all, a kind of refrigerator. That said, you should know that any kind of food you put in there can cause a long-lasting smell, and this can affect the taste of wine. So if you must store food in there, try to keep it limited to mild items. Or at the very least, try to restrict it to things that complement the wine (fruit, vegetables light snacks, etc.) Even so, you should always keep in mind that as long as you are storing wine in it, your wine cooler will typically be maintaining a higher temperature than that of your standard kitchen fridge, so items that perish easily in temperatures about 40 degrees (like dairy products) should never be put in there. If you're ever unsure about temperatures that certain food products require, the USDA has a variety of food storage information on its website.
Small Wine Cooler Models
As you can see by now, there are a wide variety of different wine cooler models to choose from. But since we've been talking about ones for smaller spaces here, you're naturally going to be looking at the more compact ones on the market. Here are a few examples of wine cooler models that could (literally) be just the right fit for your home:
Vinotemp VT-6TEDS 6 Bottle Countertop Wine Cooler
- Fits up to six regular size bottles
- Uses thermoelectric technology, designed as a freestanding cooler
- Weighs 25 lbs. (un-stocked), with a height of 14.88 inches and a width of 19.75 inches
- Compact unit fits well on countertops
- Uses push button controls for temperature adjustment
- Removable wine bottle racks
Sunpentown WC-06 6 bottle Wine Cooler
- Stores up to six regular-size wine bottles
- Freestanding design fits well under tables, in corners, under countertops, etc.
- Runs on thermoelectric cooling system
- Weighs 21 lbs. (un-stocked), with a height of 15.5 inches and a width of 10 inches
- Removable wine bottle racks
- Push button temperature control
Avanti EWC1201 12 Bottle Wine Cooler
- Stores up to 12 regular-size wine bottles (8 horizontally, 4 vertically)
- Vertical design, to fit well in skinny spaces
- Weighs 27 lbs. (un-stocked), with a height of 26 inches and a width of 10 inches
- Thermoelectric technology, so better as a freestanding unit
- Digital display
- Removable wine bottle racks
Vinotemp's VT-12TEDi iCellar 12 bottle Wine Cooler
- Fits up to 12 regular-size wine bottles
- Freestanding unit of petite size
- Uses thermoelectric technology to provide a cool, stable environment
- Push button temperature controls
- Removable wine bottle racks
Don't forget to measure!
Whether you're browsing online or in a store, don't forget to actually measure the space you plan on putting your wine cooler in. Even if it's just on a countertop, you can't afford to have the edges of the appliance sticking out and getting in the way. And if you're still fairly new to the world of wine, it's a good idea to start small and go up from there. While a full wine cellar could be in your future, for now, a compact wine cooler is a great option.