Wine cooler sound, noise and acoustics
Just how noisy is a wine cooler? Wine cooler cabinets are not silent. For some people, the noise level may be a source of irritation. Luckily, there's a lot we can do to reduce the noise.
There's no denying it. Wine cooler cabinets do make some noise. So do regular refrigerators. But perhaps we don't notice those so much. This article looks at the noise from wine cooler cabinets and the part played by acoustics in your home.
If we examine the causes of the noise and follow some good advice from the experts, we can greatly reduce the disruption.
Just how noisy is a wine cooler?
Most wine cooler cabinets generate a noise level around 35-45 decibels (dB). In comparison, a dishwasher in use is around 45-50 dB and a standard modern fridge about 35 dB.
Generally speaking, wine coolers produces slightly more noise than regular refrigerators. This is because of their greater need to maintain a constant temperature. The vast majority of wine coolers on the market consist of a compressor, a refrigerant circuit and a system of fans.
Some wine coolers are best in test, a wine fridge may come with energy classification A or with low noise levels. While these attributes are clearly beneficial, all coolers still have moving parts. These moving parts mean that, in principle, you will struggle to find a decidedly silent wine cooler. Here we look at the three main sources of noise from wine cooler cabinets.
Electric fans maintain a stable and even temperature in selected sections or throughout the entire cabinet. Fans also prevent the formation of frost inside the cabinet. These fans have moving parts and will naturally produce noise. The swishing sound sounds very much like that produced by a table fan.
The more fans a cooler cabinet has, the more noise will be produced. The two most common types of wine cabinets are: single temperature zone and double temperature zone. With two zones more fans are needed to distribute the air evenly around the two chambers of the cabinet.
Depending on the ambient temperature and how often the door is opened, the fans operate most of the time. The insulating efficiency of the cover, in addition, plays a significant role here, since the sound of the fans mainly comes from the interior of the cabinet.
The compressor powers the heat/cold exchange cycle and is usually located at the bottom of the back of the cabinet. It is normally placed on a silicone or rubber mounting to reduce vibrations. The compressor's deep humming sound is unmistakable.
Compressors can cause unnecessary noise if the cabinet is not level, or if the compressor jars against something at the back of the cabinet. These noise sources are the easiest to eliminate to start with.
Fortunately, the compressor does not run constantly, and often it's only when a compressor stops that we really notice it was running. However, the low frequency noise is perceived individually by different people.
The third major cause of noise in a wine cooler is the refrigerant flow around the system. The chilled refrigerant is dispatched around the system following orders from the thermostat. The refrigerant is then pressed through a fine, nozzle-like injection aperture producing a characteristic hissing sound.
People might say, with some justification, that this sound is downright irritating. Once again, some people are more sensitive to certain sounds and frequencies while others are less so.
In a brand new cooler cabinet the injection aperture is pretty narrow. It needs to be "run in" for the first couple of months after you buy it. During this run-in period, you'll find that the sound is a bit louder than expected. This will diminish with time.
What can I do about it?
As we've seen, there are limited options for changing the cabinet's functions for those who are sensitive to the sound from a wine cooler cabinet. Most models make noise so there are few benefits to be gained by choosing a model from another manufacturer. It's hard, if not impossible, to make a completely silent wine cooler.
On the other hand, there are many benefits to be gained by considering the surroundings in which the wine cooler is placed. If you choose a low-noise wine cooler and place it in surroundings that are acoustically unsuitable, it probably won't be perceived as a quiet wine cooler.
How much noise a wine cooler generates isn't necessarily the key question. It may be equally beneficial to investigate how to alter the way we perceive the noise from a wine cooler. Interior design and decor contribute a great deal to the sense of having a low-noise wine cooler cabinet.
Cathedral or drawing room
There is no one clear definition of what noise is or isn't. What one person thinks is a pleasant sound may seem grating and disruptive to another. Nevertheless, the acoustics of a room have a decisive influence on the way sounds are perceived.
Acoustically, old-fashioned Victorian houses are great for absorbing sound.
The characteristic thick carpets on the floor, heavy curtains, upholstered furniture and paintings on the walls are all elements that are good at absorbing and muting the sound in a room. Victorian homes from the last two decades of the 19th century can teach us many useful things about acoustics - without necessarily decorating our homes as Oscar Wilde might have. Any wine cooler cabinet would sound quiet in such a home.
Nowadays, we design our living spaces almost diametrically opposite to the old style. We favour large surfaces, clean lines, hard materials and limited use of textiles in rooms. In addition to being modern and minimalist, this interior design style is also practical and easy to clean.
But these spaces can sometimes resemble mini cathedrals. Especially in kitchens where the ceiling has been opened up to expose the roof, noise resounds so freely that it's like standing in a church hall. In these surroundings, it's a good idea to think about how much noise a wine cabinet cooler produces.
Keep in mind that the space itself may be the reason we perceive an otherwise quiet wine cabinet as being noisy.
If you're building a new house it's a good idea to consider the acoustics and sound right from the start of your planning. There are a wealth of sound dampening materials available on the market that won't break your budget. Your contractor or local building supplier will be able to guide you through these.
For the rest of us, there are also a number of handy tricks and tips. A handclap test is a quick way to ascertain the acoustic "behaviour" of a space. Clap loudly in a room and listen for how much reverberation there is in the echo. It doesn't take more than a second before it will be perceived as bothersome.
Lastly, there's also valuable advice about how to design your interior to accommodate your wine cabinet cooler. Some of the advice takes the form of general observations while other advice applies to more specific situations.
How noisy is a wine cooler in the kitchen?
Export manager at wine cabinet producer PeVino, Lars Gorm, is often asked how much noise a wine cabinet actually makes. Lars has a lot of experience advising customers on designing interiors with a wine cooler in mind.
According to Lars' tentative evaluation, around 85% of wine coolers sold are placed in or near the kitchen, often as an inbuilt element.
Sometimes this is because people want to have an inbuilt wine cooler cabinet in the kitchen, and other times because people want an integratable wine cooler cabinet. In the latter case, the other kitchen elements help to dampen the noise significantly.
There is a difference between an integratable and an inbuilt wine cooler. An integratable wine cabinet cooler can typically be integrated into a kitchen closet, while an inbuilt wine cooler fits the breadth of a kitchen module, and therefore can replace a section of the kitchen - for example, beneath the table top.
Underlay and air circulation
Regardless how you install your wine cooler cabinet, Lars offers three general pieces of acoustic advice.
"First and foremost, the cabinet must be level and preferably not on a tiled floor. I recommend standing the cabinet on sound absorbing material such as a rubber mat or thick carpet or rug. And make sure that air can circulate around the cabinet, especially at the back. The harder it is for heat to dissipate, the harder the cabinet has to work to maintain the chill," Lars says, and explains that these tips also apply to freestanding cabinets.
The remaining 15% of Lars's customers place the cooler cabinet in more remote locales such as a utility room, garden shed or a basement. He points out that poor acoustics and noise are, naturally enough, less of an issue with this type of placement.
Wine cooler cabinets must be perfectly level
The single greatest source of noise and excessive energy consumption occurs when a wine cooler is not perfectly level and vertically aligned.
It's not enough that the wine cooler appears level enough when you look at it. Precision is key here. Make sure you have an adequately sized spirit level with a minimum length of 60 cm.
If your wine cooler is not perfectly level you run the risk of the compressor generating more noise than is necessary because the fluid level in the compressor will seem out of balance. This, in addition to noise, causes excessively high energy consumption, with a high degree of wear and tear on the compressor as a consequence.
So, if you take some basic factors into consideration when buying a wine cooler cabinet, it's relatively easy to reduce any noise disruption. No matter what, we hope you've gotten some answers to the question of just how noisy or quiet a wine cooler cabinet can be.
Sources of poor acoustics:
- Large rooms with high ceilings.
- Minimalist decor.
- Large windows.
- Hard surfaces: tiles, terracotta, glass and stone, but also bare plastered walls.
- Plastic and other furniture.
Sources that enhance acoustics:
- Carpets, thick curtains and other thick fabrics absorb sound.
- Furniture, paintings and decorative items can dampen reverberations.
- Use sound-absorbing materials when building, especially in high rooms.
For your wine cooler:
- Make sure the wine cooler is perfectly level
- Place it on a vibration and noise-absorbing material.
- Make sure air can circulate around the cooler cabinet.
Michael Kahr Jørgensen
Sommelier & Journalist