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Storing Wine in a Glass Wine Cellar

Why Size Matters: Glass Wine Cellars & Wine Storage Temperature

Glass wine cellars and wine walls are a thing of beauty but preserving and storing wine in them can be a challenge. Custom refrigerated wine storage should be top of mind when planning this striking showpiece.

A traditional wine cellar is likely found in a basement, away from light and has four properly insulated walls. Manufacturers of wine cellar cooling units assume this is the case when expressing cooling capacity by cubic footage. This system of measurement goes out the window the moment any part of your wine display construction involves glass. Much more heat will be absorbed, or cooling lost through the glass surface. This needs to be factored into the sizing of wine cellar systems.

Glass wine cellar with Millesime wine racks inside Kelowna home

Determining the Thermal Load of your Glass Wine Display

There are two main types of glass you may be considering for your custom wine cellar: single pane or dual pane. 

Single pane glass allows for a frameless, almost invisible look, but offers no insulation. It’s important that this type of glass is installed in such a way to prevent air leakage around the panels or door(s). This would cause further wine cellar refrigeration challenges like excess condensation.

Dual pane glass consists of 2 panes of glass with a ½” gap between the panes that is filled with argon gas. The glass unit is sealed around the edges with a spacer bar. Because of this spacer bar, dual pane glass requires some sort of framing to finish the edges and has a thicker, somewhat bulkier appearance. In addition to being more thermally efficient than single pane glass, dual pane glass framing allows for fully sealing and latching doors for a 100% airtight installation.

The thermal load on your wine cellar cooling unit will be greatest with single pane glass. Dual pane glass wine cellars are the more efficient choice between the two. A thermal load calculation should be run to determine exactly how powerful of a unit you will need to compensate for either type of glass. You can contact us for help running a thermal load calculation for your glass wine storage unit.

To give you an idea of the difference in thermal load for a traditionally built wine cellar with R-20 insulation vs. a modern wine cellar with glass, see the below example:

Wine Room Storage Space Measuring 6ft wide x 6 feet deep x 9 feet tall
(76°F Max Ambient Temperature, all Interior Walls)

All walls insulated to R20 (no glass) = 1,015 BTUh
One Wall Dual Pane Glass = 1,863 BTUh
One Wall Single Pane Glass = 2,641 BTUh
Two Walls Dual Pane Glass = 2,447 BTUh
Two Walls Single Pane Glass = 4,002 BTUh

As you can see, glass really makes a difference in wine cellar refrigeration! The little budget-friendly wine cellar cooling unit you were planning to use may no longer be sufficient when your glass is factored in. Get a proper wine cellar storage thermal load calculation to make smart design decisions and size your cooling unit appropriately.

Wine bottles on Vintage View Wine Racks inside a glass wine cellar

Other Factors to Consider When Building a Climate-Controlled Glass Wine Display

Wine likes the dark. Although your glass wine cellar won’t be fully dark, choose an area of your home where it won’t be in direct sunlight.

Consider the rigidity of your glass. If installing single pane glass, 12mm or ½” is recommended to avoid warping of the door, especially over taller vertical runs. If the door warps, it won’t align with the wall or glass beside which makes sealing the edge gap impossible.

Minimize any gaps. All stationary panels of glass should be installed with U-channels or solid silicone to eliminate any potential for air leakage. Glass doors should have minimal gaps around the edges that are then filled in with a weather strip seal. Allowing air to transfer in/out of your wine cellar around improperly sealed glass will put additional stress on your wine cellar refrigeration system and may cause it to condense an excess amount of water. 

Think about sound. Just as temperature transmits more easily through glass than an insulated wall, so does sound. Consider the location of your glass wine cellar, ambient noise level and options for ducting or split systems to minimize fan or compressor sound.

The Best Wine Cellar Cooling Units for Glass Wine Cellars 

When building a glass wine cellar you want to display wine bottles prominently, but you likely want to minimize the view of the cooling unit. For this reason, ducted or recessed ceiling mounted split wine cellar systems are a great choice. This means you’ll only see grilles in your wall or ceiling, and they can be painted to blend in.

Split wine cellar refrigeration systems allow the most flexibility with your design as no ventilation is required. The evaporator unit can be wall-mounted inside the cellar, ducted into the cellar from an adjacent space or recessed into the ceiling, depending on the specific model chosen. The downside to these systems in finished homes is that refrigerant piping needs to be run to an outdoor location which can mean significant drywall repair. 

For smaller glass wine walls where budget and finished construction are a concern, a self-contained wine cellar cooling unit like the Cellar Pro Houdini may be a good choice. This unit allows for a variety of ventilation configurations and has a minimal depth. Smaller glass wine cellars with a drywall valance or header over the door may also accommodate through-wall self-contained cooling units like the WhisperKOOL Slimline or KoolR Magnum.