When people first enter the world of wine storage they are often shocked at the cost of a wine fridge Vs a regular fridge and struggle to understand why the price difference exists. In this blog post we will explain why wine fridges are expensive and then offer some top tips on how you can lower the cost of buying and running a wine fridge.
What are the costs of owning a wine fridge?
Wine fridge costs can be split between purchase, maintenance and running costs with the initial outlay generally the most expensive. However, it's worth factoring in all the costs when buying a wine fridge to avoid buying a low quality unit that will either break OR is so energy inefficient that any initial savings are eaten up in running costs.
The purchase price
Wine fridges run anywhere from around £150 to £15,000 and everywhere in-between, there will be large difference in production quality, bottle capacity, usability, functionality, design, sustainability, longevity and efficiency that it's worth taking all these factors into your equation when buying a wine fridge.
As a rule of thumb, spending any less than £400-£500, even on a small wine fridge, is likely to be a false economy, the parts will be manufactured outside of Europe and the US and the quality will be poor. The wine fridge will likely fluctuate a lot in temperature, be noisy and energy inefficient. Spending more on a mid-premium brand may save you more over the ten years of running the appliance than you saved by buying that cheaper model.
The maintenance price
If you bought a really simple and cheap wine fridge, it's likely there is no maintenance costs as there is no internal tech to maintain, they probably don't have carbon filters and wont need maintenance other than cleaning. However, any wine fridge with a carbon filter will need that replacing yearly, so add this into your overall costs of owning a wine fridge.
The running costs
The kWh/annum energy consumption can be found on the energy label of every electrical appliance. A wine fridge will cost anything from £25-£100 per year to run with small wine fridges and single zone wine fridges typically being more energy efficient. However, it's the engineering from the brand that is the key factor of energy efficiency with brands like Eurocave and Liebherr being the most energy efficient in the market.
A Eurocave or Liebherr may cost double that of another brand, but if they cost £50 less each year to run, and last twice as long as a product than another brand, then over the lifespan of the appliance perhaps they are the better financial deal too. Our customers have reported these brands lasting over twenty years.
Why are wine fridges more expensive than normal fridges?
Precision Cooling Technology: Wine is delicate and demands precise temperature control for optimal aging and flavour preservation. Unlike conventional refrigerators, wine fridges are equipped with advanced cooling systems designed to maintain a stable and consistent temperature, crucial for the nuanced aging process of wine. This precision technology comes at a cost, as manufacturers invest in specialised compressors, sensors, and insulation to ensure a controlled environment.
Cost of materials: UV protected glass doors can add up to £100 onto the cost of production of a wine fridge alone, combine this with the compressor technology and refrigerant used as well as the additional humidity controls, there's a lot more tech in a wine fridge than a normal fridge.
Dual or Multiple Temperature Zones: Many high-end wine fridges offer dual zone or even multiple temperature zones, allowing users to store various types of wine at their ideal serving temperatures. This feature is essential for serious wine collectors who appreciate the subtleties of serving their wines at specific temperatures. The engineering behind these zones adds complexity to the design and contributes to the overall cost of the appliance.
Humidity Control: Wine storage requires not only temperature control but also proper humidity levels. Wine fridges often include humidity management systems to prevent corks from drying out and compromising the wine's quality. This additional feature adds to the cost of production and maintenance.
Design and Aesthetics: Wine fridges are not merely functional; they are also designed to enhance the visual appeal of a space. Sleek finishes, tempered glass doors, and interior lighting contribute to the overall aesthetics, but these design elements require premium materials and craftsmanship, driving up the cost.
Vibration Reduction: Excessive vibration can disturb the sediment in wine, affecting its taste and aging process. To counter this, high-quality wine fridges incorporate vibration reduction mechanisms such as shock-absorbing compressors and specialized shelving. The inclusion of these features adds both technical complexity and cost to the manufacturing process.
Brand Reputation and Innovation: Established brands in the market often invest heavily in research and development to introduce innovative features and technologies. The reputation of these brands for producing reliable and technologically advanced products contributes to the premium pricing of their wine fridges.
Energy Efficiency: As consumers become more environmentally conscious, there is a growing demand for energy-efficient appliances. Wine fridges designed with energy-saving features, such as LED lighting and advanced insulation, may have higher upfront costs but can result in long-term savings on utility bills.
Regulatory Compliance: Wine fridges must comply with industry standards and regulations, ensuring that they meet safety and environmental requirements. The cost of testing, certification, and adherence to these standards is reflected in the final price of the appliance.
How can I reduce the cost of owning a wine fridge?
Purchase the wine fridge you'll need now and in the future: If you've just started to collect wine and have 20-30 bottles, is it likely you'll only ever need a wine fridge that size? Think about how your wine buying habits may evolve into the future to avoid purchasing and repurchasing wine fridges.
Pay attention to the energy efficiency of the model: As discussed, try to understand which wine fridge is the most efficient. A clever way to do this is to divide the kWh/annum by the bottle capacity to get a number, the lower the number, the more energy efficient the wine fridge is, this takes away the bias of size.
Keep your temperature setting as close to the ambient temp as possible: This may defeat the purpose of owning a wine fridge a little, however, if you have the ability to do so, limit the amount the wine fridge has to 'work', the closer your set temp is to your ambient temp, the less the machine will work. If your wine fridge is housed in a room you don't use and live in, and you're using the wine fridge for storage, bring the room closer to 12C.
Keep your wine fridge out of temperature fluctuations: Like the tip above, make your wine fridge work as little as possible, a wine fridge in a conservatory will be working very hard as conservatories get cold at night and hot in the day giving your wine fridge a battle to maintain the internal temperature vs the fluctuating outside temperature.
Maintain your wine fridge regularly: Clean around your wine fridge, keep the vent free from debris, clean the fan area and if its freestanding try not to put things on top of or close to your wine fridge.
Don't open and close your wine fridge door unless you need too: Regular opening and closing of the wine fridge can cause vapour (then water) build up inside the fridge causing the inside back panel to freeze, this makes it difficult for the wine fridge to operate. Constantly opening and closing the door also makes the wine fridge work hard, accelerating use and wear.
Keep your wine fridge full: The more empty volume of space and air the wine fridge has to cool the harder it has to work. It's recommended to keep your wine fridge at 80-100% capacity at all times. Overfilling your wine fridge will also worsen its ability to cool.
Allow plenty of ventilation: All wine fridges need to vent but freestanding ones need plenty of space around and above to expel the hot air and not to overheat. An overheating wine fridge is overworking and could eventually break.
Set the wine fridge to Sabbath mode: Some wine fridges have power saving modes that use less energy than their regular modes. Switch them on.
Choose a reliable brand: Premium brands invest a lot in R&D and are generally just more energy efficient than their cheap brand counterparts. Their technology is simply better and has been engineered for energy efficiency.
Buy a wine fridge during Black Friday or January sales: Although savings on wine fridges are rarely epic there can be deals to be had during sale time of up to 40%.
Keep the lights off: Even LED lights use some energy, set the lights to only come on when you open the fridge.
How can I choose the most cost-effective wine fridge?
This one is a matter of maths. The most cost effective wine fridge is initial purchase price / expected longevity + maintenance + running costs. Let's have fun with a worked example.
EuroCave S-259V3 - £4600 - Expected Lifespan = 15 Years - 150 kWh/annum and 166 bottles = 0.9 efficiency.
Montpellier WC166X - £1200 - Expected Lifespan = 4 Years - 197 kWh/annum and 166 bottles = 1.2 efficiency.
The Eurocave will be a quarter cheaper to run, will last four times longer BUT costs 4 times more. The Montpellier has no maintenance cost the Eurocave needs a replacement filter each year costing £30. In this example the cost of the two wine fridges is nearly identical over time with the carbon filter offsetting the energy savings, however, in one scenario you have a Eurocave with the best technology in wine maturation and in the other a Montpellier, still a lovely wine fridge, but not suitable for fine wine maturation and with a lot less internal technology to help your wine mature over the longer term.
When looking at all your favourite wine fridges, run these calculations through on each unit to see which is really the better deal.
Can I use a normal fridge to store my wine?
Your opened wine can be kept in a fridge, you don't need a wine fridge to store opened wine as it will eventually go bad anyway, even under Coravin. Wine that you want to improve and develop over time needs the conditions provided by a wine fridge to evolve and improve.
So, why are wine fridges so expensive? They're technically more advanced than normal fridges with both better tech and more tech inside, they're not manufactured in such large quantities so can't benefit from economies of scale in the same way regular fridges can and their unique technology is also more expensive to run as it demands more energy than a normal fridge.
However, through clever buying calculations you can find the best value wine fridge for your needs and offset some of those expensive running costs over the duration of the wine fridge's lifespan.