Fridge and Wine cooler Guide

Discussion in 'Humidor Forum' started by chadth, Aug 18, 2007.

  1. chadth

    chadth New Member

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    Fridge and Wine cooler Guide
    Introduction
    Many individuals look to fridges and wine coolers as a less expensive means of controlling temperature for their cigar storage. The primary driver for a temperature controlled environment for cigars is the fear of tobacco beetles. Even if the fridge is not plugged in, they make for great humidors at a fraction of the cost of a traditional cabinet. Because the technology employed within each is similar, I will refer to them collectively as fridges throughout this guide. Important differences between the two will be noted where appropriate.

    What to look for
    There are a wide range of fridges on the market that employ different technology for temperature control and monitoring. In addition, there are subtle differences between them that are important to understand when selecting one for your cigars.

    Type
    There are two major types of fridges on the market, compressor and thermoelectric cooling models. Compressor systems are the most and use the evaporation of a liquid within a closed system for cooling[sup][1][/sup]. The thermoelectric cooling systems utilize the Peltier effect[sup][2][/sup] and heat sinks to cool the air. Thermoelectric cooling systems are most popular within wine coolers because wine enthusiasts prefer a vibration free system (no moving parts) as vibrations may upset a wine's sediment. Thermoelectric systems also are more compact in size and require less maintenance. These units almost always contain a fan to circulate the cold air from the internal cooling fins. The fan will also assist with keeping humidity consistent throughout the interior of the fridge. If you are considering a conventional fridge for cooling, ensure you stay away from models with a built-in freezer as the temperature within the fridge will be less stable and you will have less control of the auto defrost feature.

    Many cigar enthusiasts also believe thermoelectric systems are less prone to condensation then compressor fridges and as such, effect the overall humidity less. However, this statement is false for one important reason. Condensation forms when the temperature of the water vapor is greater then the surface it is interacting with. Condensation also forms when the temperature of the air is cooled, causing water molecules to collide to form droplets[sup][3][/sup]. So assuming two fridges, one compressor and one thermoelectric, are at the same internal temperature with the same humidity level and are cooled at the same rate to the same temperature, they will both create the same amount of condensation.

    Size
    Fridges come in a large number of sizes and form factors. The general agreement is to buy something as big as you have space and money for. One important factor to look for is the thickness of the fridge cabinet. The thicker the wall is, the more insulated the fridge should be, which means it should hold temperature longer. This will obviously be more important for people in warmer climates.

    Temperature Control
    Most conventional fridges utilize an analog thermostat with a dial whereas most wine coolers utilize a digital thermometer with an external display. Due to how a thermoelectric cooling system work, the thermostat measures the difference between the ambient (external) temperature and the internal temperature. This means most of the thermoelectric thermostats are calibrated for a specific temperature. Mine was calibrated for 77 degrees F so when I set my interior temperature to 65 degrees F, it may cool to below or above that, depending on the temperature of my house. Fridges employing compressor type of systems tend to be more accurate.

    In either system, you will more then likely want to setup an additional thermostat for finer control of the temperature. There are a number of models available which are prewired for a fridge as they are popular for home brewers. The thermostats work by cutting the power to the fridge when the desired temperature is reached. It is generally recommended the fridge be set on its coldest setting when using one of these thermostats to ensure the desired temperature is reached. This cycling of power to compressor systems can be hard on them as they are not meant to be cycled in such a manner. There is not enough data available to measure the impact of a thermoelectric system but it is likely less of an issue. It is important to also note that built-in digital thermostats will revert back to a default setting when the power is cycled. If possible, it is recommended that the buyer either find a fridge with a built-in analog thermostat or a digital one which defaults to a low setting.

    Setting up the fridge
    Once a fridge is acquired, it is important to follow a number of steps to prepare it for your cigar collection.

    Plastic Odor
    Some fridges contain a black plastic, mostly common within wine coolers, instead of the white for the interior. This black plastic also has a more pungent and lasting smell then those found in standard coolers or fridges. The first step is to rid the fridge of any plastic smell. I have found sunlight and fresh air to be the best means of ridding the fridge of the plastic smell. Others have had luck with using baking soda, white vinegar, and even bleach. The cooler-dor thread located at http://www.cigarpass.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=13217 contains various approaches and comments that would be beneficial.

    Thermostat
    Assuming you acquired an addition thermostat for the fridge, now is a good time to install it. The manufactures recommend running the thermometer lead along the outside of the fridge and between the cabinet and door seal. This does not require you to drill any holes that may impact the integrity of the fridge. I personally chose to drill a hole through my fridge and sealed it using insulating foam and sealant. If you chose this method, ensure you reseal the fridge and replace any insulation that you may have impacted. Also be careful not to damage the electrical and cooling systems. The thermometer should be placed as far away as possible from the cooling system to ensure an accurate temperature reading. If possible, the thermometer should not touch the sides of the cabinet as it will influence the temperature reading. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on properly wiring the thermostat.

    Humidity Control
    The relative humidity[sup][4][/sup][sup][5][/sup] within a fridge will be more difficult to control then a non-cooled cabinet. This is attributed to the formation of condensation when the interior is cooled which drops the humidity within the fridge. As such, it is recommended that a larger then normal humidity control system be used. For example, if you are using beads, I would add at least an additional 50% over the recommended amount. You may also want to employ an active humidification system to supplement the beads but I don't feel it is required. Remember, the more your fridge cools, the more condensation will form and cause more fluctuations in the humidity.

    To control condensation (auto defrost), most fridges with a freezer compartment utilize a heating element[sup][6][/sup] whereas many wine coolers use a drainage system that evaporates the excess water using hot air from a fan. We will concentrate on fridges without a freezer compartment as they are not recommended for cigar storage. We want to keep the water instead of having it drain away so we can return it to the air. How to do this will depend on what fridge you purchase and where the drain is located. However, it is generally recommended to plug the drain and divert the water back into your beads. I personally filled the drain system with insulating foam then used a sealant to plug the drain itself. I also placed humidity sheets from Heartfelt Industries along the water collection path and on the bottom to absorb the water and release it back into the air. This seems to work alright but condensation is still forming. Make sure you do not place boxes close to the back wall or water will make its way inside them and potentially ruin your cigars.

    If multiple hygrometers are available, place them at various heights within the fridge. If you notice large differences (+/-5%), you may wish to add an additional fan to help circulate the air. Many people find using battery operated fans, like those from Oust to be satisfactory.

    Once you have your humidity system setup, monitor it for a few days until it aligns with the ranges you expect.

    Cedar and Cigar storage

    The temperature and humidity swings can cause problems for exposed cigars and it is recommended that all cigars be stored within boxes inside the fridge. I grab empty boxes from my B&M for my singles. Using a box creates a micro climate for the cigars and allows them to be shielded from momentary swings with the temperature and humidity. Assuming you do this, no other cedar is required within the fridge. Adding cedar shelving may cause more harm then good as it will restrict the circulation of air. If you chose to implement cedar shelving, route or drill holes to allow air to exchange.

    Conclusion
    The goal of this guide is to provide an aggregate of information about utilizing fridges and wine coolers for cigar storage. I am not an expert within the field of cigars nor refrigeration but do utilize a wine cooler to store my cigars. I spent a large amount of time reading and researching the topic and hope the information contained within this guide is beneficial.

    Please feel free to send me comments, recommendations, and corrections as I hope to keep this guide up to date and accurate.

    Related Discussions
    Thermoelectric vs Compressor

    Common Products Used
    Wine Fridges
    Vinotemp VT-28TEDS
    EdgeStar TWR282S
    Whynter SNO 28-Bottle Wine Cooler - WC28S

    Thermostats
    Freezer Temperature Controller

    Fans
    Oust Portable Fan

    Spanish Cedar
    Spanish Cedar Trays
    Spanish Cedar Planks

    Hygrometers
    HygroSet II Adjustable Digital Hygrometer
    Caliber III Thermometer Hygrometer
    Boveda One-Step Calibration

    References
    [1] http://www.mansfieldct.org/schools/mms/sta.../heatrefrig.htm
    [2] http://www.heatsink-guide.com/peltier.htm
    [3] http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/sci/A0813176.html
    [4] http://science.howstuffworks.com/question651.htm
    [5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_humidity
    [6] http://www.appliance411.com/faq/howdefrostworks.shtml

    Model Specific Projects
    Thermostats
    Johnson Controls A19 Thermostat Wiring - xRanger
    Ranco ETC111000 Thermostat Installation - Fuscat

    Wine Coolers
    Vinotemp 28TEDS - AKmik
    Vinotemp 28TEDS - rectifythis
    Avanti 1.6cu ft. Fridge - Zach
    Magic Chef - UTKhodgy
    Whynter SNO WC-28S - chadth
    Haier HVW12ABB - JLW
    Vinotemp VT-21TEDS - smokintexas
    Haier HVW12ABB 12-bottle - kent1146
     
  2. davidr2340

    davidr2340 Craft Beer Lover...

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    Chad,
    This right here is a very helpful thread bro!!!
    Thanks for taking the time to write it up!!!

    :thumbs:
     
  3. Big Stick

    Big Stick New Member

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    Thanks Chad!!! :thumbs:
    Its nice having New Member so new to CP contributing such great information
     
  4. Breedy

    Breedy Busted

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    Could we please have this "pinned". There is a lot of great info and many of these questions seem to keep coming up. I found this while attempting to throw together a post about Vino-temps, but it pretty much summed it up.
     
  5. MC2712

    MC2712 New Member

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    Thank you for this information.
     
  6. howl1309

    howl1309 New Member

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    Hey guys-

    I have an old wine fridge that is not working properly anymore and, therefore, the temp of the fridge is set to the ambient temp in my crawl space. I want to add beads and turn it into box storage. I am assuming that if the ambient temp stays ~constant I should be ok, right?

    I want to use the fridge because of some stupid medical problem i can't drink anymore but can still smoke! So i figured i would put the fridge to good use.

    Should be ok as long as it seems ok, right?

    thanks,

    t
     
  7. grateful1

    grateful1 Oh My!

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    Start a new thread.

    Oh yea....yes.

    Just seal it for humidity reasons. (or the losing there of)
     
  8. howl1309

    howl1309 New Member

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    thanks, i didn't really want to add another thread and figured this info may fit in here.

    thanks for the response. the seal is fine so I figured it would be ok, just need to wait and see what the temp does in the winter.
     
  9. JayBay

    JayBay WTB Bratalias

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    I'm no wine fridge expert, but if you're keeping it in your crawl space, logic suggests the ambient temperature this winter is going to drop like a rock. It won't be as cold as it is outside, but it ain't gonna be 65 degrees, either. You'll have to move it indoors for your sticks to survive.
     
  10. howl1309

    howl1309 New Member

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    Yeah jay,

    Thats what I am worried about. The furnance is in the crawl space (8 feet away from the fridge) and I am hoping it will stay warm enough. Need to wait and see
     
  11. grateful1

    grateful1 Oh My!

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    Does anyone else picture Stuart Little when they read this?!
     
    Old Smokey likes this.
  12. chadth

    chadth New Member

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    With all the fridge discussions going I thought I would bump this for a few reasons. a) Looking for any improvements or corrections to the guide b) shoot me a link to your build out and I will link it c) a number of questions being asked are addressed in the guide.

    Hope you guys find this helpful

    Thanks,
    -Chad
     
  13. smokintexas

    smokintexas What have I gotton myself into?!

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    Hey Chad, I appreciate the wealth of knowledge you have shared here. If you'd like, I have posted a step by step on my setup of the 21 bottle Vino HERE and you are more than welcome to link that here so others who are thinking about it have something else to reference. Good work. :thumbs:
     
  14. masterp0606

    masterp0606 New Member

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    Great info, this will help a lot of people.
     
  15. BigAsh

    BigAsh New Member

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    Great guide....I'm thinking of converting an apt. sized fridge, the one with the small freezer in it....this is helpful.....thoughts on the fact it HAS a freezer (not frost-free)?
     
  16. chadth

    chadth New Member

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    I originally read your post wrong thinking you wanted to convert a freezer so here goes a revised response. The way the freezer compartments work in the small fridges is that the cooling channels run through the metal that forms the freezer compartment. This is basically the source for all cooling within these types of fridges. If you regulate the temperature and not allow it to get too cold, then you should be fine. However, without some additional control over the temperature, ice will buildup which is obviously not good.

    Added!
     
  17. lurch

    lurch I.Y.A.O.Y.A.S.

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    Rod... can we pin this thing? Pretty helpful if you ask me...
     
  18. smokintexas

    smokintexas What have I gotton myself into?!

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    x2

    Edit: Damn Rod, that was quick! :thumbs:
     
  19. flamchop

    flamchop 65/65

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    This is a fantastic thread... I wanted to add an update on my Wine Fridge experience.

    About a year ago I bought a Vinotemp 28 from Target and it worked great up until about a month ago. The thermoelectric device is now malfunctioning and the temps have dropped to about 56-58.. which is also bringing the humidity down with it. My cigars are smoking badly now.. damn! I've read a few threads where others have had the same problem.

    Unfortunately you can't even get the Vinotemp 28 anymore unless you want to scour the internet and pay over $300 since Target stopped carrying them.

    So I just ordered a NewAir 28 bottle Thermoelectric from Amazon for $174. I'll report back on how it works once I get it and have it up and running since I don't see it listed in this thread.

    I jumped the gun though, I see such great reviews on the Edgestar... but have already ordered the NewAir. We shall see!
     
  20. Toaster

    Toaster Puff Puff Pass v2.0 2004

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    Ok.. I have a question about this... I'm upgrading to a wine cooler (fridgeador) from a coolerador ... Basically because of the size - NOT THE COOLING ABILITY. In fact, I found a great deal on a glass door wine fridge that has a cooling issue (it doesn't cool! haha)- it has built-in fans for air circulation, stainless accented wooden trays, blue led lights and a gorgeous blue led display for temp - that I'd love to convert in to RH display!

    I don't want to run the compressor to cool - even if it did work, I don't want the added electricity expense. Any issue with running the fridge without plugging it in? I can't see why- it would just be a big glorified cooler at that point right?
     

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