Does a wine cellar at maximum capacity run more efficiently?

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Mark B
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Does a wine cellar at maximum capacity run more efficiently?

#1 Post by Mark B » September 8th, 2015, 4:00 pm

I've heard that temperature and humidity controlled wine cellars run most efficiently when they are packed to the gills. This makes a fair amount of sense to me, but I'd love to hear from others who are more in-the-know on the science behind this. Thanks!
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#2 Post by NED VALOIS » September 8th, 2015, 4:01 pm

Yes. Function of mass , along as it is not hampering any air flow.

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#3 Post by Tom Wheltle » September 8th, 2015, 4:08 pm

Agree with NED - the thermal mass dampens temperature changes.

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#4 Post by Jeremy C » September 8th, 2015, 4:28 pm

Yes, just like your refrigerator.
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#5 Post by Anton D » September 8th, 2015, 4:58 pm

Yes.
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#6 Post by Kelly Walker » September 8th, 2015, 5:10 pm

Oui
What Kevin Shin said.

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Does a wine cellar at maximum capacity run more efficiently?

#7 Post by Brent C l a y t o n » September 8th, 2015, 6:15 pm

Just to flesh out the concept since people are throwing thermal mass around...

The air will change temperature faster when there are extremes. The full bottles of wine will hold the cooler temperature and take longer to warm up, so fluctuations during temperature extremes are less of an issue than if you have a half empty cellar which can cool or warm up faster than a cellar full of cool bottles.
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#8 Post by John Davis » September 8th, 2015, 6:53 pm

Yes
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#9 Post by GregT » September 8th, 2015, 9:36 pm

What Brent said. If you have one bottle of Coke in your fridge, when you open the door, the temp of the fridge goes up really fast. As you stand there looking at your empty shelves, the temp starts hitting room temp. It's in the 90s where I am right now, so that's not good.

But if your fridge was filled with bottles, the air would change temp really fast but the bottles wouldn't change so fast. Just like when you leave a cold beer out on the patio table. It doesn't heat up to the 90 degrees you're feeling until after a half hour or so. So in a full fridge, the air temp changes really fast when you open the door and stand there like an idiot looking at stuff. But if it's full, there isn't really all that much air to displace anyway and as soon as you close it the air starts cooling down again and it comes to the desired temp before your goods have changed temp more than a degree or two.

So because the fuller fridge has more bottles it has less air to bring down to the desired temp when you open the door. And it has to work less to keep the air at the desired temp.
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#10 Post by Tom G l a s g o w » September 9th, 2015, 5:32 am

NED VALOIS wrote:Yes. Function of mass , along as it is not hampering any air flow.
i agree with Ned. I've had my 200 bottle "cellar" backed full but it hampered air flow and the bottles on the bottom were 5 to 6 degrees warmer. There was less of a difference when there were gaps for air flow.

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#11 Post by Mark B » September 9th, 2015, 5:32 am

GregT wrote:What Brent said. If you have one bottle of Coke in your fridge, when you open the door, the temp of the fridge goes up really fast. As you stand there looking at your empty shelves, the temp starts hitting room temp. It's in the 90s where I am right now, so that's not good.

But if your fridge was filled with bottles, the air would change temp really fast but the bottles wouldn't change so fast. Just like when you leave a cold beer out on the patio table. It doesn't heat up to the 90 degrees you're feeling until after a half hour or so. So in a full fridge, the air temp changes really fast when you open the door and stand there like an idiot looking at stuff. But if it's full, there isn't really all that much air to displace anyway and as soon as you close it the air starts cooling down again and it comes to the desired temp before your goods have changed temp more than a degree or two.

So because the fuller fridge has more bottles it has less air to bring down to the desired temp when you open the door. And it has to work less to keep the air at the desired temp.
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#12 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 9th, 2015, 5:44 am

No, it has no bearing on the efficiency of the cellar.

Actually, it does, but I couldn't allow the streak end; there have been 246,975 consecutive wine-related threads in which at least one person has taken a contrarian view, and I just couldn't see that go down the drain.
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#13 Post by Walt Hoehler » September 9th, 2015, 5:46 am

Way to be a team player, Neal!

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#14 Post by alan weinberg » September 9th, 2015, 5:54 am

I have used this concept for years in an attempt to justify an overfull cellar.

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#15 Post by Jay Miller » September 9th, 2015, 6:14 am

alan weinberg wrote:I have used this concept for years in an attempt to justify an overfull cellar.
Oooh, hadn't thought of that angle.

Go science!
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#16 Post by R. Frankel » September 9th, 2015, 8:31 am

alan weinberg wrote:I have used this concept for years in an attempt to justify an overfull cellar.
And here I thought this 'science' was really an evil plot by wine sellers to convince us to keep our cellars crammed full. Correlates nicely with the standard 'build bigger than you think you'll need' advice. [tease.gif]
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#17 Post by NED VALOIS » September 9th, 2015, 8:40 am

Tom G l a s g o w wrote:
NED VALOIS wrote:Yes. Function of mass , along as it is not hampering any air flow.
i agree with Ned. I've had my 200 bottle "cellar" backed full but it hampered air flow and the bottles on the bottom were 5 to 6 degrees warmer. There was less of a difference when there were gaps for air flow.
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#18 Post by Chris Blum » September 9th, 2015, 8:54 am

I think I see Dario's next Science Fair project!!!
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#19 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 9th, 2015, 8:55 am

NED VALOIS wrote:
Tom G l a s g o w wrote:
NED VALOIS wrote:Yes. Function of mass , along as it is not hampering any air flow.
i agree with Ned. I've had my 200 bottle "cellar" backed full but it hampered air flow and the bottles on the bottom were 5 to 6 degrees warmer. There was less of a difference when there were gaps for air flow.
WAIT A MINUTE !

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#20 Post by Dusty Gillson » September 9th, 2015, 8:57 am

The other added benefit is that if the cooling unit breaks down, you'll have much longer before it is an issue. And, with much less air space, the humidity control, if you have any, will barely have to work at all. To get the benefit without all the wine, you could easily just add some gallon water jugs or something to the space as well. Obviously you'd only have to do that until you fill up the cellar.
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#21 Post by johngonzales » September 9th, 2015, 9:00 am

Mark B wrote:
GregT wrote:What Brent said. If you have one bottle of Coke in your fridge, when you open the door, the temp of the fridge goes up really fast. As you stand there looking at your empty shelves, the temp starts hitting room temp. It's in the 90s where I am right now, so that's not good.

But if your fridge was filled with bottles, the air would change temp really fast but the bottles wouldn't change so fast. Just like when you leave a cold beer out on the patio table. It doesn't heat up to the 90 degrees you're feeling until after a half hour or so. So in a full fridge, the air temp changes really fast when you open the door and stand there like an idiot looking at stuff. But if it's full, there isn't really all that much air to displace anyway and as soon as you close it the air starts cooling down again and it comes to the desired temp before your goods have changed temp more than a degree or two.

So because the fuller fridge has more bottles it has less air to bring down to the desired temp when you open the door. And it has to work less to keep the air at the desired temp.
Hooray Science. Thanks Greg!

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Yes, though the thermal mass effect really isn't due to less air or the volume of air being displaced. Different materials have different thermal mass properties, and the wine, bottles, etc both add total volume and have a higher thermal mass factor. Air will heat up faster. One can leave the the cellar or fridge open and the included air temp may rise significantly with a much smaller rise in the temperature of the wine itself. That's why it is best to preserve foods at constant temp in the fridge/freezer with it full. To the point where it's smart to fill empty space with water bottles. At least that's the principle I use when my wife yells at me for leaving the fridge open and compromising the food. Of course there's a loss in running efficiency if the thermostat measures the air temp.

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#22 Post by Kenny H » September 9th, 2015, 9:02 am

Volume isn't a good way to think about it because even though it applies it is not linear. The better way to think about it is heat capacity. The heat capacity of water is approximately 4 times that of air. The more liquid you have as a heat sink, the more convective air required to change temperature. It is a useful concept, particularly to intuit your perception of temperature or ability to regulate temperature based on atmospheric (humidity) conditions. That of course extends to all sorts of other things to do with mass. So now instead of just thinking of your wine in a refrigerator, with heat capacity you can understand many more thermal phenomena.
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#23 Post by RickieM » September 9th, 2015, 10:21 am

I only have small wine coolers but whenever I remove a bottle I replace it with a dummy bottle filled with water so that all the slots are always filled.
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#24 Post by Brian Tuite » September 9th, 2015, 11:00 am

Did anyone answer yes yet?
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#25 Post by Anton D » September 9th, 2015, 11:04 am

Neal.Mollen wrote:No, it has no bearing on the efficiency of the cellar.

Actually, it does, but I couldn't allow the streak end; there have been 246,975 consecutive wine-related threads in which at least one person has taken a contrarian view, and I just couldn't see that go down the drain.
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Wait, is that the contrarian point of view, or the prevailing point of view? [cheers.gif]
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#26 Post by PeterH » September 9th, 2015, 11:08 am

RickieM wrote:I only have small wine coolers but whenever I remove a bottle I replace it with a dummy bottle filled with water so that all the slots are always filled.
That strategy will probably result in extra energy cost, unless you were going to chill the water anyway. You would be better off using an empty plastic bottle that will not be adding heat to the system. Unless you leave the door open for long periods of time, or open the cooler very frequently, I would not even bother doing that. Not much air is exchanged in that one open slot.

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#27 Post by R M Kriete » September 9th, 2015, 11:53 am

According to Biodynamic theory, the efficiency will be adversely affected if the cow horn is not from a virgin.

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#28 Post by Jay Miller » September 9th, 2015, 12:19 pm

PeterH wrote:
RickieM wrote:I only have small wine coolers but whenever I remove a bottle I replace it with a dummy bottle filled with water so that all the slots are always filled.
That strategy will probably result in extra energy cost, unless you were going to chill the water anyway. You would be better off using an empty plastic bottle that will not be adding heat to the system. Unless you leave the door open for long periods of time, or open the cooler very frequently, I would not even bother doing that. Not much air is exchanged in that one open slot.

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But surely that short term extra energy cost will be more than offset by future energy savings when the door if the door is opened again later multiple times?
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#29 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 9th, 2015, 12:22 pm

Anton D wrote:
Neal.Mollen wrote:No, it has no bearing on the efficiency of the cellar.

Actually, it does, but I couldn't allow the streak end; there have been 246,975 consecutive wine-related threads in which at least one person has taken a contrarian view, and I just couldn't see that go down the drain.
PC is a pyramid scheme and Maison Ilan is the Devil's sex juice.

Wait, is that the contrarian point of view, or the prevailing point of view? [cheers.gif]
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#30 Post by Daniel Kim » September 9th, 2015, 12:27 pm

Kenny H wrote:Volume isn't a good way to think about it because even though it applies it is not linear. The better way to think about it is heat capacity. The heat capacity of water is approximately 4 times that of air. The more liquid you have as a heat sink, the more convective air required to change temperature. It is a useful concept, particularly to intuit your perception of temperature or ability to regulate temperature based on atmospheric (humidity) conditions. That of course extends to all sorts of other things to do with mass. So now instead of just thinking of your wine in a refrigerator, with heat capacity you can understand many more thermal phenomena.
This is actually the correct answer.

Full wines bottles act as thermal batteries, the more bottles you have the more thermal energy that you can store in your insulated environment.

I think it matters what you mean by efficiency. Every time you open the door, you'll lose the same amount of energy in the form of cold air whether you have 2,000 bottles or 200. But the % of energy that you'll lose will be much smaller with a fuller cellar. But for the same amount of energy that you'll lose, it will affect the larger cellar less. So it will be more efficient at preventing temperature fluctuations in your wine.

Hope that makes sense.

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#31 Post by PeterH » September 9th, 2015, 12:46 pm

Jay Miller wrote:
PeterH wrote:
RickieM wrote:I only have small wine coolers but whenever I remove a bottle I replace it with a dummy bottle filled with water so that all the slots are always filled.
That strategy will probably result in extra energy cost, unless you were going to chill the water anyway. You would be better off using an empty plastic bottle that will not be adding heat to the system. Unless you leave the door open for long periods of time, or open the cooler very frequently, I would not even bother doing that. Not much air is exchanged in that one open slot.

P Hickner
But surely that short term extra energy cost will be more than offset by future energy savings when the door if the door is opened again later multiple times?
I guess that depends on how much heat is admitted to that one slot each time the door is opened. If you have an accurate digital thermometer that responds quickly you can measure the heat gain, then compute the number of times it would take to equal the heat loss of the water filled bottle. The results will be affected by the temperature difference between the cooler and outside air and the position of the slot in the cooler, among other factors.

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#32 Post by James Dennis » September 9th, 2015, 6:30 pm

A full wine cellar with bottles at the same temperature as the desired ambient air temperature is more efficient at keeping the temperature at the same level than an empty wine cellar or one with bottles at a higher temperature than the desired ambient air temperature. Overall energy efficiency of a wine cellar is more a factor of the insulation, cooling system and airflow in the cellar than the amount of mass contained.

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#33 Post by RickieM » September 10th, 2015, 7:32 am

James Dennis wrote:A full wine cellar with bottles at the same temperature as the desired ambient air temperature is more efficient at keeping the temperature at the same level than an empty wine cellar or one with bottles at a higher temperature than the desired ambient air temperature. Overall energy efficiency of a wine cellar is more a factor of the insulation, cooling system and airflow in the cellar than the amount of mass contained.
I forgot to mention in my earlier post that when I replace a bottle of wine I take out with a used bottle filled with water, that bottle of water has been chilled down to match the cooler temperature already. I wouldn't put in a warm bottle. I actually have a spare small 8-bottle cooler that I use just to cool down new purchases and water-filled replacement bottles when there aren't any new purchases to put in the empty slots in the main coolers. I'm paranoid about temperatures. [shock.gif]
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#34 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 10th, 2015, 8:12 am

RickieM wrote:
James Dennis wrote:A full wine cellar with bottles at the same temperature as the desired ambient air temperature is more efficient at keeping the temperature at the same level than an empty wine cellar or one with bottles at a higher temperature than the desired ambient air temperature. Overall energy efficiency of a wine cellar is more a factor of the insulation, cooling system and airflow in the cellar than the amount of mass contained.
I forgot to mention in my earlier post that when I replace a bottle of wine I take out with a used bottle filled with water, that bottle of water has been chilled down to match the cooler temperature already. I wouldn't put in a warm bottle. I actually have a spare small 8-bottle cooler that I use just to cool down new purchases and water-filled replacement bottles when there aren't any new purchases to put in the empty slots in the main coolers. I'm paranoid about temperatures. [shock.gif]
Thank you for making me feel less anal about this topic.
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#35 Post by Tom G l a s g o w » September 10th, 2015, 8:24 pm

RickieM wrote:
James Dennis wrote:A full wine cellar with bottles at the same temperature as the desired ambient air temperature is more efficient at keeping the temperature at the same level than an empty wine cellar or one with bottles at a higher temperature than the desired ambient air temperature. Overall energy efficiency of a wine cellar is more a factor of the insulation, cooling system and airflow in the cellar than the amount of mass contained.
I forgot to mention in my earlier post that when I replace a bottle of wine I take out with a used bottle filled with water, that bottle of water has been chilled down to match the cooler temperature already. I wouldn't put in a warm bottle. I actually have a spare small 8-bottle cooler that I use just to cool down new purchases and water-filled replacement bottles when there aren't any new purchases to put in the empty slots in the main coolers. I'm paranoid about temperatures. [shock.gif]
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#36 Post by NED VALOIS » September 10th, 2015, 8:57 pm

Use Perrier, cools faster ! [wow.gif] [snort.gif]

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#37 Post by Jason T » September 11th, 2015, 2:38 am

RickieM wrote:
James Dennis wrote:A full wine cellar with bottles at the same temperature as the desired ambient air temperature is more efficient at keeping the temperature at the same level than an empty wine cellar or one with bottles at a higher temperature than the desired ambient air temperature. Overall energy efficiency of a wine cellar is more a factor of the insulation, cooling system and airflow in the cellar than the amount of mass contained.
I forgot to mention in my earlier post that when I replace a bottle of wine I take out with a used bottle filled with water, that bottle of water has been chilled down to match the cooler temperature already. I wouldn't put in a warm bottle. I actually have a spare small 8-bottle cooler that I use just to cool down new purchases and water-filled replacement bottles when there aren't any new purchases to put in the empty slots in the main coolers. I'm paranoid about temperatures. [shock.gif]
That's....unique.
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#38 Post by Larry P » September 11th, 2015, 9:09 am

Here's the physics for you: It's not just mass, but also a property of mass called "Specific Heat" which defines how much energy has to be added to a given material to raise its temperature:

Image

What that equation says is that the higher a materials' specific heat, the more energy must be added to get the temperature to rise. It turns out water has the highest specific heat of any common substance, and since wine is mostly water, it's extremely efficient at regulating temperature.

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hb ... /spht.html

However, I have to agree with James Dennis:
A full wine cellar with bottles at the same temperature as the desired ambient air temperature is more efficient at keeping the temperature at the same level than an empty wine cellar or one with bottles at a higher temperature than the desired ambient air temperature. Overall energy efficiency of a wine cellar is more a factor of the insulation, cooling system and airflow in the cellar than the amount of mass contained.
While a full cellar will maintain a constant temperature better through outside influences like opening the door, these are minor occurrences, while the insulation is really determining how much energy is lost most of the time, and that's what's determining the efficiency of the system.

Unfortunately specific heat doesn't buy us a free lunch. Sure an empty cellar might rise 10º after opening the door, and a full cellar only 1º, and that's a good thing, but it will take about the same amount of energy to drop either cellar back to programmed temp, because specific heat is working for you while the temp is rising, but against you when you're trying to drop it.

The only gain in efficiency you might get from a full cellar, is less air to be lost with the door open. Which is why I keep mine packed to the ceiling. [berserker.gif]
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#39 Post by Sc0tt F!tzger@ld » September 13th, 2015, 6:22 am

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#40 Post by GregT » September 14th, 2015, 8:45 pm

I think it matters what you mean by efficiency. Every time you open the door, you'll lose the same amount of energy in the form of cold air whether you have 2,000 bottles or 200. But the % of energy that you'll lose will be much smaller with a fuller cellar. But for the same amount of energy that you'll lose, it will affect the larger cellar less. So it will be more efficient at preventing temperature fluctuations in your wine.
I think we're all saying the same thing. Regarding efficiency, I simply assumed the door would be opened and closed. It would be a different story if the cellar was hermetically sealed and heavily insulated.

But this is the key post of the thread:
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Solid advice. Helps develop the discussion. I might just use it as a tagline. [welldone.gif]
G . T a t a r

[i]"the incorrect overuse of apostrophes is staggering these days. I wonder if half the adults these days have any idea what they are for." Chris Seiber, 5/14/19[/i]

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