Why Are Wine Fridges so Expensive? And Are They Worth It?

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 06/07/24 •  8 min read

While we’re not fancy-schmancy wine connoisseurs or anything, we love a good glass of wine in our home and have a subscription to our favorite Niagra vineyard.

It’s no surprise then that a wine fridge is part of our design for our 2023 custom home project. While we have a small wine and beer combination fridge in our current basement, we already know we want something bigger for our new home.

But when looking for a new, bigger, and better wine fridge recently, we got sticker shock! Quickly I was down the rabbit hole of investigating the different types of wine fridges and their pricing, and writing this article to share what I found with you!

So, why on earth are wine fridges so expensive? A good wine fridge is expensive due to the specialized temperature control technology, the UV-blocking glass, and the humidity control units that are included in its design. It is also not uncommon for wine fridges to be custom-tailored to fit into a cabinet space, increasing the cost as well. 

Below, I’ll get into what makes a wine fridge different and more expensive than a regular fridge, the different types of wine fridges, if they are really necessary for storing wine, and how to save some money on a wine fridge for your needs. But first, it’s important we take a minute to make sure we’re talking about the same thing.

What’s the Difference Between a Wine Cooler, Wine Refrigerator, and Combo Wine & Beverage Cooler?

As you’ll see below, the sticker shock Dan and I got when we started looking into larger “wine refrigerators” was due in part to the fact we were looking at a different product. Our tiny wine and beer fridge have a completely different purpose than a true wine refrigerator. Let’s take a quick look at the main differences.

Wine Coolers

Wine coolers are designed to provide proper wine serving temperatures for short periods of time. In other words, it’s just there to chill your wine before you drink it.

A wine cooler is set to a higher temperature range than a regular refrigerator or beverage cooler because wine should not be stored as cold as other beverages. On average a wine cooler will not refrigerate below 46°F.

Wine Refrigerators

It’s the purpose of wine refrigerators (also called wine cabinets) to maintain the temperature consistency and environment necessary for aging fine wines for as long as needed, whether for a few months or for many years.

In other words, a wine refrigerator is there to prolong and extend the life of your wine.

Combo Wine / Beverage Coolers

A combination wine and beverage cooler, which we call a wine and beer fridge in our home, is also meant for storing items for a short period of time but has a wide temperature range so it can be used for all kinds of drinks.

Keep in mind if you want to store both your wine and beverages at the same time, and it doesn’t have separate temperature zones, you’re either going to have wine that’s too cold or beer and soda that’s too warm, depending on how you choose to set the internal thermostat.

Differences in Temperature Control Technology and Differences in Wine Fridge Price

Now that we know what we’re speaking about, it’s important to understand that wine fridges are divided into two types: compressor and thermoelectric.

The temperature control technology has an impact on the cost and capacity of your wine fridge, so let’s take a look at both:

Compressor Cooled Wine Refrigerators

Compressor wine refrigerators, use the same sort of technology as a standard kitchen fridge and cycle on and off to maintain their internal temperature.

You can trust compressor wine coolers to do an efficient job, regardless of where you live or where you place it.

You can expect to pay roughly around $400 for a unit with a capacity of eight to fifty bottles.

Pros of Compressor Wine FridgesCons of Compressor Wine Fridges
Power. Compressor wine refrigerators have much more cooling ability, reaching lower temperatures and doing so more efficiently. Vibrations. With many moving parts and it’s need to cycle on and off the compressor, wine fridges can produce slight vibrations. although most compressor wine coolers account for this with rubber brushing. 
Unlimited Capacity. Compressor-powered cooling units are better at accommodating bigger wine collections because of their power and efficiency over thermoelectric units. They may make some noise. You may have caught your household refrigerator humming in the middle of the night. Compressor wine coolers can do the same, although many improvements have been made to minimize noise output.
They can adapt to inconsistent temperatures. It won’t matter where you store your wine collection—a compressor wine cooler remains stable regardless of fluctuating external temperatures. 
Energy-efficiency. Many compressors vary cooling capacity based on need, allowing you to save energy.

Thermoelectric Cooled Wine Refrigerators

Thermoelectric technology suits wine collectors whose collection does not exceed twenty bottles at a time since they use a fan to continuously cool themselves, which can get costly at large scales.

You can find a decent thermoelectric unit for about $200 on average, and you might even find a bargain. As you go up in size from about 18-20 bottles, or if you’re looking for a dual-zone unit, the price increases.

Pros of Thermoelectric Wine CabinetsCons of Thermoelectric Wine Cabinets
Energy-efficiency. With fewer moving parts thermoelectric wine cabinets need less energy to operate than compressor-powered units when small in size. Limited capacity. Thermoelectric wine fridges are typically best for small wine collections as they are only energy efficient at small sizes.
No Vibrations. Vibrations are detrimental to the aging process of wine, and a thermoelectric wine cooler is made to eliminate them. Constant Cooling. Thermoelectric wine cabinets have to stay on all the time in order to keep their temperature consistent. On the other hand, compressor wine fridges only turn on when necessary. 
Silence. If you’re interested in a quiet wine refrigerator, thermoelectric ones don’t come with as many internal parts, allowing them to operate soundlessly.  Bad for Basements.  Thermoelectric wine fridges perform badly in warm environments or those that fluctuate in temperature. 

Are Wine Fridges Energy Efficient?

You may have noticed that I list energy efficiency as a pro for both types of cooling powers above, this is because a compressor fridge is more energy-efficient than a thermoelectric cabinet at large sizes and vice-versa.

In general, wine fridges are energy-efficient as manufacturers will use the cooling power that’s appropriate for the fridge’s size.

As a gauge, typical kitchen fridges use anywhere from 350-800 watts of electricity, while wine fridges typically use around 100 watts on average. 

Freestanding Vs. Built-in Wine Cabinets

Another big component in the price of your wine fridge is whether it’s built into your home or if it’s removable.

Built-in wine cabinets are the best option if you wish to save some precious floor space. However, they cost quite a bit more and ventilation is a big concern as a lack of it can ruin your wine collection.

Freestanding fridges on the other hand are popular because they fall in the middle of the price range and take up little space in your home.

Does a Wine Fridge Add Value to Your Home?

Not really. A built-in wine fridge can add a nice touch to any kitchen or basement bar area, but only if it doesn’t take away from your cabinet space and it fits in with the decor.

The problem is, not everyone drinks wine, and not everyone will appreciate it, and therefore it’s more of a bonus than a selling feature when selling your home.

This is very different from a wine cellar, which according to Realtor.com, ranks highly among homebuyers who have incomes greater than $150,000.

Is a Wine Fridge Worth The Cost?

With all this new information, you may be left spinning, and wondering if a wine fridge is worth the cost and the time spent. In general, yes, a wine fridge is an excellent investment because it will allow you to prolong the life of your wine collection.

In addition, wine fridges allow you to adjust the temperature of your wine (which should be 10 to 20 degrees warmer than your regular refrigerator and about 10 degrees cooler than room temperature) so they are the perfect drinking temperature at any time.

That’s a win-win in my books!

thewriteDuffy

At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.