Mario Morales, owner and resident installation and repair expert at M&M Cellar Systems, recently sat down to answer some frequently asked questions. His years of experience in the wine storage industry have given him invaluable insight into common cooling system problems and solutions.
Take a look at our Q&A to see if he answers your questions on repairing, maintaining, and wine cellar cooling system troubleshooting. If you have a question that’s not addressed here, let us know! We’re always happy to help our treasured customers.
Wine Cellar Cooling System Troubleshooting Questions and Answers
Q. What are the most common issues wine cellar owners have with their cooling systems?
A. Water. Lack of preventative maintenance can cause plugged drains, clogged pumps, and system failures. Anytime you get water where it’s not supposed to be, you’re in trouble. Water causes a lot of damage.
Q. What kind of damage can water do?
A. As an example, there could be water dripping from the refrigeration unit because of a plugged drain line. Next, you could have water pooling below and around the unit. Water can be absorbed by wooden elements in your wine cellar, like flooring and racking. This can cause warping. If excess dripping and pooling water goes unchecked over time, you can get mold problems.
Most of the time, lack of preventative maintenance is the main cause of equipment failure.
This is why we label our units with stickers showing our recommended maintenance dates.
Q. Tell us more about these stickers. Where do you place them and what do they do?
A. After the initial installation of a cooling unit, the first suggested maintenance is 6 months later, so a unit installed in September should be looked at in March. The sticker on both the inside and outside units list that date as well as our phone number for scheduling the visit.
In a lot of cases, we work with a builder and not a homeowner, so we’re not able to speak with the person who will be using the cooling unit on a daily basis. A lot of people that own a wine cellar assume that there’s no needed preventative maintenance, and that’s unfortunate. Because of that, issues might arise down the road, when routine maintenance could have solved issues early on without the need for much more expensive repairs.
Q. What should owners check first if their cooling unit stops working?
A. A lot of customers might think that it’s the inside unit, but issues almost always appear in the outside unit first. If the compressor in the outside unit fails, Freon stops pumping, and the whole system breaks down. And since the system is outside, or in an attic, or in a garage, there is a lot more exposure to temperature fluctuation, weather extremes, animal infestation, dust and dirt, etc.
Q. When should an owner call a professional?
A. The temperature inside a wine cellar can fluctuate within a range of about 5 degrees. This is normal and should be expected. If an owner starts to notice wider swings in temperature, or higher temperatures that last longer than normal, they should call a professional to take a look.
A lot of times we can diagnose a problem over the phone. For simple fixes, we’re happy to provide free telephone advice to our customers. If we determine that there are bigger issues, we’ll set up a visit.
Sometimes a unit will shut off because it’s plugged into a GFI outlet, and a spike in electricity will trip the breaker built into the outlet. In such cases, all that’s needed is pressing the reset button.
Q. What steps should be taken on a regular basis to maintain your cooling unit?
A. Daily – Look at your temperature reading. The first step to avoiding problems is being aware of how your wine cellar is performing. It’s especially important when your system is new. Look at it in the morning and again at night and get familiar with how the temperature can vary within a day or week. After a few weeks you can go to a weekly check.
Monthly – Take a look at your filters and clean if necessary. Make sure to look over all the mechanical components of your system and listen for unusual noise or vibration. Check all drain lines for pooling and make sure all water is draining properly.
Quarterly – Clean filters and replace if necessary.
Every 6 months – Call M&M at (323) 578-3330 to set up a visit from your service professional. When it comes to your wine cellar, an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure. You’ve invested in a beautiful storage space, make sure it stays in top working order for years to come!
Q. Is it possible that a system can go from working perfectly one day to not working at all the next?
A. Yes, that’s possible. Usually that takes something very drastic, like a motor or belt failure. In those cases, call us right away! We get busy with repairs, especially in summers when temperatures are warmer. A well-insulated unit can hold its temperature for a little while, but you’ll want a professional to look over your system as soon as possible to get it back up and running again.
Q. How do you know when it’s time to replace a unit instead of repairing it?
A. I usually base that on the age of the system. The life expectancy on a cooling unit is usually 5-10 years, which is actually not a long period of time. Materials and parts can be cheaper to get, but also don’t last as long. With proper maintenance and semi-annual checkups from a service technician, you can get more life out of your unit.
Another deciding factor in the longevity of a system is how it was installed. It might be tempting to have a handyman install your cooling system, or to just grab a wrench and a screwdriver and do it yourself. We don’t recommend this, however. Wine cellars are sensitive and complicated systems, and it’s easy to install your cooling system incorrectly if you haven’t been trained. Get started correctly and make sure your system is put in by an expert!
Q. What comes with a preventative maintenance contract?
A. We offer multiple maintenance plans with different visit frequencies to meet the individual needs of our customers. Most customers don’t think they need to see us if no problems are apparent, but the wise owner knows that it’s far better to catch a problem while it’s still small.
Don’t wait for an emergency. You’ve invested a lot into creating your wine cellar, now let us make sure it serves you well for years to come!