15-inch built-in wine coolers may be popular now, and a great addition to finished basements and kitchens, but the concept of built-in wine coolers is far from new. In fact, built-in wine coolers have been used for entertaining and for preserving wine for quite some time.
Alison Finch, writer for the Connecticut-based The Day, wanted to take a look at the charm and personality of features found in older homes. What she found were features now considered antiquated by many, from coal chute doors to ice doors, little to no closet space, and adjoining doors instead of modern hallways.
But she did find one feature that still reigns popular in American homes: built-in wine coolers. The built-in wine coolers were a central feature especially in mansions with butler’s pantries– especially so during the Victorian era. Even middle income homes had smaller areas for preparing and serving food and wine.
Whether you’re looking for a timeless charm or a modern way to enjoy your wine, a 15-inch built-in wine cooler can be a great investment, especially if you buy Champagne or expensive red and white wines.
In this guide, I’ll tell you whether you should buy a freestanding or built-in wine cooler and my picks for the best 15 inch, built-in wine fridges for your home.
Built-in vs FreeStanding Wine Coolers
First, I want to discuss the difference between built-in and freestanding wine coolers, as well as the pros and cons of each.
Built-In Wine Coolers
Built-in wine coolers are directly installed into, or under counters or other units. Because of this, they appear as a seamless part of the kitchen and cannot easily be moved. Built-in wine coolers are popular for those who want a polished look, and for whom serving and entertaining with wine is important.
Pros of Built-In Wine Coolers
A 15-inch built-in wine cooler can be truly presentation worthy and a great addition to kitchenettes. They are convenient, and can be installed right beside regular food fridges; other appliances; plates, and utensils. Built-in wine coolers have the potential advantage of saving space, especially under the counter wine fridges.
While built-in wine coolers may feature different cooling systems, air-cooled technology is typically only found in built-in coolers.
Air cooling features a series of fans for more powerful cooling. Another bug advantage is cooling zones: while most freestanding coolers offer a single cooling zone, you can find dual cooling zones with built-in fridges–ideal if you’re chilling different types of wine.
Finally, because they are installed into cupboards/ cabinets, built-in wine coolers may be sturdier, and, if placed strategically, less prone to disturbances like vibrations, which can disrupt the composition of wine.
Cons of Built-In Wine Coolers
Built-in wine coolers aren’t the right fit for everyone-both figuratively and literally. For one, you have to have the proper space to install one.
They are typically expensive, not only by base price, but also due to installation costs. Built-in wine coolers offer less flexibility than freestanding wine fridges, meaning if you plan to renovate or move, you’re not left with the practical options.
They tend to have more limited storage space, especially if they are compact, under the counter units, so they may not be the best option if you want to chill many bottles of wine or other beverages at the same time.
Freestanding Wine Coolers
While I love built-in wine coolers for their improved features, sturdiness, and look, I do admire a number of perks with freestanding wine coolers as well.
Freestanding coolers or fridges are units that do not need to be installed and stand alone. These are especially popular for those who did not originally plan out their own kitchenettes but want an easy way to chill their wine without fully renovating.
Pros of Freestanding Wine Coolers
Freestanding wine coolers offer far more flexibility and versatility. Regardless of their size, you can still switch up where a freestanding wine fridge is without installation.
If you are moving or plan to move, you could opt to take your wine fridge with you. Freestanding wine coolers tend to be more affordable as well, both from a base price and from not having to pay for installation. If you have difficult to fit spaces, it’s going to free you up for more options to get the features you want, vs having to fit, for instance, a 15 inch size.
Cons of Freestanding Wine Coolers
Freestanding coolers may be less sturdy and more prone to disturbances. While they tend to have a larger capacity, they also are less likely to feature dual cooling zones, meaning that you may not be able to cool both red wine and white wine at the same time for the optimal temperature.
While not universally true, freestanding wine fridges may be less energy efficient and also noisier than built-in coolers.
5 Top Picks: 15 Inch Built-In Wine Coolers
Now here are my picks for the best 15-inch built-in wine coolers. I’ve based my selection on a number of factors, including cooling and humidity control; temperature zones; price; digital and tech features; design, and overall quality.
The best 15-inch built-in wine cooler may be different for you than it is for someone else so be sure to keep that in mind.
With that said, here are the best 15-inch built-in coolers you can buy without visiting a store–and at all different prices to fit your budget.
Kalamera 15” Wine Cooler 30 Bottle Built-in or Freestanding with Stainless Steel & Double-Layer Tempered Glass Door
This wine 15 inch wine cooler is a great option if you can’t decide between a built-in or freestanding option. You can both install this Kalamera 15 lunch wine fridge and keep it standing alone.
The cooler holds a reasonable 30 standard bottles of wine at a time, though there is also a 38 bottle model for around ninety dollars more.
The black exterior includes an attractive metallic finish, as well as double layered tempered glass doors. Not only are these glass doors attractive, but they also prevent fogging and temperature fluctuations, plus a temperature memory function to keep things consistent.
The biggest downside is that this is just a single zone cooling unit, and there are more affordable options–it’s priced at $599.
Best Quiet Option: BODEGA 15 Inch Wine Cooler Refrigerator
Bodega offers a 15-inch built-in or freestanding wine cooler with a quiet cooling system and 31 bottle capacity. The biggest advantage to this wine cooler is the nuanced compressor cooling system that not only runs more quietly than other models, but also focuses on reducing vibrations that can disturb your wine.
The temperature range of 41 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit is generous enough to chill both red and white wines, while the smart control panel is easy to use and provides optimal lighting.
I also like the sturdy wooden shelves ; anti UV technology; and built-in fan and carbon sensor. It does not offer a dual temperature system, but is reasonably priced. Retails for $550;
Best For Ambiance: Avallon 15 Inch 23 Bottle Built-In Dual Zone Wine Cooler Fridge
If you’re looking for a strikingly modern, slim design without sacrificing features, I recommend the Avallon 15 inch build in wine fridge.
Though it has a smaller wine capacity of just 23 bottles, what it does provide will please. You’ll get dual cooling so you can store different wine varieties at once, with steady compressor-based cooling at ranges of 40 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Circulation fans ensure consistent cooling and airflow, with double-paned glass doors featuring argon gas for optimal wine preservation. I also like the handsome wooden shelves, slim stainless steel design, and the lock system. LED lighting provides gentle interior lighting that won’t harm your wine.
The biggest downside is the cost. Though attractive and notable in all of its features, it retails for around $1,200, which is more expensive than many other 15 inch wine coolers.
Best Dual Zone: Aobosi 15 inch 30 Bottle Wine Refrigerator
Looking for a 15-inch built-in wine cooler that can also operate as a freestanding cooler and features advanced dual-zone temperature controls? It exists in this model by Aobosi.
Your best choice for nuanced temperature features, the Aobosi 15 inch dual zone wine fridge can hold up to 30 standard wine bottles at a time with two cooling zones so you can store red and white wine without worry.
Not only that, but the cooling compressor features energy-efficient but powerful temperature control, with temperature memory.
LED lighting and tempered glass doors offer protection against harmful elements that can mar wine quality. A filtering system ensures air purity and circulation.
It fits seamlessly into an under the counter space, and features smooth wooden racks inside for easy use and cleaning. Plus, there’s a locking feature for safety and security. Priced at $599, it’s also not more expensive than many models with less features.
Best Overall: Nictemaw 15 Inch Dual Zone Beverage Refrigerator, 32 Bottle Built-in Cooler
If you’re like me, you look for quality but also love a good bargain. Nictemaw’s 15 inch dual-zone beverages cooler offers both, with a price point of $540 and free shipping, but many of the advantages of more expensive models.
The dual temperature zones can be adjusted from 41 to 55 degrees and 55 to 65 degrees, with intuitive temperature displays and controls for seamless use; there’s also a memory system you can use to program your desired temperature settings.
Quiet cooling is provided with a combined compressor and damping system, as well as circulation fans for proper ventilation.
Meanwhile, ventilation in the front of the unit keeps the cooler from overheating when being used as under-counter coolers. Stainless steel, double glass pane doors and gentle LED lighting complete the model’s features with great form and functionality for enjoying your wine.
With these features and a great price point, as well as larger capacity, this may be the best overall value for a 15-inch built-in wine cooler.
Built-In Wine Cooler Red Flags
If you’re purchasing a 15 inch, built-in wine fridge, then chances are you want to make sure your investment is a good one. While there are no specific worst wine coolers, there are a few red flags I recommend looking out for.
The first red flag is wine coolers without any ratings or reviews. While it’s true that less mainstream brands may have less reviews, no ratings whatsoever should give you some pause.
But on the same note, only 5 star ratings with no details may be a reason to question the product, especially if these all come from internal reviews.
Of course, poor ratings are an obvious red flag–but don’t just look at the average. See if the poor ratings correspond with serious issues, such as the product not being as described; key features not working, or shipping woes.
Whether you opt for a dual or single-zone cooling system is up to you. But if there is next to no information about the cooling system, time to take a step back. Cooling systems should be advanced compressors, preferably with fans and additional ventilation. Without this, the temperature may not remain consistent throughout the wine fridge.
LED lighting needs should be your go-to for finding the best coolers. If there is no information about the types of lights used or lights with higher voltage are used instead, then you may want to reconsider. Light that is higher wattage produces more heat and can disrupt the quality of your wine.
Too Good to Be True
My final tip for spotting red flags when shopping for a 15-inch built-in wine cooler is to read carefully. If the model comes with impressive features but at a very low price, make sure you fully understand not only what those features are, but how they compare with other models.
Built-in 15 inch wine fridges average around five hundred or four hundred dollars up through over one thousand dollars. A built-in wine fridge of the same size that only costs three hundred dollars may indicate reasons for the lower cost.
Answer: Freestanding wine coolers normally cannot be built in, which is why it’s important to understand the differences between freestanding and built-in coolers to find what’s right for you.
With some exceptions, wine coolers meant freestanding won’t have the vents provided in built-in units. Without these added vents, the unit can overheat and disrupt the cooling system.
Answer: How much it costs to run a wine cooler depends on the cooling system. Some wine coolers use a cooling system that is energy efficient.
These units are especially great for under the counter wine coolers so that they run a bit less hot and save you money in energy bills. Luckily, even wine fridges not classified as energy efficient tend to be affordable to run; average energy costs in the US range from $40 for small units to $100 for larger units for a full year.
Answer: While a basement is a popular place to keep a built-in or freestanding wine cooler, garages can be tempting places to keep a cooler.
Many reasons that garages tend to be fairly protected from UV rays, but garages are less than optimal for wine coolers of any kind for a few reasons. For one, temperature fluctuations, even in a relatively moderate climate, can spell trouble. For another, the air quality and exposure to fumes or chemicals is also problematic.
Answer: If you are looking for a place to store your latest wine and beer delivery, the good news is that a wine cooler can be used for keeping both fresh. This is especially true of dual-zone fridges. Beer’s optimal cooling temperature range is 45 to 50 degrees F for light beer; 50 to 55 degrees F for medium beer and ales; and 55 to 60 degrees F for bold beers like triple or barleywine.
If you’re looking for the best 15 inch wine cooler, make sure to understand the cooling system, construction, and if it offers the features that fit your lifestyle. If you’re a wine collector, you should also consider the best wine racks to keep unopened bottles safe.