The basic principle behind thermoelectric cooling is known as the Peltier effect. It occurs when you run an electric current through two electrodes connected by a semi-conductor material, normally ceramic. The electricity creates a thermal imbalance within the device. One side gets warm while the other side gets cold.
In a thermoelectric wine cooler, the Peltier device is housed in the cooling kit, a large device in the back of the cooler with a fan and aluminum fins. It acts as a heat exchange, pumping heat out away from the unit while keeping the cold air circulating inside. When this device breaks down, cooling stops and temperatures in the wine cabinet steadily rise back up to room temperature. Because these devices are simple, with few moving parts, they don’t break down very often. The good news is that when they do, they’re easy to fix. The whole process can be completed in under 10 minutes. Just follow these step-by-step instructions.
What You Will Need
To replace the cooling kit in your thermoelectric wine cooler, you will need:
- A Replacement Cooling Kit
- Electrical Tape/Heat Shrink & Torch
- A Philips Screwdriver or a Drill With a Philips Head Attachment
- Wire Cutter
- 18-Gauge Wire Strippers
- Needle-Nose Pliers
How to Begin
Start by unplugging the unit and unscrewing the back panel on the wine cooler. There are 13 screws around the top and sides, plus three additional screws on the bottom, set back underneath the unit.
Make sure you place the screws somewhere safe, where they won’t roll away, like a Tupperware container or coffee can. Once the screws have been removed, pull off the back panel and set it aside. If you don’t know which cooling kit is malfunctioning, plug the cooler back in and touch each of the cooling kits. If they’re working correctly, the fan should be spinning and they should feel warm. If one is still and cool to the touch, it’s malfunctioning. If neither kit feels warm, wait a few minutes and check again. They may need some time to warm up. You can speed up the process by lowering the temperature on the cooler. Once you’ve identified the kit that needs to be replaced, unplug the cooler again before proceeding any further.
Removing the Broken Cooling Kit
Unscrew the two screws on either side of the cooling kit. They’re set back among the aluminum fins. If you can’t reach in and pull them out with your fingers, use the needle-nosed pliers to pull them out.
Once you’ve got them out of the way, slowly pull the cooling kit out of the back of the wine cooler. Be careful not to pull the cord connecting it to the inside.
Unplug the cord from the cooling kit and set the cooling kit down on the table. The kit will still be be connected to the cooler by a set of four wires attached to the circuit board; the NTC1 cable, the fan cable, and the two power wires. These wires will be bundled together with a zip tie. Cut the zip tie and unravel the wires.
Unplug the NTC1 cable and the fan cable. The power wires will be hardwired to the cooler.
Preparing the New Cooling Kit
Once you’ve separated the black and red power wires from the NTC1 and fan wires, cut them both with the wire cutter.
Set the old cooling kit to the side and bring out the new cooling kit. Take the wire strippers and remove the plastic sleeves from off the ends of the power wires on the wine cooler and the new cooling kit.
Once the wires are exposed, you can insert the new cooling kit into the back of the cooler. Plug the wire on the back of the kit to the wire inside the cooler, the same one you unplugged when you removed the old cooling kit. Make sure the interior wires are safely tucked inside the unit and aren’t obstructing the fan, then screw the new cooling kit into place.
Don’t tighten the first one down completely until you’ve got the second on in, or you might not have an even field when you’re screwing in the second. Once the second is in, tighten as needed. When it’s secure, you’ll be ready to splice the power wires.
Splicing the Power Wires
Twist the power wires together with their corresponding colors: black to black, red to red.
If you’re using electrical tape, you can simply tape over the exposed wires, so none of the metal is exposed. If you’re using heat shrink, slide the heat shrink cylinders onto the wires first, up above the exposed metal, and then tie them together. Then slide the heat shrink back down and cover the exposed wires. Use the torch to shrink the heat shrink down over the wires. Check that they’re secure before moving on.
Checking the Cooling Kit
Plug the fan wire back into the bottom right corner of the circuit board, where it says “FAN” and connect the NTC1 to the top left corner where it says NTC1. The fan wire is red and black. The NTC1 wire is solid black.
The new cooling kit is now set up. Before you reattach the back panel, plug in the wine cooler and make sure the kit’s working. The fan should be spinning and the kit should feel warm. If it does, screw the back panel back onto the cooler. Don’t forget about the three screws at the bottom. When the panel is secure, your work is done. Time to enjoy your wine!