Silencing a Wine Refrigerator

backing

grommet[This is a reconstruction of a blog post I made back in 2007, before I bungled my Word Press backup and lost the old blog posts. Several people have requested it. I might find the pictures later.]

My brother and I just had one of our quarterly project weekends. I can’t believe it was time for another one already, since I hadn’t even blogged about the last one yet. So let me catch up by showing off the projects we did this summer.

My wife and I have a wine refrigerator in our dining room. It has always bugged me with the noise it makes. There’s an air circulation fan that runs all the time. The manufacturer says it’s to prevent condensation and mold. We have a friend with a fancier model that doesn’t have the circulation fan, and he has had problems with mold, so it’s probably a good feature. But the fan cycles: 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. So not only did I hear it when it’s running, I had to hear it whine as it revved up twice a minute. It drove me nuts.

So when my brother showed up for project weekend, I suggested we try to find a way to make the fridge run quietly. I had peeked at the fan, and determined that it looked a lot like a fan you’d have in a PC, so I hoped that there would be a super-quiet PC fan we could swap in. After all, there’s a significant number of people out there trying to make their PCs run silently.

We got the manufacturer and part number of the fan off its label. A quick web search gave us detailed specs, including dimensions, power requirements, air flow, and sound level. At Fry’s Electronics, we found a matching fan with a slightly lower decibel rating. I don’t recall the exact value, but it was something like 27 db instead of 30 db. I hoped it would be enough. Since decibels are logarithmic units, a small change might make a big improvement. And the fan was only $17.

We took the false back out of the fridge and wired in the new fan. Our first test was like a dream. Even with the door open, the new fan was significantly quieter. With the door closed, I could hardly hear it at all.

But that test was just with the fan sitting inside the fridge. Once we re-mounted it to the false back, it got dramatically louder. The backing acted like a soundboard, amplifying the vibrations of the fan.

My brother smartly pointed out that we needed to dampen the vibrations, so he suggested we get some rubber grommets to replace the washers used when fastening the fan to the backing. ACE Hardware had just the thing, and it really did the trick.

We put the fridge back together, and though it’s not silent, it a fantastic improvement. I wish we had done it years ago. And I wish manufacturers would realize how important these little details are. Between the fan and the grommets, we spent less than $20. The incremental cost for the manufacturer to have started with a quieter fan and used rubber grommets would have been tiny, yet it would have made their product noticeably better.