As long as our favorite beer is reasonably cold, the ice freezes, and the lightbulb blinks on, most of us take our refrigerated appliances for granted. Until . . . we realize just three hours before party time that our significant other failed to heed our suggestion that those room-temperature beverages weren’t going to cool themselves.
No time to chill out? No problem. Cool (pun intended) innovations in refrigeration now make our lives—and next party—a breeze, chilling lukewarm beverages to a frosty 33 degrees in three hours, storing 15 ready-to-drink martinis in the freezer, and serving up microbrews just shy of beer slush.
Thanks to recent product introductions, we can now store whites and reds in the same wine refrigerator, lock it, and even link it to the home security system should temperatures rise just a few degrees—gasp—or junior gets curious. There’s even a refrigerated drawer for storing organic beauty products in the bathroom.
True Manufacturing (www.truemfg.com), whose commercial pedigree includes Chicago’s Rebar at Trump Tower, New York City’s Brasserie Pushkin, and other kitchens run by top chefs, recently unveiled its dual-zone, premium-grade, stainless steel wine cabinet. Not only does it maintain different temperature zones for reds and whites, its smooth-as-silk anti-racking gliders and vibration-absorbing rubber bumpers cushion and protect those precious vintages, and patented TriLumina LED lighting provides instant ambience—painting the interior in azure, amber, or white light with the push of a button.
Offering a temperature range from 39 to 65 degrees and a digital readout accurate within one degree, the cabinet’s double-paned, UV-tinted, low-E glass makes it the only dual-zone unit rated for indoor and outdoor use, according to Steve Proctor, the company’s director of sales and marketing.
"Most people are complementing their wine cellar or collection by using our cabinets in a butler’s pantry or wet bar," he says. "They’re also being used for storage in second or third homes and in outdoor kitchens, which are becoming a bigger part of a home’s outdoor area."
The second refrigerator is a growing trend. Nearly 25 percent of American homes have them and many are outside, according to respondents of the 2012 trend-seeking survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects. Increased energy efficiency provides relief from outrageous electricity bills and eases the conscience of those concerned about being earth friendly.
"A second refrigerator has become integral to people’s lifestyles," says Jeff Wimberly, vice president of sales/residential products for Perlick (www.perlick.com), whose Signature Series 48-inch freezer/refrigerator earned Energy Star’s 2012 most efficient designation. "It helps them entertain better. If there are younger kids in the house, a smaller fridge is great for beverages and snacks."
Sub-Zero’s (www.subzero-wolf.com) largest refrigerator, the 48-inch appropriately named Pro 48, uses less electricity than a 100-watt bulb, according to Michele Bedard, vice president of marketing for the Wisconsin-based manufacturer. The 100 percent sculpted steel 48 and its smaller 42-inch sister were recently reengineered to offer the industry’s first internal ice and water dispensers, providing up to 50 ounces of purified water and increasing daily ice production by 40 percent. The lack of telltale buttons and levers allows homeowners to completely disguise the appliance behind paneled cabinetry doors or show off its contents with glass doors. A dual-compression operating system, standard in all Sub-Zero refrigerators, provides separate temperature and humidity controls for fridge and freezer.
Also new to the Sub-Zero lineup is its first French door model, available as of late 2012. Side-by-side 18-inch doors open independently or together and are individually sealed to preserve internal temperatures. The fridge also has an air-purification system to decrease airborne bacteria and odors and ethylene gas, which can prematurely ripen certain foods. Its design is ideal for narrower kitchens, says Bedard, and "is meeting high consumer demand."
True’s beverage center may be the ultimate party saver, providing rapid cooldown and maintaining temperatures as low as 33 degrees.
"If it’s 3 pm and you forgot to chill wine or beer and you’re entertaining at 6, the beverage center will chill room-temperature to ice-cold in three hours," says Proctor.
A degree above freezing is also an option for the company’s beverage dispensers, available with single or dual taps, and perfect for those who like their brews ice cold. The beer keg cooler, "a growing trend in indoor and outdoor spaces," says Proctor, is convertible into a beverage center, wine cabinet, or refrigerator.
Perlick’s shallow-depth and 15-inch-wide refrigerated wine reserves, freezers, and beverage centers fit tight spaces like kitchen islands, meeting homeowners’ demand for additional refrigeration without compromising space, says Wimberly. "Those products have been booming for us."
The company, slated to launch a full line of dual-zone refrigeration units this month, also offers 24- and 48-inch multizone under-counter refrigerators, three-tap beer dispensers, and a full suite of ADA-compliant appliances. Its ice makers produce up to 50 pounds of top-hat-shaped cubes a day; a purposeful design that keeps the ice from clumping. Customers can add full-extension martini glass and beer mug racks to refrigerator-freezer compartments or stand-alone freezers.
A full suite of outdoor-rated appliances in a variety of configurations—from freezers to wine refrigerators, scaled-down to full-size—keep their cool, even in 120-degree heat, Wimberly says.
In the master bath, Perlick’s Signature Series 15-inch refrigerator drawers become "beauty drawers," catering to those who use preservative-free organic personal care products. "This is a $6.7 billion industry and growing," says Wimberly. "Our drawers work nicely in the master bath, either in stainless steel or paneled with wood fronts."
Technological inroads in refrigeration aren’t limited to compressors and other working parts. True’s wine cabinet has an audible alarm that sounds if temperatures fluctuate 10 degrees from the set point or a door is left open for a few minutes, says Proctor. It also can be linked with a home security system.
"If there’s a power failure, the homeowner is notified right away," he says. "The alarm is a standard feature and protects your investment in multiple ways. Many clients have several thousand dollars of wine in their cabinets."
Sub-Zero recently introduced a smart appliance app that can be integrated with Control4 and Crestron home automation systems to reduce power consumption, increase ice production prior to entertaining, and alert homeowners of doors left ajar.
Technology, says Bedard, is the future of refrigeration. "Smart technology within appliances that seamlessly connect into home automation systems is what’s now and what will continue to be what’s next. As consumers increasingly go digital, they expect the convenience of customizing and controlling as many elements of their lives as possible. The kitchen is no exception."