Wine Cellar Split-system Refrigeration

Equipment warranties that require the client to pay significant sums of money to take advantage of the warranties remain the dirty little secrets of the split-system refrigeration business model.

The Dirty Little Secret of Wine Cellar Split-system Refrigeration

Equipment warranties that require the client to pay significant sums of money to take advantage of the warranties remain the dirty little secrets of the split-system refrigeration business model.  The majority of refrigeration companies warranty their products for at least a year, a few for more than a year.  What is often missed by even astute clients as they read the warranty is that the warranty only covers parts.

If a ten-dollar part is defective, the refrigeration company will happily send you a replacement, free of charge.  What no company agrees to do is to pay the labor to have that part installed.  Read the warranty. It clearly states parts only.  I cannot tell you how many clients come to me with tears in their wallets after paying $1,400 for warranty labor that covered the replacement of a ten-dollar part. Each is angry, and I don’t blame them.

Refrigeration systems arrive in multiple boxes of components.  Installation consists of mounting the components, piping them together, leak-testing, charging with Freon, and balancing the entire system.  The process from the time the tech leaves the shop until he returns is usually in excess of eight hours at $120/hour. (And that’s labor only and does not include the charges for the materials.)

When a replacement part is required, the system must be evacuated with the Freon recaptured, pipes unsoldered, part replaced and the entire installation process repeated.  Except for the materials, the labor is usually 1.5 times the original installation charge.

So when considering purchasing the split system on-line and finding your own company to install it, remember this conundrum. Who is going to pay for warranty labor?  The axiom quoted most often around Texas Hold’em tournaments applies.  When you find yourself playing poker, and you can’t tell who the sucker is at the table, the sucker is probably you.

Note: It is not considered good practice to have your refrigeration components installed by an HVAC company. Refrigeration is to HVAC as an Indy car is to the average Chevy.  The techs that install and service refrigeration are a breed apart from their HVAC brethren. .

In a typical metro area, you may find thirty HVAC companies listed and probably only one refrigeration service. While refrigeration has many of the same components as air conditioning, the comparison is no more valid that comparing a race car to a lawn mower.  Both have engines but are worlds apart in their complexity.

This distinction is especially valid if you live in the Midwest.  Making refrigeration operate correctly in the dead of a typical Chicago, deep-freeze, winter requires a level of expertise several levels above that possessed by a typical HVAC tech.  And don’t even consider an HVAC tech for service work.  Sending an HVAC tech to a refrigeration call in the depth of winter is like sending an unarmed man to a gun fight.  Nothing good is going to happen.

If your builder insists that his HVAC company can and will install the system, fill out the statement printed below and have it signed by the service tech in advance of any work.  It will remove you from the list of the designated suckers.

Rick Grigsby

President of Chicago Wine Cellar Expert


Acceptance of Warranty Responsibilities by a Third-Party



I,__________________________________________ , (please print) employed by, ___________________________________________ (the company)

with an address of _________________________________________________________________________________ , (Street, City, State, zip)   agrees to

perform all warranty labor at no cost for the remaining period of the equipment manufacturer’s warranty.

While this agreement does not prohibit my company from attempting to seek compensation from the refrigeration manufacturer for the warranty labor expended, at no time will I or my assigns invoice or in any way attempt to collect payment for warranty labor from the owner of the wine cellar equipment. This document also releases said owner of the equipment from any possible lien encumbrances arising from any unpaid labor charges attached to this warranty work.

It is understood that labor warranty costs under this agreement were already included and paid in full under the original agreement to install this equipment.





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  • I vetted seven companies before choosing Rick’s. The job was done beautifully, but what really blew me away was his response to problems after the cellar was installed and paid-for. For three days, Rick lived in my cellar overseeing the fixing of a very finicky cooling unit. That service after the sale is reason enough to recommend him. He truly cares about his work and about people.

    J.P. from Barrington Hills, IL
  • He crawled on his hands and knees though the steam pipes with the building engineer, stood by me during my meeting with the condo association and held my architect’s hand making certain that everything was right. Rick is the best!

    M.L from Lincoln Park, Chicago
  • Rick’s company did an incredible job!

    F.G from Winnetka, Illinois
expert_wineguyThe Dirty Little Secret of Wine Cellar Split-System Refrigeration