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Which is the best Minibar for my hotel?

Whether you’ve been on vacation, travelling for leisure or business you’ve most likely experienced staying in a noisy hotel room, what a pain! Aside from the air conditioner, the minibar fridge can be the next loudest thing in the room.

The chances are, if you have guest complaints about noisy minibars, it will be a domestic-type fridge. Domestic fridges use a compressor to cool the appliance down which becomes quite noisy especially as they get older. Let’s face it, guests aren’t used to sleeping next to their fridge and no one likes their sleep interrupted, so what can you do to give your guests a better night’s rest?

As a hotelier you are probably well aware there are several technologies used for the cooling of hotel minibars. The key outcome the majority of hotels are requesting is that the minibars are silent, which is very important. Silent minibar fridges are leading the industry when it comes to guest satisfaction. Since they are completely silent your guests will hardly notice them, which offers maximum comfort as they relax or sleep in the room, however, there are some disadvantages with them as well.

 While there are many different makes and models available for your hotel you may be confused with so many different terminologies of the types available, so to help you out we’ll dive into the advantages and disadvantages between the different minibar types:

  • Compressor
  • Smart Compressor
  • Thermo Absorption
  • Heat Absorption

Let’s start off with the Compressor minibar.

Compressor Minibars:

Minibars that use a compressor are often domestic brands, like the fridge you have at home. The compressor is also the motor you hear running at various times throughout the day.

Compressor Advantages:

  • Cost-effective technology.
  • Cools the minibar down to lower temperatures.
  • Works well in very hot areas like in the Pacific Islands where the ambient room temperatures are high.

Compressor Disadvantages:

  • Noisy motor and they get noisier as they get older.
  • More moving parts so more can go wrong with them.
  • Guests often unplug them from the wall due to the noise, this then means your housekeeping team will need to check they are plugged in.

The biggest reason we see hotels moving away from using a domestic fridge in their rooms is solely because of the noise factor. Guests are simply not used to sleeping next to their fridge so when they hear the constant buzz of the motor in their room it quickly becomes a big inconvenience and can cause them to refer to it negatively in a guest review.

Smart Compressor Minibars:

Smart compressor minibars are a new technology and a new development from JVD.

This type of minibar comes with a built-in control panel so the compressor can be activated based on when the room is most likely going to be unoccupied or at times when the guest will be awake. For example, the minibar is programmed with factory settings to go in two 3-hour slots in 24 hours. Thanks to the technology, this is enough time to keep the minibar cool for the whole 24 hours. It is programmed by the factory to go between 9am-12pm when the guest is likely up and getting ready to check out. Then the next 3-hour slot is between 5pm – 8pm, while the guest is likely out of the room having dinner. And as an added bonus, this is the most energy-efficient silent mini bar on the market.

Smart Compressor Advantages.

  • Energy Efficient – Smart Compressors are the most energy-efficient silent minibar on the market.
  • Allows you to activate “Quick Cool” which means when you load the ambient temperature mini bar items into the mini bar, you hit quick cool and it will cool the product down in 2-3 hours ready for the guest.
  • You can snooze the mini bar should your guest want to make it quiet if it happens to be operating when they want it silent.
  • Cools the product down to low temperatures.
  • Spare parts available.
  • Sustainable Class A+++ rating (the highest) with great performance.

Smart Compressor Disadvantages.

  • Greater upfront investment.
  • Not 100% silent, but a great compromise between Compressor and Absorption.

We have had the Smart Compressor Minibars energy rated for New Zealand and Australia and have received a 4-star energy rating, which is very good. This is the minibar to select if you are serious about the guest experience, concerned about sustainability and want to reduce your property’s environmental impact. This mini bar has been selected and approved in projects that are going for the Green Star Building Code in NZ.

When it comes to Absorption minibars, these are widely known in the hotel industry as the minibar that is silent. However, there are 2 different types of technologies used with one very key difference you should know about. When discussing absorption minibars with your supply partner, please ask them for clarification on whether they use Thermo or Heat Absorption.

Thermo Absorption:

This is a new technology that is only used by JVD.

Thermo Absorption Advantages.

  • Uses NON-AMMONIA refrigerant technology for cooling.
  • 100% silent
  • More Energy efficient than Heat-Absorption.
  • Cost effective
  • Spare Parts available.

Thermo Absorption Disadvantages.

  • The temperature of the minibar doesn’t cool as low as a compressor Mini Bar
  • Slower time to cool.

Thermo absorption is fast becoming the go-to model for hotels due to the fact they are not using ammonia to cool the minibar, making it safer for your guests. If you are not aware of why this is important… here’s the answer.

Although rare, it has happened in New Zealand hotels and abroad where there has been an ammonia leak in the fridge in the room. Due to the toxicity of the substance, it is not safe for guests. This scenario has resulted in the hotels having to evacuate, call the fire brigade and the situation becoming a major disruption. So, when you have the option of a minibar with no Ammonia, it really is a no-brainer.

Heat Absorption (commonly referred to as Absorption):

This is an older technology for silent hotel minibars but is still widely used by all manufacturers.

Heat Absorption Advantages.

  • 100% silent.
  • Energy-efficient.
  • Cost-Effective.
  • Does allow for cooling larger mini bars than the Thermo technology.
  • Spare parts are available for the JVD brand.

Heat Absorption Disadvantages.

  • Uses AMMONIA as the refrigerant.
  • Not as energy-efficient as Thermo Absorption.
  • The temperature of the minibar doesn’t cool as low as a compressor minibar
  • Slower time to cool.

The heat absorption is a good option if you are looking for minibars that are larger than 40L and you want it to be silent, however, you do need to be aware of the possibility of an ammonia gas leak. Although rare - it has happened.

Energy Efficiency is a key focus for hotels today, there are ways that you can make improvements by choosing the right model. As an example, the below graph shows the cost over 5 years based on a 100-room hotel.

The costs can be significantly different depending on what model you choose.

Colour Key:

  • Purple Line – Heat Absorption or Absorption.
  • Light Blue Line – Compressor.
  • Grey Line - Smart Compressor
  • Yellow Line – Thermo- Absorption.

Overall, there are advantages of each model and it really depends on what is important to you and your guests. However, we would strongly recommend having a conversation with your supplier to ask them about the technology their minibars use.

If you’re not sure where to start here are some links to some of the most popular models. CPE models or the Thermo Absorption options.


About the author

Reuben Beatson

Focused on making it easy for New Zealand’s Hotel & Motel industry to create those memorable guest experiences that are key to their success, I am truly passionate about the NZ hotel industry and have been working with hoteliers for over 21 years. Living the reason we exist - To create moments of delight for people every day.