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Old 04-30-2008, 12:21 AM   #1
learningmore
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Default Heatstick questions: Why appliance cord? Why 3+Gr wires?

I tried looking for my answer on other forums such as Tasty Brew and Northern Brewer, as well as attempting to search my questions, but I wasn't able to find an answer. I hope my question isn't a repeat.

For the different heatstick construction tutorials I've seen, they reference using thick-gauged Appliance Cord (appliance cord seems more flexible than inside-wall wiring and a thicker rubber sheath), and contains three strands.

Can I use thick wall wiring for this? I have some Romex 12-gauge 3-strand wire and would prefer to not spend $32 on a long length of wiring. (I'm wiring this in my garage and running the wire to outside to not cause mold or rot in my garage because of the humidity.)

If my wiring is still 12-gauge but isn't "Appliance Cord" (doesn't have the thick rubber sheathing), will it still be fine to use? Also, my wiring isn't as flexible as the appliance cord. Will this be fine?

I'm trying to get the heatstick price down as far as I can, as I want to make multiple ones but still be safe. Unfortunately, the two highest costs are the thick-gauged heavy duty plugs ($10 at Home Depot or Lowes) and the heating element. I'm seeing:
$9-12 2,000 or 1,500 heating element (I've heard low-density folded-back elements are better- but I haven't been able to find these at a low price other than higher than 3,500 watts)

$42 Long wiring to outside. $32 - cord + $10- plug (Perhaps will use scrapyard wiring) Perhaps I could cut an extension cord from the scrapyard and use that?)

$12 Chromed stainless steel drain pipe
==========

Also, does anyone have any low-cost methods to find where circuits exist in my apartment? I'd like to plug at least two elements in- but I assume I'll need a different circuit for each element.

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Old 04-30-2008, 12:35 AM   #2
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Assuming you are going to be running at 120 volts, don't forget that you can run a 240V heating element at 120V, you just get 1/4 the power. ie - a 4000W 240V element would give you 1000W at 120V. Definitely a viable alternative if you're looking for low power density.

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Also, does anyone have any low-cost methods to find where circuits exist in my apartment? I'd like to plug at least two elements in- but I assume I'll need a different circuit for each element.
Yeah, stick a fork in the outlets and see which breaker trips!
(Disclaimer: Don't actually do that, that would be stupid)

You could just go around plugging a lamp or something into different outlets and have someone working the breakers - that's what I'd do in the absence of other test equipment.
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Old 04-30-2008, 12:46 AM   #3
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When doing a project like this, don't skimp on supplies when the results of shoddy construction could be disasterous - like death. Electricity is serious stuff. So don't screw around. Standard "Romex" 12-3 could supply 120/240 volts to your rig, but it isn't designed to be moved once installed (ie, it has a solid core conductor - flex it a lot and it will break, potentially causing a fire) If you are only using striaght 240v or 120v, 12-2 will suffice. Don't exceed 20A on #12 romex.

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Old 04-30-2008, 01:08 AM   #4
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I am not going to tell you that you can't use NM-B "Romex" but I will tell you that it is not listed for use as a cord.....it is your choice

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Old 04-30-2008, 01:22 AM   #5
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Thanks for the responses. Thanks MA_Brewer about how the Romex could break. It seemed flexible but that is a good point. I'm asking these questions because I don't want this to be shoddy. However, cheap /= shoddy. (hopefully) Thanks Funk.

Now, would it be fine to take the right gauged extension cord and just chop off 10ft of it and use that? I mentioned that Appliance cord tends to have a thicker rubber around it.

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Old 04-30-2008, 01:31 AM   #6
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Its not so much about the thicker insulator (rubber) but the thickness of the copper itself. A thinner gauge wire will have more resistance in it than a thicker gauge wire. Which means you will be loosing more electricity as heat for thin wire. So A. You loose efficiency and more importantly B. If it is too small it can generate enough heat to burn through the insulator and start a fire or electrocute someone.
Let us know what size element you plan on using and we'll tell you a safe gauge
Edit - Also need to know how long of a chord it needs to be.

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Old 04-30-2008, 02:26 AM   #7
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Not just flexibility is an issue. Most Romex isn't that well insulated. Again, it's designed to be installed inside your wall, away from people. Stepping on it a few times can be enough to damage the insulation on it. Combined with the water used in brewing and you're setting yourself up for a really nasty zap. For that reason, I recommend that anyone going electric be sure that their heat stick is on a GFCI circuit - the same kind you have in the kitchen & bath in most newer houses. What GFCI gets you is some safety. When the electricity hits the water, the breaker throws, cutting off the electricity.

Another thing to be careful of is that your breaker can handle the load of the heat stick. Your breakers will be rated in volts & amps. However, the things you plug into it are rated in volts & watts. Fairly annoying, if you ask me, but thats how it gets labeled. V X A = W or A = W/V. In order to find the amps, you'll need to divide the watts by the volts to figure out how many amps you're pulling. Once you get that, you can check your breaker panel to be sure that you're not exceeding the load.

If you're going to go 220, most electric dryers and stoves run on a 220 circuit. If you can talk the spouse out of cooking or doing laundry while you brew, you can probably wrangle a 220 connection. However, you'll need a different, thicker kind of cord with a special 220 plug on it. This will also mean that you'll need to brew in a reasonable proximity to the outlet. Higher voltages and amperages over long cords can create an amazing amount of heat.

HTH,

Mor.

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Old 04-30-2008, 03:01 AM   #8
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When it comes to electricity it pays to do it right and if you have no knowledge of it then that job is best left in the hands of an electrician. Imporper wiring can kill. You need a GFI circuit when liquids are involved. Again this is no place to experiment. Get help.

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Old 04-30-2008, 07:08 AM   #9
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you probably want a long wire that can go from an outlet to your brewstand/setup. If you're going with the 2kW @ 220V, I'd go with something bigger than 12awg just so you can upgrade. If you're running 110 again 12 would work but I'd defiantly go bigger(that's nearing 20A), and you'll want the stranded kind not the solid like mentioned above. It costs more but you need it to be flexible. Next, I'd get another 220 breaker with appropriate rating and an outlet with gfci installed near where you're working.

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Old 04-30-2008, 01:38 PM   #10
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As far as using a cut piece extension cord, that would work as long as it's rated for the power you are going to put through it. Probably need a 10 gauge cord, and remember the longer the cord, the more power you will be drawing because of the resistance of the extension cord.

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