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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Equipment/Sanitation > Temperature Control in Ferm Chamber - Heating pad on a timer?
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Old 12-26-2012, 08:51 PM   #1
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Default Temperature Control in Ferm Chamber - Heating pad on a timer?

So I lucked into a free refridgerator last Spring, bought a single stage temp controller, and was able to use this as a fermentation chamber in my garage all summer. Now that the temperatures are lower, I am trying to look into ways to regulate the heating of the space.

So the fridge is a standard freezer-on-top variety, and my garage will typically stay above 50*F even on a cold winter night, but not by much. I was wondering if instead of using either a 2-stage (or just adding a second) controller, if anyone has ever tried just using a heating pad on a timer?

I am thinking that if I set it up right, I can have the heating element kick in every 2-4 hours for 30 minutes (or whatever, this would take some trial and error probably), while leaving the existing temp controller on summer-mode, where it will turn the fridge on when the temp gets above 64*. Assuming the insulation on the fridge is good enough, I am thinking it should be enough to keep it a 2-3* range consistently.

This will also have a bonus effect, in that whenever the fridge is running, the freezer compartment is also running. So if the fridge kicks in a dozen times a day, I should be able to use the extra freezer space too.

I realize this is slightly wasteful, but I don't think it will really have that big of an impact on my energy usage. I'm guessing a 2-stage controller will cost way more than the energy, even over a multi-year period.

Anyone ever tried this or something similar? I know there are a million-and-one threads on ferm chamber temp controls, but I couldn't find one where this was discussed before.

Thanks!

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Old 01-31-2013, 06:07 PM   #2
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Sorry to resurrect my own thread with zero comments...BUT...I am still debating about setting this up, and have found the specific components I was thinking of using. Again, I already have the temp controller to keep th fridge temp from getting above 65*, and I was going to add:

A small space heater = http://www.amazon.com/Lasko-100-MyHe..._bxgy_hi_img_y For about $15.

Connect to a timer = http://www.amazon.com/Intermatic-TN3...rds=plug+timer For about $10.

I'll set the timer to come on for an hour every 8 hours at first, and then tweak it depending on how things are working. $25 is less than half the cost of the cheapest 2 stage controller I can find, and I won't have to mess the the hassle of doing any wiring, just plug it in and let her rip.

My biggest concern is if this heater will put out enough BTU's to keep the inside fridge temp from dropping below 60* with 7 hours of no-added heat? I figure the only way to know for sure is to try, but I wanted to check again and see if anyone has seen something similar done before.

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Old 01-31-2013, 06:09 PM   #3
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Why spend $10 on a timer when you can build a two-stage controller for $30?

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Old 01-31-2013, 06:29 PM   #4
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Why spend $10 on a timer when you can build a two-stage controller for $30?
Can you link to one? Cheapest I could find was over $50...
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Old 01-31-2013, 06:30 PM   #5
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Why spend $10 on a timer when you can build a two-stage controller for $30?
Agreed. Check out the ebay 2-stage controller. Then build a paint can heater (light bulb inside paint can) and you are all set.

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/ebay...-build-163849/
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Old 01-31-2013, 07:30 PM   #6
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Agreed. Check out the ebay 2-stage controller. Then build a paint can heater (light bulb inside paint can) and you are all set.

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/ebay...-build-163849/
Hmmm, I read the first 3-5 and last 3-5 pages of that thread, and here is my take.

If I can keep the fermentation temps in range using a $10 timer that can be plugged in right out of the box...why would I want to spend $30 on the controller which I then have to assmeble, using an assortment of smaller parts that may add to the total cost? I am not scared of the wiring or anything...but if it takes 3 hours and costs $20 more, and the end result is the same, why would I do that? Oh, I'm not counting the cost of the heater because that will be needed for either scheme.

Granted, there is a big "IF" on whether or not my timer idea will even work...but...if it does...wouldn't that be better?

Also, I figure it is kind of a bonus that if I ever need a timer for anything else in the future, it could be used for lots of things...like I could use it to water plants while on vacation if I hook it up to a pump...or turn off Christmas lights if I ever decorate my house...

I'm not trying to be argumentative, I definitely appreciate the feedback, I am just curious if there are other advantages to the controller I am not seeing.
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Old 01-31-2013, 07:36 PM   #7
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Hmmm, I read the first 3-5 and last 3-5 pages of that thread, and here is my take.

If I can keep the fermentation temps in range using a $10 timer that can be plugged in right out of the box...why would I want to spend $30 on the controller which I then have to assmeble, using an assortment of smaller parts that may add to the total cost? I am not scared of the wiring or anything...but if it takes 3 hours and costs $20 more, and the end result is the same, why would I do that? Oh, I'm not counting the cost of the heater because that will be needed for either scheme.

Granted, there is a big "IF" on whether or not my timer idea will even work...but...if it does...wouldn't that be better?

Also, I figure it is kind of a bonus that if I ever need a timer for anything else in the future, it could be used for lots of things...like I could use it to water plants while on vacation if I hook it up to a pump...or turn off Christmas lights if I ever decorate my house...

I'm not trying to be argumentative, I definitely appreciate the feedback, I am just curious if there are other advantages to the controller I am not seeing.

I built mine for $30 total. Took about an hour.

For me the biggest issue would be accuracy. If it was 5 degrees outside or 45 degrees outside, you'd have to go adjust how often the timer kicked the heater on. That sounds like a pain. Plus you're putting unnecessary strain on your fridge by running heat and cooling at the same time. For the $30 to make one (especially if you're not afraid of wiring), you'd be able to set it and forget it (BOOM, Ron Popeiled). No strain on the compressor, no worrying about changing conditions outside, etc.
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Old 01-31-2013, 08:00 PM   #8
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I am looking into fermentation chambers so i read your thread. Just curious, how hard would it be to switch what your controller is controlling? I'm thinking a 3 position switch with cool off and heat. If you use a low heat op heater like the lightbulb you shouldn't ever be needing to run both at once. In winter put yourself in heat and vice versa in summer. Would it work? I don't know but would be very cheap to try.

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Old 01-31-2013, 08:06 PM   #9
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I am looking into fermentation chambers so i read your thread. Just curious, how hard would it be to switch what your controller is controlling? I'm thinking a 3 position switch with cool off and heat. If you use a low heat op heater like the lightbulb you shouldn't ever be needing to run both at once. In winter put yourself in heat and vice versa in summer. Would it work? I don't know but would be very cheap to try.
I think in a place with relatively constant temps that would be fine, but in a garage or something with pretty big temp swings mine has been heating in the morning and cooling during the day every once in awhile.
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Old 01-31-2013, 08:40 PM   #10
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The STC_1000 is a nice little box and in Michigan, most times of the year, the two stages are a nice benefit. It's a more elegant solution IMO, and while you might be able to get a nice even temp from the parts you want to use, there is a chance it won't work very well to maintain the proper and even temps. In that case, you are only out another $10 so it might be worth it to see what happens. There is no way I could get away with that setup here. I can't even trust my Johnson sometimes. (er. temp controller...)

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