I've decided to transition to all-grain brewing, and I've settled on the use electric heat instead of gas.
The first project I'm tackling is the construction of my HLT. I decided to use a 10gal Igloo round cooler. I've seen a few projects where folks have install the heater vertially through the bottom of the cooler, such that it sticks straight up. Example:
I'm not a big fan of this design, as you have to maintain a pretty high water level to avoid damaging the element. My goal is to be able to automating the mashing process, so I'd like to eliminate that variable if possible by keeping the element lower.
I would rather install my element through the side of the cooler. This makes the bulkhead design a little more challenging since we're working with a concave surface. Most of the bottom-installed setups I've seen don't actually use a bulkhead. They just screw the element threads right through the plastic cooler and use chemical sealants. I'd really prefer something a little more serviceable, and I'd like to avoid putting sealants in contact with my water.
Has anyone constructed a bulkhead to use a heater element in a water cooler? Or any non-bulkhead solutions to install the element horizontally? If so, would you be willing to share the details of your design?