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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Electric Brewing > Help with converting from propane to electric
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Old 12-13-2010, 03:46 AM   #1
ddknight
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Default Help with converting from propane to electric

I am looking for some input or help possibly converting the system I currently use, which is run off of propane, to an electric system. My main reason for wanting to switch over is simply comfort - I want to brew inside where it's cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

I currently have a brutus single tier set up now that has this control panel:



I also have 3 Blichmann kettles to use and 2 March Pumps. Tubing and QD's are already present as well. I use one Blichmann as the HLT which also contains a HERMS coil for the mash. All will be done on a lab grade stainless steel table I have in my basement.

I am looking to see if the control panel I have currently can somehow be easily reconfigured to control the electric side of things with the elements I will obviously have to install in the BK and HLT. I plan to continue with the HERMS method.

I also have a small window located just above where I will be brewing and will probably need to look at some sort of ventilation from what I've read on here thus far. Ideas on this would also be appreciated.

Please let me know if I there is more information that I could provide to anyone and hopefully I'll be able to start on this project in the near future! Thanks for everyone's input in advance!!

ddknight

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Old 12-13-2010, 03:02 PM   #2
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I currently have a brutus single tier set up now that has this control panel:





ddknight
Pic is a dead link right now. I'd be interested to see the size of your box and what your electric service is like, and whether or not you can modify or add to your service panel.
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Old 12-13-2010, 04:13 PM   #3
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Lets try the picure again here. Sorry for that.

As for the electric availability I had an electrician come out and he said he could run a 220v to my brewing area and get at least a 30amp breaker installed and I'm going to see if he could do 50 instead I think. I have 2 spaces on my panel open I believe he said so I should be able to add enough for this use.

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Old 12-13-2010, 04:26 PM   #4
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Ten gallon system?

If so, if you go with 30 amp, you will need a DPDT relay (a way to switch on/off both hot legs of 240v, as well as switch the power from one element to another), and an SSR (for your love control) inside your box. If you go with 50 amp (to enable firing 2 elements at once), then you will need 2 DPST relays and 2 SSR's. So make sure you have space in your box for all that stuff. If that doesn't work you can always add a box for the extra relays.
I'd be glad to clarify anything or try to answer any other questions.

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Old 12-14-2010, 12:01 AM   #5
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The system I currently have is for 10 gallons although it's not very often that I make ten gallons at a time but is nice to have on those occasions.

I will probably want to have the option to run both elements at once so that I can start the boil while I'm finishing sparging in order to move things along. I had thought about an option of using a simple heatstick off of a 120v outlet to keep the temps okay in the HLT at the end of the mash while I use the 240v new outlet to start heating the BK after sparging begins which may save on complications with the control box.

Of note, I did also build the control panel that Jkarp built for his countertop Brutus which is how I was introduced to ebrewing. I am using that now for small batches/test batches of beer inside. I could utilize that as well if that would work.

I guess that I do have the option of just building a new control box if it makes things easier. I'm trying to get things done as easily as possible but done correctly the first time so there's no problems down the road.

Since I have the expensive kettles, pumps, chiller, etc already I do have a little extra money in my budget to probably put into the control panel but am not sure how much that would actually cost. I've seen ranges from about 100 to over 600 dollars on here I think.

Any suggestions or advice for going forward would be great. Sorry if I'm writing a lot but just want to provide as much info as possible.

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Old 12-14-2010, 02:38 AM   #6
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Well, you have several options, really. You've identified the first decision, heat sticks vs. mounting elements in kettles. Heat sticks are simple to make, flexible, and effective. I do ten gallon batches and two 2000 watt heat sticks are plenty. All you need are a couple of 20amp gfci outlets and you're good to go.

Mounting in the kettles is another very good option. Again, 220v isn't required as you could just mount 2 120v 2000w elements.

Unless you have a strong feeling for your final system configuration I see no reason not to start with a few heat sticks and see how you like things. A bit more start up cost than mounting in the kettle, but they are wonderful, flexible devices.

The other thing to consider is what your electrical situation is in your brewing area. Do you have some 20amp lines you can dedicate to brewing? Do you have space in your panel to add circuits? This is really where the costs start to add up.

As for ventilation, there are many solutions. I went with an inline fan and some ducting thru rigid foam board in the window. I spent less than $100 on my setup and it's likely way more than I need, but at least there's no problem with steam.

For a control panel, I'm curious to hear opinions. I didn't build one until I went RIMS. I'm sure you'll enjoy electric brewing.

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Old 12-14-2010, 11:29 PM   #7
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Thanks for the replies thus far. I've done a ton of reading here in the forum now am going to start making some layout plans.

I really like the look and build of Tiber Brew's electrical rig and that may be the way I'm headed. I looked through several other builds such as Kal's, Ohio Ed's and Gabrews and think a slight combo of those would do me very well for the long term.

I think my biggest thing is to start putting together and drawing out the specs for my control panel. I'm learning a lot here every day and am starting to feel more comfortable with the components used and after building a countertop Brutus last fall feel a little more comfortable with the wiring. That's where I'm sure I'll have questions to post!

I'll try documenting things as I go as well to get input and advice. It's been great to study the schematics that have been posted for the control box by P-J so that will be used as my guide I think.

Any advice on buying a control box? Would a plastic box work or should it be metal? Looks like on size about 12x12x10 or 8 would work okay for most designs. I also need to start searching through for parts lists to start ordering some materials.

I have an entire single tier Brutus propane setup now that I will end up putting up for sale this week and hopefully that will offset costs if I can sell it! Thanks again for the input so far guys.

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Old 12-15-2010, 02:37 AM   #8
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Any advice on buying a control box? Would a plastic box work or should it be metal? Looks like on size about 12x12x10 or 8 would work okay for most designs.
I would strongly recommend a plastic box, NEMA4x. I just built one all hard wired for my pub with a new JIC plastic box. SOOO much easier than working with SS. I've done enclosures with both. This one is very sturdy, its what I used, but you can buy smaller.
I'm also glad I decided to hard-wire (no plugs) using liquid-tight conduit. Dealing with and paying for all the plugs and nonsense are kind of unnecessary, depending. If you can deal with things attached to each other, do it that way and save yourself alot of trouble.
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Old 12-15-2010, 04:01 AM   #9
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Thanks for the control box suggestion. I looked around and found this one: http://www.automationdirect.com/adc/.../HW-141208CHSC

I would think it would do. I thought it may be easier for me to use since it's a little deeper and not quite as big as the one you provided me with. Any thoughts?

Also, you don't happen to have pics of the way you hard-wired things do you? I looked at the pics of your system on your profile and looks like you do a HERMS. Do you also chill the wort after boil with the HERMS coil? How well does that work if you do? I am thinking of doing the same thing that's why I ask.

Thanks again for the info so I can get started!

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Old 12-15-2010, 04:40 AM   #10
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The hard wired system is not yet complete, and no pics yet though I can try to take some tomorrow. It's a 1.5 bbl RIMS, without HLT.
The HERMS system in my pics uses the coil in the boil kettle for chilling, and occasionally the coil in the HLT as well. I get very good chilling times with it, but its inconvenient to bother with the amount of ice it can consume.

I recirculate and hop the wort while chilling with ice water which I load into the HLT and run through the BK's coil. Looking back, my chilling bottleneck is the speed of the pump moving the icewater. Mine is a march pump.

Sometimes I'll simultaneously run the wort through the HLT coil during the last 10-15 degrees of the chilling. This is usually not worth the effort and sanitizing though

Doing this again I would make a way to use tap water at a good pressure to chill, and maybe use the HLT coil as a prechiller. or just leave out the BK coil, whirlpool hot, and run through a plate chiller, which is what I'm doing now.

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