Ok folks, from everything I've read here and over at Kal's site, it seems like electric and BIAB are the way for me to go.
The goal is to be able to go to 5 gallon AG batches, with the reliability and ease-of-use of electric heating. I don't usually go for very heavy grain beers, so I'm not too worried about the size of my pot.
Here's what I have:
8.75 gal ss pot http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00107EARQ
5500w camco ulwd element (on order)
rtd temp probe thingie
peristaltic pump with controller
I know I'll need a PID from auber instruments, wire, plugs, a box to put it all in, etc.
Questions I have so far:
I have two 220v outlets in the garage, a 30A and a 50A (compressor and welder) both of which are 3 wire plugs. The garage is relatively new construction, so I'm sure there are ground wires in the boxes, though I haven't pulled the plugs off yet to check. No GFCI breakers. Should I plan on doing the spa-panel for gfci protection of the equipment (and me)? Is it worthwhile to change one of those outlets over to a 4 wire plug and put a different plug on the extension cord for the welder? It is usually cheaper to buy a spa panel with a GFCI breaker in it than it is to just buy a GFCI breaker. I don't know why, but that's just how it is. If you buy the breaker, you will need to run new wiring (to get ground to your outlet) and install a new outlet... and then you couldn't plug in your compressor or welder anymore.
I'd go with the spa panel.
How much room do you leave below the element in the kettle?As little as possible.
Is Kal's box on the outside of the kettle the best way to mount and wire an element, or can you use something smaller? I'm pretty handy, so I can construct a box like Kal shows, I just have to get hole saws/punches etc. If I go another route, how do I ground the kettle? There is another method that uses a PVC coupling and epoxy to pot the electrical connections. I don't have a link off hand, but if you poke around here, you'll find it.
I can mig weld (with the incorrect shield gas), I could have the kettle tig welded, or could solder or go with weldless fittings... I went welded, but that was just because I had a friend that was willing to trade me some of my "retired" brewing tools/gear for cutting and welding work. I see no problem with weldless set-ups.
What would you all recommend?
I'm planning on using a diagram like this one from P-J: here
Do I need a "coil" like I've seen referenced in other diagrams, or is a switch for the element enough?A switch is sufficient to cut the power, but I like the contactors (the "coil"). Personal preference on that.
What say you, wise electric brewers? What do I buy next, what are the next steps in the project?