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Old 04-20-2011, 11:36 PM   #1
TonySwank
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Default Manual vs electronically controlled heating elements

I am in the middle of designing and building and electric brewery and was wondering if it would be possible to controlled the heating elements manually at either the breaker or my installing an inline switch. This is essentially what I do now using propane, when desired temperature is reached turn off the flame until more heat is needed. If not, what would be a good setup to hold me over until I am ready to build a HERMS.

Currently brewing using propane on a single tier using the following equipment:

HLT - Keggle with dial thermometer and sight tube
MLT - Cooler with copper manifold (batch sparging)
Boil - Keggle with dial thermometer and sight tube
March Pump

I will be installing low density 5500 W elements in both the HLT and Boil Keggle this week. Currently I have a 50 amp breaker to a 50 amp GFCI spa panel that goes to a 50 amp 14-50R outlet, like the one below.



http://www.amazon.com/Leviton-279-Receptacle-Industrial-Grounding/dp/B00009W3AA

Eventually I will go to a HERMS but I have been very happy with my cooler and would not mind continuing to use it. I do have another keg to convert to a MLT when I am ready.

For now I would be fine with a manual setup. For instance, hitting a switch to turn the HLT element off when it hits strike or mash out temperatures. I have not been able to find much information about a setup like this, which leads me to believe that it might not be practical. The biggest issue that I can see is a high boil off rate if I don't throttle the 5500 w element in the boil keggle. Would it be possible to wire up the element directly to a 14-50 male plug then control it from the breaker? It seems like almost everyone uses a three wire connection, not a four (two hots and a ground for 220, if I'm not mistaken). I know that isn't ideal but plenty of warehouses control their lighting by switching breakers.

My biggest hesitation on using a PID or two is that I will eventually build a HERMS and I would hate to spend a couple hundred dollars on a control panel and only use it for a year or so. I tend to like very basic set ups until I feel comfortable building something advanced, not big on small steps. If I do implement automation I was thinking a basic setup like P-J suggested in post #16 in this thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by P-J View Post
How about this:




(Click the image for a full scale printable diagram for 11" x17" paper)

One PID (and 1 temp probe in the HLT). As Walker stated there is no need for a second temp probe. The boil is controlled using manual mode.

The contactors are $14.50 each so they certainly will not break the bank.
I've gone back and forth on this and would love to get a couple opinions. The automation would be nice but if I go that route I would really like to future proof it as much as possible. Thanks in advance.


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Old 04-21-2011, 12:58 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by TonySwank View Post
...
I've gone back and forth on this and would love to get a couple opinions. The automation would be nice but if I go that route I would really like to future proof it as much as possible. Thanks in advance.
There are many possibilities. If you want to go with PID control it can be done relative cheaply without throwing away lots of dollars. A setup can be placed in a $29 project box like this one from Auberins:


Then - skip the relays and save even more. All of the components can be reused in any other build that you choose to take on down the road.

How about this diagram?
(Click the image for a larger pix)







Or if you come up with something different, I'll draw a diagram for you. No?

P-J


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Old 04-21-2011, 01:25 AM   #3
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Not trying to thread jack, but P-J what are the benefits/advantages between your diagram added by the original poster using the contactors and the one you provided simply using a DPDT switch? It appears they will accomplish the same thing but just wired up differently.

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Old 04-21-2011, 02:21 AM   #4
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Not trying to thread jack, but P-J what are the benefits/advantages between your diagram added by the original poster using the contactors and the one you provided simply using a DPDT switch? It appears they will accomplish the same thing but just wired up differently.
They both accomplish the same thing. The difference is the second one can be installed in an inexpensive box that is already setup for such a project. Dollars are not thrown away for getting started on an electric brew rig that might evolve and change down the road. Switches are a lot cheaper than contactors and they take up the same room as the switch that would control the contactor in the first place.

My object here is not the "bling" thing but to give brewers options for getting started without throwing tons of cash at it.

IMHO...
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Old 04-21-2011, 01:35 PM   #5
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I do basically the same thing with my heatstick; when I reach strike temp, I unplug it. Works fine. I would think a switch with a mounted element would be even more convenient.

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Old 04-21-2011, 01:50 PM   #6
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My biggest hesitation on using a PID or two is that I will eventually build a HERMS and I would hate to spend a couple hundred dollars on a control panel and only use it for a year or so.
click the link in my sig... it may not be what you're after, but it might be too. I'm building a HERMS setup around it. YMMV.
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Old 04-21-2011, 04:34 PM   #7
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manual control is fine for when you are heating, say, your HLT to mash in temps. once you hit the temperature you want, unplug the heater. however if you need to tightly maintain a specific constant temperature, its just too much work to flip the switch on and off several times per minute for long periods of time. once you go HERMS, you pretty much need a controller.

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Old 04-21-2011, 05:11 PM   #8
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If you decide to use a switch, this is available at Home Depot. I mounted one of these in a waterproof cover, also from Home Depot. I have another switching the 240VAC on my control box. You could use this switch to make a pretty simple manual control, like I did, on the wall.





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Old 04-21-2011, 06:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by P-J View Post
They both accomplish the same thing. The difference is the second one can be installed in an inexpensive box that is already setup for such a project. Dollars are not thrown away for getting started on an electric brew rig that might evolve and change down the road. Switches are a lot cheaper than contactors and they take up the same room as the switch that would control the contactor in the first place.

My object here is not the "bling" thing but to give brewers options for getting started without throwing tons of cash at it.

IMHO...
This looks great, the PID, SSR, Heat Sink and RTD sensor can be got for about $100. All the switches and plugs would have been needed anyway. Not quite as bad as I was thinking.

Seems as if people are split on using a 25 amp or a 40 amp SSR and Heat sync for a 5500 w element (draw should be 23 amps). I feel like the 25 amp would be fine with the build in factor of safety but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

Now that I've got the automation bug I am debating going ahead and setting up a HERMS. I have a 50' 1/2" immersion cooler that I could use as the heat exchanger in the HLT then move to the boil keggle for cooling after the boil is complete. This is the copper I am planning on installing in the HLT for a more permanent solution eventually when I go the counter flow chiller or plate chiller route.

If I were to use a second PID to control the mash temp what is the best way to wire it up (assuming I do need a second PID, SSR, Heat Sink, and RTD)? Does it need to control the pump since the pump will be running continuously throughout the entire mash? Couldn't I just set the HLT at the mash temp (or a few degrees hotter), turn on the pump, then let it run until I am ready to mash out? Would I be able to just monitor the temperature with a PID without controlling the pumps? Sorry for the rapid fire questions, just trying to get some clarification.

I'm also on the fence about the whether or not the RTD should be placed on the output of the HERMS coil or the output of the MLT? Most of the information that I've found seems to favor on the output of the HERMS coil but I noticed on Kai's setup that it is on the output of the MLT. He states that when it was on the outlet of the HERMS the temperature always matched what the HLT was at, which makes sense with a big heat exchanger. I could see advantages to both ways. Maybe some trial and error is called for.

I found quite a bit of good information in this thread regarding PID controls in a HERMS set up.

I am assuming that it would be bad for the copper to touch the electric element so I would need to build something for it to sit on the lip of the keggle and hold the bottom above the element.

Anything that I am overlooking?
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Old 04-21-2011, 06:20 PM   #10
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IMO manual control for the HLT will work fine, insulation will help to maintain temp once reached. The big advantage of a controller for the BK is that you can achieve very quick times to reach boiling with a lot of power and then throttle back. IMO, depending on batch size, 5500w will be too much to run at 100% in the BK. 4500w for 10 gal batches or 3000-3500 for 5 gallon batches should work fairly well depending on pot size and ambient temps.

Elements are cheap and easy to install, play around till you find the size that works well at 100% power. It can be as simple or a complicated as you wish.



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