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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Electric Brewing > OK I did something really wrong with this heatstick
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Old 12-30-2010, 04:12 PM   #1
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Default OK I did something really wrong with this heatstick

Ok so I brew stove top but I wanted to build a heatstick to assist the stove element in reaching boil. I followed instructions I obtained online plus some words from HBT. The basic construction is the pipe/pvc/heating element design. I used JB weld to seal the element and pipe.

Following information given here I set out to build a circuit that would run inside my kitchen. I purchased a 16 gauge electrical wire and a 1500W heating element. I hooked up two wires to the terminals on the heating element and according to the instructions I followed, I connected the ground on the wire to the pipe and secured it with JB Weld where the pipe and PVC meets.

I put it all together and tested the electrical work dry (only for a minute!!!) on a single GFCI outlet that has no other circuits downstream. The heating element heated up and the GFCI outlet was not tripped. That was yesterday.

Today, after making sure there were no holes in the weld and it had all dried (I waited over 24 hours) I filled a pot of water, placed the heatstick in the water and plugged it in. Within a second I got a loud pop and the GFCI outlet flipped off. I unplugged the heatstick and tried to reset the outlet. There was some sparking in the socket holes but it wouldn't reset. Now nothing happens when I hit the reset button. Additionally, the GFCI outlets downstream also do not work.

I realized after all this happened the coffee maker was plugged into a GFCI outlet downstream from this one and it was turned on.

I tried flipping off the circuit and leaving it off for a while and then flipping it back on to no avail. I also waited about 15 minutes to try to reset the circuit and still nothing.

Ok electrical geniuses of HBT (and you all are, seriously) what did I do? Where did I go wrong? Should I make another attempt to run the heatstick or curse it to hell?

(I did call an electrician to come out and fix the outlet. Hopefully I did not completely screw up the house but I don't want to make matters worse by screwing around with the wiring in the house.)

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Old 12-30-2010, 04:24 PM   #2
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OK first things first.

1500 watts at 110V is going to pull 13.6 amps so you should be using 12 gauge not 16

Secondly, you didn't mention what size your breaker in the panel is for the circuit you're plugging into. Pulling 13.6 A with just your heat stick you'd need a 20A breaker for that circuit. Add in the coffee pot and you're probably close to overloading a 20A circuit, and I'd bet you're working with a 15A circuit.

Remedy? Fix your wire gage, have your electrician install a 20A breaker while he's fixing the GFCI outlet, and just be glad you didn't burn the house down!

Good luck!

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Old 12-30-2010, 04:27 PM   #3
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Leak? Improperly mixed JB Weld could be the cause. They have a product called Waterweld which sounds like a better fit.

However this kind of project IMO is inherently dangerous and should be done by someone who is very careful in the build, or is nuts and a risk taker. I'd much rather install the element in the kettle so that the electrical connections are enclosed outside of the liquid zone.

+1 on all of the above

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Old 12-30-2010, 04:41 PM   #4
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First and foremost, thanks for all the help.

I did leave the heatstick in a kettle of water for an hour with the lid off and then flipped it over and not a drop of water came out, so I don't believe there is a leak, but I could be wrong.

Looking at the breaker it has a 20 on the top of the switch. Doesn't that mean it is a 20A breaker?

Now that the heatstick is put together and welded together with jb weld, is there any way to fix the wire gauge without completely starting from scratch??

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Old 12-30-2010, 05:43 PM   #5
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My guess is that the GFI outlet may or may not have tripped but most likely the panel breaker feeding the circuit did. A coffee pot and 1500 watt element would have overloaded it. However, it could be that the panel breaker did NOT trip but the overcurrent fried the GFI. If that's the case, you replace it and I'd suggest a 20amp GFI.

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Old 12-30-2010, 05:47 PM   #6
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If it has a 20 on it, it should be 20A. I'm not electrician, but your wire gauge does seem a bit light. I built a 1500w stick and used a 14 gauge cord and, assuming I calculated correctly, that's about the bare minimum you would want to use. I think mine might be running on only a 15A GFI circuit, but, I'm careful not to run anything else on it and so far it works great, plug fitting doesnt get hot and the GFI doesn't trip. It's great for heating my sparge water without having to fire up the burner or to help boost my time to boil.

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Old 12-30-2010, 06:08 PM   #7
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The quick and dirty way to tell if your GFCI outlet is 20A if it has a slot on the side of one of the receptacles like pictured below. If they are both just straight slots then it is 15A.



Another thing that crossed my mind is your ground. If you can take a pic of how you have it connected that would help. I haven't built a heatstick myself since I'm working on my single tier electric build, but if you have it grounded to the pipe and the pipe is in contact with the water then this is no pinche bueno!!!

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Old 12-30-2010, 06:13 PM   #8
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+1 to the ideas here...

I'm no electrician and don't have a heat stick of my own, but it sounds like you did 2 things simultaneously:
1) created a "ground fault" that tripped/broke the GFCI. (this to me says that something might be wrong with your wiring in your heat stick
2) popped the breaker. (It's probably 15A, not 20...)

Keep in mind that GFCI's serve a purpose that's a little different than the breaker in your box. The breaker serves to keep the circuit from getting overloaded. The GFCI protects "you" from having 110V run through your body via a "stray" ground. For instance, the old story of dropping a toaster in water, which creates an electrical short to ground that's different than the ground in the outlet. The receptacle itself "senses" that the ground reference has changed, and trips, shutting the circuit or receptacle off.

So, if your wiring somehow - say perhaps through the heating element touching your kettle and the stove - created a "new" ground, it could have tripped the GFCI outlet.

Just a thought anyway. If there's one coming, just ask the electrician... Maybe trade him a homebrew to have him look at the wiring of your heat stick???

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Old 12-30-2010, 06:22 PM   #9
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Just for clarification, you say you initially tested the heat stick dry. Do you mean you plugged it in quickly without submerging it in water? Are you certain that didn't burn out the element?

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Old 12-30-2010, 06:23 PM   #10
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Ok so it looks like the outlet is 15A.

All the different instructions I found online have the ground wire in the heatstick attached to the pipe, which obviously goes in the water. I thought that was kind of weird myself, but obviously other people have built these without incident, so am I missing something there? Basically I have the ground wire stripped and hung over the edge of the chrome pipe and sealed down with jb weld between the chrome pipe and pvc.

Like this, but put together:

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