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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Electric Brewing > Piecemeal Electric Implementation
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Old 10-11-2011, 08:09 PM   #1
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Default Piecemeal Electric Implementation

Eventually, I plan to upgrade to a full-blown control panel, with PID, SSR's another electric kettle and selector, similar to what is on Kal's site.

However, I don't think I can free up that much cash right now.

In the interim, I am trying to figure out if it would be cheaper/worth it to set up a manual control.

Since I plan to add more electronic control later, I am trying to figure out if there is a way to use some of the components manually.

I will need to wire the kettle like so many other examples on here, and I would plan to get the spa panel so I will be able to expand later.

Could I use a 3-position selector switch as on/off for a single element? Would I need more control than that to start? I would be there monitoring everything all the time. Would this lead to massive wort boil-off?

Thanks for any pointers.

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Old 10-14-2011, 05:00 PM   #2
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You won't want to do this. maintaining a boil strength will require constant and rapid on/off switching of the power if the element is powerful enough to cause too rough of a boil when running at 100%.

Your best bet would be to get an element that is properly sized for boiling whatever batch size you normally make, and just let that element run at 100%. Plug it in and let it go.

The downside to that approach is that you will have to wait longer for things to heat up since THAT is the time that you want as much power as possible.

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Old 10-14-2011, 11:54 PM   #3
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Another option that is fairly inexpensive is building your own PWM. You still need an SSR, but those are cheap on ebay and will be used in your control panel later on. I am using this for $8.00:

http://www.bakatronics.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=383

You can power this with a 9v battery. The pot adjusts duty cycle of your heating element. Watch how it works here:


As you can see from the video the duty cycle is never 0% or 100%, but it gets close enough for good control over a boil. You can turn it all the way up to get to a boil, then dial it back to maintain your boil.

What is your budget? What pieces to this puzzle do you already have, i.e. brew kettle?
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Old 10-15-2011, 12:25 AM   #4
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+1 on the PWM.

These things are cheap and easy to put together.

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Old 10-16-2011, 02:48 AM   #5
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Thanks for the replies, I think a PWM is the solution I was imagining without knowing it. My budget is minimal, as I don't have much spare cash for new equipment. With two kids, SWMBO and I don't have a lot of extra laying around. On the positive, though, I have about 150 lb of grain and a mess of hops, so I can brew for a while.

Would it be possible to get a basic PWM going for less than $150? I wouldn't need to have a pump outlet in place right now, but could add it down the road when I get one.

I currently have a banjo burner and a keg that someone converted into a boil kettle. I'm making 10 gallon batches, which is nice. I want to switch to electric 'cause I've had my propane freeze up on me in the winter and I'd like to be able to brew with the garage door closed when the winds are howling.

As I build & expand my electric system, I plan to use my current 72-quart mash tun to make a HERMS. This is really long-term, though.

My tentative plan for now is to get a ball-valve and dip tube installed on my kettle first, then get a pump. In the meantime, I want to start assembling everything to switch my kettle to electric. As the opportunity presents, I'll accumulate the SSR's, PWM, outlets, etc.

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Old 10-16-2011, 03:15 AM   #6
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Approximate prices:
Electric element $20
PWM board $10
2x SSRs $30
Weldless element adapter for keggle $10
Weldless bulkhead and stainless ball valve $20
Dip tube (roll your own copper) $5-10 (or get a fancy stainless one $25)
You'll need some sort of box to mount your controls in $20
and a nice cable to get to the element $20
and some other things I've probably forgotten $20
TOTAL $160

That's pretty close to your $150.

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Old 10-16-2011, 03:49 AM   #7
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thomashp is pretty close on the price, and everything you buy except the PWM can also be used later on. The big thing is going to be power, how far from the electrical panel or outlet are you? If you plan to brew any distance from an existing 240V outlet the wire will be the most expensive thing you buy. I need about 40' of cable from my dryer outlet to where I brew. 10/4 SOOW is about $2.25 a foot at HD or Lowes. You will also need GFCI protection. The cheapest solution I found was the HD 50A spa panel @ $49.00. I blew through your $150.00 budget just getting power to my brew location! Just a point to consider.

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Old 10-16-2011, 03:01 PM   #8
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Hi Guys, thanks for the pricing info. Our current house would require me to run service to the garage. We are hoping to sell our house in the spring, so I don't want to pay to run the service right now.

I'll probably gather equipment in pieces. First the weldless fittings and ball valve. Then all the control pieces, then once I have an outlet I'll get the element and cables. Of course, once I get started I usually get really impatient, so we'll see. I might end up with a full-blown PID control box before I get the outlet in place.

Is it a bad sign if you're selling your house to get a better brew space?

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Old 10-17-2011, 08:24 PM   #9
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you can shave some money off that price list by using only a single SSR per element being controlled.

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