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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Electric Brewing > Why are controllers so expensive?
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Old 12-01-2011, 09:42 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by cyclogenesis View Post
Out of interest does anyone just bypass the controller expense, just to begin with?
ie if I got two of these:
Heating Element - 4500 Watt SS - High Gravity
One for the HLT one for the kettle, would just plugging into the wall (once I get a GFCI put in) work?
I went through a similar thought process a couple weeks ago and have been reading tonnes on here ever since.

I started by installing a 120v element in my HLT which works fine. Next I'll add two of them to my BK. By that time, I figure I'll have it sorted out in my mind what equipment to buy for controlling the temps.

Though not inexpensive, I am REALLY enjoying the learning and thought processes involved. I'm sure there are a few ways to get the controller done so I want to balance elegance with cost and no matter what - ensure safety. The linked item seems a bit expensive but there is at least one PID ($45-50) an SSR ($20-30?), a box ($10-20), some sockets and switches ($5-15). Then someone had to drill the holes and assemble them. As a hobby I do these things and enjoy them. If it was a business I'd be charging for my work.

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Old 12-01-2011, 09:45 PM   #12
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Its just my experience. I have built a silly amount of homebrew equipment and while DIY does save money, unless you do a chincy job, the savings are no where near what many claim. I recognize many will come out of the woodwork with the 'but I built my whole setup for $5' argument, but it just isn't true. When comparing apples to apples, these systems just cost a bunch, no matter how you slice it.
I'm not saying they don't cost a bunch but there is definately money to be saved. BTW, I didn't do a "chincy" job.
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Old 12-01-2011, 10:00 PM   #13
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On a quick and dirty estimate, I would say the parts for this assembly would cost about $176 before shipping. So say $190 in hand unless you are super fortunate to have a big electric supply house near you. Then if you know how to assemble a rheostat in line with a SSR with a pigtail override, a couple switches, and a breadboard and you have the 4ish hours this would likely take to assemblew the first time, then yes you can save $60-80. This kind of thing makes an awesome project and you save money.

The question posited in this thread was why these things and similar items are so expensive. It is because the people making them aren't doing it for charity. The guy assembling this isn't getting rich. You can save money doing it yourself, but have no illusions of making this same setup for $50.

To your other question, you do not need a controller. It would be best to know the size of your batches and size the element accordingly. That way you could be pretty much assured you will not have to much evaporation. The control you posted just gives you flexibility and a higher degree of output power to the element.

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Old 12-01-2011, 10:01 PM   #14
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here is the commercial equivilent. This is the cheapest around at $119. plus you will have to buy the programing software for $395. You will have to know how to create PLC ladder logic or pay some one to create and install the logic.


I work with the Allen Bradly (cost a lot more for the equipment and is $5k for the software), and i think the BCS and other type controllers are smoking deals.

If its worth it is up to you. I really like the idea of having more precise control, and removing the "oh crap i forgot to start my timer" out of my brew day.
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Old 12-01-2011, 10:17 PM   #15
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It's also a time vs money issue. You may be able to build something similiar to the EBC II for say $100-150, but now factor in the time planning, and laying out, and assembling. I went through this exercise a year ago and decided with my 999 other projects I had going, that building a controller was not something I needed to undertake. I actually purchased the EBC II and a couple 4500W elements from high gravity brewing.

Sure I could have probably customized my own controller with better control and customization options for about the same cost, but by buying the unit pre-built I just had to mount it, and plug it in. I do think the price was a bit high, but it does what it is supposed to do and I have had no trouble with it over the last year of extensive brewing with it.

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Old 12-01-2011, 11:49 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by birvine

I went through a similar thought process a couple weeks ago and have been reading tonnes on here ever since.

I started by installing a 120v element in my HLT which works fine. Next I'll add two of them to my BK. By that time, I figure I'll have it sorted out in my mind what equipment to buy for controlling the temps.

Though not inexpensive, I am REALLY enjoying the learning and thought processes involved. I'm sure there are a few ways to get the controller done so I want to balance elegance with cost and no matter what - ensure safety. The linked item seems a bit expensive but there is at least one PID ($45-50) an SSR ($20-30?), a box ($10-20), some sockets and switches ($5-15). Then someone had to drill the holes and assemble them. As a hobby I do these things and enjoy them. If it was a business I'd be charging for my work.

B
What 120v element did you buy?
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Old 12-01-2011, 11:50 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boerderij_Kabouter
On a quick and dirty estimate, I would say the parts for this assembly would cost about $176 before shipping. So say $190 in hand unless you are super fortunate to have a big electric supply house near you. Then if you know how to assemble a rheostat in line with a SSR with a pigtail override, a couple switches, and a breadboard and you have the 4ish hours this would likely take to assemblew the first time, then yes you can save $60-80. This kind of thing makes an awesome project and you save money.

The question posited in this thread was why these things and similar items are so expensive. It is because the people making them aren't doing it for charity. The guy assembling this isn't getting rich. You can save money doing it yourself, but have no illusions of making this same setup for $50.

To your other question, you do not need a controller. It would be best to know the size of your batches and size the element accordingly. That way you could be pretty much assured you will not have to much evaporation. The control you posted just gives you flexibility and a higher degree of output power to the element.
Thanks, part of the questIon was about the components involved... And this answers it nicely...
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Old 12-02-2011, 02:04 AM   #18
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What 120v element did you buy?
I bought it at Canadian Tire but finding it online is harder than I'd have thought!?!

GSW # 86117A

GSW Parts Catalog - which has basically no info.

It has a screw-in flange with 1" NPS threading. I went to the electrical section of Home Hardware where I picked up a conduit lockring that fit perfectly. I may end up with corrosion at the junction of these metals, but maybe if I keep them dry when not in use they'll be ok for a bit.

I followed a few threads here on HBT and glued an ABS piece to the element so I could build a protective case around the wiring. I drilled a hole through the ABS and mounted a bolt with a few nuts so I could connect the groundwire from the power cable (ripped out of a power bar) on the inside, then I ran a wire from the outer bolt of this ground rod and clamped it to the handle of the pot. The element touches the pot so it, too, is grounded. I checked for continuity from the ground prong to the element and it's good.

Finally, the power cord is connected through a GFCI just in case.

I figure I'll do pretty well the same thing in the BK but x 2. So now I'm reading how to build a controller to plug all of these in.

I'm hoping P-J steps in with a word or two of advice at some point.

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Old 12-02-2011, 02:10 AM   #19
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Go to The Electric Brewery, spend around 1200 on parts, spend a couple of weeks assembling a control panel as outlined on the website and you'll end up with a bullet proof control panel that will look great and work even better.

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Old 12-02-2011, 02:52 PM   #20
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Quote:
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My guess is that by the time you build it yourself you will save $50.
for $295, this is what i see in the box...

$5 enclosure
$4 fan
$2 perf board and resistors/caps
$1 potentiometer
$10-15 for what looks like a contactor or relay of some sort
$2-6 for the power FET or whatever that is on the heatsink
$3 heatsink
$10 for the receptical
$10 for the wire+plug

thats a total of $47, not including shipping, but thats also being generous. if i was making 50 or 100 of these, i could get the materials for closer to $30. charging $248, or 525% of materials cost, just for assembly is... ballsy.

edit- forgot to count the top of the box, so add $5-10 for the switches and other receptical.
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