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Old 12-04-2011, 07:09 PM   #1
barhoc11
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Default DIY Heated Fermentation Chamber

With the Michigan winter creeping in, I knew that I needed to do something to replace my makeshift fermentation setup that involves a bathtub and a space heater. The heater keeps the bathtub warmer than the rest of the house relatively well but it isn't very energy efficient and looks stupid when guests come over. My basement gets pretty cool in the winter and stays within ale temperatures even in the summer so I decided I could get away with only heating and not cooling in this setup.

I figure my costs of this are relatively cheap and should pay for itself over time. Below are my costs and estimate costs once I have my 2 stage temp controller working. I did not include the false bottom costs since I already had the material and it is not absolutely necessary since you could tape the heat cable to the walls of the chamber if you wanted.

-R7.5 (1.5 inch thick) Foam Board 4'x8' = $20
-2 tubes of Liquid Nails (already had on hand)= $0 (around $5 if you have to buy)
-23' of 50 watt ZooMed Reptile Heated Cable = $15 (on clearance)
-2 stage Temperature Controller = $40 (to be built)

My Process:

The foam board I bought was already perforated to be easily divided into two 2' x 8' so I decided to keep all of my dimensions based on a 2' footprint.

I cut all of my foam sections as follows...
Top and Bottom - 24"x24"
Front and Back - 24"x28"
Sides - 24"x31"

I then glued the heck out of this when connecting the sections and used some duct tape to hold sections together until glue was dry enough (about a day)

To give the lid a little better fit when it is in place I added some of the extra foam across the top so that the lid would sit more flush and be a little more efficient.

Once I had the foam box done, I decided to make a false bottom out of some scrap I had and wind the heating cable underneath so that the heat would rise up. I made some swiss cheese like holes so that the heat would have less resistance against the wood.


When inserted into the fermentation chamber, it looks like this and I can actually fit 2 carboys if needed with blow off vessels. After I took this picture I added some weatherstripping to the top to help seal it a bit better when the lid is on...


Here is a picture from the outside, nothing fancy but shows the way my sections are attached to each other...


Performance:

The box heats up relatively fast, about 10 degrees in 10 minutes and holds heat pretty well.

I plan to add some weight to the lid to hold it more tight to the other sections and also cover the top with a thick blanket to hold as much heat as possible.

Either way, this is going to save energy and some bathroom space, hopefully some of you can get something out of this. Let me know if you have any questions!

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Old 12-04-2011, 10:29 PM   #2
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Is it controlled with a thermostat?

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Old 12-04-2011, 10:32 PM   #3
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Is it controlled with a thermostat?
It will be once I get my aquarium temperature controller I ordered on ebay. It should work perfect for keeping beer up to temperature in my cold basement.
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Old 12-05-2011, 12:31 AM   #4
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Looks like it should work well.

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Old 12-05-2011, 12:43 AM   #5
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interesting idea, thanks for posting it!

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Old 12-05-2011, 12:44 AM   #6
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Looks like it should work. I use this stuff which puts the heat directly into the carboy (it gets wrapped around them). Less chance of overshooting due to heating all of the air in the chamber. I can't remember where I got (stole) the idea from, but I'm surprised these aren't used more often. I just got a second one so I can ferment 10 gallon batches in two 6 gallon carboys in my chamber.

11" Flexwatt Heat Tape

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Old 12-05-2011, 02:16 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevink View Post
Looks like it should work. I use this stuff which puts the heat directly into the carboy (it gets wrapped around them). Less chance of overshooting due to heating all of the air in the chamber. I can't remember where I got (stole) the idea from, but I'm surprised these aren't used more often. I just got a second one so I can ferment 10 gallon batches in two 6 gallon carboys in my chamber.

11" Flexwatt Heat Tape
That is like Ferm Wrap a lot of people use, it would work but for the cost I wanted to have a chamber I could just place a couple carboy's in and not have to worry about trying to fit a sleeve around.

I imagine that people who use those still wrap the carboy's and buckets in something to keep the heat in?

I thought about a few different options but I just thought it was easier and cheaper to do what I did.
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Old 12-12-2011, 01:47 AM   #8
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I wanted to update this with the potential energy savings I should get using this new heated fermentation chamber versus my current 'space heater in a bathtub' method.

Over the past week I have been tracking my KWH (electricity usage) with a Kill a watt energy meter.

I used about 15.5 KWH over the past 7 days and my cost per KWH is $0.1212 so for a week it cost me $1.88 just in electricity.

I estimated this to cost me about $8.45 a month ($1.88 x 4.5 (weeks in a month)).

With my new setup I feel that the 50 watt heater will not run nearly as much since it is insulated pretty well. Even if I ran the new heater all day long I would use about half as less energy (about 8.4 KWH per week).

I really think that the new setup will actually only be running maybe 12 hours MAX each day but I will monitor this setup as well once I get my temperature controller in the mail and hooked up. If my walls are insulated well enough, I hope to only run around 6 hours per day.

Using this setup I think I will easily save $6 - $8 per month so this will eventually pay for itself and save some energy in the process. Since this is mainly going to be used in the winter (about 6 months in Michigan), I will recoup my costs in less than 2 years using this each winter. Also, my results have been during days that were not as cold as it will get during the really cold days in January/February.

I will update once I have some real stats using the actual chamber. Hopefully this helps some of you who are debating on making something similar.

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Old 12-12-2011, 01:53 AM   #9
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curious at the total cost including electrical usage compared to the 40 watt incandescent light I use with my buckets. (and no, I have never experienced light struck on my extremely hoppy brews)

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Old 12-12-2011, 01:58 AM   #10
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curious at the total cost including electrical usage compared to the 40 watt incandescent light I use with my buckets. (and no, I have never experienced light struck on my extremely hoppy brews)
I am sure it would be similar to my 50 watt setup with the heat rope but I have mine spread out under the false bottom so it might be a little different because the heat is coming from a smaller source and would need more time to run to get the chamber up to temperature.

That is just a guess but I doubt it would be much different. I am not sure if you have tested yours out but my chamber generally heats up 10 degrees in 10 minutes if that helps. I could try a bulb in mine to see if it heats up as fast.
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