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Old 10-05-2009, 04:11 PM   #1
switters
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Default Controlling temp in a poorly insulated house

I've read through many of the temperature control threads here and elsewhere. Most of them are focused on how to lower the fermentation temperature of ales in the summer. I live in the SF Bay Area in a poorly insulated house, and as we move into Fall the temps are dropping into the 40sF at night outside and into the low-50sF inside.

The only space I have for the fermentation equipment is in a completely uninsulated basement. At this time of year temps could get as high as 80F during the day in there and as low as 45F at night. That is a large range.

How do I regulate temps in an environment that might be both too hot and too cold? I'd like to hear your thoughts on the best way to do that, keeping the following in mind:

1. My funds are limited
2. I'm not the handiest guy, i.e. I lack the skills to build a super-deluxe fermentation chamber.

For heating I've seen the FermWrap heater recommended on another site. This kit on Northern Brewer looks like it might work. Problem is this doesn't help if it gets too hot in the basement in the middle of the day. It's also a bit more than I want to spend.

Thanks for any ideas you have.

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Old 10-05-2009, 04:18 PM   #2
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For evening out your temps, I recommend lots of water. The more the better. Get a large Rubbermaid container and put your carboy/bucket in that. Fill it up with water until just below the level of the wort inside. This will lessen the wild temperature swings. For chilling, you can put ice in the water. For heating, you could possibly use an aquarium heater in the water, depending on how much heat you need.

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Old 10-05-2009, 04:29 PM   #3
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a) your BASEMENT doesn't swing 40 degrees, so don't panic. Also, look into getting a brew belt if you want nice healthy ale temperatures (though I do not recommend using on glass carboys----waiver).

b) yes, I second the tupperware tub with water (you can 'wick' a t-shirt--cotton--over your ferm. container into the water also). That's my lagering unit until I get my freezer setup.

Good luck! And hey you can do some good California Commons/Steams!

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Old 10-05-2009, 04:29 PM   #4
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A cooler+aquarium heater is usually able to maintain close to a 70F temp, with your carboy/fermenter plopped in. Mine was about $20 and can be dialed down to about 68F in my setup.

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Old 10-05-2009, 04:29 PM   #5
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you could use this guy for inspiration.




Sorry, I just wanted to be able to use this image


On a serious not, get a large tote, fill with 1/2 - 3/4 water, place a aquarium heater in that goes down to 65. They are keep the water within 1 degree all day long. It is hard to believe that a basement would get to 80 during the winter in San Francisco.

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Old 10-05-2009, 04:30 PM   #6
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It's amazing how much the temperature swings are between San Diego and San Francisco. San Diego doesn't have too much of that problem, however it does have a tendency to get to about 40F in the winder at night, which is why I put together a fermentation chamber in the garage. I'm really not sure how well those temps can be evened out without one. All you'd really need is a cooling unit with the insulated chamber, as the insulation would help to keep it a certain temperature at night when the outside temp drops, and in the day it would kick on when needed.

But on low funds, do what those above said. Otherwise, you could probably find a small fridge on craigslist for about $30 and the insulation (for 2" thick) is $24 for a 4x8 foot sheet. You could possibly do it for $50 or less, holding it together with duct tape, if you found a good enough deal on the fridge.

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Old 10-05-2009, 04:32 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nebben View Post
A cooler+aquarium heater is usually able to maintain close to a 70F temp, with your carboy/fermenter plopped in. Mine was about $20 and can be dialed down to about 68F in my setup.
Yep, that's what I do. A water bath, with a floating thermometer. It minimizes fluctuations since the water insulates so well. It takes a LONG time for the beer and the water to change temperature! I use frozen water bottles to make lagers and an aquarium heater for ales. It works great! I can maintain temps in my basement for fermenters from 34 degrees up to 72 degrees that way!
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Old 10-05-2009, 04:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YooperBrew View Post
Yep, that's what I do. A water bath, with a floating thermometer. It minimizes fluctuations since the water insulates so well. It takes a LONG time for the beer and the water to change temperature! I use frozen water bottles to make lagers and an aquarium heater for ales. It works great! I can maintain temps in my basement for fermenters from 34 degrees up to 72 degrees that way!
Okay, this seems do-able. So I get a large Rubbermaid container and fill it with water, then put the carboy in. During the day, if the temp gets too high (which it probably won't at this time of year, but...) I put in frozen water bottles to bring the temp down. At night, before I go to sleep, I turn on the aquarium heater and set it to 68 or something?

And it's possible to do lagers this way? Cool! How many times a day do you need to put new frozen water bottles in when you're doing a lager?
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Old 10-05-2009, 04:46 PM   #9
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This thread popped up at the perfect time. I just started looking into how to heat my fermenter! Big tote and an aquarium heater sounds like the perfect solution for my situation.

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Old 10-05-2009, 04:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by switters View Post
Okay, this seems do-able. So I get a large Rubbermaid container and fill it with water, then put the carboy in. During the day, if the temp gets too high (which it probably won't at this time of year, but...) I put in frozen water bottles to bring the temp down. At night, before I go to sleep, I turn on the aquarium heater and set it to 68 or something?
The key is to find a aquarium heater that goes as low as possible. I found it hard to find ones where the dial went below 68. I found one that went down to 65 but is at home and can't remember what it is right now.
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