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Old 12-24-2011, 10:21 PM   #1
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Default Fridgenstein Side-By-Side Kegerator / Fermentation chamber

FRIDGENSTEIN


Synopsis: I'll show you how I took a craigslist refrigerator and turned it into a rockin side-by-side kegerator and fermentation chamber using some inexpensive controllers, a little bit of know-how, and a whole lotta elbow grease.

You need to be comfortable with things that can cut plastic and metal, and you have to be comfortable with wiring electronics. It's basic and not hard to learn, but this might be a bit confusing if this project is your learning material. Above all, be patient and plan it through. Know what you're going to do before cutting.

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I've been working on this build for the last couple months, and though it's not 100% done, it's 100% functional. I got most of my information and inspiration from three threads:
Side-by-Side Kegerator/Fermentation Chamber, by Forbein11
Sibe By Side kegerator/fermenting chamber conversion, by rtrevino
ebay aquarium temp controller build, by android

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Here's a "Done" version of fridgenstein so reading this thread is worthwhile



First things first... locating the fridge. Do your research. I think both Forbein and rtrevino both have Frigidaire side-by-sides. I did some digging and found out that similar looking Kenmore fridges are made by the same manufacturer. The similarities are uncanny. I was willing to spend up to $100 on the fridge so I started visiting craigslist frequently. After a week or two, the fridge I wanted showed up in a listing. It had a bunch of broken shelves, so I talked the seller down to $50. It smelled like a bait shop. Don't worry - nothing a few applications of a good strong bleach solution can't take care of. I was told this one was about 10-11 years old, so roughly a 2000/2001 ANALOG controls model. Make sure it's analog that the controls are dials, not some kind of LCD+button display - it's vitally important.

What does the fridge look like? Well, I thought I had photos from the early parts of the build, but I don't after all. See the photos from the above threads. The inside of my fridge looked identical in every way. It will be easiest on you if you get something like the ones you're seeing here, though it's not impossible to set up your own controller rig.

Take it all apart: If a part could reasonably be unscrewed and taken off, I did. I used a strong bleach+vinegar solution (add 1oz of regular bleach to 5gallons of water, then add 1oz of white vinegar) to spray and wipe down every surface that was going to end up anywhere near the beer. This included removing the shelves, water filter, the control panel in the fridge, the wire racks, ice maker, the back sheet metal paneling in the freezer... everything. I got it all dripping wet with the bleach solution and let it air dry overnight. I did the same thing the next day with starsan. Only the necessary items made it back into the final fridge. It wasn't much.


Take note: One reason I took photos was to document what parts went where. Once you spend time around it you'll get more comfortable.

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Old 12-24-2011, 10:21 PM   #2
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Making a Mess: Remove the dispenser
Get rid of the ice/water dispenser, make a hole, etc.

On the inside of the door you need to remove the shell plastic surrounding the inset where you'd put your glass for water. You also want to remove the chute and anything else on the outside that might be in the way. Observe.



Using a box cutter utility knife score around the dispenser bump (inside the door) until you've cut it out. The foam is kinda glued to the plastic, so don't be surprised that it's not just falling off.



Remove all the foam - as flush as you can - and cut out a rectangular hole where the dispenser mechanism used to be





You might find it easier to remove the door and work on it horizontally. Whatever. I didn't (maybe I should have). You should know there are some wires up top that need disconnecting. Since I won't be needing them, I actually ripped them out - no need to have electricity in that door. Also - I had already ripped out all the water lines, so you may have to do that first if you haven't already.

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Old 12-24-2011, 10:22 PM   #3
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The Tap Door
There's now a big hole in the freezer door. Time to fill it. This is where the project got hairy. Buy some expanding foam from Home Depot, Lowes, wherever. It's often used for filling holes in walls around pipes, cracks, and filling gaps around window installations. Also buy some wood or plywood and cut it down to fill the dispenser area. I had to bevel and notch the inside so it would fit snugly. Play with it until it works. At this point, it might help to reinstall the door on the fridge.





This is the first of two pieces of wood you need. The other piece should be a relatively thin piece of plywood, hardwood, or even metal. I had some leftover plywood so I ran with it.

Now this is where I had minor regrets. Actually, it was inexperience with expanding foam. PUT NITRILE OR LATEX GLOVES ON. This stuff is so sticky you're going to wish you had gloves. It took a few days and a lot of scrubbing to get the hardened foam off my hands.

Hold that board in place and squirt some of the foam into the void. I would suggest just putting enough just around the seam. As it expands it will want to push your board out of the hold. Who cares about leakage - you just want that board flush with the door. I didn't do this (again - I didn't know any better) but I would just stop there until the foam has had some time to harden a little bit. I probably could/should have used some screws to affix the board to the ice maker compartment. That would have been a better idea. Read the directions - the stuff I bought suggested spraying a little bit of water to speed curing. The goal is to have that board attached and not falling out half-way through as the foam is expanding and putting pressure on. I may or may not know what that is like - i plead the fifth. Just go slow with the foam - a little bit at a time or you will be sorry. Have a spray bottle of water handy to help it cure. Be patient. This stuff will expand a LOT more than you think it will. Anyway... you've been warned.

Now that the whole area has been filled. Wait. There might be sticky foam inside the hardened shell. Try it out and maybe just come back to it tomorrow. RDWHAHB

Now. Trim it up. I told you it would be messy. Use whatever kind of cutting tools you think you need. I had one of those Japanese pull saws that worked pretty decently. Box cutters work surprisingly well - just score it and pull chunks off as needed.

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Old 12-24-2011, 10:23 PM   #4
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Making Holes

Now, it's time to make a template. Tape two pieces of paper together and do like you did in elementary school - lay the paper over the wood where you foamed it in place. Rub the side of a pencil or crayon to record where the various screw holes are and more importantly, where the wood is in relation. I know what you're thinking. It'll be handy later.
(This is taped here so I could photograph it).



On the paper I marked where the holes for the taps would go, plus where screw holes could go for securing the exterior piece of plywood.

Now measure out where you want your second piece of plywood to be placed on the door. It's the backsplash for the taps. There was some rust I wanted to cover, so I made mine a bit taller. Just take the dimensions and cut.

Next, you take that imprint you made earlier and affix it to the backsplash. Using something small and sharp make indentations through the paper and into the wood where you need to make drill holes. Remove the paper and drill just the screw holes at first. It will help if you counter-sink them, too. At this point it's probably more helpful to have the door horizontal. You know - gravity on your side. With the backsplash firmly attached to the wood in the door, line up a 7/8in spade bit for your taps and drill. Go all the way through the foam.




Using the same template, make a backing board for the inside of the fridge. It doesn't have to be big and it might take some foam shaving to get it to fit correctly.


Painting
I used Krylon chalkboard paint. for the backsplash. Just remove all the hardware and detach the backsplash for painting. In hindsight, I should have used a sanding sealer.. or something. By the way - make sure your wood is properly sanded and prepared first. I sanded, but had no sanding sealer. It took a few extra coats to get a uniform finish. Still cheaper, I guess. Follow the directions. It's easy.




Gas Line
You know where that water delivery chute was for the ice maker? Take it out - it just unscrews from the outside. This is where the low pressure line from your tank will come in.

Outside, going in:


Inside:
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Old 12-24-2011, 10:23 PM   #5
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Temp Controller Holes

We need to make some room in the fridge door for the 2 temperature controllers. Start by making a template with thin cardboard cutouts. I left enough room between the two for the bezel plus a little bit because you need a tiny bit of room between the two - clips and such need to fit. I don't recall exactly how far apart the holes are, but the overall height from the top of the upper hole to the bottom of the bottom hole was an easy fractional distance.


Do some measurements to make sure the bottom unit will be just above the door shelf, and the edge far enough in that you'll clear the rest of the door molding. Mark in pencil. Grab a dremmel. Be gentle, go slow, and cut inside the lines. That's actually kinda important. The bezels aren't very big, so your margin of error is a bit small. I had to make a few passes with the cutoff wheel to shave the edge down enough to where the controller just slipped in.




I put a drill bit through the corners into the door to find roughly where I needed to cut the fridge insides out to fit the temp controller



You don't need to get fancy with the notches like I tried. In the end you'll cut it all out anyway -the plastic is too thin and tends to tear. BUT you do need room for your fingers to fit in and disengage the clips.


This is what it will look like with the two installed
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Old 12-24-2011, 10:24 PM   #6
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Wiring

First things first. I'm not an electrician. If you're uncomfortable around electricity, find somebody who is. Always unplug the fridge from the wall before working on any of the wiring. Seriously. Also, label all the wires as you're doing cuts. It's easy to forget which is which. Finally pick up wiring that matches what's installed in your fridge - it should say somewhere along the length of wiring. Mine was 18AWG stranded.

Remove the whole control panel. There are a couple of screws. hold on to them. You should see something like this inside


These are the thermostats you're replacing


Side note - I left the actual thermostat/dials in even though they aren't hooked up to anything any more.

The green/yellow wire on the side is ground. There's nothing in the new system that you'll be hooking up to ground, so just remove it and tape it off or something. Your hot will probably be black. The other colors go to the defrost board. In my fridge orange was the freezer controller, and the purple/white was for the fridge. DON"T take the colors as gospel. yours could (probably will) be different. There was a diagram on the box containing the circuit board. Made it easy. You also need to know which wire is a plain neutral. If I remember correctly it was one of the wires coming off the light bulb.


Wiring Diagram
The wiring diagram isn't too hard, but it will take a bit of thought and planning. One you understand what needs to happen everything falls into place. This is the idea:
You want to take the hot lead and split it off to the main power supply for both controllers, to one terminal on the freezer size, and two terminals on the fridge side. Five total, if my math is correct. Doing this gives you power to each terminal so the next part makes sense. Remember - you are simply replacing the control dials (thermostats) and running the wires over to the new digital controllers. Simpler, once you think of it that way. I also think of the colored wires as specific neutral wires so I didn't get confused.

To control the freezer, run a wire between the orange (mine) freezer control coming out of the circuit board (was previously attached to the freezer thermostat), and send it over to the empty terminal on the freezer/cool controller.
Fridge cool control: Same idea - control board to the empty fridge/cool terminal.

Fridge/heat: A little bit trickier, but you need two lengths of wire that will give you enough slack to put your heating device (probably) in the bottom of the fridge. One of those wires will connect the controller (heat) to the heat source (I used a CERAMIC bulb base from HD with a ceramic reptile heater- 100W). The other wire goes from the other terminal on your heat source to the neutral wire back in your wire bundle. You remembered which one was neutral, right?




You need to run all these wires through a hole somehow. Make a hole.


And run all the wires through (this is a good time to make a hole in the center wall for you freezer probe)… run your probe wires, too. It might be helpful to organize all these same-colored wires with small zip ties. It keep everything neat and tidy.


Since you labeled all your wires it should be easy to connect them to the proper spot on the controllers. Put the retainer clips in place, and pack the empty spaces with styrofoam or some other kind of insulation.


See what I did there? "FG Control" is the wire that leads back to the fridge control wire.

It might be helpful to check to make sure everything is working before buttoning up all the way. I tested with a light bulb.


Here's my black IPA with the ceramic heater. I bought a 120VAC mushroom fan to keep the circulation going when the heat is on. If you do that, wire it in parallel with the heat lamp (make a Y-split off the two wires coming from the bundle and attach).


Making kit look nice
I wrapped the wires in some spiral-cut sheathing I picked up from… I don't remember. Home Depot has it. Fry's has it. It's common stuff. Cheap.

Done. Make some beer
Settings

Here are some suggested starting points on the settings. You may find you want something different.

Freezer:
F1: Cold. What's your preference
F2: 1.0C
F3: 10 (minutes)
F4: don't touch

Fridge:
F1: Depends on your yeast
F2: 0.5C
F3: 10 (minutes)
F4: don't touch
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Old 12-24-2011, 10:25 PM   #7
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FAQs

Why doesn't it turn on!?!? I'm going to freak out!!!
Chill. There's a compressor delay built into the controller. It will kick on after a few minutes. That's why that light is blinking - it's the compressor delay function. I wigged out at first before realizing why all the lights were on but nobody was home.

What do I do with the probes?
I insulate the probes with a piece of styrofoam, and tape it to the side of the carboy / keg. It gives you a better reading because you're not getting air temps.

My Fridge "cool" light is on (solid) but nothing is actually running
I figured that one out by accident. Apparently my refrigerator doesn't like to run a ton (again it doesn't know I've abused its internals). After running a while the fan turns off. As soon as I open the fridge door the fan kicks back in. This is actually something I plan on changing in the future. My next revision will involve me removing the damper completely, making a hole big enough for another mushroom fan, and just wiring it up directly to the hot/neutral and the controller - bypassing the fridge's blower fan altogether. Rtrevino did that. It's a great idea.

Why the reptile heater?
It makes heat and not light. Light can bad for beer. Can you make one of the contraptions with a paint can and an incandescent light (there's a thread)? Yup, but I didn't want to. This is a little more compact and there's zero chance of light getting on the beer unless I'm opening the door.

Temp Stability?
It's great. Like your refrigerator in the kitchen - it's well insulated.
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Old 12-24-2011, 11:29 PM   #8
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Great write-up.

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Old 12-24-2011, 11:48 PM   #9
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Thanks! Hopefully this fills in enough holes for people that they can do something similar.

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Old 12-26-2011, 04:57 AM   #10
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Nice job. I think that I'm also going to add a heating element on the right side so that I don't worry about the temp swing.

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