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Old 06-20-2011, 03:28 AM   #1
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Default Haier wine fridge fermentation chamber

I've had a Haier BC112G 30 bottle wine fridge in my basement, largely unused for a couple of years now as the wine has moved into a larger cabinet. I started using it as a fermentation chamber a few brews ago since it can accomodate any of my fermentation vessels (6 & 5 gallon better bottles, 5 gallon glass carboy, and 6 gallon bucket.)

Until today, I've just been using the internal thermostat (cooling only) to maintain a temperature within about 3ºF of the target. This is great for many of the beers I brew, but since my basement is only ~60-65ºF this time of year, I couldn't hold a higher temperature. What's more, as this is a wine cooler, the lowest setpoint I could achieve with the built in thermometer was 45ºF (again +/- 3ºF), so it wasn't well suited for cold crashing, laggering, etc.

As you will see in the photos below, I made a few modifications today to bypass the internal thermostat (as well as the built in control panel), and installed a heating element in the form of a brew belt in the bottom of the chamber. Both the heating element and the fridge compressor are now controlled by a Love controller that I built into a project box.

Finished Product with 5 gallon better bottle as an example. A 6 gallon bottle fits as well, by placing it on the lower 'shelf' and wrapping the brew belt around the wood:


Probe (through drain) and brew belt (through new hole):


Removed the control circuit and hot wired the compressor (see little red jumper cable), ensuring that whenever the unit has power, the compressor is running.



Back pannel view. See the compressor jumper on the left, temp probe inserted in the drain hole in the middle, and the brew belt (not yet wired in) inserted through the new hole on the right:



After these photos were taken I finished securing and sealing all the wiring connections with wire nuts, electrical tape, etc where needed. I also used silicone caulk on the hole that I drilled for the brew belt cord, to protect the insulation from condensation.

You can definitely get more bang for your buck with an old full sized fridge or the like as a fermentation chamber, but if you happen to have one of these Haier units laying around like I did, or see one on Craigslist for a few bucks, this may be useful for you. It fits many types of fermentors, and is relatively compact for those of you with small places.

I've got it running at 70ºF right now in order to help the silicone caulking set. It's been holding a perfect temperature for several hours now. If I warm the chamber up artificially, it cools down via the compressor to the target setpoint very quickly. Warming it up with the brewbelt takes a little longer, but I found it was able to gain 10ºF in air temp inside the chamber in just over 10 minutes.

I'll be running it 'dry' (without beer) for a few more days, just to ensure that I didn't mess anything up, but so far it is working great.All things considered, I'm very happy with how it turned out. I took care while working on this project to ensure that every step is easily reversible, so that if I need extra wine storage capacity in the future (and have another, fermentation option) I can just plug the controller board back in and I'm all set.

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Old 06-20-2011, 05:09 PM   #2
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As a test I've cranked the setpoint up on the Love controller to 80ºF, and the brew belt has proven to have more than enough heating power to do the job.

I also dropped the sent point down to 30ºF last night and as expected the air temp in the chamber dropped very quickly.

It'll be interesting to see how long it takes to adjust the temperature of the beer (so much more thermal mass), especially with heating, but I don't expect any problems. I'm extremely pleased with how it is performing for both heating and cooling, and am really looking forward to getting the next batch of beer in there now that I have total control over my fermentation temperature.

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Old 06-20-2011, 06:28 PM   #3
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you know, i was wondering about this same exact thing. don't they have external temp controls as well?

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Old 06-20-2011, 07:33 PM   #4
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They do have a fairly advanced built in temperature controller, yes. You can see in the upper right of the first photo I posted, where the (now bypassed) control mechanism and display is. The problem is, they were designed specifically to be a wine storage cabinet so the thermostat operates in three modes:

  • Red Wine - Auto Range 55-60ºF (+/- 3ºF)
  • White Wine - Auto Range 50-55ºF (+/- 3ºF)
  • Custom - Where you can set any specific temp from 45-65ºF (+/- 3ºF)

For many needs this internal controller is just fine. I just wanted a finer temperature control (I am getting +/- 1ºF now), wider temperature range, and the ability to heat as well as cool since this unit lives in my basement.
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Old 06-23-2011, 05:09 PM   #5
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Several days on now and this thing is working great. I did notice (as is to be expected) that running it empty created a lot of cycling of both the heating and cooling cycles. I have my Love controller differential set to only 1ºF, and without anything in the chamber to add to the thermal mass, it would cool down to just below the set point and then the heater would kick on, raising the temp to just above the set point, and repeat.

I've added a 5 gallon bottle full of water to increase the thermal mass and it is much more steady now, with fewer cycles. I can't wait to get a batch of beer in there this weekend!

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Old 06-23-2011, 05:13 PM   #6
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Do you mind resizing your pictures to like 500 X 600 pixels or so, so we can read your interesting info without having to scroll left and right?

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Old 06-23-2011, 05:23 PM   #7
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Done! Sorry about that.

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Old 07-23-2011, 11:03 AM   #8
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Awesome! I live in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment, so there is no room for an extra beer fridge. Tired of messing with the swamp cooler, plus SWMBO hates that thing. A wine fridge would be perfect to control ferm temps in my little apartment, and be "pretty enough" to pass the SWMBO test.

Off to craigslist....

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Old 08-25-2012, 03:05 PM   #9
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Default Drop the temp on Haier BC112G

Fall-Line, I also have an Haier BC112G and want to convert it to a beer cooler by by-passing the thermostat and installing a lower temp t'stat. Which wires did you jump for the compressor to run continuously?

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Old 08-25-2012, 05:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OnTheRocks View Post
Fall-Line, I also have an Haier BC112G and want to convert it to a beer cooler by by-passing the thermostat and installing a lower temp t'stat. Which wires did you jump for the compressor to run continuously?
I would think most of these are the same. You will see one of the connectors has three wires. One should be a ground, and the other two should be the two ends of the switch. By jumpering the two wires (probably both white), you bypass the switch. The ground is still the ground, but the compressor (motor) gets power constant.
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