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tpgsr 01-12-2010 03:08 AM

HELP: Walk-in Cooler Build (updated plans post #24 Thanks HBT!)
Evening all,
I am in the process of purchasing a new home, and I have already begun my RIMS system build to be able to produce qty's of beer. My wife and I are pretty excited to buy a house with a good size basement where we can build a full bar / entertainment room. A big part of this build to me is going to be a walk-in cooler. I have wanted one since I was 18, and now I finally have the means and space to construct one. I priced out purchasing an 8'x8' but it was upwards of $4,000.

I decided that I should google "DIY walk-in cooler" and to my surprise HBT was the first link that came up. Specifically John Beere's build. Now that I have read all of that, and all of the other subsequent builds similar to it, I feel that I have a great starting point to work from.

Here is what I have thus far:
- I will be getting my hands on a 10,000 BTU Air Conditioner to use.

- The room will be framed with 2x6 pressure treated wood, and will have a floor built the same (maybe 2x4 on the floor... not sure)

- I live in Buffalo NY where it gets very cold in the winter, so I prototyped, built, and tested a control panel that allows two temp controllers to measure the cooler temperature and the outside temperature. It determines if the cooler needs to be cooled, and if so it will determine if the temperature outside is sufficient to directly pull filtered air, or if it needs to use the AC unit to achieve the desired temperature.

- I have decided that I do not want just a cooler, but also a freezer built inside the cooler.

- I want the total interior space to be 8'x8' or 7'x7' I will have to look at the space that I have available after we settle on a specific property.

Ok, enough blah blah blah background, here are the questions:

If I place a freezer inside the cooler, I will obviously want the AC to be inside of that space. Should I just place a baffled fan on the freezer wall to blow freezer air into the cooler when the temp control in the cooler demands it? Also if that is the case, and the outside air is cold enough to maintain the cooler and not the freezer, should I just pull outside air into the cooler instead of running the ac? Here is a crappy drawing of what I mean:


My biggest concern is the insulation. I can wire a factory to make it automatically, but I have no idea what I am doing with R-Values or what types would be best suited to this application. My boss suggested using the foam sheets nailed to the outside then spray foam to fill between all of the studs then more foam board on the inside (moisture proof stuff). I am not sure if this is the best way to go to achieve a superior R-value. This setup will be in a basement and will have two walls up against the foundation. I will frame out these walls but I am concerned with moisture on my insulation creating mildew.

Any suggestions on how I should approach insulating this thing? Floor, Ceiling and Walls will all have to be taken into account. The actual floor will be tiled or vinyl, most likely tile over a backerboard made for bathrooms. The insulation will have to go under that.

This is all I have for now, I am sure that I will be adding more as this is even more daunting than my RIMS build.

killian 01-12-2010 03:23 AM

I have never seen a build with a freezer, interesting.This looks like it will be nice!

tpgsr 01-12-2010 03:49 AM

Posts from one of my forums, they are relevant so I figured I would cross post them.


Originally Posted by travisn
I would always run the AC. it will draw any moisture out of the air, just make sure the drain is to someplace out side of the room though.

also, walk-ins typically have that fiberglass type of covering on the walls, I am sure sheets like that glued to the walls (think bath tub surround) will keep any extra moisture at bay off of the interior walls/wood.


Originally Posted by tpgsr
I plan on using the white sheets as the final layer on the walls. They will be white painted aluminum, and the seams will be sealed with silicone.

Good point on the Moisture in the air, would running a dehumidifier be a good solution to that? I mean, I am trying not to run the AC all of the time, I guess that a dehumidifier is just as bad though. The goal is to get the R-value up high enough so that the BTU loss per hour is very minimal and I will have the AC running very infrequently. The less the AC runs, the less this will cost me per year. I would like to get this to like $20-$30 operating cost per year. (I didn't get that out of thin air.. a guy with a 8'x6' room metered his usage and noticed a total cost of $24/ year)


Originally Posted by travisn
a dehumidifier would be exactly the same thing (basically) except it doesnt have a fan to move the cold air, just a coil that pulls the moisture out of the surrounding air. I would use a dehumidifier only if its usage is less than the usage+more cold air benefit of the ac unit.

if you are really doing the logistics on this for energy use, will spending 50-100 on a dehumidifier+ its running costs offset what you would save by running the AC a little less? plus cost/hassle of plumbing the drain (and taking up more of your 64 sq feet) for the dehumidifier too, im sure you wont want to remember to drain the reservoir every so often


Originally Posted by tpgsr
True. My other concern was running the AC with temperatures outside in the 10 deg. range. I will be blowing intermittent warm air over the coils to keep them from freezing up, but I am for some reason thinking that the freezing air outside will cause issues with the unit... Am I wrong?

The software that I am using to design this is super cool.... Chief Architect


Mista_Sparkle 01-12-2010 03:52 AM

Its a neat idea, thats for sure.

What kind of AC unit will you be using? I would be surprised if a standard wall unit will get that cold even with a temp contorller hack

tpgsr 01-12-2010 03:55 AM

I want to use a standard unit, but if after wiring it up it fails to get to my desired temp, I will use it to keep the bar at a comfortable level and go out and buy a real chilling unit.

tpgsr 01-12-2010 01:48 PM

More cross posts as there is a lot of good information flowing on my board.


Originally Posted by LAFENGAS
Just a quick word of advice...if you're only doing it yourself to save money, you'll likely find out that will end up costing you more by the time you factor everything in that you didn't think of at first.

DIYing for self satisfaction is a different story though.

My biggest concern with a DIY build on a freezer/cooler would be moisture control. Not the humidity, but long term leaks that get past the walls and floor and now into your furnished basement.

I am doing it for both reasons. I have read and followed several builds of walk in coolers as DIY and all of them came in right around $1000 dollars. Mine will probably be more based on the fact that I am attempting to place a freezer into the space. I am not too worried if I go over budget, but I really do not want to buy a commercial solution if I can build something comparable myself. I like building things. I will also be sealing up all joints and using adhesive where possible instead of nails. That will help keep the two environments safe. There will be a few areas where conduit has to pass through the walls and I will be sealing those areas up with foam. I have to look into the best means of sealing everything because a leak into my finished basement would be devastating. I would cry if I had to throw out furniture due to mildew.


Originally Posted by 97FormulaWS-6
For Insulation, I'd suggest the spray-in stuff that one of the guys here used in his upper bedroom he did. That way it will seal up any/all air paths and block any leaks as well as providing a great thermal barrier.

My boss suggested the spray in foam, but there are lots of different types. That is what I was looking for from here is what type would be the best to use. Open cell, closed cell etc... I was looking at getting something like this to use: http://www.fomofoam.com/HVAC.htm


Originally Posted by JayS
A few things...

1. I thought air was the enemy with grain storage, not temperature? If so your fresh air cooling is probably going to be a bad idea. You might be better off investing in a decent vacuum sealer and just storing the grain in an unrefrigerated section of your basement.

2. I'm pretty sure any window AC unit you buy is going to ice up if you try to run it in the winter. The way they are designed to just drip the water they pull from the air will likely build up ice in a hurry when it's < 20 degrees outside.

3. I second the idea of 2x6 with R30 fiberglass.

4. I would put both your AC and outside air intakes inside the freezer. Then your two temp controllers can work to keep both areas the proper temp by always pulling the coldest air in through the freezer.

5. You'll probably need more than just a fan to separate the freezer and fridge sections. I think a fan alone will leak too much air and you'll find that your fridge section turns into a freezer. An servo activated baffle door would solve this issue.

6. Like Lafengas said, the 4k for the pre-made one will probably end up being cheaper and better.

1) Air and temperature. They will be in sealed bags inside of the plastic containers. If I am pulling air from the outside directly with fans, it will make it's way through several filters before entering the cooler. I will probably have filters on the AC box as well to keep the air good. I mean we are dealing with food.

2) The icing up is a concern, and one solution that has been proven effective on other builds is to place a couple small fans blowing "warmer than freezing" air back over the coils to keep them from freezing up. I was also mentioned that this is running so infrequently after it is cooled inside that you can monitor it over the first cool down, and then not really have to worry about it freezing as it is not running long enough to build up much condensation. I will do some more research on this, as it may be a big sticking point.

3) Isn't R30 fiberglass really really thick? like thicker than 6"??

4) My concern is that if it is cold enough outside to keep the cooler cold, and not the freezer I will be wasting my energy running the AC to chill the freezer as the cooler is pulling it's air.

5) Everything will be baffled. I just put the fans in there for the concept, but the air will only go in one direction.

6) Better oh yeah, but I really do not need something that is overpriced for my uses. Industrial coolers are expensive as they are built for continual traffic. Mine will hardly ever see traffic and will not need to have the insane cooling power of the commercial units. If I can get my insulation to the same level as a commercial unit then I have nothing to worry about.


Originally Posted by travisn
also, I rescind what I said about the dehumidifier. I wasnt thinking the air conditioner would be in a separate 'room' away from the refrigerated section. maybe one is needed to keep that section at a desired humidity. the humidity in the freezer room wont be a problem really because its frozen.

and idk if you can get a pre-made unit with separate freezing and refrigeration sections. maybe a pre-built one with a hole cut in the side for a full-size stand up freezer to be glued/sealed into place? (you cant have it just inside the cooler because the coils on the back need fresh air circulation to release the heat it pulls from inside the freezer.)

When I worked in a kitchen, we had a massive cooler and the freezer was built in to one of the corners. I can not use that cooler as a design example because it had three 2 fan cooling units in the cooler section and one large 3 fan in the freezer section.

I would think that I could run a line from the dehumidifier to the same drain that the ac line is going to be run to. For clarification on the freezing of the drain line on the AC, the pan and the drain line will be wrapped with a heat trace wire up to the point where it goes through the insulation and into the external drain.

Keep the feedback coming, This is getting me thinking a lot! Seems that this project is going to be quite the undertaking.... I wonder how long this will take to build out and get working 100%

tonkota 01-12-2010 10:39 PM

Polyisocyanurate would work very well for you. But I worry about the wood studs being the short circuit in this application. A continuous run of insulation board on the inside would help more than you could imagine. A 2x8 has an R-value of about 1. Not a huge deal if they are spaced 24" O.C., but this will detract from the assembly R-value.

6" Polyisocyanurate is about R-43.

The floor would also need to be isolated.

GVH_Dan 01-13-2010 04:26 AM

Without reading much more than your first post, here are my thoughts/advice:

- You are going to want a vapor barrier that surrounds the entire outside (walls, floors, and ceiling) of the walk-in. It should go outside of the insulation to prevent moisture from being pulled into the insulation and causing it to degrade.

- You will also want a minimum of R-20 maybe more if you do the freezer to keep the outside surface warm enough to prevent condensation on the outside of the vapor barrier. That water will cause mold to grow in your walls.

- With the addition of the freezer, you make it considerably more complicated. You could provide all the cooling in the freezer and simply leak the air into the cooler as needed to keep it cool. That is how your refrigerator works. But with the circulation of the air, you could end up with smells from your cooler permeating food in the freezer. Additionally, a simple AC unit will no longer work. Once your evaporator temperature drops below freezing, you have to be able to defrost the coil. A simple A/C unit can't do that on its own.

- Using outside air can also provide complications. It must be heavily filtered or you could get odors from outside in. Additionally, look at the fan power you are using and compare it to the compressor power you are saving. You'll find they may be quite close.

bonsai4tim 01-13-2010 11:04 AM

Sounds like putting a cheap upright freezer inside the walk in cooler would be easier.


GVH_Dan 01-13-2010 12:11 PM

Careful with that idea too. Many refrigerator/freezer manufactures don't want their units running in an environment that is too cold. That said, my beer fridge has lasted through many cold Wisconsin winters out in my garage and is still humming along.

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