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Old 12-16-2008, 02:11 AM   #1
GranillaNutz
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Default lighting dimmers for element control?

haven't tested it yet but shouldn't a 2000 watt lighting dimmer be able to control the wattage of a 2000 watt heating element? they seem readily available at your local electrical supply house... and being that the element isnt' a motor, the dimmer should be able to control the wattage, i.e. control the temp of a heating element right? i've gotta few laying around so i guess i'll give it a shot... haven't seen anybody use one yet... 2000 watt is about the highest i've seen without going with something more industrial... if it works i will lay it out for yall

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Old 12-16-2008, 02:30 AM   #2
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It has been discussed... It really isn't practical though. Have never been able to find a dimmer that is over 2000W, and these would be more expensive than a PID and SSR.

The problem is that in a BK you would need to run ULWD elements and I cannot find many under 3500W. Also, in a BK you would need at least (3) 2000w elements to boil the wort. (3) elements, three dimmers... ($280 MIN) would be cheaper and less hassle to use one element, one PID and one SSR. ($100)

EDIT: I presume that the dimmer is single pole? So you are looking at 120v service, at 16.7A for each element... to run a BK you would have to draw about 51A with three elements, compared to 23A with a single 240VAC 5500W element. The 2000W dimmers that I have seen are anywhere from $80-$400... much more expensive than a simple PID/SSR combo.

Try it out though!

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Old 12-16-2008, 02:48 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by The Pol View Post
...Also, in a BK you would need at least (3) 2000w elements to boil the wort.
What makes you say one needs 6,000 watts to boil wort. I get a boil off rate of right at 1 gallon per hour which equates to 2,500 watts neglecting heat losses through the walls of my boil kettle. I haven't bothered to calculate that heat loss yet but I would be shocked to my core to find it greater than the energy required to continuously boil the wort.
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Old 12-16-2008, 02:52 AM   #4
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ya, you don't need 6kW to boil. It may take a bit to bring it to a boil, but thats up to the person making it and how long they want to wait. My 3.8kW element works very well.

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Old 12-16-2008, 02:52 AM   #5
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How much heat do you apply to reach the boil?

You can maintain a boil with less, but how long are you going to wait to boil it?

Still, a single dimmer costs as much as a PID, SSR, Heatsink... and it allows you to use more than 2000W

Also, you could not run a 2000W element in a BK, it will scorch the wort because they are not ULWD. So, again, you cant use it in there, will cost more, will take forever to reach a boil...

It will take 40 minutes to get 7.4 gallons to a boil, but then again... if it isnt ULDW, you will start scorching the wort, so it doesnt matter much.

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Old 12-16-2008, 02:52 AM   #6
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i have seen a rolling boil for 5 gallons accomplished in 20 minutes with 2 1500 watt elements... only on a youtube video... if it's bs or not, i dunno... but as far as price for dimmers goes... for me that's not an issue... 2000 watts at 120 is round 16 amps so each switch would need it's own 20 amp circuit. (also not a problem)... i just had a coupld of 120 element's layin round... no 220's tho... i will give it a try anyway and see how long it takes and to what temp it comes to. if it's not satisfactory i will bite the bullet and actually "buy" a couple of 220 elements and controllers for it. just wondering if the lighting dimmers have been done.

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Old 12-16-2008, 02:55 AM   #7
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sorry about this question pol, i'm ignorant of ULWD. could u explain plz?

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Old 12-16-2008, 02:56 AM   #8
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You can reach a boil with (2) 1500W elements in 20 minutes, that is absolutely possible...

ULWD is ultra low watt density... about 50W per square inch of surface area. If you use a standard heating element in a BK, it will have about 150W per square inch of surface area and will scorch the sugars in the wort.

Okay, enough black and white reading if my posts... I know it doesnt take 6000W to reach a boil fellas, cmon. But, if you are going to the trouble to source parts for something like this, it might as well be practical, and 6000W is practical... 4000W is toward the lower end of practical... 2000W is a little impractical. IMHO

Dimmers have not been done, for the reasons I listed. I am in the middle of converting my HERMS to all electric as well, been through all sorts of crazy ideas.

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Old 12-16-2008, 03:03 AM   #9
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makes sense... you obviously have more experience in this than me. i appreciate your input. moreover i appreciate you helping me put the safety back on before i shoot in the dark

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Old 12-16-2008, 03:04 AM   #10
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And dimmers are usually the exact same thing as the element. Resistance. And all that heat when you tune the dimmer down has to go somewhere. I'd think there would be a hell of a heatsink on a 2000W dimmer.

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