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Old 05-06-2009, 05:32 AM   #1
arturo7
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Default Propane or Electric

This summer, I hope to put together a system for all grain brewing. At this point I'm very early in the planning phase. What I have is two big aluminum pots in the 20-30 gallon range. (not sure of the exact size they are being donated by a friend)

The first question I need to answer is propane or electric? I am hoping HBT can help me with this decision.

Is it safe to use propane inside a garage or should this be done outside?
Do I need a 240v source for electric?
What about overall costs?
What are the other factors that I need to consider?

Thanks in advance,

Art

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Old 05-06-2009, 12:45 PM   #2
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I use propane inside a garage all the time, I just keep the door mostly open and the burner closer to the edge.

I don't know enough on electric to help but I would like to know the pro / con situation also since I am starting to go down the same road.

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Old 05-06-2009, 12:48 PM   #3
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A propane rig will be cheaper to build. Electric is better (IMO) if you want an automated system. Is that a design goal?

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Old 05-06-2009, 12:53 PM   #4
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I use propane in the garage, but unless you scoot way up towards the door, it gets pretty bad pretty quick. I keep a fan running, and I have an CO sensor that I take with me, just to be super safe. With electric, you don't always need 240 VAC to run the system, there are a few heating elements that run off 110.

Electric is usually going to be a more substantial initial investment. We're talking ~$180 per heating element unless you DIY it (which I do not recommend, unless you really know what you're doing with electrical equipment). Propane burners are $50-$150 each depending on the quality you want, but you can get a damn fine propane burner for $100. Just keep in mind that you'll have buy propane tanks if you don't already own a couple, and you'll have to pay to refill them. Propane seems to be the more expensive setup over a long period of time.

Personally, I'm still deciding between Blichmanns or Coolers, but I've got 6 months to plan my setup. Just be sure and post pics when you build yours! You know how we all love beer porn.

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Old 05-06-2009, 12:56 PM   #5
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+1 to Lil Sparky. I think it depends on your ultimate goals on which system is better. I will try a quick stab at pros and cons of each, but the list is by no means comprehensive, so if someone sees something blatantly wrong, please let me know.

Propane Pros:
-Cheaper to build
-Portable
-Open flames are always cool

Cons:
-Realizing you are out of propane before a brew day
-Keeping multiple propane tanks on hand
-ventilation if brewing indoors
-Cost of propane adds up over time

Electric Pros:
-Can automate
-Cheaper brewday (I think I say it cost about $1 in electricity for a brewday)
-Dont need extensive ventilation
-can brew indoors more redily

Cons:
-finding power source if you want to go 220V
-not as portable
-more complex=more things can go wrong
-Must make sure elements are covered at all times or it can be bad.

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Old 05-06-2009, 01:00 PM   #6
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To the cons list for electric, I would add that it's a PITA if you're using coolers. How many "OMFG the heating element melted my cooler!" threads have we had around here?

Other than that, good write up, my young Pro Vs. Con Padawan.

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Old 05-06-2009, 01:04 PM   #7
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Would you guys say noise is an issue with propane? I know when I'm blasting my kettle it sounds like a Fighter Jet is stuck in my garage with me.

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Old 05-06-2009, 01:08 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llazy_llama View Post
Electric is usually going to be a more substantial initial investment. We're talking ~$180 per heating element unless you DIY it (which I do not recommend, unless you really know what you're doing with electrical equipment). Propane burners are $50-$150 each depending on the quality you want, but you can get a damn fine propane burner for $100. Just keep in mind that you'll have buy propane tanks if you don't already own a couple, and you'll have to pay to refill them. Propane seems to be the more expensive setup over a long period of time.
I don't know how much heating elements cost, and I don't really know how much electricity they use over the course of a 10 gal brew day. Those are high wattage elements running for a few hours, so I'd guess a few bucks. That's about what I spend in propane. I can get between 2-3 brews out of a tank that costs $11 to refill (talking 10 gal batches here).

I'm guessing your $50-150 quote for propane burners is really for some kind of turkey fryer setup. My 3 burners + plumbing + regulator that I have on my stand only cost ~ $100 all together. Even if you wanted to have multiple turkey friers, you can usually find them for ~ $30 if you look around.

Anyway, I think propane is cheaper to build and about as cheap to operate over the long haul.
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Old 05-06-2009, 01:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Would you guys say noise is an issue with propane? I know when I'm blasting my kettle it sounds like a Fighter Jet is stuck in my garage with me.
Depends on what kind of burner you have. The ones I have are loud, too, but not all of them are.
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Old 05-06-2009, 01:12 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llazy_llama View Post
To the cons list for electric, I would add that it's a PITA if you're using coolers. How many "OMFG the heating element melted my cooler!" threads have we had around here?

Other than that, good write up, my young Pro Vs. Con Padawan.
FWIW, I use electic in coolers and have never had a problem. I actually think there is a PRO to coolers, they are more efficient at retaining heat. Which when you consider the low BTU output of electric elements in comparison with propane or NG, makes them attractive when dealing with electricity.

I have never read a post about an element melting a cooler, except where the brewer ran the element dry, which also ruins the element. The element melts and ruins the cooler. I dont know many people running electricity in coolers, except myself and those on HBT that have been building my rig for themselves.

This wont happen unless the system is ignored and something goes wrong.

If you have 20-30 GALLON kettles, you will DEFINATLY need 240VAC, there is no 110VAC setup that will provide enough Watts/BTUs to heat that volume.
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