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Old 08-21-2009, 06:38 PM   #1
freddyb
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Default $35 RIMS Heater?

I've been slowly putting together an electric brewing setup and I've been on the fence about going HERMS or RIMS. The well documented builds by The Pol and Sawdustguy, as well as the other outstanding systems on HBT, have been very helpful in my investigation. I have already converted a cooler (my former MLT) into an electric HLT and I'm now trying to decide how I want to maintain mash temp in my new insulated keggle MLT.

Today I stumbled across this interesting piece on eBay. I'm hoping that I can use it as a RIMS heater. I don't mind the additional PID/SSR required for RIMS vs. a HERMS setup and I'm not trying to turn this into a HERMS vs. RIMS debate. I'd like to get some feedback from members on the board as to whether or not this will make a suitable RIMS heater.

It was advertised as a 'Watlow Inline Tube Heater.'








Here's what else the auction said about this thing:

- Used/Removed from working medical surplus, in excellent condition
- Heatron/Watlow Firerod 1300 watt, 120vac, p/n N7L-5813 Type CR9
- Overall length: 9"
- Diameter: 1.25"
- Quick connect inlet/outlet diameter: 0.375"
- Includes quick connect couplers shown (0.375" to 1/4" tube)
- Stainless Steel

It also appears to have a thermocouple or something mounted in one of the plastic connectors. It would be even cooler if it's some sort of 'wet/dry' detecting switch used to prevent burning out the element, but I won't keep my hopes up. The wire leads appear to be uncut in one picture but cut in another. I'll just have to take a look when it arrives.

Potential concerns?
- Safe for brewing use? The body is SS so it should be easy enough to clean but I don't know about the element and gasket material. I can probably cut a new gasket out of silicone if necessary. If this was used as some sort of blood sterilizer I might not want to brew in it.
- Heating element density will scorch wort? Anyone with experience building a heating element and then redesigning it due to scorched wort? Maybe it's possible to replace the element in the end cap with a lower wattage/density solution.
- Inlet/outlet diameter of 3/8" (doesn't specify if that's inner or outer, but it looks to be the outer diameter) too small for good flow through the heater? I'll be circulating with my march pump. If the inlets are this small, will it be able to move the wort fast enough to avoid scorching?

Any comments or feedback would be much appreciated.


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Old 08-21-2009, 06:48 PM   #2
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I am sure you can clean & sterilize it. But I would always be thinking of Kidney failure when drinking my beers. Make sure the QD's are able to handle the temps of Wort and your right the flow might give your pumps a challenge.


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Old 08-21-2009, 07:16 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freddyb View Post
- Heating element density will scorch wort? Anyone with experience building a heating element and then redesigning it due to scorched wort? Maybe it's possible to replace the element in the end cap with a lower wattage/density solution.
I think this will be the biggest issue. 1300 watts in a 6 inch space. It is going to be hard to find a low watt element in that length and by necessity the wattage would be limited.
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Old 08-21-2009, 07:26 PM   #4
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I think it's an interesting find. My only concerns would be (1) flow limitations due to the size of the tubing, (2) heat density of the element, and (3) distance from the element to the temperature sensor.

For the price, I say give it a shot.
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Old 08-21-2009, 07:53 PM   #5
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Thanks for your replies. If I set the 'output high limit' on my PID to 50%, I should be able to mitigate the risk of scorching the wort, right? That would effectively turn the 1300W element into a 650W element, I think. I might even be able to set the output limit to a lower value and still maintain mash temps. I guess some trial and error experimentation using water instead of wort will help me determine the temp stability with various settings.
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Old 08-25-2009, 02:34 PM   #6
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This tube heater arrived in the mail yesterday. I took it apart and gave it a soak in PBW. I'm going to toss the plastic compression fittings and just clamp some hoses to the in/out connections. Here's a picture of the cartridge-type, stainless steel element.



I calculated the surface area of the element to be 16.36in^2 so at full power (1300W) it's still a reasonable density of just under 80 W/in^2. I think that falls right around the "low density" mark. Plus, the flow through the in/out pipes is good...faster than I'd likely want to recirculate through the grain bed in the mash.

I'm going to move forward with my RIMS plans and see how it works out.
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Old 08-25-2009, 02:54 PM   #7
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I'm going to move forward with my RIMS plans and see how it works out.
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Old 08-25-2009, 03:16 PM   #8
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cool find!
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Old 08-25-2009, 05:17 PM   #9
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that is a great find, can't wait to see if it works.
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Old 09-03-2009, 03:28 AM   #10
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Default It works...so far

I finished my control box and rigged up some plumbing for this heater tube. It's running quite well with the tap-water wet run out in the garage. Haven't put it to the ultimate test of a brewday quite yet. I still need to wrap up the plumbing, rig a sparge arm, and take care of a number of other miscellaneous items.

It seems to be heating from tap temps (~80*F) a bit more slowly than the 1440W eHLT cooler conversion that I built. I guess that's to be expected with the lower wattage and reduced insulation on the keg MLT. Still, I have no doubt it will be able to maintain a nice, stable temp throughout the mash once I get the PID settings dialed in. A few more tests are needed to tell if it will have the oomph necessary for step (ramp) mashes.

At first I had issues with very poor flow rates. With ~3.5ft. of 1/2" hose from the MLT out valve to the pump, ~3ft. of 3/8" hose to the heater tube/temp probe setup, and another ~6ft. of 3/8" hose feeding back into the top of the MLT, the flow was trickling out at a pathetic dribble. At that point I didn't even feel comfortable firing the element for fear of losing prime and burning it out. But, I cut out the excess 3/8" hose where I could, reducing the total length by about 4ft., and it's now flowing great...much, much faster than I'd actually want to recirculate during the mash. So that answers the question about adequate flow rate.

I ended up putting the thermocouple probe in a brass tee about 4" downstream from the heating element, so I'm pretty sure I'll get accurate measurements without any issues.

As for the wort scorching, I'll report back after I have a chance to brew with this setup, but I'm not anticipating any issues.

Below are a few pictures.

Control Box. I'll admit I didn't put a whole lot of thought or planning into this, but I tried to arrange it to be easily expandable for my eventual conversion to an all-electric setup. Right now the top left switch controls main power to the box, bottom left is for the pump, bottom right kills the hot leg to the RIMS element. I realize that some parts of the box are water resistant and others, well...aren't. It's still a work in progress.



MLT. Obviously this is a temporary setup. It's in the garage brewery storage area. I'm working on a more convenient arrangement. Control box is perched on top of the eHLT. RIMS element is protruding from the keg handle...I kinda like it there. It's out of the way but needs to be securely mounted. The zip tie is holding the brass tee from moving. Thermocouple wire (small yellow one) is wrapped around the back of the MLT. I might lengthen the short hose between the RIMS element and the brass tee to avoid a kink in the future. The probe end and swagelok fitting for the thermocouple are from Derrin (Welcome to Brewer's Hardware). I need to figure out how to make this more permanent/waterproof as the masking tape currently holding it in place is probably not going to last very long.




Between receiving the tube heater and rigging up this test, I assumed that it would be a nice setup, so I pulled the trigger on a few more of these. I now have four of these RIMS tubes. One is already spoken for but I might be willing to let one or two go if anyone wants to create a similar setup. I also have a bunch of extra SSRs and a few PIDs.


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