Guide to set internal chest freezer thermostat to >32F; Eliminate external control - Home Brew Forums

 Home Brew Forums > Guide to set internal chest freezer thermostat to >32F; Eliminate external control

06-05-2011, 07:55 PM   #1
AssistantBrewer
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Jun 2011
Littleton, CO
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Typical keezer conversion instructions shown here on HBT and elsewhere indicate that an external temperature controller is required. However, this is not true. The frugal and patient DIYer can spend that money elsewhere.

The vast majority of chest freezers used for keezer conversions utilize a simple internal electromechanical thermostat. These thermostats are preset by the factory to operate with a typical range between -20F and 20F depending on the position of the user accessible dial. Keezer temperatures are in the 40F range, depending on taste. It is the inability to readily set the internal thermostat to keezer appropriate temperatures that drives the need for an external thermostat. Here is an example of a typical internal thermostat:

What is not widely known is how these electromechanical thermostats work, and that these internal freezer thermostats have a coarse temperature adjustment screw which can be used to widely adjust the temperature setting of the thermostat, even above freezing to keezer temps. The coarse adjust screw on the unit pictured above is in the 5 o'clock position relative to the fine adjust dial shaft. They are usually recessed within the unit and may be covered with tape. Some units have them on the side, but I have yet to find one without a coarse adjustment screw.

Electromechanical thermostats operate on the principle of the ideal gas law, PV=NkT, where P=Pressure, V=Volume, N=Number of gas particles, k=Boltzmann’s constant, and T=Temperature in Kelvin. The idea is that by sealing a quantity of gas in an enclosed vessel the variables V, N, and k are held constant resulting in the pressure of the gas being directly proportional to its temperature.

Freezer thermostats use a long hollow tube as the enclosed vessel that is stuffed inside the freezer wall, with a short portion extending into the compressor compartment where one end is connected to a pressure sensor. The pressure sensor works by movement of a diaphragm set against a spring. The important part is that to overcome manufacturing and material process variables and to allow use of the same design for different applications the spring tension is designed to be widely adjustable by manipulation of the coarse set screw.

From the ideal gas law we know that at higher temperatures equal higher pressure against the diaphragm. Thus, to adjust the thermostat to trigger at a higher temperature the opposing spring force must be increased. Increased spring tension can be felt as increased resistance when turning the coarse adjustment screw. Below is a simplified diagram detailing the principle.

Some trial and error can be required to get the setting correct, and this is where patience comes in as it can take several hours for the temperature inside the freezer to come to steady state. Quick coarse temperature measurements can be made with a dry thermometer, but since hysteresis can result in several degrees of error final measurements should be made with a thermometer with some thermal mass for final adjustment (i.e. a floating thermometer in a glass of water).

CAUTION: Since the thermostat switches line voltage to the compressor there is live electrical current inside the thermostat at all times when the freezer is powered. REMOVE POWER FROM THE FREEZER BEFORE ADJUSTING THE INTERNAL COARSE SET SCREW.

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06-05-2011, 08:10 PM   #2
pauljmccain
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May 2011
St. Louis, Missouri
Posts: 190

I'm going to try this, thanks! So glad I saw it- I was literally just about to walk out to install my johnson controller on my in-progress keezer.

06-05-2011, 08:48 PM   #3
Reno_eNVy

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Oct 2008
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Subscribed! Awesome. I'm almost done with a chest freezer conversion, almost ready to attach the controller. I checked the compressor housing on the freezer and there is a little cover over where, I'm assuming, the internal controller and adjustment knobs are. Time for a bit of exploration.
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06-05-2011, 09:19 PM   #4
AssistantBrewer
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Jun 2011
Littleton, CO
Posts: 8
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Glad to have helped. I haven't seen this information posted before.

Here's another thermostat with the coarse set screw on the side. This one was staked in place with some blue Loctite at the factory. It didn't take much to pop the Loctite.

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06-05-2011, 09:27 PM   #5
Jem
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Jan 2011
St Paul, mn
Posts: 94
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Subscribed. This helps move the keezer project up from a budget standpoint.

06-05-2011, 10:09 PM   #6
shortyjacobs
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Aug 2009
Twin Cities, MN
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Wow, great info. Thanks!
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06-06-2011, 11:51 AM   #7
carrotmalt
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Oct 2008
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So looking at the diagram, it looks like I'd be loosening (lefty loosy) the screw to get it above freezing right? In your experience, how many turns should I start off with for my first stab at 40 degrees? I'd love to not have to buy another controller for my keezer build!!!
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06-06-2011, 02:03 PM   #8
redman67

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Feb 2010
Taunton, MA
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Great info Thanks
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06-06-2011, 02:13 PM   #9
jsguitar

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May 2011
Overland Park, KS
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This is excellent info. Prost!

06-06-2011, 02:19 PM   #10
ajwillys

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May 2008
Holly Springs, NC
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Excellent info! I already have a controller on my keezer, but I'm sure I could find other uses for it.