A couple questions about heating a fermentation chamber

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

thehopbandit

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2012
Messages
150
Reaction score
8
I recently built a STC-1000 temperature controller to use with my chest freezer. The cooling side is all fine since the compressor will take care of that. However, I'm looking into ways to regulate the heating side of things.

I have seen a number of ideas online, and am thinking about going for the lightbulb inside a can method.

1. However, are there going to be any problems from the moisture/wet environment inside the freezer in regards to the lightbulb?

2. Also, what is the best way to go about setting this up? Do they make plugin adapters for lightbulbs that plugin a wall outlet, have a cable, and then a light fixture on the other end? If so, could you link me up to one?

3. Any other better heating ideas?

Thanks!
 

Bensiff

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2008
Messages
4,835
Reaction score
411
I have had a heat lamp catch fire on me before so my general rule is, if it can get hot enough to start a fire, if for instance it gets stuck on, I won't use it as I like my house and pets. Now I use one of those fermenting heat wraps, the homebrew heat panel from Midwest looks like a good item too...albeit more expensive but more durable looking.
 

Chrisl77

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2011
Messages
892
Reaction score
87
Location
Jackson
If I have one fermenter going I will use a brewers belt pluged into my temp controller. If I have multiples going I will use a reptile heat cable that I got form a pet supply store. My fermenters sit on short platforms I arrange the cable under the platform to the heat can rise up.
 

Rbeckett

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2011
Messages
993
Reaction score
72
Location
Bronson
I use a reptile mat that they sell for keeping a habitat warm. It only pulls a few watts and will not overheat. The pads are water proof also. Since I bought it from a herpetological store I paid a bit extra, but it work amazingly well. My ferm chamber rarely or ever needs a heater. About the only time I have needed heat was when I raised the brew temp for a rest prior to cold crashing and bottling. In the south we just don't need much heat, up north that may be a different issue all together. Good luck with whatever you decide to use.

Wheelchair Bob
 

Veedo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
448
Reaction score
23
Location
U.P.
All I use is a 15 watt cfl bulb with some small computer fans wired up to an old 12v DC adapter to keep things circulated. Works fine and no worries about things getting too hot. Doesn't take much to warm things up inside of a freezer.
 

HDIr0n

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2010
Messages
543
Reaction score
29
Location
Missouri City
I use a fermwrap, they work great. It doesn't make sense to me to heat up the whole chamber instead of the fermenter that you should be measuring but that is just my opinion. If you are only fermenting one thing in there than I suppose that you could get away with heating up the chamber. I regularly ferment 2 different batches at the same time (lager and ale) and heating up the whole area doesn't work.

-G
 
OP
OP
T

thehopbandit

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2012
Messages
150
Reaction score
8
Thanks for all the advice, everyone! I appreciate it.

I think the reptile heater or bulb will be a great idea. I also like the computer fan addition!
 

FatsSchindee

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 12, 2013
Messages
362
Reaction score
30
Location
Austin
thehopbandit said:
2. Also, what is the best way to go about setting this up? Do they make plugin adapters for lightbulbs that plugin a wall outlet, have a cable, and then a light fixture on the other end? If so, could you link me up to one?

Thanks!

I followed this guys tutorial on how to build one:
http://brewstands.com/fermentation-heater.html

I just bought a cable/cord from HD, as I didn't have any extra around the house to cannibalize. I went with the grounded one, and think it was ~$9 for an 8' one with one end already cut/stripped and ready to attach. The only thing he didn't say was where to attach the ground wire (which he recommended using in his edit), so I attached it to the metal pancake box (see pic).

I have about zero electrical experience, and found it to be pretty easy to wire up. I just bought a wire cutter/stripper/crimper tool that came with some spade terminals... You just crimp those onto each of the three exposed wires, and then screw those down onto their respective screws (the lamp assembly packaging tells you which wire (hot or neutral) to screw onto which screw. Pretty easy.

I don't know about the moisture affecting it in the chest freezer... But haven't seen any negative comments about it in my (limited) research about it.

image-1483544069.jpg


image-788825137.jpg
 
OP
OP
T

thehopbandit

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2012
Messages
150
Reaction score
8
I just bought a cable/cord from HD, as I didn't have any extra around the house to cannibalize. I went with the grounded one, and think it was ~$9 for an 8' one with one end already cut/stripped and ready to attach. The only thing he didn't say was where to attach the ground wire (which he recommended using in his edit), so I attached it to the metal pancake box (see pic).

Awesome! Yeah, I was planning to do something along those lines, too. That was the one question I had was about grounding the box. Metal enclosures should always be grounded, so I was wondering about where the ideal area was to attach the ground wire for something like that. It looks like, from your picture, that the metal pancake had a screw for the ground wire already? Or how did you attach it there?
 

FatsSchindee

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 12, 2013
Messages
362
Reaction score
30
Location
Austin
thehopbandit said:
It looks like, from your picture, that the metal pancake had a screw for the ground wire already? Or how did you attach it there?

I attached it (via a spade terminal I crimped onto the wire) to one of the two bolts I used to attach the pancake box to the can lid. Although, looking at the pancake box, you can see on the left (in my pic) there is a raised hole in the pancake box itself, which I believe is a grounding point... It just didn't come with an extra screw for this purpose (I'm sure I had one that would've worked around the garage somewhere, but figured the bolt would work just as well, and just tightened it snugly under there).
 

FatsSchindee

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 12, 2013
Messages
362
Reaction score
30
Location
Austin
thehopbandit said:
1. However, are there going to be any problems from the moisture/wet environment inside the freezer in regards to the lightbulb?
Thanks!

I've been wondering more about this as well. I've seen some people saying different things each way (no problems / some problems). Can anyone who has a chest freezer used as a fermenter (not necessarily a keezer since those would normally be kept at lower temps, I assume) chime in with their experiences? Is excessive moisture a problem? And then mold from that also? If so, what do you use to remove said moisture (I've seen small de-humidifiers you can plug in, or some kind of chemical substance in a bucket that absorbs it - forget the name)? And how often do you clean it out? And with what? Just general all-surface cleaner that you'd use in a normal fridge or freezer, or something more brewing specific like PBW, followed by a rub or squirt down of StarSan before you throw your newly pitched wort in there to ferment?

Sorry so many questions... Just want to make sure and take care of my new creation and not neglect it enough to have a negative effect on my beer, and want to hear what's worked for everyone else. Thanks!
 
OP
OP
T

thehopbandit

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2012
Messages
150
Reaction score
8
I've been wondering more about this as well. I've seen some people saying different things each way (no problems / some problems). Can anyone who has a chest freezer used as a fermenter (not necessarily a keezer since those would normally be kept at lower temps, I assume) chime in with their experiences? Is excessive moisture a problem? And then mold from that also? If so, what do you use to remove said moisture (I've seen small de-humidifiers you can plug in, or some kind of chemical substance in a bucket that absorbs it - forget the name)? And how often do you clean it out? And with what? Just general all-surface cleaner that you'd use in a normal fridge or freezer, or something more brewing specific like PBW, followed by a rub or squirt down of StarSan before you throw your newly pitched wort in there to ferment?

Sorry so many questions... Just want to make sure and take care of my new creation and not neglect it enough to have a negative effect on my beer, and want to hear what's worked for everyone else. Thanks!

I have been looking into this, too. I think the best solution is probably something along the lines of using a product like DampRid or silica gel packets. Or something like the Dri-Z-Air moisture remover. I have also heard that people will wire up a small computer fan to help circulate the air inside the keezer/chamber. I haven't ran into a problem yet with excessive moisture, but I suspect it will be down the line, so I'm looking into it.

Theoretically, your beer should be fine in the environment since it has an airlock and is sealed elsewhere. The environmental air shouldn't be getting in.
 

FatsSchindee

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 12, 2013
Messages
362
Reaction score
30
Location
Austin
thehopbandit said:
I have been looking into this, too. I think the best solution is probably something along the lines of using a product like DampRid or silica gel packets. Or something like the Dri-Z-Air moisture remover. I have also heard that people will wire up a small computer fan to help circulate the air inside the keezer/chamber. I haven't ran into a problem yet with excessive moisture, but I suspect it will be down the line, so I'm looking into it.

Theoretically, your beer should be fine in the environment since it has an airlock and is sealed elsewhere. The environmental air shouldn't be getting in.

Good point! I had obviously overlooked that...

DampRid was what I had heard of before but couldn't remember the name. I guess it couldn't hurt to keep some in the starting early to prevent any build-up... Or could it? Any negatives (beside cost) using this stuff?
 

LLBeanJ

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
3,247
Reaction score
891
Location
Northern Colorado
I'm using a GE 7.0 CF chest freezer exclusively as a ferm chamber. It's in my basement where the ambient temp varies seasonally between 62° and 67°. I live in a dry climate, so condensation and mold are non-issues. I've been using it since January (12 or 13 brews so far, both lagers and ales) and haven't had to clean it yet. If I did, I would go with dish soap and warm water and maybe spray it down with a mild bleach/water mix and wipe dry. So far, it's been pretty low maintenance.

For heat, I use one of these. I just have it sitting up against the back wall and it works like a charm.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

rpe290

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2012
Messages
118
Reaction score
7
Have a small crock pot (Like an 8" diameter)? Those can be had for $10 or less. May want to leave water in it so its not run dry...that's what I use anyway.
 

FatsSchindee

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 12, 2013
Messages
362
Reaction score
30
Location
Austin
LLBeanJ said:
I'm using a GE 7.0 CF chest freezer exclusively as a ferm chamber. It's in my basement where the ambient temp varies seasonally between 62° and 67°. I live in a dry climate, so condensation and mold are non-issues. I've been using it since January (12 or 13 brews so far, both lagers and ales) and haven't had to clean it yet. If I did, I would go with dish soap and warm water and maybe spray it down with a mild bleach/water mix and wipe dry. So far, it's been pretty low maintenance.

For heat, I use one of these. I just have it sitting up against the back wall and it works like a charm.

That's good to hear (low maintenance). I'm in Austin, and my garage is that cool in winter, but gets in the 90s in the summer, and is more humid here... So I'm thinking it'll get more moist inside mine (about the same size)...
 
Last edited by a moderator:

ChuckO

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 14, 2008
Messages
1,026
Reaction score
161
Location
Keyrock
I think that the light bulb in the can is probably a very safe method of heating. The heat is spread out over a large surface area. I would put a grommet or a small tube through the hole surrounding the cord though. A sharp edge could over time cut the insulation and cause problems.

Even in my somewhat damp garage a tub of DampRid works for about 6 months before replacing.
 
OP
OP
T

thehopbandit

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2012
Messages
150
Reaction score
8
Does anyone have any experience with heating the fermentation chamber with a plug in heating pad that people use for muscle aches, etc.? How well does it work and is it safe?
 

FatsSchindee

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 12, 2013
Messages
362
Reaction score
30
Location
Austin
ChuckO said:
I think that the light bulb in the can is probably a very safe method of heating. The heat is spread out over a large surface area. I would put a grommet or a small tube through the hole surrounding the cord though. A sharp edge could over time cut the insulation and cause problems.

Even in my somewhat damp garage a tub of DampRid works for about 6 months before replacing.

I just bought some DampRid... Think that'll be a cheap and easy way to combat moisture.
That's a good idea about the grommet, too. I think I'll just line the hole with a couple pieces of electrical or duct tape... A poor man's grommet!
 

dozer5454

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2011
Messages
203
Reaction score
18
Location
Yuba City
I used the light bulb in a can technique. I used the two prong wire instead of the three and attached the bulb piece to the bottom of the can instead of the top. Used the light from the fridge and it works fantastic. Haven't had a problem one. As I use it in my fermentation fridge which sits in the garage it's more of a winter time use. But it does work very well.
 

SpeedYellow

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2007
Messages
1,519
Reaction score
206
Location
Chicago
I use a seed germination mat and it works wonderfully. No hot spots (barely warm to the touch) and designed for a wet environment. Search amazon for "seed mat" -- costs just $15 to $20. I highly recommend this due to safety reasons.
 

rpe290

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2012
Messages
118
Reaction score
7
Does anyone have any experience with heating the fermentation chamber with a plug in heating pad that people use for muscle aches, etc.? How well does it work and is it safe?

I used to, but it would always shut off if it was on for extended times, so check that (safety timer I assume).
 

zendog

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 12, 2011
Messages
84
Reaction score
2
Location
arvada
I use a seed germination mat and it works wonderfully. No hot spots (barely warm to the touch) and designed for a wet environment. Search amazon for "seed mat" -- costs just $15 to $20. I highly recommend this due to safety reasons.

I use this methods too and it works well. I have a SOF chamber and regulate the temperature by either removing the top panel, side panel or both. The heat pad is placed under my fermenter, which is off the ground on a baker's cooling rack.
 

Setesh

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Dec 18, 2009
Messages
1,454
Reaction score
345
Location
Oklahoma City
I use a reptile heating pad as well. It is waterproof and doesn't get very hot at 20 watts per foot. I've used them for years on my boa/python cages. I use a two foot long section and haven't ever thought of putting a fan in there too. I assume there is less need for one with an element two feet long than one that is a few inches in diameter (can or infrared lamp), but maybe not. Maybe I should look into one. I've got a lot of computer fans around and it would be easy enough to get 7-12V of DC to it. Anybody find that they make a huge difference? I know that any liquid will stratify based on temperature so I suppose it could really help in a big open area, but I question the effect in a keezer stuffed with kegs and hoses. I just don't see there being enough open space to really get air currents flowing. Thoughts?
 

BamaProud

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2013
Messages
887
Reaction score
392
I use a cheep(15 dollar I think) heating pad from Walgreens. I am sure other pharmacys have them ...just make sure it doesn't have any safety features that turn it off automatically after a certain period of time.

...after seeing the seed germination pads(which I had never herd of) I think that is likely the best and simplest option.
 

collinsDPT

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2011
Messages
153
Reaction score
2
Location
Denver
I have 2 STC1000 units on their way from Amazon (1 for freezer and 1 for minifridge kegerator). I have a $90 giftcard to RadioShack and was thinking of buying this as my heat source... any thoughts? I live in Denver and the freezer will be in the garage, kegerator in the basement.

http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=10841743#

At Radioshack, I also plan to buy a project box, power cord, wire nuts, box face plate as well to use up the giftcard. Anything you guys can think of that would be a better use of my money at Radioshack? Should I just do the paint can light bulb or the heatpad wrap?
 

Veedo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
448
Reaction score
23
Location
U.P.
Could save the $100, hardwire the stc1000 into the freezer, and toss in an old lamp or seed matt. Depends what you're going for i guess.
 

collinsDPT

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2011
Messages
153
Reaction score
2
Location
Denver
True. I just hate Radioshack and can't think of anything else I would ever use it on.
 

Veedo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
448
Reaction score
23
Location
U.P.
Is the ferm chamber going in a cold garage for the winter? I'm thinking the ceramic heater is way overkill if not. I didn't build a can, I just found an old short lamp housing, stuck a 15 watt cfl in there and called it a day.
 

collinsDPT

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2011
Messages
153
Reaction score
2
Location
Denver
The freezer I am putting it in will be in a garage year-round. The keg fridge will be in the basement. I plan on getting something for both setups. Do you have any pics of your setup?
 

Veedo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
448
Reaction score
23
Location
U.P.
I can take some when I get home, but its nothing fancy. Just the stc1000 hard wired on the outside of the freezer, lamp hard wired to stc1000, and 2 unmounted 120mm computer fans wired to an old 12 volt adapter. I tape my sensor to the side of my fermenter.
 
OP
OP
T

thehopbandit

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2012
Messages
150
Reaction score
8
The freezer I am putting it in will be in a garage year-round. The keg fridge will be in the basement. I plan on getting something for both setups. Do you have any pics of your setup?

It sounds like you are already planning on it, but I recently did the STC-1000 build and I highly recommend you wire it with a power outlet on the front so that you can just plug into that. That way, if you decide to change heating or cooling methods down the line, you just simply unplug instead of rewiring the hardwire.

As for the fermentation heater, I am getting the feeling that using a ceramic heater is way overkill, especially if you have a small fermentation chamber. I have a small space, and I think of it this way:

If I have the temp probe insulated against the carboy/bucket, I'm measuring the temp of the wort (or close to it). The 5 gallon liquid mass takes a long longer to heat up than air. So, using the ceramic heater example...Let's say you want your wort at 65. Maybe the heater kicks on at 63. Let's say it's going to take (a hypothetical) 30 minutes for that wort to rise to 65. That heater will be on the whole time. It's going to heat the air up inside that space like crazy before it kicks of due to the small space and the difference in heating time. It seems to me the air would be damn hot in there, which could probably even approach damaging temps.

Obviously, if you are closer to your temp range to begin with, it probably won't be a problem. But I think, from what I gathered, is you want a slow, steady heating source (like a pad or light bulb) so that the differential isn't too crazy.
 

collinsDPT

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2011
Messages
153
Reaction score
2
Location
Denver
It sounds like you are already planning on it, but I recently did the STC-1000 build and I highly recommend you wire it with a power outlet on the front so that you can just plug into that. That way, if you decide to change heating or cooling methods down the line, you just simply unplug instead of rewiring the hardwire.

As for the fermentation heater, I am getting the feeling that using a ceramic heater is way overkill, especially if you have a small fermentation chamber. I have a small space, and I think of it this way:

If I have the temp probe insulated against the carboy/bucket, I'm measuring the temp of the wort (or close to it). The 5 gallon liquid mass takes a long longer to heat up than air. So, using the ceramic heater example...Let's say you want your wort at 65. Maybe the heater kicks on at 63. Let's say it's going to take (a hypothetical) 30 minutes for that wort to rise to 65. That heater will be on the whole time. It's going to heat the air up inside that space like crazy before it kicks of due to the small space and the difference in heating time. It seems to me the air would be damn hot in there, which could probably even approach damaging temps.

Obviously, if you are closer to your temp range to begin with, it probably won't be a problem. But I think, from what I gathered, is you want a slow, steady heating source (like a pad or light bulb) so that the differential isn't too crazy.

Great point. Thanks!
 

DrunkleJon

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 18, 2011
Messages
8,182
Reaction score
2,570
Location
Alexandria
Is the ferm chamber going in a cold garage for the winter? I'm thinking the ceramic heater is way overkill if not. I didn't build a can, I just found an old short lamp housing, stuck a 15 watt cfl in there and called it a day.

I would be careful with the CFL's. Fluorescent bulbs generate UV light (far more than an incandescent does) and usually plenty less heat. Do you notice any skunking?

Additionally. I am one of those that uses the incandescent in a can in a chest freezer to great effect. I have my ferm chamber in the garage, and after a few batches have no growth in there at all. I did put one of the eva-dry plug in units in though because here in the DC area we have really humid summers.
 

SpeedYellow

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2007
Messages
1,519
Reaction score
206
Location
Chicago
Thehopbandit nailed it. If you insulate your temp probe to the fermenter (or use a thermowell) and use a space heater or blow dryer, you are seriously risking a catastrophe. Or what if the thermostat fails or gets mis-adjusted? The simple rule here is: ONLY use a heater that you could safely run continuously in your enclosed space. And that means low power.
 

Veedo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2011
Messages
448
Reaction score
23
Location
U.P.
I would be careful with the CFL's. Fluorescent bulbs generate UV light (far more than an incandescent does) and usually plenty less heat. Do you notice any skunking?

Additionally. I am one of those that uses the incandescent in a can in a chest freezer to great effect. I have my ferm chamber in the garage, and after a few batches have no growth in there at all. I did put one of the eva-dry plug in units in though because here in the DC area we have really humid summers.


I ferment in a keg now so that's a non issue for me, but prior to that I used buckets with no issues. Carboy might be a problem. Agree on using a low power heat source. Slow and steady wins the race, I have my stc set to .5 degree differential, seems to work perfect.
 
Top