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As the seasons here in the Northeastern United States began to change and the temperatures started to fall I knew it was time to install an electric heater in the brew room. The brew room 'slash garage' is well insulated and the temperature inside managed to stay 10F degrees above freezing even as outdoor temperatures dipped into the upper 20's. I quickly found out that a 220 volt 30 amp circuit would be needed to power the 5,000 watt heater that was on sale at a nearby Lowes that week. Fortunately I already had a 220 volt 30 amp line run in the brew room to power up my brewing system's EBC-SV1 controller and a 4,500 watt heating element.


The fun started when it came time to figure out what type of plug end to use with the new heater. When ordering my eBIAB RIMS setup I had to decide whether to go with a 220 volt GFCI 4-wire plug end or a non-GFCI 3-wire plug end. Naturally I opted to go with the newer 4-wire plug end and had an electrician wire and install the receptacle where the brewing system would eventually go. I'm not an electrician by trade but I have managed to wire and fix the wiring in my own and my family members homes for some time now. Admittedly the majority of my electrical experience was with installing or replacing 110 volt lights, receptacles, switches and dimmers. Working with 220 volt lines, receptacles and appliances was something I would feel comfortable with as long, as I was able to understand the basics of what was going on.

The heater I bought was a floor model and it didn't come with a 220 volt extension cord but I was able to get both for a little less than the cost of the heater alone if it were in a box. Opening up the connection panel on the heater I could see there were only three points of connection for the electrical wiring, two hot wire lugs and a single ground wire. Based on the wiring information I found online, provided by homebrewers with prior electrical experience in this area, wiring a 4-wire plug end to this heater was going to be a lot simpler than I had expected. Getting the 220 volts out of the electrical panel was identical for both the 3-wire and 4-wire outlets. It seems for the neutral and ground wires the 4-wire plug ran two separate wires back to the electrical panel and it didn't matter if the heater only used three of those wires.

Back at the electrical panel is where the neutral line gets tied into the same bus as the ground wire, but it's the only place that the two should be connected. The electrical service comes into the panel box as two hot wires, that are 180 degrees out of phase plus a third insulated neutral wire. In addition to the three wires, inside the electrical panel a ground wire connects to the neutral wire bus and to a conductor that goes into the ground, either a solid copper rod or a copper water supply line.
Consult A Licensed Electrician If You Don't Know What You're Doing!
"Working with electricity is not a joke and should not be attempted without first consulting a licensed electrician. Failure to know what you are doing and/or work safely can lead to electrocution, serious injury or death." .
The heater I bought only needed two hot wires and a ground in order for it to work safely. To me there was no need or reason to tie the ground and neutral wires together at the heater, since both were already tied together at the electrical panel. Once the plug end was wired in the heater on low set was able to keep the brew room above freezing when turned up higher it can easily maintain 70F even on the coldest nights. It just goes to show, that with a bit of understanding even a non-electrician like myself was able to successfully take on 220 volt wiring.

Vince Feminella [aka: ScrewyBrewer]
[email protected]
US residential service is 240 VAC plus or minus 5%. It usually runs a little high. If you have 220V, call an electrician before you burn your house down.
If your voltage dips below 230 under load, shut it down, get it fixed.
@Wynne-R No cause to be an alarmist here.....
"To understand how a 240 volt (also known as 220 volt) household circuit works you should first know a little bit about how a regular 120 / 110 volt circuit works."
I've never seen 110V residential, but it probably exists somewhere. 122V in my den at this moment. It's always been 120 where I've lived (and 240 L-L).
Good article Screwball. It's great to have 240VAC 30A power available where you want to brew. I've been brewing with that since 2009.
Just recently installed a 30A 240V line to my garage as well for a BrewEasy system. The L6-30 plug needed is three-wire, but I ran 4 - 8 gauge wires anyways. If I ever need to re-purpose the receptacle, I can just swap the plug and breaker without re-running wire.
@SwitchbladeSquirrel good idea, many times running the wire is the most difficult part of adding a receptacle.
I wouldn't get too hung up on people calling it 110 or 220 or 440. I remember as a kid it was 117 volts instead of 120. what your power company delivers should be fine. Saying that, the village where I am a plant electrician was giving us low voltage last summer. What was supposed to be 2300 volts was maybe 2100(they didn't have a meter to accurately read it), 480 was 420 and I read 103 volts on an outlet. I was having trouble with a small 480 pump motor drawing high current and tripping the overload, when I checked the voltage on the pump I noticed it was low, a call to the village electrical department didn't help much at first, but later I found out that the one of their Edison substations was shut down for repairs. No damage was done.