Do I have a bigger electrical problem?

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Arminius757

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Hey Everyone!

I am desperate for help, as I have tried almost everything I can think of with no luck.

I recently moved to a new house and started to set up my brew system which consists of the following:

Blichmann G2 10 Gallon Kettle
Blichmann BoilCoil - 10 gal - 120V
Blichmann BrewCommander - 120V

This sits on top of a wooden frame. I had it on a stainless steel table, but it seem like the table is actually a big enough heat sink to actually hinder the systems performance...

I have this hooked up to a 20 amp GFCI breaker in a 100 amp service sup panel. The panel has been inspected by an electrician prior to use.

My issue is, I cannot even get 5.5 gallons to boil! Max temp I reach is 210, which takes about 2 hrs from RT to reach, and at that point I have pretty much evaporated off 0.5 gallons.

Troubleshooting I have done so far:

I have tried 3 different outlets on the sub panel and even moved to a different outlet on the main panel, still no luck.

I have checked voltage and current going through the house when the system is on (121v coming out of the outlet and brew commander plug, 17 amps being pulled through the circuit).

Borrowed the exact same controller from a friend with no luck.

I even brough a brand new coil, thinking there could be some sort of problem the one I had. No luck.

Other information:

I have been testing strictly with tap water (I have a well) using the same amount of water each time.

This is the exact same system as what I had at my previous house, minus the stainless steel table (which I have since removed from the equation and went back to the wood stand i previously used).

Difference in elevation between the old house and new is only 50 ft.

At this point, I am convinced it is an issue with the supply going into the house... before getting an electrician to come out and check, is there anything I can do to verify that it is a supply problem? I do plan to drag the system to my parents place and use a 20 amp plug there to test as well.

Thanks for any advice!
 
I'd let electrical experts reply but off the top you are fine. 120V just doesn't really boil 5 gallon brews. It'll get some motion on the top, and evaporate water, but it will never hit a rolling (roiling?) boil. For basically anyone. Have to go to 240V for that kind of boiling.
 
From the info you provided, to me, I'm not seeing any obvious sign of electrical issue.

17A @ 121V is roughly 2060W. That's not quite the 2250 listed for the coil (-8%) but with measurement tolerances and all it's not way out of line.

To account for all voltage drop through the system you'd have to measure the operating voltage at the element terminals. Don't know how feasible that is.

From what I see/read I opine it would be waste of time to haul the system elsewhere to try a different circuit.
 
I'd let electrical experts reply but off the top you are fine. 120V just doesn't really boil 5 gallon brews. It'll get some motion on the top, and evaporate water, but it will never hit a rolling (roiling?) boil. For basically anyone. Have to go to 240V for that kind of boiling.
Here is the thing though, at my old house, I was able to get consistent rolling boils with volumes up to 6.5 gallons... The system is designed for 5 gallons, and the 2250 watts of the boil coil is one of the highest power 120v elements I can find, even better power wise than some cheaper 240v systems (Brewzilla Gen 4 120v is only 1500 watts while the 240v is 2400 watts). So from personally experience, I do not believe this to be true considering I have been brewing 5 gallon batches on a 120v for 5 years now across different systems.
 
From the info you provided, to me, I'm not seeing any obvious sign of electrical issue.

17A @ 121V is roughly 2060W. That's not quite the 2250 listed for the coil (-8%) but with measurement tolerances and all it's not way out of line.

To account for all voltage drop through the system you'd have to measure the operating voltage at the element terminals. Don't know how feasible that is.

From what I see/read I opine it would be waste of time to haul the system elsewhere to try a different circuit.
I just dont understand why the same system would have such radically different performance at two different locations unless its something at the house itself. Could the make up of the well water affect its ability to boil? Its not any more or less mineral loaded than something I would use for brewing regularly (though i do use RO and add back salts).
 
This might be simplistic and stupid, but just ot get it out of the way; have you checked all of your connections for tarnish or arcing? Do any of the cords get warm? A dirty connection will not pass full current. It happens more often than you'd expect.
 
This might be simplistic and stupid, but just ot get it out of the way; have you checked all of your connections for tarnish or arcing? Do any of the cords get warm? A dirty connection will not pass full current. It happens more often than you'd expect.
The cords do get quite warm...
While i have not specifically checked for damage outside of the usual visuals, I have used several different cords though with no effect (2 separate boil coil cords, one of which is brand new, and 2 controllers, all OEM). I will double check that I'm not missing something though...
 
I just dont understand why the same system would have such radically different performance at two different locations unless its something at the house itself.
As Broken Crow mentioned, the whole system has to be considered. If you measured 121V at the receptacle under load it's not the house electrical supply.

But, there are connections downstream (part of Broken Crow's point too) and that's why I mentioned checking voltage at the coil terminals.

But, even if you got the full rated 2250 vs 2060W, it doesn't seem like that would make a big difference. Some perhaps, but seems like not big.

Are you using an extension cord between the wall and the brewing system? If so, what gauge and how long?
 
Here is the thing though, at my old house, I was able to get consistent rolling boils with volumes up to 6.5 gallons... The system is designed for 5 gallons, and the 2250 watts of the boil coil is one of the highest power 120v elements I can find, even better power wise than some cheaper 240v systems (Brewzilla Gen 4 120v is only 1500 watts while the 240v is 2400 watts). So from personally experience, I do not believe this to be true considering I have been brewing 5 gallon batches on a 120v for 5 years now across different systems.

Sure, good point, if it's different from one place to another that is certainly a new factor to consider.

Also I didn't think much about the 17A but that's pretty good too, a little more than a normal heater intended for a 15A outlet.
 
Well, it's 10%. In terms of ramp speed, that might only be an extra 3 minutes over 30 minutes. When it comes to a boil, it may be a pretty big difference in visual intensity.

Percentages can sometimes make things seem small or large but in terms of actual power I don't know what 190W (presuming accurate information supplied) would do to boil since I boil by gas.
 
Here is the thing though, at my old house, I was able to get consistent rolling boils with volumes up to 6.5 gallons... The system is designed for 5 gallons, and the 2250 watts of the boil coil is one of the highest power 120v elements I can find, even better power wise than some cheaper 240v systems (Brewzilla Gen 4 120v is only 1500 watts while the 240v is 2400 watts). So from personally experience, I do not believe this to be true considering I have been brewing 5 gallon batches on a 120v for 5 years now across different systems.

The system is designed to do "the best it can" on 120v. In general, 2000 watts is anemic no matter how you slice it. The brewzilla, foundry, mash n boil, grainfather and all the others that run 1500 watts don't get over 208F"ish" either. The fact that they are really tall and thin make it so that surface boiling on the element move the wort around more than would happen on a typical kettle geometry.

The main thing that probably changed between the old house and new is the supply voltage. You may have had upwards of 127v at the old house and maybe it pushed it just over the edge wattage wise,
 
The 10 gallon BoilCoil is rated at 2250W @ 120V. Since P = V^2 / R -> R = V^2 / P, and 120V^2 / 2250W = 6.4 ohms. Also, P = I^2 * R so at 17A the element is only putting out 17A^2 * 6.4 ohms = 1849.6W, not the 2060 (2057 actually) calculated in previous posts. There is 2057W being delivered from the outlet, but the element is only putting out 1849.6W - the "missing" 207.4W is being dissipated in the wiring and controller, and explains why cords are getting warm. This seems like too much wiring loss to me. I'd look for things like an extension cord that is not hefty enough AWG (all your cords should be 12AWG, or better), or loose/corroded connections as mentioned in a previous post.

The wiring+controller appears to have a resistance of 207.4W / 17^2 = 0.72 ohms. Doesn't sound like a lot, but it's costing you 2250 - 1849.6 = 400.4W.

Brew on :mug:
 
Thinking a little more on this, was the system in storage for a while maybe someplace humid? Perhaps you picked up some corrosion on the inside of the big square boil coil connector, or in the female twist lock on the controller cable. When you subbed in a friend's coil and controller, did you use the same power cable you were already using?

Get a multi-meter and measure the resistance of the boil coil directly on the pins. Then add the cable and test it again on the male plug end of the cable. See if it increases in any measurable way.

You can open up the housing of the connector and inspect. Make sure the screws are really tight and roll up some sandpaper with the abrasive outward and polish the inside of the barrel connectors.
1718668937787.png
 
If there happens to be a terminal that looks like the bottom one with the melted crimp insulation on terminal and connector body, there could be a poor crimp in addition to dirty and or loose barrel contact and screw.
 
Maybe a licensed electrician can chime in, but I recall enough of my 40+ year old EE (and mostly CS) undergrad to know that AC power is much more complicated than the DC power equations @doug293cz is using above. In a purely resistive system, the equations hold for AC (using RMS voltage and current). The brew coil is resistive, but if there are any capacitive or inductive loads in your house, the resulting system won’t be purely resistive and the power factor will be less than 1. Google suggests that the power factor for a typical house range from 0.8 to 0.98. If your new house has a significantly lower power factor, then perhaps that could result in ~20% lower power?

Hopefully someone with more recent and practical knowledge can chime in here.
 
Boy, that should cause all sort of anxiety. :)

My understanding of PF, albeit lay, is that a 2250W device (sticking with a relevant number to the example at hand) would still produce 2250W of work, but the lower the PF the more apparent power (VA) is required to get the 2250W of real power. That causes a headache moreso for the utility (and maybe your power bill) than immediate effect on the operation of the individual device.

I suggest the OP focus on checking the brew system connections and gauge/length of cords/cables as first order of business.

Those things were suggested but the OP has been silent since then.
 
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You need to run 230v-240v from the panel. Set up a brewing area near your panel, go 240v with a 4500 watt element. I boil 14 gallons from mash temp to boil in 20 minutes using a 4500 watt element in a hot rod . Quick, quiet and efficient.
 
You need to run 230v-240v from the panel. Set up a brewing area near your panel, go 240v with a 4500 watt element. I boil 14 gallons from mash temp to boil in 20 minutes using a 4500 watt element in a hot rod . Quick, quiet and efficient.
I think this goes without saying. I'd assume that there was some practicality barrier that the OP already tried getting past. Maybe not. Maybe he just has a 120v boil coil and controller and doesn't want to have to rebuy everything even if the sub panel can handle a new 2 pole breaker. Personally I'd do whatever it took to get higher wattage. You can't buy your time back.
 
The 10 gallon BoilCoil is rated at 2250W @ 120V. Since P = V^2 / R -> R = V^2 / P, and 120V^2 / 2250W = 6.4 ohms. Also, P = I^2 * R so at 17A the element is only putting out 17A^2 * 6.4 ohms = 1849.6W, not the 2060 (2057 actually) calculated in previous posts. There is 2057W being delivered from the outlet, but the element is only putting out 1849.6W - the "missing" 207.4W is being dissipated in the wiring and controller, and explains why cords are getting warm. This seems like too much wiring loss to me. I'd look for things like an extension cord that is not hefty enough AWG (all your cords should be 12AWG, or better), or loose/corroded connections as mentioned in a previous post.

The wiring+controller appears to have a resistance of 207.4W / 17^2 = 0.72 ohms. Doesn't sound like a lot, but it's costing you 2250 - 1849.6 = 400.4W.

Brew on :mug:
Came here to say this. The longer the run from the "source" (panel) the higher the impedance/resistance. Your heating element is rated at 2250w but that's a really a theoretical best case (unsafe in most instances) scenario. 20a Romex wire is rated to 2400w maximum in spurts, but NEC states it should be 80% for continuous load, which nets us 1920w (which is actually really close to this calculation above for 17a @ 0.72 ohms impedance). Really, the rating of the boil coil is not safe out of the box.
 
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It would be nice if the OP came back with some feedback on the suggestions provided.

OP mentioned measuring 121V at the plug. That suggests the house wiring in itself isn't introducing too much voltage drop. Given that, I suggest a 10ga circuit probably isn't going to add material benefit to power delivery.

Far as possible safety aspects, 12ga (copper) wire in itself is rated 20A continuous (and in some cases higher) by NEC.

1719069154100.png


The asterisk by the wire gauge means the standard OCP applies (e.g. 20A for 12ga) unless there is a specific condition/exemption that allows something else. An example of something else that allows more than 20A breaker on 12ga wire is circuit for a low duty cycle rated welder.

The "80% rule" is targeted at the circuit breaker since they're typically in a panel with a bunch of other breakers and it's that enclosed temp rise that can cause the breaker to thermal out with high power continuous loads. It's not that it's unsafe, per se, rather may cause nuisance trips. As to continuous load, NEC defines that as 3 hours or longer.

Far as running the 120V coil on 240V, Blichmann has a different coil part number for 120V vs 240V. Putting 240 to the 120V coil would not end well I think, as it would be 9kW power on a coil rated 2.25kW.
 
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OP mentioned measuring 121V at the plug. That suggests the house wiring in itself isn't introducing too much voltage drop.
If OP measured the voltage by just sticking the meter probes in the receptacle, then this is a no current measurement, and would be the same whether the wire was 12AWG or 30AWG. Wire resistance only drops the voltage if current if flowing.

On the other hand, if OP measured the voltage with a power meter, while the element was at full power, then the structure wire resistance will have an effect, and the not "too much voltage drop" statement applies.

Brew on :mug:
 
Maybe a licensed electrician can chime in, but I recall enough of my 40+ year old EE (and mostly CS) undergrad to know that AC power is much more complicated than the DC power equations @doug293cz is using above. In a purely resistive system, the equations hold for AC (using RMS voltage and current). The brew coil is resistive, but if there are any capacitive or inductive loads in your house, the resulting system won’t be purely resistive and the power factor will be less than 1. Google suggests that the power factor for a typical house range from 0.8 to 0.98. If your new house has a significantly lower power factor, then perhaps that could result in ~20% lower power?

Hopefully someone with more recent and practical knowledge can chime in here.
Yes, the calculations I did assumed a 1.0 power factor. If the power factor is lower, then the actual power at the element will be even less than my calculations showed.

Brew on :mug:
 
It would be nice if the OP came back with some feedback on the suggestions provided.

...

Far as possible safety aspects, 12ga (copper) wire in itself is rated 20A continuous (and in some cases higher) by NEC.

View attachment 851445

The asterisk by the wire gauge means the standard OCP applies (e.g. 20A for 12ga) unless there is a specific condition/exemption that allows something else. An example of something else that allows more than 20A breaker on 12ga wire is circuit for a low duty cycle rated welder.

The "80% rule" is targeted at the circuit breaker since they're typically in a panel with a bunch of other breakers and it's that enclosed temp rise that can cause the breaker to thermal out with high power continuous loads. It's not that it's unsafe, per se, rather may cause nuisance trips. As to continuous load, NEC defines that as 3 hours or longer.
...

According to 2023 NEC

Table 210.24.(1). Copper wire branch circuits 15 amp circuit needs size 14 wire. 20 amp circuits need size 12 wire.

210.19.(A). Conductor ampacity. -- the wires must carry at least 125% of the continuous load.
15 amp breaker supports a 12 amp load 20 amp breaker supports a 16 amp load.

20Amps x 120v x .8 (the reciprocal of 1.25) is 1920w. As stated previously, there could be other loads on the same circuit/breaker.
 
According to 2023 NEC

Table 210.24.(1). Copper wire branch circuits 15 amp circuit needs size 14 wire. 20 amp circuits need size 12 wire.

210.19.(A). Conductor ampacity. -- the wires must carry at least 125% of the continuous load.
15 amp breaker supports a 12 amp load 20 amp breaker supports a 16 amp load.

20Amps x 120v x .8 (the reciprocal of 1.25) is 1920w. As stated previously, there could be other loads on the same circuit/breaker.
The critical words are "continuous load", and as @whoaru99 said, NEC considers "continuous" as three hours or longer. Since few heat ups + boils are longer than three hours, they are not considered continuous loads.

Brew on :mug:
 
If OP measured the voltage by just sticking the meter probes in the receptacle, then this is a no current measurement, and would be the same whether the wire was 12AWG or 30AWG. Wire resistance only drops the voltage if current if flowing.

On the other hand, if OP measured the voltage with a power meter, while the element was at full power, then the structure wire resistance will have an effect, and the not "too much voltage drop" statement applies.

Brew on :mug:
Yes, I understand voltage drop is contingent on resistance and current.

Early on he said measured 121 with the system on/17A load. At least that's how I read it.
 
Yes, I understand voltage drop is contingent on resistance and current.

Early on he said measured 121 with the system on/17A load. At least that's how I read it.
Without knowing the detailed measurement procedure, we can't safely assume that the voltage was actually measured under load. Only that the current was measured under load.

Brew on :mug:
 
I get it regarding the NEC "continuous load". I was simply basing off OP stating it took him 2hrs from room temp to 204f @ 100% duty. I appreciate all the back and forth! Please don't take anything I say in an argumentative spirit. Just trying to learn and help as well.
 
Discussions when Code comes up often are "interesting" because it's a fairly complex topic.

To your earlier point, if the circuit has multiple outlets (a single duplex receptacle counts as multiple outlets) then no one cord and plug connected device is supposed to exceed 80% of the circuit rating, presumably for consideration of other devices on same circuit (as you said). That's a different 80% rule than the continuous load 80% rule, but both apply.

If it's a single outlet circuit then the no individual device >80% rule doesn't apply because there are no other loads on that circuit to consider, but the 80% continuous load rule still applies.
 
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Hey all!

So sorry, life got in the way... (new house, things going wrong, house insurance, tornados, I have been overwhelmed).

I will be taking a closer look at all the suggestions, but I would like to try and respond to a few posts

The system is designed to do "the best it can" on 120v. In general, 2000 watts is anemic no matter how you slice it. The brewzilla, foundry, mash n boil, grainfather and all the others that run 1500 watts don't get over 208F"ish" either. The fact that they are really tall and thin make it so that surface boiling on the element move the wort around more than would happen on a typical kettle geometry.

The main thing that probably changed between the old house and new is the supply voltage. You may have had upwards of 127v at the old house and maybe it pushed it just over the edge wattage wise,

You comment on the supply voltage is interesting... never consider that, but yes, I do understand that these systems dont always perform as expected. I am just shocked that where I used to get a decent boil (I am talking steady simmer with ample movement and a boil off of 0.75 gal/hr) has dropped to no boil and just some slight water nucleation...

The 10 gallon BoilCoil is rated at 2250W @ 120V. Since P = V^2 / R -> R = V^2 / P, and 120V^2 / 2250W = 6.4 ohms. Also, P = I^2 * R so at 17A the element is only putting out 17A^2 * 6.4 ohms = 1849.6W, not the 2060 (2057 actually) calculated in previous posts. There is 2057W being delivered from the outlet, but the element is only putting out 1849.6W - the "missing" 207.4W is being dissipated in the wiring and controller, and explains why cords are getting warm. This seems like too much wiring loss to me. I'd look for things like an extension cord that is not hefty enough AWG (all your cords should be 12AWG, or better), or loose/corroded connections as mentioned in a previous post.

The wiring+controller appears to have a resistance of 207.4W / 17^2 = 0.72 ohms. Doesn't sound like a lot, but it's costing you 2250 - 1849.6 = 400.4W.

Brew on :mug:

I have measured the resistance across the coil and checked in with Blichmann to see if I was in spec. My coil was coming in around 6.8 to 7 ohms. Not sure why i never though to do the math based off the measure voltage and resistance value, but you are right that I would be coming in under the theoretical max by quite some... I have not check resistance through the rest of the system, but that would be an interesting thought...

I think this goes without saying. I'd assume that there was some practicality barrier that the OP already tried getting past. Maybe not. Maybe he just has a 120v boil coil and controller and doesn't want to have to rebuy everything even if the sub panel can handle a new 2 pole breaker. Personally I'd do whatever it took to get higher wattage. You can't buy your time back.

You are correct, I currently do not have the thousands of dollars required to buy all new gear and wire in a proper plug... This is something I would like to do in the future, but unless I win the lotto, its not something I expect to happen soon (especially not with all the new housing projects popping up... someone said being a home owner is a good thing...).

To answer some other comments, the extension cord i am using is the out of the box cord provided by Blichmann. I cant find the wiring gauge, but its 12 ft in length and pretty beefy wiring... I never stopped to think that all the extra wire would be adding in some resistance to the system (I am a mechanical engineer, not electrical...). For hees and haas I will measure the resistance going through the system and see what that is... I do have a short cord to convert the L6-30P on the end of the Brew Commander into a 5-20P, so I will see if that makes a difference...

I have eliminated another variable. It seems my shiny new stainless Brew Cube is too much of a heat sink for the system... If i put some pieces of 2x4 under the kettle, i can reach 210, which starts to get a boil going...

I will report back with some of my other findings... At this point, I think I am just crazy... I have performed a brew day successfully, but I caveat that with the fact I used a steam slayer to keep the humidity in my basement under control, so that helps with the boil (this may be part of the solution to my woes...)

I do appreciate the discussion and I think it is helpful for understanding the real capabilities of 120v systems.
 
I have eliminated another variable. It seems my shiny new stainless Brew Cube is too much of a heat sink for the system... If i put some pieces of 2x4 under the kettle, i can reach 210, which starts to get a boil going...

That's good to hear! You could also use some of that foam matt people use to workout. It's pretty cheap and you could cut and stack it.
 
That's good to hear! You could also use some of that foam matt people use to workout. It's pretty cheap and you could cut and stack it.
I would put a slab of plywood on top of the foam to distribute the load better, and prevent the brew vessel from sinking into the foam.

Wrapping the vessel with insulation (Reflectix is popular) will also reduce heat lost to the environment, so that more goes into stays in the wort.

Brew on :mug:
 
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That's good to hear! You could also use some of that foam matt people use to workout. It's pretty cheap and you could cut and stack it.

I would put a slab of plywood on top of the foam to distribute the load better, and prevent the brew vessel from sinking into the foam.

Wrapping the vessel with insulation (Reflectix is popular) will also reduce heat lost to the environment, so that more goes into stays in the wort.

Brew on :mug:

Excellent suggestions! and, more importantly, economical!

Still working on getting some time together to make a few more measurements...
 
Insulating the kettle, definitely will help with heat retention. On real cold days , I wrap my kettle in a harbor freight moving blanket and held in place with heavy duty spring clamps .
 
Is the basement you are brewing in cold? If so, insulating the kettle will help. I would rule out electrical supply problems immediately. It is not likely that there is a problem with the electrical supply to your house. And you already tried a different element and controller and that didn't help so there is probably nothing wrong with your system. I can get 6.5 gallons boiling with my 1650 watt element but I live in Florida and the ambient temp is high so I don't need insulation. I don't get a vigorous boil but enough to make good beer.
 
Op, I’m glad eliminating the stainless heat sink helped. I would also suggest taking a close look at all the environmental factors like ambient temp, insulation, drafts, steam extraction etc and trying to control as many of them as possible.
As someone who has brewed many great batches on 120v I definitely feel like these systems do a fine job, but I suspect they are closer to their limits than we think. As Bobby pointed out some of the boil turbulence we see might be deceptive, I always thought I had a good boil with my 120v insulated Grainfather. Looking at the surface certainly showed a lot of motion and I boiled off 1/2 gallon an hour. But one day to try and help blow some of the steam away I pointed a box fan directly at it and immediately lost the boil. Fan off, boil returned. My point is just that while I like the 120v systems I think sometimes they are right on the edge of being able to do what we want them to, even if they look like they are handling it without difficulty. Changing something as simple as putting it outside on a windy day or taking off a steam slayer might loose enough heat to drop it under the limit for a good looking boil.
 
Op, I’m glad eliminating the stainless heat sink helped. I would also suggest taking a close look at all the environmental factors like ambient temp, insulation, drafts, steam extraction etc and trying to control as many of them as possible.
As someone who has brewed many great batches on 120v I definitely feel like these systems do a fine job, but I suspect they are closer to their limits than we think. As Bobby pointed out some of the boil turbulence we see might be deceptive, I always thought I had a good boil with my 120v insulated Grainfather. Looking at the surface certainly showed a lot of motion and I boiled off 1/2 gallon an hour. But one day to try and help blow some of the steam away I pointed a box fan directly at it and immediately lost the boil. Fan off, boil returned. My point is just that while I like the 120v systems I think sometimes they are right on the edge of being able to do what we want them to, even if they look like they are handling it without difficulty. Changing something as simple as putting it outside on a windy day or taking off a steam slayer might loose enough heat to drop it under the limit for a good looking boil.

Yeah I am starting to just think this is the case and i never really realized it before....

For environmental factors, I brew inside and my basement is around 75 (its been brutal hot and I'm not someone that sets my AC for 68 when its 100 outside... you need a small loan to do that with the electric prices in CT). Humidity has been around 55%, no wind as I am inside.

I will try the insulation and get a better liner for the table so i can keep using it...
 

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