eBIAB - control panel died? Need help troubleshooting

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milo_leon

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I am looking for answers/help with troubleshooting the control panel for our eBIAB set up. We have a Colorado Brew System "Nano Brewer" and unfortunately, the company shut down last year so we are SOL with customer service.

Last week while brewing, we noticed the heat element was slower at heating up the wort but we were able to get a roiling boil going. About 20 minutes later, the temp started dropping and it looked like the element kicked the bucket. We salvaged what we could from the wort (hopped early and basically did a long whirlpool to get some IBU/flavors into the wort before we chilled and transferred to fermenter).

We checked the element and we didn't see any scorch marks or signs of physical failure. We did a cleaning cycle with PBW and surprisedly the element started working and could heat up the cleaning solution to around 150 degrees. We decided to order a new element just to remove the old element as a variable.

Once we got the new element, I tested it and it was not heating up AT ALL. I swapped it out with the old element and same thing. I checked if the 240v line tripped at the electrical panel for the house and nothing tripped, so we are suspecting that something in the control panel gave out.

Honestly I am befuddled - I don't know if a fuse blew inside the panel for the 240v power, and where that fuse would be. Everything else works fine in the panel (120v for pump, control screen, etc).

Hoping someone here may have some answers / ideas that we can try in troubleshooting.
 

Bobby_M

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Without physically seeing inside the control panel, the first thing I'd do is order a new 40amp SSR. Even decent ones are about $15 and it does all the heavy lifting in the panel and is likely just burnt out. How about a picture of the guts of the panel. Anything look burned up?
 
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milo_leon

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IIRC nothing looked burned up when I opened the panel. No char/smoke or other signs of physical failure that I could see with my untrained eye.

I'll take a picture and post it here when I can.
 

Bobby_M

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Most SSRs have a visible LED on them which should light up when it's trying to allow current to the element. I haven't looked inside that specific controller but many of them have DIN rail mounted breakers and the 30 amp one may have tripped.
 

Tiggers97

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Also while your at it, with the power off, might also just give all the terminals a check to make sure they are all still tight. They can become loose overtime.
 

doug293cz

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Most SSRs have a visible LED on them which should light up when it's trying to allow current to the element. I haven't looked inside that specific controller but many of them have DIN rail mounted breakers and the 30 amp one may have tripped.
The LED on the SSR lights up when the SSR is receiving a "turn-on" signal from the PID (or other controller.) It does not verify that the SSR is actually switching.

Brew on :mug:
 

Bobby_M

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The LED on the SSR lights up when the SSR is receiving a "turn-on" signal from the PID (or other controller.) It does not verify that the SSR is actually switching.

Brew on :mug:

Yeah, what I was getting at is that if the LED is not lighting up, it could indicate and upstream problem with the controller. I was trying for steps that don't require a multimeter just yet.
 
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milo_leon

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Without physically seeing inside the control panel, the first thing I'd do is order a new 40amp SSR. Even decent ones are about $15 and it does all the heavy lifting in the panel and is likely just burnt out. How about a picture of the guts of the panel. Anything look burned up?

We took pics of the panel and took a closer look at the terminals. It looks like one of the wires going into the SSR burned out (see pics).

Does this mean the SSR failed? Additionally, does the scorch mark on the wire also mean we should replace the power cord going to the element?
 

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doug293cz

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If you are talking about the first picture, that is a contactor, not an SSR. The SSR is at the top of the second picture, and the terminals on the SSR look fine.

The discoloration around the terminal on the contactor, and the discoloration of the wire insulation at the terminal, are indicative of overheating of that particular terminal. Terminal overheating is almost always due to a loose connection, which raises the resistance of the contact. Current thru a resistor generates heat (that's what the element does.) More resistance for the same current generates more heat.

The safest way to deal with this, if you are not knowledgeable, and comfortable, working with enough electricity to kill you, is to replace the contactor, and the discolored wire at the "bad" terminal.

If you want information about diagnosing the contact, just ask.

Edit: On further inspection, the wire may not be as discolored as I originally thought, it might just be a non-standard insulation color (for the USA) on the incoming power cord. The photos are out of focus if blown up, so can't really get a good look at the bottom contactor terminal connections. Can you get some better focus close-ups of the bottom four terminals on the contactor?

Brew on :mug:
 
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Bobby_M

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Agree with Doug. That's a relatively inexpensive power relay and I've had that type of unit blow out in the Brau Supply controller that I've used for a couple years. Of course you can replace them with the exact part numbers and it would be a very easy swap. Just remove one wire at a time and replace them on the new relay. That's with the controller completely unplugged of course.
 

BAF

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That contactor/power relay in the first pic definitely looks cooked. Hard to say if it's that or the SSR (or something else entirely, though IMO that's less likely) causing your issue without more in depth testing.

And wow, spade connectors in this application? I don't really love that. For something carrying this kind of load for an extended amount of time, I prefer a more positive connection that can be torqued down, rather than relying on friction fit. Once that spade connector starts to warm up, it's going to expand and contract as it heats and cools. The resistance will creep up over time, causing more heating, and the connection will work itself more and more loose over time.

In my opinion, you should get a better contactor with screw clamps. It looks like the other one is just controlling a 120V outlet (presumably for your pump), so spade connectors there aren't as concerning. Your SSR looks like it's wired securely, so no worries there. If you replace the toasty one with the same thing, then it's only a matter of time until this happens again.
 
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milo_leon

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I really appreciate all the answers in this thread! I will replace the contactor and wire, then go from there to see if that resolves the issue.
 

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