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Electric HLT planning help

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tnbrewer371

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I have a 5 gal round igloo beverage cooler that I use as my hlt, and would like to install an element in it to heat strike, mashout, and sparge water. The most I have ever had in my HLT is 4 gallons, but rarely do I ever have more than 3 gallons of sparge water. My plan is to use it to one save on propane, but more importantly save some time on brewday by heating my strike water ahead of time, additionally as im going to be using it for mashout and sparge water, what size element would I need to be able to raise a couple gallons form 110F (my hot tap water temp) to say 190 within a reasonable amount of time (10-15 min), since im gonna temp control it the faster the better in my mind. Im new to electric brewing and im planning on this being my entry point. Any help and suggestions are greatly appreciated, thanks in advance guys.
 

rudy0498

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Your options will be limited based upon what type of power you have available. Unless you have a 240 volt circuit available, you are pretty much limited to 1500W or 2000W elements. For what you want to use it for, this should be plenty. Which element you use depends on how many Amps you have available:

- 1500W/120V = 12.5 Amps
- 2000W/120V = 16.6 Amps

So if you have an lightly loaded 20 Amp circuit available, you might as well go with 2000W because it is only a couple bucks more. Just make sure you use a cord that has 12 Guage wire. You also need to check the maximum current that your temperature controller supports. My Ranco is only rated for 15Amps. So if you go above what it is rated for, you risk burning out your temp controller.

From a performance perspective. If I remember correctly, my old 10 Gallon E-HLT would heat 9 gallons from room temperature to 165 in about 45 minutes. It had a 2000W element in it. It probably isn't totally proportional, but a 1500W element would have taken roughly 25% longer...so estimate an hour. Maybe someone else can give you a better formula than that.
 
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tnbrewer371

tnbrewer371

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thanks for the response and the obviously valuable information, what do you think about installing two 120V elements in the same tun? i mean why not right? its not like i need to be stirring or anything so its not like two elements will be in the way and its not like the elements are expensive by any means, additionally, wouldnt this get rid of the risk of overloading my temp controller? also still very much in the planning stages of this modification, whats the best controller to use for just this application as i plan to only use the controller for my hlt?
 

rcm_rx7

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Two elements is definitely possible. Just make sure you have them on two separate circuits.

As far as control goes you would need a PID and a couple of solid-state relays to control the amperage going to the elements. I think the PID route with two SSR's is the most feasible way to do it with two elements.
 

rudy0498

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If you use 2 Elements, you will need 2 circuits and 2 temperature controllers (or a PID/SSR as mentioned above). I get the sense that your aren't looking for a complicated project, so a PID/SSR is probably overkill. Plus, you are heating a smaller volume of water, the extra power won't buy you much. Check out the chart at the bottom of this page: http://www.brewmation.com/Panels.html

Basically for 5 gallons of water, every 500W gets you 1 minute shorter from 75F to 160F. Probably not worth it.

The The Johnson A419 is rated up to 16A at 120V. That's the highest rated temp controller that I've come across. For anything above that you would likely have to go with a temperature controller with a separate contact relay, which get into more money and more complicated wiring.

If you want to play it safe, you should probably go with a 1500W element with the Johnson A419. It will be roughly 1 minute slower than the 2000W. If you REALLY want to go with the 2000W this temperature controller should work, but you are pushing its limits. Most people would tell you that electrical components are typically rated for less (20%?) than what they can actually handle.

If it were me, I would go with the 1500W Element with the Johnson Controller. You would run less of a risk of overloading your circuit and tripping your breaker. It would be less wear and tear on the temperature controller. You gain very little at that volume with 500W more power.
 
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tnbrewer371

tnbrewer371

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thanks for all the responses guys. I think my initial plan of all i wanted to be able to do is not really possible to do on the cheap, i think il just go with a setup similar to rondacker but with the johnso controller anyone know of a link instructing how to install the element?
 

aludwig

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Actually, that was going to be my question for you. I have seen one way of mounting the element in a plastic cooler, but it seemed kind of unsafe. Basically drilling a big hole (2.5" or so) through the outer shell in the bottom center and smaller hole (1.25") through the thin inner skin. Then directly mounting the element (vertically) up from the bottom of the cooler, with an o-ring and locknut on the inside of the cooler. It leaves plenty of room between the inner and outer shell on the bottom to wire up the element. I actually did this on a 5-gallon cooler, but I was too worried about potential leaks to ever connect up live power. I scrapped it and have been pondering this exact problem for some time. Another option would be to make a heatstick that hangs on the side of the cooler. That kind of scares me too though. Neither solution seems safe or looks professional.
 

aludwig

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Another idea I was thinking of was to find a pipe nipple - say 1.5" or 2" ID and drill a hole right in the side of the cooler (horizontally). Then use a NPT locknut with washer on the inside and connect the outside to a coupling. The pipe nipple would have to be just the right length (maybe 3") so that when you connect the coupling to the outside it would pull the locknut tight on the inside. Then use a reducing fitting to install the element to the coupling. Only problem is that it seems like it would be flimsy and if you bumped it, it might leak and this doesn't address any way of protecting the terminals. If you incorporated an electrical box like in Kal's system to the coupling, you could potentially run a strap around the whole cooler which would hold the element firmly in place. Just a thought. Not sure if I would try it though...
 

rudy0498

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Actually, that was going to be my question for you. I have seen one way of mounting the element in a plastic cooler, but it seemed kind of unsafe. Basically drilling a big hole (2.5" or so) through the outer shell in the bottom center and smaller hole (1.25") through the thin inner skin. Then directly mounting the element (vertically) up from the bottom of the cooler, with an o-ring and locknut on the inside of the cooler. It leaves plenty of room between the inner and outer shell on the bottom to wire up the element. I actually did this on a 5-gallon cooler, but I was too worried about potential leaks to ever connect up live power. I scrapped it and have been pondering this exact problem for some time. Another option would be to make a heatstick that hangs on the side of the cooler. That kind of scares me too though. Neither solution seems safe or looks professional.
IMO, this is a risk no matter where you mount it. If you mount it on the side, water can splash over the side and get it wet. If you hang it over the side, it is by where you are add/manipulate the water, or maybe you bump it and it falls in. In the bottom it is at least hidden from where you are working with it. If you carefully seal the contacts in a half coupler with JB weld or Silicone adhesive, you really aren't at any more risk. My thought is to treat it as if it will get wet at some point and waterproof it properly, but that is my $.02.
 
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