Electric or Propane??

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Brian Dempsey

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I know this question has been asked and answer I dont know how many times, but im still new to the site and challenged to make a decision. I have out grown my kitchen and my partial extract brews (and my wife is kicking me out of it, considering we just had our 4th kid). So, i am using this to upgrade to 10 gallon and all grain batchs. The decision i just am having a hard time making is:

1. Go propane, with a 200k BTU burner or
2. Go Electric, with a 5.5K watt element (240, 30a)

Cost is a factor for me here, not the time to DIY this myself. Also, time to heat up is a factor. I will be using my boil kettle to heat my strike water (using coolers as my mash and HLT).

1. Why i like propane, cheaper then the whole electric route initially. But i know wind/weather can be a factor. Also, not liking the whole having to keep filling tanks. I am also limited on where i can brew it (like not in a enclosed garage where i will probable be).
2. Why i like electric, i can brew where ever i place the 240 line (most likely in my garage because i do not want to run that line thought a wall and ceiling into the basement). i like the control to a strike temp and holding it. i dont like it, because its going to cost me 3/4 times the amount up front to install everything and out fit my kettle with a element (i will be doing this myself).
3. Now, assume i go the electric route, not sure of the PID/PWD/RasberryPi decision i want to make. I know one is huge for automation (i have a pi and screen not being used right now, so no cost for that) one gives me future expanstion on a automated HLT, and one is just boil and then turn down the power. but give this is my boil kettle........

Whats in my head, given its the cost that is driving alot of this (just had a 4th kid and xmas is right around the corner). was propane given it will cost me around 100$, compared to 300-400$ (not including what would cost for the punch out to put the element in) depending on which controlling route i go. but everyone i talk to says given the money and the time for a DIY, they would have gone the electric route

Any and all opinions are welcome. Just stuck ....

Gimp
 

Tobor_8thMan

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Biggest things to consider... propane = outside brewing. Electric brewing = inside or outside brewing. Where is the intended brewing planned?

Electric costs are, basically, one time. Propane costs are on going.

BYO recently had a good article on propane vs electric brewing.
 

4of7

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I made the transition from kitchen to a 2v ebiab.I am doing 10 batches . I tried propane before but I was not happy with the tanks being used or running out during the brew day..
 

Beer-lord

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I recently went electric and love it but still brew outdoors (covered) but can do indoors if and when I ever want to. Really, only you can answer your question. There's tons of info on HBT about E brewing.
 

bracconiere

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If your thinking about having a electric line run...Why not natural gas? by far the cheapest heat source. And they do sell NG big burners.
 

mongoose33

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I just switched from propane to electric at the end of the summer.

I like electric far better; I can brew in my garage, it heats faster, I can let it heat unattended while I do other things (weight out and crush grain, for instance).

But as you note it's more expensive. I think you may find it's even more expensive than you think, but maybe you've penciled it all out.

Some have used the Stilldragon controller as an inexpensive way to control the boil element. It's under $50, you have to assemble it yourself, but it's not overly complicated.

I bought and assembled this controller panel from Auber Instruments. It cost almost $400 by the time I bought wire and connectors and such, and I had to assemble it myself. The completed one is sold for about $200 more.

The other issue you may not have considered is whether you want a GFCI circuit breaker. Depending on your breaker panel you'll spend from $60 to $105 for it. Mine was for a Square-D panel, and cost me $103, which was a cost for which I was mostly unprepared.

******

Another consideration is what you're going to wish you'd done six months or a year from now. Maybe you can save some money and put off the upgrade until you've saved some more? Are there things you can sell to come up with additional cash? When I went to electric, I sold off some unused and unneeded things, and expect to sell my Hellfire burner and Hydra chiller to offset some of the cost of buying the electric setup plus a new counterflow chiller.
 

gnef

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I would say that if you can find a fixed location indoors for an electric setup, then save up the cash to be able to go electric.

Having a permanent location is what made the electric a huge win for me. I did this as my second child was born (kudos for 4, I barely have the energy for two!). Having the permanent location is what allowed me to split my brew time, and electric saved me TONS of time with the permanent location.

No more dragging equipment out, and making sure I had a block of time set aside on a weekend. Now, I can come home from work, and within about 30-40 minutes get the mash going (it really is this quick for 5 gallon batches), and then let it mash during dinner and our bedtime routine, and then once the kids are in bed, I go back down, and if I'm efficient, I can be completely done and back up within 1.5 hours if I do a 30 minute boil. My chiller is a dual stage counterflow that can chill a 5 gallon batch in about 7 minutes in one pass into the fermenter, so this helps my time considerably. If I'm not as efficient, is is within 2 hours still, which is amazing to me, and enabled me to actually be able to brew on weeknights.

With the permanent location, I did install a vent hood, which added to the cost, but you could look into the boil kettle condenser to eliminate that need.

Other details given your situation that you've stated so far. For your purpose, a purpose built PID with manual % override is what you would want (I forgot the technical name of this particular function, but I know auber has one, along with inkbird and others). This will allow you to heat up your strike and sparge water to the specific temperature you would need, and then when you needed to use it for boiling, you could dial in the percent power that you wanted.

You'll also want a GFCI for your safety, and make sure your wiring is correct for the draw you intend.
 

tjmac5071

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One thing you may want to consider is not only time to brew but time in front of the kettle. As someone with two kids I made the switch in the spring to full volume electric in order to have a less involved brew day. Right now I set the temp on the controller and walk away and deal with the kids, come back at some point and mash in. I don't deal with heating sparge water on the propane burner and constantly monitoring temps then draining the mash tun/ filling / redraining. If I want I can cruise through the brew day in 4 hours or less and that is still with a very reduced amount of time actively doing something.

I chose an option that ended up running me around 1100, but it could be done cheaper. I went 20g spike kettle with tc port and a recirc port at the top if I choose to add a pump later, stainless steel basket from Utah bio, controller from eBay (big savings here for me), GFCI in line plug (unanticipated cost, but safety matter), 5500w ripple element. If I were to try to do this cheaper I would go Concord pot from eBay, diy weldless fitting tc for the element, bag instead of basket. Depending on batch size this could be done for half the price I bet.

Hope this helps you think about your new system. I could not be happier with my decision.
 

estricklin

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You can probably get up and going with electric for about the same or only a little more than propane.

There are controller kits from auber and others for as little as $40. From there you need a heating element, an enclosure kit for the element, (around $30), wire, spa panel, 220v plugs, you should be up and going for less than a couple hundred bucks.

I use an arduino, but the pi would be easy to get up and going. This is my current setup, although I am currently converting it to a 3 vessel.

20181120_103842.jpg
20181120_103844.jpg


Edit:

I should also add that, I brewed with propane for a long time after moving out of the kitchen. I always had the intention of going electric. I wish I would have gone straight to electric and just stayed in the kitchen until I had the time/money. Propane costs add up, going to swap bottles sucks too. You basically have to own 2 bottles. The electric heats up just as fast as propane.
 

Rev2010

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Electric. Seriously, propane is expensive, usually should have a backup on hand in case a tank runs out, and has to be done outdoors. I always hated spring and fall where I am cause the days are so windy they would always mess with my burn even with a set of chairs setup surrounding the burner/kettle. Then there's snow, rain, darkness of night, curious bees that love to hover around the kettle, transporting it all from inside to outside & vice versa, etc. Also with electric as mentioned you can set timers and wake up to heated strike water and all that goodness. I don't do this stuff but I don't have kids either so for me I'm not under stricter time constraints. Just go electric and don't look back.


Rev.
 

kevin58

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I just switched to electric this fall. I wish I had did it long ago.
 
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Brian Dempsey

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i have some thoughts to add, given the comments and opinion i have received so far (thank you all). But to add to this...

assume i go the electric route/240 with 5500w element using my raspberry pi. i have seen some diagrams where i do not need a contractor that the power first goes to for protection. is that true? to me, i would think you need this. trying to price this out now and for all the electrical stuff, not including the heating element stuff, i might be able to get away with this for 200$$, depending on sales right now. Thoughts.

Gimp
 

estricklin

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i have some thoughts to add, given the comments and opinion i have received so far (thank you all). But to add to this...

assume i go the electric route/240 with 5500w element using my raspberry pi. i have seen some diagrams where i do not need a contractor that the power first goes to for protection. is that true? to me, i would think you need this. trying to price this out now and for all the electrical stuff, not including the heating element stuff, i might be able to get away with this for 200$$, depending on sales right now. Thoughts.

Gimp
I don't think you actually need one, I certainly don't have one. A lot of people use them as a safety, so that only one element can be fired at a time, or so that the switches on the control panel do not have as much current going through them. Some people use them to add automation to their panel.

If your doing a 3 vessel and want to save money, just use a single SSR and then you can just unplug your power from the HLT and plug it into the boil kettle. No danger of firing both at the same time that way either.

If your looking for a way to shut the power off without flipping the breaker, you can buy 30 amp switches, but you'll have to search the web to find them.
 

gnef

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I am one that went with 30 amp wall switches instead of contactors. I did this to simply my panel wiring, and also because I am much more comfortable with housing electrical work rather than control panel wiring.

For my setup, I have a 50 amp GFCI at the main panel, then about 70 ft of 6 gauge 4 conductor cable to a sub panel box with two 30 amp breakers in it (non-gfci, since the one at the mains covers these), then from each 30 amp breaker in the sub panel, it goes to the 30 amp wall switch, and then from the wall switch to the control panel (just a plastic box for me). For my HLT, I have just a simple 220v on/off temp controller and SSR with 220v fan, and for the boil kettle, I have the still dragon DIY setup.

For you, you could do something similar, just using a PID as your single controller to heat up the water to the desired temp for strike and sparge, and then % mode for the boil. So it would go GFCI to sub panel if you wanted, or directly to a 30 amp wall switch, and then from there to your PID and SSR. Does that make sense?
 

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