Guidance on first kegerator build

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Slab

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Greetings. Newest of newbies here. I have my first batch of homebrew bubbling away in the basement as we speak and am now doing my research and assembling the necessary parts to turn my beer fridge in the garage into a kegerator.

Equipment gathered so far-
Frigidaire 16.5 Cu. Ft. Top Freezer Refrigerator (lfht1713lw)
3 ball lock corny kegs with new o rings
full 20# CO2 tank
taprite dual product CO2 regulator (picked up used, doesn't appear to have shut off or check valves)
ball lock disconnect with 5' liquid line and picnic tap

Initially, I will simply put the CO2 tank, regulator, lines and keg in the fridge with a picnic tap, but soon I would like to put 2 taps on the side wall of the fridge. I have an ideal spot to set the CO2 tank outside the fridge and that seems to be preferable in the long run. What is my best CO2, regulator, lines set up? If the CO2 is outside the fridge, do I simply run off the tank through the fridge and install the regulator inside? Or should I install the regulator on the tank, run off one regulator through the fridge and then split the line to the 2 tanks? Do I need a manifold? Where to put shut off/check valves? How best to set up so that I can pressurize a keg at higher pressure without messing with my serving pressure?

Basically, I'm looking for expert opinions here- How best to set up the gas side of a CO2 system to tap 2 kegs and fill a third....
 
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M54B25

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You need a regulator on the CO2 tank to bring it down to safe pressures. If you want to both serve at low pressure and carb at 'high pressures', you'll need two regulators. It could be a dual setup where they're both attached to the CO2 tank and you run a 'high' and 'low' hose into your fridge, or you could have one regulator on the tank to step down to a 'high' pressure (~30PSI) then inside the fridge, split and then a second regulator to step down to serving pressure (~12psi).

Regarding check valves, you definitely want one between the beer and each regulator. If you're serving multiple kegs off one regulator, you probably want one check valve per keg so you don't accidentally backflow an IPA/ Imperial Stout into a blonde ale or lager. Manifolds are a good way to kill a few birds with one stone. They usually have a check valve in addition to allowing you to shut off a 'leg' of your system if you remove a keg or have a leak.

If you look up some examples of manifolds and keezer setups on here you'll likely get some good ideas.
 

Pkrd

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A dedicated fridge or freezer with a temperature controller is a better idea than your combo. You’ll want better temperature control than what’s standard.
 

WBCo

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A dedicated fridge or freezer with a temperature controller is a better idea than your combo. You’ll want better temperature control than what’s standard.
I use a common fridge/freezer combo for my kegerator. The temperature doesn't fluctuate enough to cause any issues with serving beer and it surely doesn't fluctuate enough to justify a dedicated fridge. I keep my kegs, store bought beer, and yeast all in my kegerator. Hops go in the freezer on top.

What is my best CO2, regulator, lines set up? If the CO2 is outside the fridge, do I simply run off the tank through the fridge and install the regulator inside? Or should I install the regulator on the tank, run off one regulator through the fridge and then split the line to the 2 tanks? Do I need a manifold? Where to put shut off/check valves? How best to set up so that I can pressurize a keg at higher pressure without messing with my serving pressure?
I have a similar setup to you. I use an over/under freezer/fridge with a 20# CO2 bottle on the outside with a double regulator on it. I opted to drill the side of the fridge and use a FFL bulkhead like this https://www.austinhomebrew.com/MFL-Bulkhead-4_p_4793.html to bring the CO2 inside and to a 3 way manifold with on/off valves. I carbonate all of my kegs at serving pressure so I keep the secondary line outside of the kegerator and use it for pressure transferring beer out of my conicals and pressurizing kegs so I can clean them and stuff like that.

The cheapest way to solve your problem would be to run both of your regulator outputs into the fridge. Put a 'Y' fitting on the one that is set at serving pressure and then set the other to whatever higher pressure you want. You can add a manifold like this https://www.brewhardware.com/product_p/co2distrib2mfl.htm which will solve your on/off/check valve issue, if you are so inclined.

Personally, I really like the flexibility of having one of the CO2 lines on the outside of the kegerator. If I were you, I'd buy a 3 way manifold and carb your third keg at serving pressure. Yes, it takes a little longer, but if you have 2 kegs of beer on tap already, whats the rush? I've also found that beer usually starts to hit it's stride after about 2 weeks in a keg, so I don't burst carb any of my beers anymore.
 
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Slab

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I use a common fridge/freezer combo for my kegerator. The temperature doesn't fluctuate enough to cause any issues with serving beer and it surely doesn't fluctuate enough to justify a dedicated fridge. I keep my kegs, store bought beer, and yeast all in my kegerator. Hops go in the freezer on top.



I have a similar setup to you. I use an over/under freezer/fridge with a 20# CO2 bottle on the outside with a double regulator on it. I opted to drill the side of the fridge and use a FFL bulkhead like this https://www.austinhomebrew.com/MFL-Bulkhead-4_p_4793.html to bring the CO2 inside and to a 3 way manifold with on/off valves. I carbonate all of my kegs at serving pressure so I keep the secondary line outside of the kegerator and use it for pressure transferring beer out of my conicals and pressurizing kegs so I can clean them and stuff like that.

The cheapest way to solve your problem would be to run both of your regulator outputs into the fridge. Put a 'Y' fitting on the one that is set at serving pressure and then set the other to whatever higher pressure you want. You can add a manifold like this https://www.brewhardware.com/product_p/co2distrib2mfl.htm which will solve your on/off/check valve issue, if you are so inclined.

Personally, I really like the flexibility of having one of the CO2 lines on the outside of the kegerator. If I were you, I'd buy a 3 way manifold and carb your third keg at serving pressure. Yes, it takes a little longer, but if you have 2 kegs of beer on tap already, whats the rush? I've also found that beer usually starts to hit it's stride after about 2 weeks in a keg, so I don't burst carb any of my beers anymore.
Just to make sure I understand your suggestion- keep the CO2 tank and regulators outside the fridge, one regulator set at 30 and the other at 12 or so (serving pressure). Use the 30 for sealing the keg, cleaning, etc. Run the serving pressure line through the fridge wall into a manifold to distribute to kegs. Right?
 

WBCo

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Yup! That's what I settled on after a few iterations. Works great, no complaints here.
 
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Slab

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Thanks! Couple more questions- thoughts on ffl bulkhead vs. running the line through the fridge? On the one hand, the bulkhead makes the system more modular. Easier to connect and disconnect, on the other hand, introducing more connections means more leak possibilities.... another question, how long to make the gas and beverage lines? Shorter lines are easier to fit but give you less positioning leeway. I know there are potential issues with the length of beverage line and getting the right carbonation.... my brother in Alabama has 5’ beverage lines and a really nice pour. I’m about 500’ higher elevation....
 

WBCo

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I went with bulkheads and haven't had any issues with them leaking, but that's definitely something you have to think about. At the end of the day it's all just personal preference. I obviously decided to go with them, but there's nothing wrong with running the line directly through the side of the fridge. I also decided to leave some slack on the hose between the bulkhead and the regulator. Not too much, just a nice clean loop that gives me some freedom if I need to move the fridge or the bottle a little I don't have to disconnect anything.

For beverage lines I went with BevSeal and John Guest Quick Connect lines for everything. I went a little longer than I needed just to be safe, but I am very happy with the hose and fittings and I don't see any reason to go with vinyl tubing for the beverage side. The only "complaint" I could have is that the BevSeal isn't very flexible so it can be a bit of a pain to manage. The new EVABarrier tubing can be used with the same John Guest fittings and is supposed to be much more flexible. I haven't seen any in person yet, but I plan on getting some for another project in the brewery. Williams Brewing has a little write up on the product page that gives you an idea of the length hose you'll need dependent on the serving pressure you use.
 
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