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My plans for converting to electric, what do you think?

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RMessenger

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I just want to make sure that I'm going about this the right [safest] way, so thank you in advance! I plan on getting this spa panel from HD and mounting it in my garage next to an existing (non-GFCI) 20A 240V outlet that I use for my EV charge station, run a 12 wire behind the wall from the existing outlet into the spa panel, and then run a 12 wire out to a flush mounted outlet that I will use for brewing. I will be using 3500 Watt elements (one for the HLT and one for the brew kettle) attached to kits from the Electric Brewery, and I will not be charging my car and brewing at the same time. I will consider buying or building a controller later when I get sick of plugging/unplugging and have more cash. How does this sound?
 

Airplanedoc

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You have to have the controller to control the boil. I don't think you want to plug/unplug for a hour or more.
 

LandoLincoln

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Many people have thought this. Reality slaps them around and then they invest in a controller.
 

ruralbrew

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I think you will want a simple controller for your boil. What I did is buy an SSVR (auberins has them for $26.50) and a heat sink and put them in a small box. I also added a contactor and a light switch so I could turn the whole thing on and off. To begin with you can use it to bring your strike and sparge water up to temperature and then plug it in to the boil kettle to boil. As time and money permits you can always add another box with a pid for mash temperature control with a HERMS or RIMS, if you want. Or maybe this is all you will need.

It is not The Electric Brewery, but it will make beer. It isn't necessary to spend thousands of dollars to brew electric. It just depends on how fancy you want your system to be.
 

webby45wr

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I'm no electrical expert, but I'm thinking you'd want 10 gauge wire vs. the 12.
 

The Pol

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I agree. If the breaker won't trip until 50A, you don't want to undersize the wire. I have a 50A GFCI, feeding a 50A outlet. This then feeds my panel. However... Since I have elements and pumps that draw much less than 50A, and are wired using wire GA appropriate to their usage requirements, they are all fused. If that breaker won't trip until there is a 50A draw... You may have very well smoked your wiring.

I guess what you are saying is that the 20A in the main box will trip, before the 50A in the spa panel, thusly your 12ga wiring will be safe. Meh, I don't really like the idea of backing up a large breaker, with a small breaker, with undersize wiring in the middle. That sounds like a sloppy DIY job, and it's just wire, Id get the correct wire, or not mix breakers at all.
 

Brad2287

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I agree. If the breaker won't trip until 50A, you don't want to undersize the wire. I have a 50A GFCI, feeding a 50A outlet. This then feeds my panel. However... Since I have elements and pumps that draw much less than 50A, and are wired using wire GA appropriate to their usage requirements, they are all fused. If that breaker won't trip until there is a 50A draw... You may have very well smoked your wiring.

I guess what you are saying is that the 20A in the main box will trip, before the 50A in the spa panel, thusly your 12ga wiring will be safe. Meh, I don't really like the idea of backing up a large breaker, with a small breaker, with undersize wiring in the middle. That sounds like a sloppy DIY job, and it's just wire, Id get the correct wire, or not mix breakers at all.
Since he has a 20 amp circuit he should have 12 gauge wire and a twenty amp breaker at the main panel. This serves as the over current protection for the circuit installed in his house. The spa panel is there only to act as GFCI protection for the purpose of the brewery and provides no over current protection. It is very common to see 30 amp electric breweries using 50 amp GFCI spa panels that provide no over current protection mostly due to the lack of 30 amp GFCI breakers for a price that is reasonable.

I agree it is not the most eloquent solution but it does provide protection for both the brewer and the wiring for a reasonable price. It should be noted that a 50 amp circuit would also not use 10 gauge wire. 6 gauge wire would be used for a 50 amp circuit.
 

The Pol

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All good points. It's safe, just not tidy. My last system was a 9000W RIMS, with a 9000W boil kettle, so I just broke down and installed a 50A GFCI and dedicated outlet.

I figure, this way I've always got enough power regardless of my plans, and the breaker was $80.
 

augiedoggy

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I still think you want the wire sized for the 50A breaker in the spa panel. If not you should use a smaller breaker.
So what your saying is if I only have a coffemaker plugged in and running on my kitchen counter into my 20a gfci circuit and my coffee maker only draws 9 amps it is not wired correctly? he stated that hes only wiring the spa panel to the existing 20a circuit which already has a 20a main breaker protecting it? write 20a only with black marker on the spa panel and be done with it (in case someone else decides to use his power in his garage or he moves)

I have a 30a 10/3 line with a 50a spa panel wired to the end of it between the control panel and 10/3 line which goes to a 30a main... perfectly safe.

I dont understand how is this different? I dont see any fuse on my coffee maker or toaster for that matter? they both have things like heating elements?
My understanding it you can plug any appliance into a 50a circuit as long as it draws less than 50a... if you are really worried you could fuse your control panel for a dollar or two...or add an unessesary breaker if money isnt an issue or you just want to throw more money at the bling factor
 

augiedoggy

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I agree. If the breaker won't trip until 50A, you don't want to undersize the wire. I have a 50A GFCI, feeding a 50A outlet. This then feeds my panel. However... Since I have elements and pumps that draw much less than 50A, and are wired using wire GA appropriate to their usage requirements, they are all fused. If that breaker won't trip until there is a 50A draw... You may have very well smoked your wiring.

I guess what you are saying is that the 20A in the main box will trip, before the 50A in the spa panel, thusly your 12ga wiring will be safe. Meh, I don't really like the idea of backing up a large breaker, with a small breaker, with undersize wiring in the middle. That sounds like a sloppy DIY job, and it's just wire, Id get the correct wire, or not mix breakers at all.
Hes only using the GFCI portion of the spa panel, the amp rating doesnt matter as long as it meets the minimum requirements of the line its connected too... This configuration works fine as long as the owner is not OCD. If it was a commercial application where more than just the home owner would be working with it I agree it might be confusing to someone called in to work on it but its not. the owner can just mark it with a sharpe stating its for 20a max.
 

kevreh

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There's cheap pwm controllers on ebay for around $20. Come in a box with a knob to control power. This could be used to limit element power for the hlt and during the boil. Auber has one too.
 

augiedoggy

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There's cheap pwm controllers on ebay for around $20. Come in a box with a knob to control power. This could be used to limit element power for the hlt and during the boil. Auber has one too.
yes just make sure they are for our 60hz power... and not european 220v
you can also go with a mypin TD4 pid which is under $20 and has the manual mode built in as well as auto function,alarm and temp readout...
 

The Pol

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Like I said, it will work. But yes, I am OCD with my builds. Whatever works for you.

How much does a spa panel cost? I can simply buy a 20A 2 pole GFCI breaker for $70. Not cheap, but plug and play, so how cheap is a spa panel?

God bless
 

jeffmeh

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Like I said, it will work. But yes, I am OCD with my builds. Whatever works for you.

How much does a spa panel cost? I can simply buy a 20A 2 pole GFCI breaker for $70. Not cheap, but plug and play, so how cheap is a spa panel?

God bless
I've seen them at Home Depot for between $50 and $70. The other advantage is that you can have 4 wire with a neutral to derive 120v, if that is important to your application.
 

The Pol

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I have a 4 wire off my 50A breaker, and split off 120V for my pumps, BCS, wireless router and cooling fans. I assumed you could also run 4 wire from a (2) pole 20A GFCI as well.

What am I missing?
 

augiedoggy

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I've seen them at Home Depot for between $50 and $70. The other advantage is that you can have 4 wire with a neutral to derive 120v, if that is important to your application.
This and the fact that I mount the GFCI spa panel next to my brew panel so I use it as the main on and off switch... plus I was told that a GFCI breaker should be mounted near the load.... this was one of the reasons they are required to be within 10ft of a spa/hot tub in my area and also why I believe they are found in the kitchen/bathroom outlets... not positive but thats what I was told.
I paid $56 for mine... and I can use it if I upgrade my circuit to 50a later...
 

The Pol

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I think the code is more driven toward the need for GFCI outlets in wet areas, within a 6' of sinks etc... I dont know that it matters how close it is to the load, in the case of the circuit breaker. Realistically, how close will a GFCI breaker be to ANY load, when it is located in a circuit breaker in someones garage. Its in the garage, the outlets are 30' away in the house...

Either way, a spa panel works. If I had already had a 240VAC outlet in my garage though, with proper GA wire, Id have taken the easy way and just popped in a GFCI breaker in place of the current non GFCI and ran with it.

Your plan works, get building.
 
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RMessenger

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Thanks, folks. I've learned a lot. I will add a dial to control the power during the boil (I will look into the suggestions posted). Is that something that I could place in a box in the wall next to the brewing outlet (to look sort of like a simple dimmer switch)?

Just to explain my rationale for the spa panel, as has been said, it's only for GFCI protection so there's nothing technically wrong with using a 50A panel instead of a 20A (I couldn't find one), and I don't think that replacing the breaker with a GFCI breaker is an option because I don't think my car charge station is supposed to have a GFCI breaker. Besides, my understanding is that a GFCI breaker would be more expensive than the easy to find and relatively inexpensive spa panel, which would also give me a shut off for the outlet when I'm done brewing. I'm not too OCD to mark the spa panel "20A" and most of my brew equipment would be ready if I ever pull the 12 wire and upgrade the line for 50A if I get a different charge station someday.
 

The Pol

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I'd start building, time is wasting.

Also, I have to apologize. Here, we really should do a better job of separating suggestions from condemnation. I think that we were all making suggestions, not intending to rip apart your build.

Please feel free to post up more questions or ideas. I will do better to not seem so condescending.

I'm just beginning a new build as well, and I'm sure that I will seek some guidance as well.
 
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RMessenger

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I didn't feel that anyone was condescending. I appreciate all the help!
 
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RMessenger

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I've tried to learn about making an extremely simple box for the SSR. I don't want fancy or automation, just something that I could plug in that allows me to reduce the heat of an element (I am fine with unplugging the element in the HLT to plug in the element for the boil, even). My problem is that this is so radically different than what everyone is posting about here that I cannot even figure out what box to use. I must be making this more complicated than it should be. Any suggestions of what to use as a box for the SSR?
 

Tegra

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I would just put my 2 cents in on the type of element.

I had a 3000w bent element that I thought would be fine. However I was getting some recipes that we're getting burnt.

I am not sure if there is a low density 3000w element. Many use the 5500w but I went with the 4400w and I think it is the sweet spot in my setup.

Tom
 

The Pol

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If you are using an SSR, you need some type of controller, period. The SSR will require some sort of DC signal, from a controller, to operate. Most use cheap PIDs, in manual mode, and set % duty cycle. It's like a rheostat, with an up/down button, instead of a dial.

Best bet, get the components, lay them out, then procure a plastic junction box of the appropriate size.
 
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RMessenger

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So I need a project box, SSR, heat sink, some sort of PID, and wires/cord for a simple controller. Is that it? Does this require skill to assemble? I'm a little worried due to the fact that all of the assembled controllers I see are well over 1k and the pictures I see posted here of ones people have built look awfully complicated, but at this point I'm pot committed because I've purchased everything else. My wife is going to kill me. :)
 

Tegra

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I agree with you that some of the builds are beautiful but very expensive.

You can safely put together a budget setup that does most of what the big ones do.

My first setup was a 3000w element plugged in a kitchen duplex outlet (to get the 240 volts) to brew outside and then a similar outlet in the garage for inside. I used an "infinite control" from a stove to control it. (But in the end I found I usually only wanted it on or off so didn't use the cycling part)

If you use all portable cords (nothing in the walls and everything unplugged after) you can get away with 14 gauge wire (as long as it has a good temperature rating).

To be totally sacrilegious, if everything is well grounded (and you don't brew in bare feet) a GFI is not needed. (The same element is in your house water heater and you handle an ungrounded kettle in the kitchen every day, both without a GFI)

This all assumes you are an electrically cautious person and assume all risks.

There is a lot of FUD around that "electricity kills". But realistically it can be safe with some care. Although we call it 240 volts it is not the same as Europe uses (with no great concern) as we have no wire that is more than 120 volts above ground.

Bottom line, you are just boiling water not making a medical appliance, keep it simple.

Tom
 

The Pol

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$30 for a box. $45 for a PID. $25 for an SSR and Heatsink. Simple thermocouple for $15. Misc. wires, $20. You can build a panel cheap if you are controlling one element for the boil, and a pump.

Some guys go all out sexy.

Some guys go simple and elegant.

The wiring is simple. I have no skills, and have built three panels.
 

augiedoggy

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or $30 for a box $20 each for pids (with manual mode).$4 each for ssrs and $3 for the heats sinks...the rtd sensors are about 6 bucks for the cheap ones. My panel has a lot going on But even it cost me under $300 to build...I do use a gfci spa panel though for cheap insurance... Electric and water arent a good mix without safety measures...especially when you have submerged electric elements.

IMG_20141029_193052_140.jpg
 

jeffmeh

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To be totally sacrilegious, if everything is well grounded (and you don't brew in bare feet) a GFI is not needed. (The same element is in your house water heater and you handle an ungrounded kettle in the kitchen every day, both without a GFI)
Tom
That's a pretty terrible analogy. Neither a water heater nor a pot on the stove is an open vessel with an exposed, home-wired, heating element. Saving a few bucks at the cost of significantly increased risk seems penny-wise and pound foolish to me.
 

Tegra

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I knew there would be haters.

Just my opinion but I have never seen an industrial machine designed with a GFI. Or a kitchen or home appliance with a GFI, despite many being 2 wire ungrounded.

I love GFIs but the code specifies them only in certain cases and (if you read the Home Depot reviews) often the GFI sensor fails and unless tested each time you are not aware of it.

I would use one if at all possible, but a well grounded plug in kettle plus a safety conscious person is ok.

Tom
 

augiedoggy

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I knew there would be haters.

Just my opinion but I have never seen an industrial machine designed with a GFI. Or a kitchen or home appliance with a GFI, despite many being 2 wire ungrounded.

I love GFIs but the code specifies them only in certain cases and (if you read the Home Depot reviews) often the GFI sensor fails and unless tested each time you are not aware of it.

I would use one if at all possible, but a well grounded plug in kettle plus a safety conscious person is ok.

Tom
I'm pretty sure the newer kitchen appliances have to be on a gfcI now just like all the wall outlets. Also I really think comparing a closed dishwasher or stove to homemade open kettles of liquid with submerged electrical components and electrical connections mounted on the side of these kettles is a bad Idea.... I'm sure the dishwashers have more safety precautions built into them....
Although after seeing in another thread that you removed the fuse from your element controller board after it melted and soldered a solid wire in its place I'm not surprised at this.
 

Black_Z28

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What I did, which I'm really liking is just a simple SSVR with a POT. I added a simple switch and a Volt/Amp gauge. The gauge is completely not needed, but I thought it would be cool to know how much draw is on the element during the boil or mash. I can quickly turn the dial to the amps I know that are needed for a continuous boil or turn it up to a specific amount that I know I can go to without a worry of a boil over. I have about $70 into my controller, which includes the switch, Contactor, SSRV(Pot), box, amp/volt meter. That does not include the SJOOW wire or the GFCI breaker I installed in my sub panel.

Only 10 amps is needed for a full boil with my setup, that's on a 5500ULWD element.






I added a much bigger heat sink that is seen in the first picture. It was way too small. This is my whole setup. Still planning a hood/vent.

 

Tegra

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I apologize, I was only hoping to express an idea based on facts, research and experience available to me. I was hoping for dispassionate feedback based on the same that could add to my knowledge. I am sorry if I have deeply offended some. I am not trying to put down anyones ideas, but simply trying to help ones discover new options.

I will try to be more careful to direct my more controversial ideas to a safer place.

Tom
 

augiedoggy

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I apologize, I was only hoping to express an idea based on facts, research and experience available to me. I was hoping for dispassionate feedback based on the same that could add to my knowledge. I am sorry if I have deeply offended some. I am not trying to put down anyones ideas, but simply trying to help ones discover new options.

I will try to be more careful to direct my more controversial ideas to a safer place.

Tom
Well to be fair now that you explained your reasoning behind removing the fuse and explained the additional protection that makes more sense... as far as not having ground fault protection its always a good idea with exposed liquid and electricity. Its even becoming a requirement in basement wiring now.
I get that your saying if nothing goes wrong its not needed but its there for extra protection IF something DOES go wrong right?
 
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