Natural Gas or Electric for Indoor brewing

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Bixter1

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Im planning on building and running my first real rig in my basement. I have access to GAS or Electric as a heating source. I would think gas is more efficient and less expensive to run. Any thoughts?
 

Bjornbrewer

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Electric would be more efficient, but not necessarily cheaper to run. Every joule of energy in an electric heating goes to heating, unlike a burner (propane or NG) which also heats a whole lotta air. You need to compare utility costs to see which one is cheaper, but in the grand scheme of things, the energy costs aren't that much per batch anyways (<$3 ish).

Another huge advantage of electric is you don't have to worry about fumes or having enough oxygen in the room to run it. It's also easier to control (PID to SSR without worry of valves, ignitors and the risk of blowing your house up if it doesn't light) if you add some automation. On the down side of electric...you can electrocute yourself, but that's easily remedied with a GFCI.
 

Randar

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You also should include the cost of converting. Not everyone has easy or obvious ability to go to electric. You may need an extra panel or, depending on the size of your setup, you basic home service may not be sufficient. So, start-up capital investment can be a significant difference for some folks.
 

jfkriege

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My vote is for electric, but there are a huge number of factors that need to be accounted for to decide the 'best'.

If you are comfortable with electricity, or with learning about electricity, then I would go with that. If you really are not, and cant find someone who is, then go with gas and just make sure you have adequate ventilation and the proper detection systems.
 
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Bixter1

Bixter1

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Im actually good with both and am going the electric route. That leads to my next question. How big of an element? Im going to be doing up to 10 gallon batches in 15 gallon kettles.
 

P-J

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Im actually good with both and am going the electric route. That leads to my next question. How big of an element? Im going to be doing up to 10 gallon batches in 15 gallon kettles.
4500W 240V elements are more than adaquate for that batch size.

There are a lot of ways to accomplish a decently controlled electric brewery. I've drawn a few different diagrams to accomplish this mission.

What is your overall plan? I'd suggest PID a controller(s). Perhaps I can help?
 
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Bixter1

Bixter1

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I plan on using a GHI Cobra to fully automate my system. I would just use a relay to cycle the elements on/off. I have been studying and researching over the past few weeks and think I have what I need. I'll post my design soon. I plan on making my code open source. It will be an alternative to brew troller and the like. The board is .NET MF C# based and I plan on adding many features to it.

Thanks for the offer though.
 

T-Hops

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If you are using the element from post #11, I used number 10 wire. Number 10 is rated for 30 amps. That element will draw approx 23 to 25 amps (240V to 220V). The SSRs that I have have screw down clamps on them. I used SOOW cord and put on crimp connectors.
 
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How did you mount that? Just a hole saw, some oil to keep it from burning and weldless fittings?
I would consider going with a bimetal hole saw next time: it might be easier.

I bought a large step bit (went up to 1 1/4 I think) and went at it. Got the cheap bit at www.harborfreight.com . You have to keep tap oil on it to keep the metal and bit from getting too hot. It took at least 30 minutes to cut the hole.

The element fits through the hole and the threaded base fits snug into the hole, from the outside. It comes with a rubber o-ring. You need to get the large SS nut. I found mine at www.bargainfittings.com.

I did 2 of these, identical. I threw that bit away, it was toast after that.
 

tgioiosa

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I vote for electric. It's more expensive in the inital costs and setup, but once you're going the per-session cost is less with electric. You don't have to deal with combustion gas venting. Although you do have to be careful with wiring, grounding, and definitely use GFCI protection. It's more efficient at delivering all the energy to the liquid, and it's easier to insulate your vessels. For stainless vessels it's even more efficient because you're adding the heat inside the vessel, and the thermal conductivity of the vessel wall in this case is a benefit instead of a hindrance as when heating from the outside through the stainless.
 
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For stainless vessels it's even more efficient because you're adding the heat inside the vessel, and the thermal conductivity of the vessel wall in this case is a benefit instead of a hindrance as when heating from the outside through the stainless.
I'm not following this. Seems wrong, but maybe I'm just misunderstanding.
 

Bjornbrewer

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stainless conducts heat more poorly then aluminum or copper (more insulative) so he's saying it's more efficient when the heat source (element) is inside the vessel.

My take: it's a moot point considering it's not insulated and the amount of surface area is so great. you're heat loss is still high...just not as high as copper or aluminum
 

tgioiosa

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When using gas or propane, the burner is under the vessel, so the heat from the burner has to pass through the stainless wall to heat the liquid inside. A good portion of energy from the burner is lost to the surrounding air(since the transfer from the flames to the metal bottom of the vessel isn't perfect). The thermal conductivity of stainless isn't all that great compared to other metals like copper or aluminum, so getting the heat from the flame through the stainless wall to the liquid inside requires more energy than a similar electric setup.

In the electric system, the heat element is inside the vessel. Since the heat element is in direct contact with the liquid, there is maximum heat transfer for a given amount of energy put in to the element. The liquid heats from the inside and the stainless steel walls of the vessel now act as an insulator to slow heat loss to the outside surrounding air, thus keeping more of the heat energy inside the liquid.

So in one case the vessel wall is sort of a barrier to high efficieny, and in the other it's more like a friend to high efficiency. Aluminum or copper wouldn't be as much of a barrier in the case of external burners, and also not as much of an insulator for the liquid inside in the case of electric heat elements.
 

tgioiosa

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Yea, Bjornbrewer, that's pretty much what I meant.

Also, if you do insulate the vessel, it would be of more benefit.
 

Bjornbrewer

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Yea, Bjornbrewer, that's pretty much what I meant.

Also, if you do insulate the vessel, it would be of more benefit.
if you do insulate the vessel it's even more of a moot point being that the insulation is going to be hundreds of times better an insulator then any metal.

I understand what you're saying, but I don't think it should be considered when deciding between electric or gas...there's more important reasons to go one way or the other.

You are completely correct about electric being more effiecent in general though...100% of the heating goes to the heating of the liquid.
:mug:
 
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Bixter1

Bixter1

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Finally did this and it wasnt too bad. I bought those cheapy step bits, I started with the smaller one of the set (lots of cutting oil) and worked my way through to the larger one . I used my drill press for this and it cut like butter. The big bits are toast though. I was hoping to fit an electric box on the connector but the little bit of metal adds enough width that i cannot thread the element on. How do you guys protect it from water? I could weld a housing on but am hoping for an easier way. Would heatshrink do? the elements each have their own GFI BTW.
 

JVD_X

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Well... you are going to need a hood vent anyway so you might as well go NG.

Doh! See you already went electric...
 

jfkriege

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The common way to deal with waterproofing is to cast the back of the element in epoxy or JBWeld inside of a 1" PVC coupler. My build thread should have a photo of this.

You dont need a hood to brew indoors. I have a 250 sqft room that I brew in, and with a dehumidifier I never worry about it. Humidity never climbs above 80% and is back to 50% within 30 minutes of the end of boil.
 
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