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Running tubing through freezer for wort chilling

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Jimmyco

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Background: Many people just run tap water through their wort chillers to chill their wort, (1) in Arizona that would never work and (2) I hate wasting water like that. I bought a submersible pond pump and recirculate the water through an ice chest with ice water, it takes 7 minutes. It looks something like this (it's a crude mock-up):


The Question: If I bought 20 feet of vinyl tubing, couldn't I just run the tubing in my freezer to chill the water (kind of like a jockey box)? I could actually re-use my recirculating pump in this case (ignore the fittings in the mock-up). Like so:
 

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The Question: If I bought 20 feet of vinyl tubing, couldn't I just run the tubing in my freezer to chill the water (kind of like a jockey box)? I could actually re-use my recirculating pump in this case (ignore the fittings in the mock-up). Like so:
First off, chilling wort from 200F to 120-100F won't need ice, you'd be wasting it. Regular tap water (even in hot AZ) is "cold" enough, it's temp difference (as well as contact area, material, etc.) that chills. Once the wort drops to 120-100F you need a colder liquid to get the last 40-60 degrees down.

In that top freezer the heat exchange would be much too slow, the cold air needs to chill the water. Think about how long it takes to make ice cubes in there? Although vinyl tubing isn't helping the case with heat transfer, even a copper coil wouldn't make much difference there either. It's not a very fast chilling machine.

Aside from using a glycol chiller, you could put another copper coil inside your ice chest filled with ice and water, to chill your tap water. Once the exit temp drops below your tap water temp, recirculate back into the first coil.

If you have a pool, use that as your water source. Recirculate, then switch to ice from your chest.
Or use and reuse stored (rain or tap) water. You can chill from one barrel to another barrel. Then next time back to the first barrel. etc.

In Australia No-chill is very popular. Not that suitable for making hop forward beers, though.
 
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Jimmyco

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First off, chilling wort from 200F to 120-100F won't need ice, you'd be wasting it. Regular tap water (even in hot AZ) is "cold" enough, it's temp difference (as well as contact area, material, etc.) that chills.
Well, you're wrong about a few things, respectfully. In the summer Arizona tap water can be 100F-110F degrees because our pipes are shallow and newer homes use PEX that is ran through the attic. My tap water is 90+F 4 months out of the year. Don't believe me? See this. My pool is 90F in the summer too. How long would it take to chill wort from 200F with 110F water? Probably too long. My current method (which I have refined more than the mock-up uses 40 pounds of ice), takes 7 minutes to hit 65F.

Extra thoughts: What if I had three 8-pound blocks of ice inside? What if I increased the length to 40ft of tubing? What if I use coils like in a jockey box?

Chilling the wort quickly is very important (denaturing proteins) -- could I use other slower methods, sure.
 

Robert65

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These guys have some things right. Air and vinyl are both excellent insulators, you'll get negligible heat exchange in any system involving either of them. On the other hand, metals and water are excellent conductors of heat. IME you just can't do better than recirculating ice water as you already do. You're already getting impressive results, with that 7 minute chill time. Could you get it going any faster? Maybe. Maybe not. Would you gain any additional benefit you aren't already realizing, with regard to the various reasons you clearly understand as to why rapid wort chilling is important? No.
 

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You can't really justify using 40 pounds of ice and also saying you hate wasting water. Both cost resources and both have environmental impacts. How much electricity does it take to make 40 pounds of ice.

The tubing in a freezer will not work. Ice works because the energy it takes to remove the heat from the water and to phase change to ice is stored up over a very long time. Freezers have low BTU capacity so it can't handle doing it real time. The ice is like a battery.

As mentioned, you'll save the most resources by pushing tap water through your chiller for SOME amount of time while the delta is large. Yes, even at 100F, it has a lot of cooling ability when the wort is 212. The cooling rate slows as wort gets closer to the coolant water. If you do that for like 3 minutes, the wort will be 130 or something and then you'd only need something like 20 pounds of ice. I'm spitballing but you get the idea.
 

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If you keep remaking your ice out of the meltwater, you'll conserve resources!

I use this same system and run tap water to get to around 100°F in around 3 minutes; I realize the OP won't ever get quite that low, but as Bobby suggests, every bit helps. After that I start the recirculating, and it definitely takes more than 7 minutes, but even less than 20 lbs of ice, to get 7 gallons to 48°F lager pitching temperature.
 

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Well, you're wrong about a few things, respectfully. In the summer Arizona tap water can be 100F-110F degrees because our pipes are shallow and newer homes use PEX that is ran through the attic. My tap water is 90+F 4 months out of the year. Don't believe me? See this. My pool is 90F in the summer too. How long would it take to chill wort from 200F with 110F water? Probably too long. My current method (which I have refined more than the mock-up uses 40 pounds of ice), takes 7 minutes to hit 65F.

Extra thoughts: What if I had three 8-pound blocks of ice inside? What if I increased the length to 40ft of tubing? What if I use coils like in a jockey box?

Chilling the wort quickly is very important (denaturing proteins) -- could I use other slower methods, sure.
I think you kind of missed his point. The idea is to get the wort temp down using no ice, then switching to ice when you've done that. We know the water's warm, but you should be able to get that wort down to 120-110 or so, then switch to something where the temp differential is much greater--such as ice water.

You'd be better off using that freezer to make ice, then use that in ice water. Maybe a second cooler, heck, even a kettle would work to run the wort through a heat exchanger.

*****

I spent some time and effort (and a little money) making the top freezer of my ferm chamber into a glycol chiller. Couple of pics below. The problem noted above is simply that the cold air doesn't allow the fluid you're using to respond very quickly.

I typically was trying to chill wort at about 65 degrees down to 35 degrees, a drop of only 30 degrees. Took hours, in part because the smaller the delta between the two temps, the slower it chills.

I even tried using a homemade heat sink, and ran the recirculated glycol solution through some copper tubing to help it lose heat to the air. It helped some, but wasn't particularly quick. But it was good enough to maintain fermentation temperatures and could get the fermenter crashed to under 40 degrees.

freezercoilheatsink.jpg

glycolheatsink1.jpg
 

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The other thing you can do is wrap your hot brew kettle with a wet towel and point a fan towards it. The evaporative cooling will reduce chill times, especially from 212F to 100F. You'll need to keep the towel wet else it turns into an insulator vs a cooler. I did this for awhile but it was another moving part to manage, so for me the juice was not worth the squeeze, but it may provide you with a solution to get your temps down using tap water then switch to the cooler with ice. I agree with the others, using a freezer for this probably won't provide the results you're looking for.

~HopSing.
 

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I spent some time and effort (and a little money) making the top freezer of my ferm chamber into a glycol chiller. Couple of pics below. The problem noted above is simply that the cold air doesn't allow the fluid you're using to respond very quickly.
Quick question for you mongoose, kind of off topic but close enough to the topic. I'm going to be getting a conical, and I have been kicking around the idea of having a removable container with a few gallons of water or water/glycol that I store in my fermenting fridge, which will contain a pump and the hosing to the conical. Since I use well water to chill my wort which is at a constant 53°F I only need to drop the temp a few degrees and then maintain the fermenting beer at 50°F which will only be 4 days till it's transferred to the spunding keg. I need the fridge to spund my beers in the keg so I do not want to get a dedicated chiller for my conical, since you have experience with this, any ideas on if this is feasible or should I scrap the idea?
 

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The problem with using a freezer or refrigerator to make a 'glycol chiller' is those appliances are designed for static insulated environment cooling. The simply don't have the BTU capacity to deal with the additional heat load of both the fermenting wort *or* the heat absorption of the fermenter that's exposed to much warmer air.
 

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Quick question for you mongoose, kind of off topic but close enough to the topic. I'm going to be getting a conical, and I have been kicking around the idea of having a removable container with a few gallons of water or water/glycol that I store in my fermenting fridge, which will contain a pump and the hosing to the conical. Since I use well water to chill my wort which is at a constant 53°F I only need to drop the temp a few degrees and then maintain the fermenting beer at 50°F which will only be 4 days till it's transferred to the spunding keg. I need the fridge to spund my beers in the keg so I do not want to get a dedicated chiller for my conical, since you have experience with this, any ideas on if this is feasible or should I scrap the idea?
It all depends on how warm the ambient temp is, how well you can insulate the conical from that warmth, the throughput of the chilling solution, the volume of the beer, and the volume and temp of the chilling solution.

The conical has a lot of protuberances sticking out of it--handles, ports, legs, the lid and its stuff, the dump valve....all of them are heat sinks drawing warmth from ambient into the fermenter. The chilling unit has to fight that, and maintain temps at your desired level.

Without knowing ambient temps, I can't give much of an educated guess on this, but let's assume it's 70 degrees. Since your water temp is 53, you can probably get the wort temp to 65, maybe a touch lower. I think you'd probably be able to lower the wort in the fermenter to 50, especially if you put a few pounds of ice in the water (assuming no glycol, but if it's in the refrigerator, you're not going to be able to get it that cold anyway).

Can it maintain 50? Maybe. The nice thing about this is you can try it and see, and if not, then pursue other avenues.

Here are a few ideas to try; one is to wrap the conical in a moving blanket (or similar) to isolate it from ambient, essentially insulating it.

conicalblanket.jpg

Another idea I tried (this when trying to crash the beer to 32) was to build an enclosure to isolate the unit from ambient. Long story short, I used a window air conditioner to blow cold air inside (the holes in the pegboard sides allowed an exit for the air). I was certain that was going to work, but it didn't; what I figured out was that I was blowing 55 degree air on the conical, which was a continuous WARMING of the unit higher than anything less than 55. So once the unit got down to about 40, the warmth of the 55 degree air blowing on it warmed it up.

closet.jpg

The last thing I tried was insulating the heck out of the unit using reflectix; it helped somewhat but didn't make enough of a difference.

tinman.jpg

So, in your case, what I'd try is this: set up the container in the fridge, and keep making ice in the freezer portion (assuming you have one). See how it does for you, and if you need to supplement the cooling with ice, do that for the first time. Low cost, but it should also work. Then re-revaluate.

I'd also wrap the unit in something to help insulate it and isolate it from ambient; that should help as well.

*****

I have one more thing to try when I find a way to cut 2" thick foamboard insulation squarely; I'd make an enclosure out of it to enclose the unit. I'm pretty convinced it would work, but I need to cut 2 x 4-foot sections and hold them together with bungee cords or similar.

One more thing: my kludged together system above (with the heat sink and such) WAS enough to maintain fermentation temps, and it was able to crash it down to below 40. As @The_Bishop notes above, these refrigerators aren't designed for this, BUT in my case it did work, and the end result was a glycol chiller for a total cost of....maybe $30, plus refrigerator. On that one I cut holes through the top of the freezer to run the lines; a few pics below showing that. So it can be done, and done one heck of a lot cheaper than paying $800+ for a penguin or similar unit.

glycol1.jpg glycol2.jpg glycol3.jpg glycol4.jpg glycol5.jpg glycol6.jpg
 

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It all depends on how warm the ambient temp is, how well you can insulate the conical from that warmth, the throughput of the chilling solution, the volume of the beer, and the volume and temp of the chilling solution.

The conical has a lot of protuberances sticking out of it--handles, ports, legs, the lid and its stuff, the dump valve....all of them are heat sinks drawing warmth from ambient into the fermenter. The chilling unit has to fight that, and maintain temps at your desired level.

Without knowing ambient temps, I can't give much of an educated guess on this, but let's assume it's 70 degrees. Since your water temp is 53, you can probably get the wort temp to 65, maybe a touch lower. I think you'd probably be able to lower the wort in the fermenter to 50, especially if you put a few pounds of ice in the water (assuming no glycol, but if it's in the refrigerator, you're not going to be able to get it that cold anyway).

Can it maintain 50? Maybe. The nice thing about this is you can try it and see, and if not, then pursue other avenues.

Here are a few ideas to try; one is to wrap the conical in a moving blanket (or similar) to isolate it from ambient, essentially insulating it.

View attachment 660354

Another idea I tried (this when trying to crash the beer to 32) was to build an enclosure to isolate the unit from ambient. Long story short, I used a window air conditioner to blow cold air inside (the holes in the pegboard sides allowed an exit for the air). I was certain that was going to work, but it didn't; what I figured out was that I was blowing 55 degree air on the conical, which was a continuous WARMING of the unit higher than anything less than 55. So once the unit got down to about 40, the warmth of the 55 degree air blowing on it warmed it up.

View attachment 660355

The last thing I tried was insulating the heck out of the unit using reflectix; it helped somewhat but didn't make enough of a difference.

View attachment 660357

So, in your case, what I'd try is this: set up the container in the fridge, and keep making ice in the freezer portion (assuming you have one). See how it does for you, and if you need to supplement the cooling with ice, do that for the first time. Low cost, but it should also work. Then re-revaluate.

I'd also wrap the unit in something to help insulate it and isolate it from ambient; that should help as well.

*****

I have one more thing to try when I find a way to cut 2" thick foamboard insulation squarely; I'd make an enclosure out of it to enclose the unit. I'm pretty convinced it would work, but I need to cut 2 x 4-foot sections and hold them together with bungee cords or similar.

One more thing: my kludged together system above (with the heat sink and such) WAS enough to maintain fermentation temps, and it was able to crash it down to below 40. As @The_Bishop notes above, these refrigerators aren't designed for this, BUT in my case it did work, and the end result was a glycol chiller for a total cost of....maybe $30, plus refrigerator. On that one I cut holes through the top of the freezer to run the lines; a few pics below showing that. So it can be done, and done one heck of a lot cheaper than paying $800+ for a penguin or similar unit.

View attachment 660358 View attachment 660359 View attachment 660360 View attachment 660361 View attachment 660362 View attachment 660363
My bad, I left some pertinent info out, I chill the beer to 55 with the ground water, so I'm only dropping the temp 5 degrees and the room is right around 65 or so. I do 2.5-5 gallon batches. I was looking for ways to limit my need to get another cooling unit as I already have 4 fridges in the house dedicated to beer. Thanks for the detailed response, that's exactly what I was looking for.
 

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My bad, I left some pertinent info out, I chill the beer to 55 with the ground water, so I'm only dropping the temp 5 degrees and the room is right around 65 or so. I do 2.5-5 gallon batches. I was looking for ways to limit my need to get another cooling unit as I already have 4 fridges in the house dedicated to beer. Thanks for the detailed response, that's exactly what I was looking for.
That's about as good a set of circumstances as you could have. The smaller batches will help as well.
 
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All good points, my apologies to IslandLizard for missing his point. It seems the freezer isn't a good idea.

My objection, which I didn't make clear, is that using 100F water isn't exactly the problem it's that the water is being recirculated that makes it not work for me (unless I use the pool). The water will immediately rise in temp being recirculated, which will not work. Running a hose without recirculating means wasting 15 gallons of water (40 pounds of ice is 5 gallons BTW). So using ice from the start still saves more water.

The best solution, inspired by this discussion, is to freeze used water bottles then place them in the chest instead of bagged ice. That way I re-use them several times.
 

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You may slow it down that way though. What actually sucks up heat is *melting* the ice, and smaller pieces with more surface area will have more contact with the circulating water and melt faster. You can still save the water and reuse it.
 

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All good points, my apologies to IslandLizard for missing his point. It seems the freezer isn't a good idea.

My objection, which I didn't make clear, is that using 100F water isn't exactly the problem it's that the water is being recirculated that makes it not work for me (unless I use the pool). The water will immediately rise in temp being recirculated, which will not work. Running a hose without recirculating means wasting 15 gallons of water (40 pounds of ice is 5 gallons BTW). So using ice from the start still saves more water.

The best solution, inspired by this discussion, is to freeze used water bottles then place them in the chest instead of bagged ice. That way I re-use them several times.
As someone else in a drought prone area i will remind you to decide which you think is more important- conserving water but “wasting” energy on cooling (typically fossil fuels) or wasting water but conserving energy.

Big plastic hdpe barrels are cheap Maybe catch your hot water post HX and use it for washing the car, topping off the pool, washing the dog, watering the lawn,etc. Then you’re r not “wasting” water. Or maybe get two and an extra pump and you can go from the first barrel to hx at 90 and then into second barrel for maximum temp differential. Use the same 30gals of water for years.
 

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You will lose heat recirc with hot tap because temp diff is so great with boiling wort and hot tap. 100 degree diff is huge, from a Physics thermodynamic standpoint. You will not get to hot tap water temp but you will suck a HUGE delta-Q heat out of wort just filling a cooler with tap water and recircing in it.
 

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Right. Just be careful about conserving the right thing. Running 15 gallons of tap through the chiller is only a waste if it provides no function. You're chilling wort which is already one benefit. If you let it run into the ground or drain, that's somewhat wasteful but if you collect it and do one more useful thing with it, it's even less wasteful. Wash your kettle with that hot water. You've already spent the energy to make the heat. Put it in your washing machine and do a load of towels. Wash the dishes.

Making ice is not free. Only you can do the math based on your electric bill but I bet the water is cheaper.
 

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I’ve had the same thoughts as the original poster, but using a chest freezer. I’ve found it much easier to just make extra ice in between brewing sessions. Just keep a couple buckets in the freezer and dump a tray or two at a time into it. I don’t have an automatic ice maker.

I use tap water to get the wort down to 120° or so and then switch to having tap water go into the ice bath and then the ice water going through the immersion chiller via a spare sump pump. I also use the chiller to stir the wort, which speeds up the cooling. I use more ice in the summer. In the winter it’s nice because the tap water where I am is around 45° in Jan/Feb.

Keeping extra ice in the freezer also helps reduce the amount of electricity the freezer uses.
 

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Making ice is not free. Only you can do the math based on your electric bill but I bet the water is cheaper.
I’ve found it much easier to just make extra ice in between brewing sessions.

Keeping extra ice in the freezer also helps reduce the amount of electricity the freezer uses.

I'm with @OneInTheHand on both of these points.

@Bobby_M or anyone else, does anybody have a rough idea of how much electricity it takes, in a typical, modern, Energy Star rated fridge/ freezer, to make a pound of ice? This is the key to knowing (based on our own utility rates) how to cost this out.
 

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does anybody have a rough idea of how much electricity it takes, in a typical, modern, Energy Star rated fridge/ freezer, to make a pound of ice? This is the key to knowing (based on our own utility rates) how to cost this out.
The calculations of the cost of making ice was addressed very recently by @Vale71 in this post:
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/threads/water-saving-cooling-solutions.672819/#post-8732246

That whole thread hinges on a similar topic as this one, efficient chilling while saving water and inexpensive solutions to do so.
 

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The calculations of the cost of making ice was addressed very recently by @Vale71 in this post:
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/threads/water-saving-cooling-solutions.672819/#post-8732246

That whole thread hinges on a similar topic as this one, efficient chilling while saving water and inexpensive solutions to do so.
That said, although the calculations seem to be fine, it somehow "feels" to be much more expensive to make ice. I once calculated keeping an (already full and frozen) 16 cu.ft. chest freezer running cost around $10 a month in electricity. That was over 15 years ago when I lived in Northeast PA.
 

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I had completely forgotten that thread! Making ice is dirt cheap indeed, certainly can't justify buying it at the gas station, and probably saves money to start the ice recirc sooner than later after running more tap water, if you aren't repurposing that runoff. At least that's my intuition without actually calculating the cu ft of water involved.
 

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It's easy for me to wield tap water since NJ has practically never suffered drought restrictions but even moreso that I'm on a private well. I typically bring up the "ice isn't free" thing to just plant that seed and be as analytical as possible. One way to think of the water waste thing is that you were going to wash your kettle, wash dishes, and do laundry with some volume of water whether you were brewing or not. No one ever thinks of those things as wasteful. In that regard, having the water chill your wort first not only saves water but if your intended second use needs hot water, you're also saving energy because you were going to boil that wort anyway whether you could use the resulting energy again or not.
 

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That said, although the calculations seem to be fine, it somehow "feels" to be much more expensive to make ice. I once calculated keeping an (already full and frozen) 16 cu.ft. chest freezer running cost around $10 a month in electricity. That was over 15 years ago when I lived in Northeast PA.
That's because the cost of actually making the ice is vastly overshadowed by the cost of just having the freezer running and mantaining temperature. One more thing that might seem counterintuitive as well is that it costs the same to keep the freezer running regardless of whether it's completely empty or full to bursting as basically you're just using electricity to pump heat out of the freezer at the same rate it seeps in through the walls. The contents, once they've reached the target temp, don't cost anything per se to keep cool as they have no way of absorbing heat directly from the external environment.
You just gotta love thermodynamics... 'cause if you don't, it'll just drive you nuts... ;):D
 

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In any case, the energy cost for making a pound of ice (for you 'mericans ;)) is 0.038 Kwh. That's going from +20°C to -20°C but even if you start with significantly warmer water like our friend in AZ the difference will be very small as the lion share of the energy really goes into the phase change and not the cooling before and after.
 

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Well, you're wrong about a few things, respectfully. In the summer Arizona tap water can be 100F-110F degrees because our pipes are shallow and newer homes use PEX that is ran through the attic. My tap water is 90+F 4 months out of the year. Don't believe me? See this. My pool is 90F in the summer too. How long would it take to chill wort from 200F with 110F water? Probably too long. My current method (which I have refined more than the mock-up uses 40 pounds of ice), takes 7 minutes to hit 65F.

Extra thoughts: What if I had three 8-pound blocks of ice inside? What if I increased the length to 40ft of tubing? What if I use coils like in a jockey box?

Chilling the wort quickly is very important (denaturing proteins) -- could I use other slower methods, sure.
Hes right about the freezer being an inefficient waste of time. You would be better off to just use a cooler full of ice water... or make a glycol chiller from a window ac unit. The freezer would be totally ineffective in providing any on the fly cooling while chilling unless you were chilling at like 1gallon per hour.
 

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My bad, I left some pertinent info out, I chill the beer to 55 with the ground water, so I'm only dropping the temp 5 degrees and the room is right around 65 or so. I do 2.5-5 gallon batches. I was looking for ways to limit my need to get another cooling unit as I already have 4 fridges in the house dedicated to beer. Thanks for the detailed response, that's exactly what I was looking for.
You would benefit from a glycol chiller. less space wasted and actually more efficient than multiple running fridges. I can lager 4 110gallon conicals of beer using a single 1/3hp chiller at the brewpub, and at home I used to do the same with 4 stainless homebrewing conicals whether wrapped externally with discharge hose for cooling or using an internal coil all off one 1/3hp chiller that didnt have to run all that often in most cases.

keep in mind im not coldcrashing more than one conical at any given time as each fermenter has its own temp control shared off one chiller.

BTW I made the mistake once of putting the wrong temp probe in the wrong conical at the brewpub and overnight I accidently took 100 gallons of lager down to 34 degrees with that single micromatic chiller all while maintaining temps on 2 other conicals of ales. (Yes the lager came out fine in the end) But I believe the fact that we are using plastic conicals with stainless coils in them until our new unitaks are setup allowed this as a stainless non jacketed or insulated conical would conduct too much to allow this as often happens in homebrewing stainless conical setups.
 
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