Side by Side Fridge Conversion

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bluedog_Brewing

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I recently picked up a newer GE side by side fridge to replace my old chest freezer that died. I wanted to turn the freezer side into a kegerator and the fridge side for fermenting ales, so I knew that I would need to replace/override the factory thermostats to make things work.

I looked inside before i bought it and saw it had dial knobs for the thermostats so I thought I would be good to go with the standard method of replacing the mechanical thermostats with digital ones. I bought two STC-1000s from ebay and started checking out the wiring while I was waiting for the thermos to arrive. Once I opened up the panel with the thermostat knobs, I saw they are connected to a small circuit board and have 6 wires connected to it. I found out that these knobs are connected to digital rotary encoders. They send some sort of pulse signal back to the main control board to indicate the position of the knob. Unfortunately, I could not find a way to jump the incoming power line directly back to the board to turn the fridge on and off. I probably could have built a small square wave generator with a timing chip but it didn't seem like it was worth it.

So I found the wiring diagram and starting poking around the main board, the compressor and condenser area, and the evaporator. My new plan was to cut into the compressor and fan power between the main control board and the devices. Since I would be leaving the factory thermostats in place, the control board would always be trying to cool the fridge and freezer, and I could use the STC-1000s to disconnect and reconnect power as needed. To complicate things, this particular GE fridge uses 120VAC for the compressor and 13VDC for the condenser and evaporator fans.

I ended up using a two pole relay to switch the 13VDC to the condenser fan and the 120VAC to the compressor. This relay is controlled by the STC-1000 that monitors the freezer temp. I left the evaporator fan connected and running all the time to provide circulation and even temperature distribution for the kegs.

I mounted the STC-1000s in the fridge door and tapped into the interior light for power. Right now I am using 3 60mm AC box fan but can only get the fridge side down to 45°F when the freezer is at 35°F. I plan to replace them with 2 120mm AC fans to enable better crash cooling.

I used a piece of stainless steel sheet metal to cover the hole where the ice dispenser used to be. I found a guy on ebay, he even cut it to the size I needed for free. I used a piece of plywood behind the sheet metal for reinforcement and installed my 4 taps,

I still need to add a shelf in the freezer to get a second layer of kegs in there but I only have one beer kegged right now so its not urgent. I am so glad that I can keg now and don't have to wash a bunch of bottles.

I know some other people here are working on similar projects, if you have any questions feel free to ask.

:mug:

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FLBrew

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Wow! I've been wondering if this could be done....and now,I want one. However, this is way beyond my scope of expertise. What trade
(Friend) would I need to beg for help? Electrician? Fridge tech?
 
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bluedog_Brewing

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The electrical work isn't too hard but you definitely want someone who has worked with it before. Mostly it was a lot of cutting metal and plastic and foam. I used a dremel with a cut-off wheel a lot. Some drilling and screwing into sheet metal to put up the shelves.

I got most of it done over the memorial day weekend and finished up over the next couple weeks, working a little bit here and there after work.

It was a lot of work. But now I get to enjoy the beauty of my own oatmeal stout on tap 5 feet from my desk :rockin:
 
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bluedog_Brewing

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Do you have a schematic on how you wired in?
No schematic. I just cut the condensor and compressor wires from the main control board and switched them with a 2-pole relay controlled by one STC-1000. I run the fans to cool the fridge side directly off of the other STC-1000.
 

Stealthcruiser

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Thinkin' here, caution!

You use the fans to move air from the kegerator side, to the fermenter side?
I'm digging the idea of a side by side, but the circuit board crap spooks me, splicing into it.
I have no problem with the cutting / drilling / screwing / sheet - metal-ing part.

I like your setup!
 
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bluedog_Brewing

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Thinkin' here, caution!

You use the fans to move air from the kegerator side, to the fermenter side?
I'm digging the idea of a side by side, but the circuit board crap spooks me, splicing into it.
I have no problem with the cutting / drilling / screwing / sheet - metal-ing part.

I like your setup!
Yes, last weekend I replaced the 60mm fans with (2) 120mm AC fans. One pulls air from the top of the kegerator side and the other pushes air from the ferm. side into the bottom of the kegerator side.

I cut the wires for the condensor fan and the compressor between the control board and the devices. Since I always have my temp controllers set higher than the fridge is supposed to be, the control board will try to cool all the time (except for defrost cycles) and I am "intercepting" the flow of electricity with my controllers and relays to maintain a higher temperature.

So far everything is working great. I have fermented a couple of batches and just crash cooled a pale ale while keeping a keg of oatmeal stout on tap.
 
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bluedog_Brewing

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Thanks for the complements guys. jbay is right, that is a slim 1/4 bbl sanke in there now, I am working on adding a second shelf so I can stack the kegs. I test fitted it with 4 1/6 bbl sankes, it was tight but they fit. I think I can probably get the 1/4 bbl and a 1/6 bbl on one shelf but I may have to remove some of the shleving on the door that I am using for bottles.
 

jbaysurfer

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Thanks for the complements guys. jbay is right, that is a slim 1/4 bbl sanke in there now, I am working on adding a second shelf so I can stack the kegs. I test fitted it with 4 1/6 bbl sankes, it was tight but they fit. I think I can probably get the 1/4 bbl and a 1/6 bbl on one shelf but I may have to remove some of the shleving on the door that I am using for bottles.
Nice. I wish you lived closer to me so I could bribe you with beer to come over and help me build one. There's a decent looking side by side for $100 bucks on the local craigslist page.
 
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bluedog_Brewing

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I used to be a lot closer to you... Grew up in Pasadena.

$100 bucks is a good deal, if its a bit older it would be easier to convert. Mine was more involved because it is all digitized. Older fridges usually have a simple on/off thermostat that you can replace with a digital, and just tell the fridge when to cool each section.
 
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bluedog_Brewing

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Quick update here. I installed the shelf in the kegerator side and am using it to crash cool a dry-hopped pale ale right now. Should be kegging it by the weekend and brewing another batch!! I am trying really hard to fill the kegerator with beer buts its tough, the oatmeal stout I have on tap is almost empty and I haven't even gotten the next keg tapped!!

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jbaysurfer

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^ That's Purty. It's also amazingly clear for a dryhopped beer that you're cold crashing.

Is that Flying dog Citra DIPA I see in the bottom shelf of the fridge? I'll be cracking one of those tonight.
 
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bluedog_Brewing

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That is Citra DIPA!! Good eye jbay. That is an amazing beer, I am saving my last bottle

Below is a pic of my Citra DIPA clone. It didn't quite stack up when I took a sample but it was only 2 weeks old and not dry hopped yet. Going to rack and DH it when I keg the pale ale this week.

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bluedog_Brewing

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I used large sheet metal screws to screw it into the metal interior. There usually aren't any refrigerant lines inside the walls of fridges, just lines running from the compressor (down low on the backside of the fridge) to the evaporator in the freezer compartment. Makes it a lot easier to drill and modify compared to a chest freezer, which has embedded refrigerant lines and uses the internal and external surfaces for heat transfer.

As far as that craigslist fridge, I'm sure it doesn't have digital thermostats, but some of the older models have a simple lever that opens a damper between the two sides (instead of an electrical switch that sends power to open a damper). You would probably have to install some fans to exchange air anyways, so just rip it out and plug the old damper hole with a small fan.
 
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bluedog_Brewing

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Thanks cosmatics. I've really been enjoying it. Kegging has really helped to streamline my brewing and I don't have to lift heavy carboys in and out of a chest freezer anymore
 

njs170

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Great build! I wish I had the understand of electrics that you have! good job!
 
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bluedog_Brewing

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The stc-1000 only draw a couple of watts, you could use 28 ga for it. for the stc-1000's relays you should use same gauge wire that was installed with the fridge. I think for me that was mostly 16 and 18 ga.
 

Brewer_opie

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I'd use 18 gauge. The 14 gulags was hard to tie in. I'm almost done with my rig (at least the temp control side... Will run keg lines soon), and will post pictures.
 

223nbecker45

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What temp differences do you get from keezer to ferm? I am looking to do this to save space in the garage and have the best of both worlds
 
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bluedog_Brewing

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I can keep the ferm side at up to 72-74°F with the kegerator side at 36-38°F. It has been working great, I've fermented 4 batches in it so far but I am struggling to fill the kegerator side. I just can't keep up with demand.
 

Spintab

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Any idea if there are cooling coils in the middle section? Imagine how many kegs you could fit in there if the middle was open. Or like a 2bbl conical.
 
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bluedog_Brewing

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Any idea if there are cooling coils in the middle section? Imagine how many kegs you could fit in there if the middle was open. Or like a 2bbl conical.
No coils in the middle divider. I wouldn't remove it for me because it would eliminate the dual temp capability, which was the main motivation for getting a side by side. I wanted two temp controlled spaces in limited space. Before I had the side by side I used a 15 cu. ft. chest freezer and found that I never needed that much space at one temp, I was always trying to ferment one ale and at the same time wanting to cold crash another, that kind of thing. One big space just didn't work for my brewing scale.

If I had more room and brewed a lot more, it would be a good option. I think several people have gone that route with a side by side conversion and had good results though. If it would work for you, do it!! It would be easier than what I did.
 

Brewer_opie

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I get a 22 degree spread right now. But I have no damper. I just put in a louver system... I'm hoping that keep the fridge side warmer. I'll add a heating element soon, but want to keep the heating to a minimum. I hate the idea of fighting the cold to get heat.
 
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bluedog_Brewing

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I get a 22 degree spread right now. But I have no damper. I just put in a louver system... I'm hoping that keep the fridge side warmer. I'll add a heating element soon, but want to keep the heating to a minimum. I hate the idea of fighting the cold to get heat.
I added one of the flip open dampers on each of the two fans I use to exchange air with the kegerator side. Before I had those, I had trouble keeping the ferm side warm. They are only $5 at Lowe's. I also plugged a vent that was always open to the evaporator, I found that a lot of air was being exhcanged through there.
 

veeref

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Hey guys!

I happened to purchase the exact same fridge, and want to do the exact same thing. I purchased two STC-1000 AC controllers and a 120V AC 120mm fan.

I managed to procure the wiring diagram which was wedged inside the temperature controller apparatus.

I don't quite understand where you installed your 2-pole relay and where you tapped the two controllers into. Any chance you can explain it in the wiring diagram? Thanks again.

Also, did you use one 110V AC and one 12V temp controller?

Regards,
Randy

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