Side-by-Side Kegerator/Fermentation Chamber

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rtrevino

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Forbein11,

As I was doing my research, I found that Frigidaire and Kenmore (among others) are more or less the same refrigerators. My 10y/o Kenmore looks a little bit different than yours in the wiring and control board - all the wires enter the board through one of those white plugs. Otherwise, they're pretty close, as far as I can tell.

What I can't see in your photos is what the temp control knobs look like w/ the wires. Mine has only three wires - Hot, Ground, and a third going back to the control board ("Freezer cold control" and "fresh food control"). Does yours have more, or am I looking at your diagram wrong? Your fridge control looks like it has a damper wire on it. Am I correct to guess that the third (colored) wires can be considered neutral for the sake of hooking up the controller?
Mistercameron
I replied to your pm about my build but I think you may be getting confused between the wiring Forbien11 has done and the way I wired the system. Forbien11 has kept the damper in place where I have completely emilinated it.
 

mistercameron

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rtrevino said:
Mistercameron
I replied to your pm about my build but I think you may be getting confused between the wiring Forbien11 has done and the way I wired the system. Forbien11 has kept the damper in place where I have completely emilinated it.
Yeah... I think you are right. Sorry about that.
 

mistercameron

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No problem, I just don't want you or anyone to get too confused with this build. In my opinion both ways are fairly straight forward and both have positive and negative things.
Sure - and I'm doing mine a little bit differently as well. Once the temp controllers come in the mail I'll start a thread. I'm adding a heating element of some kind to the fridge side to maintain good ale temps during the cold months. So... two temperature controllers.

I do appreciate that though we have different brands and model years, the important parts are remarkably similar. The one major difference I see is the pink wire from the fridge thermo to the damper. Mine doesn't have that. Instead, that connection comes out of the defrost board. Otherwise, I think it's all the same. Depending on how well my system does with just the damper in place, I may have to wire a little AC fan in as you (rtrevino) did.

These two side-by-side threads have been great, and I appreciate the helpful instructions. Really a +1 confidence boost on this fridge hacking.
 

mistercameron

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Have you noticed any issues with the temperature controller being partially inside the fridge? My concern there is with humidity affecting the electronics.
 

rtrevino

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Actually I haven't noticed any moisture at all but I am curious to know what the % is.... I'm going to put a gauge from a humidor in and check it out.
 
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Forbein11

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I haven't noticed any moisture either. So far I have had zero problems with the temp controller or any other part of the system.
 

mistercameron

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I haven't noticed any moisture either. So far I have had zero problems with the temp controller or any other part of the system.
Have either of you noticed condensation forming on either side? I have a mini fridge I've been using and it gets wicked condensation in there. I *think* the fridge should be different because there's a drain under the condenser coils, but I wouldn't be surprised if it surfaces got a little damp.
 

sdRick

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I installed the same controller in the same frigidaire frig and haven't noticed any problems with condensation. It actually seems pretty dry inside. Except for the time I had my airlock blow and there was double ipa all over the place!
 

cwi

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I have looked at the original and two hybrids/mutants of the original design. (Sorry if I may be merging a couple of threads in this post.)

In advance- I am not trying to crap on any of the builds. There is just some confusion in another thread about whether the controller has to be spliced into the original thermo wiring, or if a plug-in receptacle style controller can be used.

Why does the original thermostat have to be tampered with at all?

As I see it, the thermo retrofit is equivalent to maxing out the OEM thermo (or various other tricks) to force an "always on" state, and then powering the original plug using the controller. If you still wanted the controller through-mounted for the bling factor, you could still do it, although bringing the original plug wires in from the outside may (or may not) be easier than accessing the OEM thermo wires. However, wires equivalent to the plug wires are also available at the OEM thermo, and could be wired to a plug.

This would simplify things for many, especially those who have different fridges; can't find/read their schematic; or don't feel comfortable messing with the guts of the fridge. It would be the mythical Unified Theory. It would also allow easier re-purposing of the controller, either temporarily or permanently. You don't even have to lose the bling factor if it is through-mounted.

The fridge with the auto-damper control is a little trickier, but can still be done with a plug in style controller. The wires to power the damper and fan just need to be wired to a plug, and plugged in to the controller. These auto-controlled damper fridges are functionally equivalent to the builds using a computer fan to move freezer air to the fridge side as a means of controlling the temp on the fridge side. The downside, which has been discovered, is the OEM fan/damper does not have enough flow for some situations. It was designed to maintain ~37F on the fridge side, but to do so with ~0F air on the freezer side.

Regarding the defrost control. The defrost control randomly disables cooling; adds heat, and is not a desirable feature for the control of serving/ferm temps. The defrost circuit can be eliminated, but a small fan to continuously blow on the coils would be needed. This is especially true if it is used for cold crashing, or maintaining lager/serving temps on both sides. A side benefit is the small fan would help eliminate temp variations as well as a number of other issues. In humid climates, there may still be icing issues. If you have icing issues and really dislike the "dumb" defrost cycle, there are controllers with "smart" defrost that only turn on when ice is present on the coils, and also have a "postpone defrost temporarily" function.
 

cwi

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Have either of you noticed condensation forming on either side? I have a mini fridge I've been using and it gets wicked condensation in there. I *think* the fridge should be different because there's a drain under the condenser coils, but I wouldn't be surprised if it surfaces got a little damp.
The main cause of excessive condensation is air intrusion- commonly a leaky door seal. Even running a thin probe wire between the door seal and fridge frame can be enough to cause condensation issues.
 

mistercameron

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Any recommendations on where to stick the heat source? I'm leaning towards picking up a ceramic heat emitter and adding a small AC fan to move some of the air around. I've seen some others put light bulbs inside of paint cans, but that seems like it's too bulky, nor do I like the idea of a hot light bulb inside a metal can.

My gut tells me to place the heat source on the bottom with the fan blowing somewhat orthogonally across it so we're not just heating the bottom of the carboy above it.

Second question - how many watts is enough? I'm leaning towards 100, but would a 60W emitter be enough to keep the fermenter at 68 when it's in the 30's outside?
 

twd000

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I have looked at the original and two hybrids/mutants of the original design. (Sorry if I may be merging a couple of threads in this post.)

In advance- I am not trying to crap on any of the builds. There is just some confusion in another thread about whether the controller has to be spliced into the original thermo wiring, or if a plug-in receptacle style controller can be used.

Why does the original thermostat have to be tampered with at all?

As I see it, the thermo retrofit is equivalent to maxing out the OEM thermo (or various other tricks) to force an "always on" state, and then powering the original plug using the controller. If you still wanted the controller through-mounted for the bling factor, you could still do it, although bringing the original plug wires in from the outside may (or may not) be easier than accessing the OEM thermo wires. However, wires equivalent to the plug wires are also available at the OEM thermo, and could be wired to a plug.

This would simplify things for many, especially those who have different fridges; can't find/read their schematic; or don't feel comfortable messing with the guts of the fridge. It would be the mythical Unified Theory. It would also allow easier re-purposing of the controller, either temporarily or permanently. You don't even have to lose the bling factor if it is through-mounted.

The fridge with the auto-damper control is a little trickier, but can still be done with a plug in style controller. The wires to power the damper and fan just need to be wired to a plug, and plugged in to the controller. These auto-controlled damper fridges are functionally equivalent to the builds using a computer fan to move freezer air to the fridge side as a means of controlling the temp on the fridge side. The downside, which has been discovered, is the OEM fan/damper does not have enough flow for some situations. It was designed to maintain ~37F on the fridge side, but to do so with ~0F air on the freezer side.

Regarding the defrost control. The defrost control randomly disables cooling; adds heat, and is not a desirable feature for the control of serving/ferm temps. The defrost circuit can be eliminated, but a small fan to continuously blow on the coils would be needed. This is especially true if it is used for cold crashing, or maintaining lager/serving temps on both sides. A side benefit is the small fan would help eliminate temp variations as well as a number of other issues. In humid climates, there may still be icing issues. If you have icing issues and really dislike the "dumb" defrost cycle, there are controllers with "smart" defrost that only turn on when ice is present on the coils, and also have a "postpone defrost temporarily" function.
I have also been following a couple of these threads with interest. It seems to me that there are two fundamental fridge designs - analog controls and digital controls. I have a digital fridge and I couldn't see any way of splicing in Love controllers without ruining the unit. I don't have the electric wiring knowledge to understand the signal routing, even with a schematic, since the logic functions are programmed into the circuit card. A bi-metal snap-switch and mechanical defrost timer would have been a different story.

So I have opted for the solution you proposed; plugging in the whole unit to a single-stage STC controller to control the fridge side, then wiring a 2-stage Love controller to control a damper fan and heating bulb on the fridge side. I will also tap off a power line to run the interior lights when the doors are opened.

As far as the defrost control, I am taking the word of others who have posted about it being an issue. I plan to use my freezer side for lagering and serving, which are darn near freezing temperatures, so I don't want to disable the defrost function. Another reason for me not to muck with the digital controls. You may very well be able to get away with it for a well-sealed unit, but I'd rather not take any chances.

my 2cents
 

cwi

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It seems to me that there are two fundamental fridge designs - analog controls and digital controls. I have a digital fridge and I couldn't see any way of splicing in Love controllers without ruining the unit.
It is a lot of mucking around, especially if you find out later that you have to cut a large hole between the sides to install a larger fan because the OEM fan and damper don't move enough air.

So I have opted for the solution you proposed; plugging in the whole unit to a single-stage STC controller to control the fridge side, then wiring a 2-stage Love controller to control a damper fan and heating bulb on the fridge side.
There is an STC-1000 for ~$20 that is dual stage and functionally very similar to the Love.

As far as the defrost control, I am taking the word of others who have posted about it being an issue. I plan to use my freezer side for lagering and serving, which are darn near freezing temperatures, so I don't want to disable the defrost function. Another reason for me not to muck with the digital controls. You may very well be able to get away with it for a well-sealed unit, but I'd rather not take any chances.
Messing with the defrost can be problematic, and varies with each model. If you aren't confident with schematics and electronics, it is best left alone as you have chosen to do. If you are lucky, your fridge has smart defrost, and will only activate if it really needs it- not just based on some stupid timer.

For running wires from outside to inside, there should be several avenues ranging from the ice maker hookups to the bottom drain for the evaporator coil, and possible points in between.
 

mistercameron

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@twd000

I think you hit the nail on the head with the notions about digital controls. I don't know if you're able to swap out the fridge for an analog model, but it could be worth it. My only other idea is to set the digital thermostat(s) to cold and try to intercept the wiring to the compressor with your controller. I just got my STC-1000 about a week and a half ago for just under $25 a pop with shipping. On the analog thermostats it's not so bad because they are pretty much just a physical switch and the STC controllers do just that switch on/off - the unit doesn't supply any power to the hot/cold controls.
 

cwi

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My only other idea is to set the digital thermostat(s) to cold
The way he is planning to do it, with an add on fan and damper, he would need to set the fridge side to the warmest setting, or likely disable it. The fridge side thermo in these types has no direct control over the compressor, just indirectly by drawing air from the freezer which may cause the freezer thermo to activate the compressor.

and try to intercept the wiring to the compressor with your controller.
That would be called the plug, which he is already planning to do. Intercepting and using the switched neutral at the compressor will retain power to the lights and such in the fridge; but may not be any easier than using the plug, and then powering the needed internals, like lights, directly.

On the analog thermostats it's not so bad because they are pretty much just a physical switch and the STC controllers do just that switch on/off - the unit doesn't supply any power to the hot/cold controls.
From a black box perspective, the OEM digital controls are no different from analog ones. For either one, there is no functional need to retrofit the compressor controller, only a cosmetic one. Powering the plug gives the same result.

If using the OEM damper/fan for the fridge side, you would need to find the power leads for that, and take control of them. As stated before, the OEM fan may not move enough air to keep the fridge side at ferm temps.
 

twd000

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@twd000

I think you hit the nail on the head with the notions about digital controls. I don't know if you're able to swap out the fridge for an analog model, but it could be worth it. My only other idea is to set the digital thermostat(s) to cold and try to intercept the wiring to the compressor with your controller. I just got my STC-1000 about a week and a half ago for just under $25 a pop with shipping. On the analog thermostats it's not so bad because they are pretty much just a physical switch and the STC controllers do just that switch on/off - the unit doesn't supply any power to the hot/cold controls.
is there an equivalent to the STC-1000 that displays in Fahrenheit? The Love TSS2-2100 is $69 plus probes. I want to control fermentation within 1-deg F accuracy. What is the resolution of the STC-1000? Can it display/control to 0.1 C, or 1 C?
 

cwi

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is there an equivalent to the STC-1000 that displays in Fahrenheit? The Love TSS2-2100 is $69 plus probes. I want to control fermentation within 1-deg F accuracy. What is the resolution of the STC-1000? Can it display/control to 0.1 C, or 1 C?
STC-1000 is it, and is only in C.
Differential min is .3C (or .5C?), so ~1F. Any lower diff, and you would fry your compressor with all the cycling. The probe is very fast reacting.
Display is .1C.
Compressor anti-short cycling delay to ~10 minutes
Be very specific in the model you order-110VAC for the US. SkiesMall, or something like that, is the current low price leader of the US 110VAC model.
Check the ebay aquarium controller thread for more info.
 

mistercameron

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I have the fermentation side going now with the inaugural brew. At the moment the fridge is sucking cool air over, though I'm not sure it can keep up with this active fermentation. How has yours been working?
 

twd000

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Has anyone found a way to fit more than 2 kegs in the freezer side? I'm taking measurements and it looks like I can fit 2 with plenty of extra space but not a third. I haven't cut any of the parts out of the door (yet).
 
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Forbein11

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I have. Look back at the more recent pics where I built the wood framework. I fit 2 on the top and one on the bottom and can serve from all 3 or just use the space to lager. I did have to remove the door shelving and remove any ice/water serving parts that stuck back into the freezer.
 

drkwoods

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twd000 said:
is there an equivalent to the STC-1000 that displays in Fahrenheit? The Love TSS2-2100 is $69 plus probes. I want to control fermentation within 1-deg F accuracy. What is the resolution of the STC-1000? Can it display/control to 0.1 C, or 1 C?
Look at this on eBay:

Digital Temperature Controller Thermostat Aquarium °F

http://bit.ly/s39pYT
 

mistercameron

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drkwoods

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LMAO!!! I have a fricken Centigrade one too. But I put a search on ebay and it popped up last couple weeks. So
Maybe I'll get a Fahrenheit one. But I used to the C now. Lol
 

mistercameron

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The STC has a cooling mode and a heat mode. They are independent. It's not a dual stage controller. You can set it to turn on the compressor when the temp raises to set point or turn on heat when it falls to the desired set point. It won't do both at the same time. Take a look at my build thread
www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/side-side-build-keezer-fermentation-276954/
You've got some handy metal work skills there. I think that's a good idea with those brackets in the freezer, though I don't know if that would work with the model in this thread. How secure are yours? Seems like the plastic shell wouldn't be strong enough to hold a keg or two.
 

drkwoods

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You've got some handy metal work skills there. I think that's a good idea with those brackets in the freezer, though I don't know if that would work with the model in this thread. How secure are yours? Seems like the plastic shell wouldn't be strong enough to hold a keg or two.
My walls are thin sheet metal so three sheet metal screws per side holds well. Ive put 4 kegs in there befor.. Its jammed up pretty good but it can be done
 

drkwoods

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LWayBrewing said:
Were you guys able to fit a 5gal Carboy in the freezer side?
Never tried. But I doubt it. I ferment in the fridge side and can even achieve Lager temps there. The freezer side is the serving side. So no need to put a Carboy in there is there?
 
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Forbein11

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Not a chance of fitting a 5 gal carboy in my freezer. When I lager in the freezer, I use a corny.
 

LWayBrewing

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I just want two chambers for fermentation, no serving. So I was curious if you could fit a carboy in the freezer side... from Mr. Google, I believe a 5gal carboy is roughly 11in (slightly less) in diameter, so I'm wondering how wide the freezer section is.

Forbein11, if you pulled out some of the plastic siding, think it might fit?
 
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Forbein11

Forbein11

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I don't think it would fit in mine. You'd have to measure yours and make a judgement call.

Not sure if anything is available but you might be able to find something shaped right that you could convert. Maybe a food grade container that is rectangular with a lid? I was thinking along these lines originally but never really researched it.
 

LWayBrewing

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yeah, I'm still doing my preliminary research right now. I haven't bought anything yet. I'm trying to see if there's a manufacturer that makes the freezer side wide enough to fit a carboy.

Guess I'll go measure all the freezer sections on display at my neighborhood box store, haha.

Anyway, awesome thread. Thanks for the write up, it's extremely helpful!

:mug: -- Cheers
 

LWayBrewing

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Just to follow up with my previous post, I went to HD, and measured all the side-by-sides they had sitting there (the associate gave me an odd look, haha). I found that the freezer sides were all about 12.5in wide when the size of the unit was 24-25 cu ft. The smaller ones, 21 cu ft and less were 9in wide or so.

I found a steal of a deal on craigslist... $20 for a 25 cu ft side by side, working of course! My buddy has the carboys, so I couldn't fit test the freezer with one. But the 6gal Ale Pale fits in just fine!

Anywho, bought 2 of the Fahrenheit aquarium temp controllers for $33 shipped! $53 total for this thing, can't beat that! They should be here next week some time.

Thanks for all the inspiration.

Cheers,
Lance
 

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I started my build based on yours; my fridge is exactly the same as yours except it's the black 26 cu ft. Can't I just remove the existing controllers and replace the black and neutral with cold side of each temp controller?

This assumes:
The metal wire coming out of each thermo is the thermometer
The green/yellow wire that connects each thermostat is a ground or something that doesn't matter for the unit to function

I'm assuming all the fridge thermo does when "on" is open the damper and run the fan.

Is this correct?
 

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I built one and the green/yellow was a ground and brown and black were my power and neutral for my thermo
 

Timzabel12

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I removed mine completely, and wired my cooling side of my STC -1000 in were the original thermo was. I can post some pictures later in the morning. Just don't remove the defrost controller, which will run your defrost cycle every 8 to 16 hrs to keep the coils from freezing.
 

bvanderhaar

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Exactly what I'm trying to do - keep the OE defrost working (and every other OE feature). Just wanted to make sure the thermo's didn't provide something unique with the green/yellow wire and silver wire for this function.
 
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