Warning to Spike Trio/Electric Brewing users

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Zenmeister

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I got my Spike Trio in late 2018, and have made over 100 batches. 20-gallon system, with the 50-amp box. I wanted to check something in the box today, opened it and smelled the distinct odor of electrical overheating. It has been about 4-days since I have had the panel on, and I was obviously concerned. Upon close inspection, I saw that the insulation on the hot wires for both outlets to the heating elements has burned off, and bare wire is now exposed. THIS IS NOT GOOD, AND I WAS PROBABLY A BREW OR TWO AWAY FROM A MAJOR SITUATION.
The fix is easy, as the wire is very easy to replace. I rarely open the panel box any more, and just happened to today. I'm glad I did, and strongly recommend you open yours and do a quick visual inspection as well. These two pictures are taken of the outlets for the Boil Kettle and HLT. You can see the melting of the insulation on the Black wires in both cases. I am off to Home Depot tomorrow to get some wire and fix it. (I will also be replacing the outlets as it looks as if they have experienced some melting as well.

Boil Kettle wires.jpg
HLT Wires.jpg
 

doug293cz

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It is good practice to perform at least annual maintenance on electrical panels. The cyclic heating and cooling of the screw terminals can cause them to loosen over time. If the connections loosen, the resistance goes up, and you get local heating - which can easily lead to the type of failures seen here, and worse. You should check the torque on all screw terminal connections in your panel regularly.

Brew on :mug:
 

madscientist451

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I am off to Home Depot tomorrow to get some wire and fix it. (I will also be replacing the outlets as it looks as if they have experienced some melting as well.

View attachment 778658
Is replacing the outlets and the wire with the same or similar components enough? Why did it melt in the first place? Perhaps wrong wire size? Is that outlet rated for the required load?
I disagree with the above post about maintaining electrical components. If the appliance was designed and built with the correct components, the end user shouldn't have to do much of anything. Yes, increased resistance from a loose connection CAN cause overheated wire, but is it also possible the circuit is overloaded? Perhaps the manufacturer should be contacted and see what they can offer.
What wire size is the one that melted?
 

sibelman

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An inquiry to @SpikeBrewing could certainly make sense, and could ultimately benefit other Trio customers. Doug's theory has juice (pun intended!), especially because only one leg seems to have overheated. Alternatively or as a possible second factor, the original panel assembly might have had a glitch at that connection point. But to me it seems unlikely that the panel maker used under-sized wire or outlets.
 
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Spike doesn't build there panels, I believe its ebrewsupply who makes them. I open my panel probably once every few months and check things out. I had a plug on one of my heating elements melt a couple years ago so I check them every brew day and keep a spare element and spare plug in case one fails during a brewday.
 

Bobby_M

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That was most likely due to the wiring lugs not being as tight as they should/could be. It's also a very minor tweak, but you shouldn't twist stranded wire before inserting into those lugs. You actually want the bundle to flatten out in parallel strands for better contact. If you twist, then torque, it can loosen up over time.

As for element connections, I recommend this stuff. Actually it would also help on the wire connections too.
 
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@Bobby_M I see that product is a carbon filled, silicon free type of compound. Is there a reason for that specific compound? Would a silicon based dielectric compound not be a good substitute. I always keep that in my tool box, so I'm curious.
 
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An inquiry to @SpikeBrewing could certainly make sense, and could ultimately benefit other Trio customers. Doug's theory has juice (pun intended!), especially because only one leg seems to have overheated. Alternatively or as a possible second factor, the original panel assembly might have had a glitch at that connection point. But to me it seems unlikely that the panel maker used under-sized wire or outlets.

This can happen after 5 years of use and over 100 batches. This isn't a coffee maker. These panels are industrial pieces of equipment pushing out almost 30a of power at 240v; it's not joke. They need to be looked at more as industrial pieces of equipment that need regular inspection. Wires can loosen up over the many many heating and cooling cycles these go through. We recommend going through the panel once or twice a year and tightening all loose connections.
 

Homebrew Harry

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If the wires were secured properly at the factory, they should not have came loose in 5 years. Most of us have central air units that pull more amps than this and we don't have to constantly check the connections. Furthermore we don't have to open our electric panels that feed our homes to tighten the connections every 4 years.
If it were me, I would step up the wire size(if possible)when replacing it.
 

doug293cz

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If it were me, I would step up the wire size when replacing it.
Why? If it is already 10AWG (and I'll bet you a beer it is) there is no reason to increase the wire size. Wires carrying too much current heat uniformly along their length. Why are there so many similar failure pics, that look like OP's, all over HBT. Why do they all melt at the connection point? It's because the excess heating is occurring at the connection, not uniformly along the wire. It is not a wire size issue.

Brew on :mug:
 

Homebrew Harry

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Why? If it is already 10AWG (and I'll bet you a beer it is) there is no reason to increase the wire size. Wires carrying too much current heat uniformly along their length. Why are there so many similar failure pics, that look like OP's, all over HBT. Why do they all melt at the connection point? It's because the excess heating is occurring at the connection, not uniformly along the wire. It is not a wire size issue.

Brew on :mug:
Why? Just a bad habit of mine to try and beef up something that had a problem that shouldn't have happened in the first place.
 
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If the wires were secured properly at the factory, they should not have came loose in 5 years. Most of us have central air units that pull more amps than this and we don't have to constantly check the connections. Furthermore we don't have to open our electric panels that feed our homes to tighten the connections every 4 years.
If it were me, I would step up the wire size(if possible)when replacing it.

All wires are properly tightened at the factory. This loosening is a well known phenomenon in commercial panel building. Now if your AC unit has a PCB and/or soldered joints then that doesn't happen. We'll let someone else in this industry chime in an echo what we're saying however...
 
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Why? If it is already 10AWG (and I'll bet you a beer it is) there is no reason to increase the wire size. Wires carrying too much current heat uniformly along their length. Why are there so many similar failure pics, that look like OP's, all over HBT. Why do they all melt at the connection point? It's because the excess heating is occurring at the connection, not uniformly along the wire. It is not a wire size issue.

Brew on :mug:

Typically what happens is a connection loosens up. This can be from heat, arching, etc. The looseness causes the resistance to go up which causes more current/more heat. This is what can cause the wire to melt as shown in the OPs first post.
 

Homebrew Harry

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All wires are properly tightened at the factory. This loosening is a well known phenomenon in commercial panel building. Now if your AC unit has a PCB and/or soldered joints then that doesn't happen. We'll let someone else in this industry chime in an echo what we're saying however...
Stuff happens. Since we are blaming it on heat cycles, maybe the manufacturer should design it better so they don't come loose like say in a home water heater. In all my years of working I never saw a water heater or an AC units screws loosen up.
 

doug293cz

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Typically what happens is a connection loosens up. This can be from heat, arching, etc. The looseness causes the resistance to go up which causes more current/more heat. This is what can cause the wire to melt as shown in the OPs first post.
My questions you responded to were rhetorical. I know that OP's failure was caused by connections that loosened over time and cycles. Look at post #2 in this thread.

Brew on :mug:
 

Homebrew Harry

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Typically what happens is a connection loosens up. This can be from heat, arching, etc. The looseness causes the resistance to go up which causes more current/more heat. This is what can cause the wire to melt as shown in the OPs first post.
Arching ? Did you mean to say arcing ? If so, there would be no arc whatsoever until the connection came loose
 

Bobby_M

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@Bobby_M I see that product is a carbon filled, silicon free type of compound. Is there a reason for that specific compound? Would a silicon based dielectric compound not be a good substitute. I always keep that in my tool box, so I'm curious.

Dielectric is non conductive so at best it prevents corrosion. At worst, it increases resistance if the contacts are a little loose. It's really meant to be applied to connections after the fact to shelter from water and oxygen.
 

sibelman

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All my 240V brewing stuff is self built so I have no personal stake in the question of Spike's or other makers' required panel maintenance. I hope they and other makers include advice on PM with their products.

I do understand that loose connections will overheat, but I gotta say, other 240V equipment in my home does not *seem to* require this kind of attention. Even where there are screw terminals rather than PCB or solder joints. Should I be pulling my range out every x months to check its screw connections? What about the 240V wall outlets that serve my dryer, my brewery?

So I wonder whether there are components that are less susceptible to these problems, which manufacturers might consider going forward.

Also, it might behoove Spike and others to remind customers of the "well known phenomenon" that customers might have forgotten, or maybe never knew.
 

McMullan

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This can happen after 5 years of use and over 100 batches. This isn't a coffee maker. These panels are industrial pieces of equipment pushing out almost 30a of power at 240v; it's not joke. They need to be looked at more as industrial pieces of equipment that need regular inspection. Wires can loosen up over the many many heating and cooling cycles these go through. We recommend going through the panel once or twice a year and tightening all loose connections.
Europe calling. We use 240v mainly and I have never heard the one about electrical connectors becoming loose over time in either a commercial or residential setting. Ever. And I've been around a fair bit of industry in my time. Health & Safety would have a field day and there'd be product recalls and shutdowns. Electrical connectors and workmanship need to be fit for purpose. No exceptions. You are liable. Understand this.
 

DuncB

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Europe calling. We use 240v mainly and I have never heard the one about electrical connectors becoming loose over time in either a commercial or residential setting. Ever. And I've been around a fair bit of industry in my time. Health & Safety would have a field day and there'd be product recalls and shutdowns. Electrical connectors and workmanship need to be fit for purpose. No exceptions. You are liable. Understand this.
Can you imagine checking every single 13 amp plug that was screwed together and retightening the Earth live and neutral. If that was necessary houses would be burning down left right and centre. That said I've come across plugs with loose connections but that seems to have been caused by cable abuse outside the plug. I've never checked the 30 amp wiring into my cooker socket either gets a lot more load put through it than my all in one brew system running at 15 amps.
 

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Maybe these connection should be made with heavy duty spade or bullet connectors ? Its not rocket science and something like this should not happen at all. I have god knows how many wired wall sockets I do not go round them every six months checking them... never an issue ? I very much doubt in an industrial situation there are gangs of sparks going around dismantling equipment to check things like this... sounds like a cop out from Spike to me . I worked in labs where there were devices that drew large currents that never were checked eg large autoclave was checked every year for pressure deformation and had seals changed from time to time ... but the electrics were never even went near !
 
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Zenmeister

Zenmeister

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Spike responded to my email (forwarding it to EBS) who also responded rather quickly. I purchased the replacement outlets and wires from them...rather have the right items than just some stuff bought from Home Depot. EBS also claimed that it was likely caused by loose connections. While I am far away from being an electrician, I can see that happening with the continuous hot/cool cycling (causing expansion/contraction) eventually loosening things up. Good thing of course is that I discovered this before anything bad happened.
That's why I posted this, as a "heads-up" to anyone who has a similar panel (not just the EBS/Spike ones) to inspect it on a somewhat regular basis.
 

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A lot of good points. Just a couple of thoughts. Having been working with electrical devises on a regular basis it’s worth noting that when tightening stranded wire compression connections, they usually need to be re-torqued 2-3 times during assembly especially heavier wire gauges. Wiring devices come in different quality levels. I have had connections that have repeatedly loosened and connections that failed from the get go. I recently built a panel and I regularly put my hand on the cables at the plug and receptacle ends to take their temperatures when the system is running. It’s a good practice and can help stay in front of pending issues. Lastly, these panels to the best of my knowledge are not UL inspected so there is no independent set of eyes on them, therefore it’s not a bad idea to inspect them on a reasonable schedule.
 

sibelman

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Note: some EBS panels are sold as U.L. listed.

Again: If regular maintenance is required to prevent dangerous failure modes, I'd expect EBS, Spike and others to at least include mention of that in their user manuals. Especially given Doug's reference to numerous similar incidents documented in HBT postings.

These other incidents, and this thread, clearly show that the recommended/required maintenance is not really very widely "well known." It does not appear safe to assume that customers -- even those with electrical skills and knowledge -- already know this.

I've bought excellent products from both EBS and Spike. As with many manufacturers, their product documentation may not be the strong suit. A quick review of these fine makers' web sites suggests that this thread offers an opportunity for improvement.

Of course, they may hesitate to include scary stuff in communication to customers.
 

jambop

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Note: some EBS panels are sold as U.L. listed.

Again: If regular maintenance is required to prevent dangerous failure modes, I'd expect EBS, Spike and others to at least include mention of that in their user manuals. Especially given Doug's reference to numerous similar incidents documented in HBT postings.

These other incidents, and this thread, clearly show that the recommended/required maintenance is not really very widely "well known." It does not appear safe to assume that customers -- even those with electrical skills and knowledge -- already know this.

I've bought excellent products from both EBS and Spike. As with many manufacturers, their product documentation may not be the strong suit. A quick review of these fine makers' web sites suggests that this thread offers an opportunity for improvement.

Of course, they may hesitate to include scary stuff in communication to customers.

If I bought a piece of equipment designed for a home brewer I would not expect there to be any need at all for maintenance . What Spike are saying is their kit needs professionally maintained and that costs money. It is not something that can be done by an untrained individual because that would lead to a court case if someone got electrocuted by " faulty maintenance" by an amateur spark. So here is the question do Spike have any warning to the effect that their equipment requires professional maintenance ?
 

jambop

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It is good practice to perform at least annual maintenance on electrical panels. The cyclic heating and cooling of the screw terminals can cause them to loosen over time. If the connections loosen, the resistance goes up, and you get local heating - which can easily lead to the type of failures seen here, and worse. You should check the torque on all screw terminal connections in your panel regularly.

Brew on :mug:

Who would do that maintenance ? I myself am not competent to give an expert job what if someone was hurt or killed due to an amateur messing with something he knows nothing about? In fact most purchases of electrical goods carry the caveat that the electric should not be tampered with by non-qualified people .
Just unplug the unit before opening the panel.. simple enough to put in a maintenance manual. If you can't tighten a screw you probably aren't using this type of equipment. Or shouldn't be.

You are clearly not thinking straight NO manufacturer would advise a non qualified person to conduct such an undertaking as it leaves them wide open to a court case should something bad happen .
 

sibelman

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Liability consciousness can lead to dubious decisions. Caveat emptor??🤔

As far as I know, none of the incidents documented on HBT have led to actual injury, death, or brewery fires. So though the melting and burning is disturbing, it's possible to exaggerate the risk. Too, it's possible to over worry about maintenance instructions.

I suppose it's up to the manufacturers and their advisers how to address the risks.
 

LedZeppelin

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Who would do that maintenance ? I myself am not competent to give an expert job what if someone was hurt or killed due to an amateur messing with something he knows nothing about? In fact most purchases of electrical goods carry the caveat that the electric should not be tampered with by non-qualified people .

You can't unplug from the wall and tighten loose connections with a screwdriver? Maybe you shouldn't be brewing then...
 

jambop

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You can't unplug from the wall and tighten loose connections with a screwdriver? Maybe you shouldn't be brewing then...

Clearly not intelligent enough to know the difference between being an expert and competent to do something and actually having the ability to do it . I am surprised at some of the responses on here what with most of you living in the land of blame culture and law suits 😄
 

Homebrew Harry

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Here in the US most everything sold says, "no user serviceable parts inside". They do this to insulate themselves from lawsuits from people that are not qualified to repair said items. I can't believe that some folks want to be so dismissive of this problem. The mfg should include a warning with any of these devices of this condition. Furthermore they should reach out to their customers that have already purchased these devices advising them of this condition with a remedy.
 
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Zenmeister

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First off, the DIY culture here in the US (and likely most other places) is very strong. Just go down the electrical aisle in any Home Depot or other hardware store with electrical items and objects in the thousands, and many are far more complicated than this is.
So, here's the very simple fix:
1) Turn off AND unplug panel
2) Take pictures of all the parts affected, noting where the black, red, and green wires go
3) Remove outlets and damaged wire
4) Cut new wires to length, strip ends, and secure to new outlets.
5) Attach new outlets to panel.
6) Plug in panel and test.

Unfortunately, There are always people out there who can even mess this up, (Reference the McDonalds lawsuit because there was no warning on the cup that the coffee might be hot...) but there should be some sort of notice in the instructions to inspect the panel on an annual basis and verify the integrity of the wiring in certain locations, and if they aren't comfortable with that to get an electrician to do that.
 
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such an undertaking
An undertaking? If you can take your TC fittings apart to remove the heating element and clean properly or pretty well any other part in a 3v2p system you can certainly handle unplugging a panel and tightening a screw. I suppose the manufacturer could say, "if you feel incompetent then contact a professional" they'd probably word it better though. A co2 tank is just as, if not more, dangerous then a panel. Or a glass carboy for that matter. The point of this thread is to be aware that such a thing can happen. This equipment we use can have weak points, can fail, can hurt you if used incorrectly, know your equipment, know how it works and what to do in the situation something should happen. Again it comes down to, unplug, turn a knob, open panel door, check connections, tighten if needed, close panel door, plug back in, enjoy your brewday. Cheers!
 

Homebrew Harry

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An undertaking? If you can take your TC fittings apart to remove the heating element and clean properly or pretty well any other part in a 3v2p system you can certainly handle unplugging a panel and tightening a screw. I suppose the manufacturer could say, "if you feel incompetent then contact a professional" they'd probably word it better though. A co2 tank is just as, if not more, dangerous then a panel. Or a glass carboy for that matter. The point of this thread is to be aware that such a thing can happen. This equipment we use can have weak points, can fail, can hurt you if used incorrectly, know your equipment, know how it works and what to do in the situation something should happen. Again it comes down to, unplug, turn a knob, open panel door, check connections, tighten if needed, close panel door, plug back in, enjoy your brewday. Cheers!
Comparing apples to oranges does not remedy the original fault of the product. Even with simple instructions some people aren't meant to mess with electricity and some are downright afraid of it and making their own repairs. I am not one of these people, but I have met a lot of people who would never open any panel on a bet unplugged or not.
 
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I have met similar people, but they don't own and operate an electric brewing system. Some things are unavoidable, things that are put through heating and cooling cycles CAN move or loosen over time. If you own and operate a piece of equipment, you should have enough knowledge of it to do something as simple as looking for a loose screw.
 

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Electrophobia may have slowed the embrace of electric brewing. I'm on my third generation, having started in the 80s with a plastic bucket and sidewall immersion element Mr. Drafty.

All of us use electric devices but many shy from the scary innards. They're so impressed that I can change out a light switch. ☺️

I'd prefer to think that electric brewing should be open even to the electrophobic. Am I over optimistic on this?

Of course, there are real electricity risks, and much discussion here of their mitigation. Here's a shout out to GFCI!

But who knows how many injuries propane brewing on tripods might have "caused" to people who should've been more careful (but not phobic) with fire and boiling hot liquids.
 
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