Warning to Spike Trio/Electric Brewing users

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madscientist451

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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.
You forgot a few items:
-Test voltage at your connection point
-look on google for wire size for 5500 watts (what Spike says they use for heater element) at whatever voltage you are actually getting
Note that at 208 volts you should be using #8 wire?
at 240 volts #10 would be OK?
DISCLAIMER:
I included question marks above because I'm not a licensed electrician so all my information is from sources I've looked up.
Get professional advice before wiring circuits if you are concerned about it.
-
 
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Zenmeister

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You forgot a few items:
-Test voltage at your connection point
-look on google for wire size for 5500 watts (what Spike says they use for heater element) at whatever voltage you are actually getting
Note that at 208 volts you should be using #8 wire?
at 240 volts #10 would be OK?
DISCLAIMER:
I included question marks above because I'm not a licensed electrician so all my information is from sources I've looked up.
Get professional advice before wiring circuits if you are concerned about it.
-
Agreed. I am buying wire and outlets direct from EBS (maker of the panels) and using their recommended material. I am at 240 volts, and am assuming that I will get the correct gauge wire for that. I will be testing the connections before firing it up...
 

madscientist451

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Ok great, did you actually check the voltage? Just asking because you may have a voltage drop which happens sometimes for several reasons...
 

dzimm27

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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.
@Bobby_M I am finally building my panel for the BEAUTIFUL custom brew pot I got from you. What is your take here on flattened wire bundles (with/without linked conductive compound) vs ferrules (deformed with heavy screw down pressure?
 

doug293cz

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You forgot a few items:
-Test voltage at your connection point
-look on google for wire size for 5500 watts (what Spike says they use for heater element) at whatever voltage you are actually getting
Note that at 208 volts you should be using #8 wire?
at 240 volts #10 would be OK?
DISCLAIMER:
I included question marks above because I'm not a licensed electrician so all my information is from sources I've looked up.
Get professional advice before wiring circuits if you are concerned about it.
-
With modern power distribution systems in the USA, it is highly unlikely that your voltage will be significantly higher than nominal, and that is the only thing that could cause the element to draw excess current. If the supply voltage is below nominal, a much more common occurrence, then both the power and current draw will be lower than nominal. Low voltage cannot cause an over current condition with a resistive load.

Wire size is set based on the max current that can be drawn by the loads - it has nothing to do with the voltage. For example, you need 10AWG wire for 30A circuits whether they are 24V, 120V, or 240V. A nominal 5500W heating element (a simple resistor), rated at 240V, will draw just under 23A at 240V. At lower voltages, it will draw less current. 10AWG wire is more than adequate for a 5500W element under any conditions.

Brew on :mug:
 

Ægir

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Doesn't this mean that the guys using the Solo will need to take apart the control panel twice a year to check the internal wires? That seems like a lot more work and I wouldn't think Spike would want you messing around in an electrical panel.
 
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Zenmeister

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I got the replacement parts and wire yesterday and fixed the panel. All told, about 45 minutes to do, only because I was hyper-careful and double/triple checked everything I did, then did a system test after that.
Moving forward, this will not be difficult to check annually, as long as you have a stubby Phillips head screwdriver.
Brew day Saturday!
 

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ryan_george

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I have never owned any Spike products and do not know much about the company, but I am quite surprised to see their dismissive response to this issue.... I hope that the OP didn't have to pay for the replacement parts (seems like they did) because this would be "recall" written all over if it has happened to more than one unit... Think about how many electrical fires in a vehicle it takes before the automaker issues a worldwide recall....

Yes, this is an easy fix/check for a person with a reasonable level of DIY skills. That's not the debate here. Should it be expected of the end-user? Absolutely not.

As others have mentioned, there is a plethora of high-power devices/appliances operating in your house/shop/place of business that use screw-terminals for wire terminations. They are not considered an "annual inspection" item.
 
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Zenmeister

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Brewed a batch today (a 20 gallon clone of Mack & Jacks) and no issues with the repair. Everything appears to be working great, no smoke, no flames, just a great beer (I hope) and successful boil.
As far as issues with recalls, sending things back, etc...
This is not a car or truck, that if something really bad happens will cause mayhap and mayhem on the interstates, killing untold numbers of innocent people. It's a fricken brewing system. Now, IMO Spike should issue an alert to existing owners, and publish a warning/cautionary note in their documentation about checking the contacts for tightness, because a fire could easily happen. (Looking at the outlets, I think I wasn't far away from one.) But it is an easy maintenance item.
I love the system, and would happily recommend it to anyone who wants to go this way. The materials Spike makes (the kettles) will last forever, but I have been around enough electrical products to understand that they do need constant checking.
All in all, everything is fine, my liver hasn't failed yet, and I am brewing on...
 

kal

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btw, another pair of experienced eyes could be handy -- I wonder what @kal (of The Electric Brewery fame) might say about those photos.

I list the reasons wires or parts can melt here on my website:


Periodic retightening of connections does not need to be done and shouldn't be done if they were done correctly in the first place. Torque them to manufacturers specs, and leave them alone. If it's torqued to spec, it should never come loose. Retorquing can damage the conductors and cause a worse condition. The only proper method is to cut used strands of wire off, strip insulation off, and terminate again to spec.

We don't ask homeowners to pull out our electric dryer (30A) or stove (40-50A) wall receptacles and retorque periodically. Same goes for connections in appliances, control panels, and so forth.

Here's an article on inspecting electrical connections for proper torque from the International Association of Electrical Inspectors that talks about this:


Quoting pertinent parts:

"Loose connections may operate satisfactorily for a time, but eventually they will experience thermal runaway that will result in extremely high temperatures causing equipment damage and, in some cases, structural fires."

"Both loose and overly tightened connections create a risk of failure. Neither equipment manufacturers nor industry standards recommend periodic retightening of connections. Even when a “hot” connection is detected during an infrared inspection, simply tightening the connection probably will not correct the deficiency.1 The connection must be disassembled, cleaned and reassembled with the proper tool and torque. Additionally, cutting off the previously connected end of the wire and making the connection with an unused section of wire is the safest solution."


On a separate topic: Looking at the second picture by the original poster it shows two ground wires entering a receptacle (wires are daisy chained). I would not recommend doing that. Best that ground wires be home runs for safety reasons. Daisy-chaining safety ground wires is not recommended as disconnection at one point could render all of them a shock hazard. iIf the wire fails (cut, comes loose, or otherwise) anywhere along the buttons chain, none of those beyond that point will work. Single point (home runs) grounding is recommended as shown in my wiring diagrams. A couple of examples (my 50A 30+ gallon and 30 panels shown):

ground50A1BBL.jpg
ground.jpg


Daisy-chaining ground wires can also causes noise and interference in signal paths between devices but is most likely not an issue on such devices.

Cheers!

Kal
 
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Zenmeister

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Thanks, Kal, very interesting read from both your write up, and the links you provided.
I did replace the outlets and the wiring to them, but used an old fashioned Phillips head screwdriver, not a Torque wrench style screwdriver, and reading the article you posted I should probably do that. Problem is, those bad boys are quite expensive (starting at over $100.00) and I'm not really very excited about paying that much for them. I will go back and double check/tighten the connections, but outside of that i will rely on inspecting the inside of the panel frequently for signs of excess heating.
 

kal

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Few will use torque wrenches for electrical connections so I would not be overly concerned about that. I've never in my life (for example) seen an electrician use one when wiring up residential outlets, breakers, or panels. Make sure it's done correctly and reasonably tight to begin with and you'll never need to adjust/retighten or check. Cheers!

Kal
 

Brewdog80

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I'll chime in a bit late, but I if spike were a reputable company, they would have sent replacement parts free of charge to the OP at a minimum, better would be send for it to be shipped back, inspected and repaired free of charge. It is a definite obfuscation to say regular maintenance needed to be done on an electrical connector. NO, if PROPERLY assembled by spike, no retighnening would ever be needed. It is BS answer and untrue. The ONLY wiring which needs inspection is aluminum which is why it is not used in the US for any residential wiring since the 1970s. It caused fires as the aluminum expanded and contracted with heat from the current.and would loosen over time causing shorts. Copper wire doesn't do this if properly installed. No spike for me.
 

Nate R

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Stumbled on this thread... interesting read for sure.
I am a self-proclaimed fan-boy of @SpikeBrewing... love their equipment, love their desire to manufacture as much as they can here is U.S.A. Heck- i love their (normally stellar) customer service, too.
But... this was a disapointing read to say the leaat.
I have never owned any Spike products and do not know much about the company, but I am quite surprised to see their dismissive response to this issue...
Yeah- i agree. The "spike" account here is a marketing team rep usually, so i get their approach on the response. But this qoute from Spike:
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.

Ok, Spike- so your response is- hey this is obviously known, you the end user of this $4k+ product should know better. It is such a condescending remark.
Yet- in both manauls i pulled today 10/1/22 from the Spike website (attached here for reference) there is NO mention of this 'obvious' need for panel maintenance.
Therefore- either it is indeed for liability purposes, or a gross over-sight on Spike's part.
Either way, i really got a sour taste in my mouth reading this rather serious issue, and the, quite frankly, rather petty dismissive comments from Spike.
 

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Zenmeister

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I have been a huge supporter of Spike, and have been very positive of their equipment. Then this problem happens, and the response from Spike and EBS (both here and in emails to me) that this is well known and I should have been aware of it and maintaining my panel didn't sit well. I did eventually buy the replacement parts from EBS, the manufacturer of the panel as I really felt I had no choice.
Checking the connectors for tightness, and retightening them, if necessary is not that easy, as the connectors are on the back of the outlets, and would require you to pull the entire outlet from the panel to check them, the reattach to the panel. Not extremely difficult, but it does add another layer of complexity to the job. All is well now, as I've had a couple brews under my belt with the replacement outlets, but still...
 
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