Author Topic: Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers  (Read 1131 times)

Offline Jeff M

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Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers
« on: June 12, 2013, 08:55:32 AM »
So im currently in the process of redoing my garage and trying to plan out the electrical.  Money is a factor so im wondering if a custom made fridge(essentially a frame with insulation and ac) is as viable as a fridge?  Does anyone who has used both have some sort of opinion or technical advice to weigh in?  I dont have any specs or plans for the custom yet but i know its possible, ive seen others talking about it.

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Offline mtnrockhopper

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Re: Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2013, 09:03:48 AM »
My two thoughts - I'd think a cheap, used fridge would cost as much as the materials and AC.  I'm not sure if window AC units can be set to refridgerator temperatures. It might work well for fermentation temp control in the 60's, but not kegerator temps in the 40's.
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Offline Jeff M

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Re: Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2013, 09:06:08 AM »
Im mostly thinking fermentation temps.  I dont really plan to lager atm, and i have a small college style fridge that i can turn into a 1-2 kegerator when im ready to go down that road.  Right now i keg nothing, everything is bottles.
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Online morticaixavier

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Re: Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2013, 10:27:00 AM »
So im currently in the process of redoing my garage and trying to plan out the electrical.  Money is a factor so im wondering if a custom made fridge(essentially a frame with insulation and ac) is as viable as a fridge?  Does anyone who has used both have some sort of opinion or technical advice to weigh in?  I dont have any specs or plans for the custom yet but i know its possible, ive seen others talking about it.

Thanks
Jeff

I would go for it. If you get an oversized AC unit for the space and disable the internal temp probe (just put it somewhere that stays warm) you should be able to get pretty cold. For the walls the rigid foam insulation seems to be popular but I don't know the prices of any of this stuff.
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Offline Jeff M

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Re: Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2013, 10:57:33 AM »
Yeah that pink ridgid foam has a great r-value IIRC and is only like 5 bucks for a 2*8 sheet.  The night thing about using it is essentailly you can make any size chamber you want, so you can make it fit perfectly and its easy to work with, just make the structure out of wood and support it with MDF or the like. 
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Offline carnutbrewer

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Re: Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2013, 10:59:41 AM »
I've built a custom cooler with an A/C unit on it 2'x4'x7' cabinet w 2" rigid foam and lined with fiberglass RV siding (obtained for free from a local RV bulder, scrap pieces), most A/C units will easily maintain ales temps with no problem. I wanted to go colder at first I took the temp probe from in front of the cooling fins and moved it, took a Rancho controller for temp control, took a 7 watt night bulb hook to the temp controller and attached the temp probe from the A/C unit to the bulb by wrapping with foil which would cycle the A/C unit. Control at ale temp was easy, going colder was a little tougher, if large drop in temp was required the A/C unit would freeze up, but it was do able. I recently got a Coldbot from storeitcold.com I can now use the cabinet as cooler as well, this works so well I will be building a larger one for cold storage and serving draft beer from. My cabinet is in my detacted garage which in uninsulated during the recent high temps 105 outside, closed up garage 110 plus, with the coldbot, cabinet stayed within 1 degree of set temp. 8)
Recently fermented three seperate 10 gallon batches of beer all at the same time during a recent heat wave, 3 15 gallon fermenters, each fermenter was wrapped with a heating blanket in case it got too cool and each with it own temp controller, each fermenter maintained it's set temp with a degree, once fermentation was completed cranked temp down to 40 degrees to cold crash before kegging the beers.
I've used refrigerators in the past which worked as well but running two refrigerators cost me more to run than the cabinet with the A/C unit and the coldbot. :)

Offline slarkin712

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Re: Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2013, 11:00:19 AM »
I've been in your conundrum twice recently.  And each time it came out much cheaper and less time consuming to just buy a fridge/freezer.  I wanted to put a cooler under my bar for a 3 tap tower.  With the materials cost, time requirements, and uncertainty in performance the custom option just didn't make sense.  I found a kegerator in great shape on craigslist for $200.  There is no way it was going to cost much less if I built a custom cooler.  Estimated cost for custom build:
AC unit/mini fridge to gut:  ~$50
Insulation/wood for framing: ~$40-50
Temp Control Unit:  ~$30
Misc items(fasteners/aluminum tape/etc.) ~$10-20
So, maybe $150 if there are no issues.  I'll spend the extra money for the fridge and save myself a lot of time and get some performance certainty.
Just recently I decided I wanted to expand my draft serving capacity.  This was going to be in my brewing equipment storage space, so it didn't need to look nice.  I looked for a month or so on craigslist and found a 21 cubic feet freezer for $200.  It will hold 10-12 corny kegs, and only requires a cheap STC-1000 temp control.  I love craigslist.

Offline weithman5

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Re: Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2013, 11:07:33 AM »
in terms of electrical. i would recommend something like 2 new separate circuits to your garage.  i had two run.  one circuit runs two refridgerators. the other i use for power tools and such.  i used to have problems when i had one fridge running off the garage circuit, then try to start an air compressor and the breaker would trip.  (garage also fed the family room) i then pulled these off.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2013, 11:24:50 AM »
I have a decent size room (5 x 10 or so) in my basement hooked up with a window unit connected to a Johnson controls temp controller.  I can easily maintain temps at 60 - 62.  I can get it down to about 55 and maintain those temps, but cannot get below.  The window unit is pretty small and while I've thought of upgrading it I really don't need serving temps in that room.

For the window unit, I have the A/C temp sensor in a can with a small incandescent bulb so that it always thinks the room is warm.  I have the Johnson controller plugged into a timer so that it shuts down every hour to make sure the coil doesn't freeze up.

The weird thing is that I'm able to maintain colder temps when it is hotter out.  When the outside temp is in the 60s/70s it's much harder for me to get the room below 60.
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Offline snowtiger87

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Re: Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2013, 11:48:33 AM »
I am turning my 5' x 10' basement cellar into a a cold room with an A/C unit and a coldbot. I have a friend that did this in an even bigger space and he maintains 40 degrees no problem.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2013, 12:00:29 PM »
I am turning my 5' x 10' basement cellar into a a cold room with an A/C unit and a coldbot. I have a friend that did this in an even bigger space and he maintains 40 degrees no problem.

I'm using a really small window unit which I had lying around.  I think with a bigger unit I wouldn't have any issues.  I also don't have a coldbot, which seems like it is more efficient at coaxing the most out of a window unit than my jerry-rigged set up.
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Fridges vs Custom Made Coolers
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2013, 12:14:15 PM »
Hunt down a used dorm room fridge on CraigsList. Add Love controller and bulb/fermwrap. Voila.

This works perfect for me AND I didn't waste a brewday building an unnecessary contraption.
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