Thursday, December 8, 2011

Convert a Chest Freezer to a Kegerator for Under $20

Kegerators can be a great way to keep beer on tap in the house, but they're expensive to build or purchase, which is why Instructables user MrBippers put together a guide to converting a chest freezer to a kegerator for just $20.

The real trick here is that this guide uses a cheap, custom installed temperature controller. It turns out, hacking in your own can save you quite a bit of money, and it doesn't seem to take too much to do yourself. MrBippers' version doesn't have the front side tap like we've seen with other instructions and instead has a picnic tap connected directly on the inside, but for $20, it's hard to complain. If a kegerator isn't your thing, you can also convert it into a fermenter.
So there's a couple other instructables already about converting a chest freezer to a kegerator (aka keezer), but most of them use the expensive plug and play temperature controllers. If you're willing to get your hands a little dirty, cheap controllers to hardwire in can be found on eBay for ~$20. Not only do you get a nice digital readout with the current temperature and the ability to set to specific temperatures, you also have the option of adding a heat source as well to turn the freezer into a temperature controlled fermenter.

Temperature controller:
I purchased this one for $19.88. eBay links don't last forever, but you can search for "digital temperature controller 110V." Many of them are designed to run on 220V, so make sure you get the proper voltage controller (110V in the US). This particular one allows for many customized settings include compressor delay, which is important as rapid on/off cycling can kill the compressor.

Tools needed:
Dremel/rotary tool or jigsaw
Wire cutters
Multimeter (recommended)

Misc parts:
Wire nut
Electrical tape
Extra power cord
Foreword: You need to be very careful about cutting through the walls of the freezer as most of the walls contain the cooling element. If you puncture a cooling element, all the coolant will leak out and you'll be left with a fancy box. In my freezer, the was an area in the bottom right side that contained the compressor, enough room to install the controller, and a thin wall obviously devoid of any cooling parts.

Measure the size hole you need to cut and trace it out on the wall. Double check you're not drilling through the thick part. Drill a hole in each corner and cut between them with either a dremel tool or jigsaw. If using a jigsaw, make sure the blade won't poke through far enough to hit and of the compressor lines. Make sure the controller will fit in the hole you cut.

An alternative to mounting the controller on the freeser is to use a plastic junction box and put the controller in the middle of the existing power cord. A blank faceplate provides a suitable surface to mount the controller. The finished results may not be as neat, but it gets the job done.