December 21, 2012 Leave a comment
The heat stick is an easy concept. Think of it like a wizards staff of heat, or light saber! Simply put, take an electric heating element from a water heater, attached a power cord, place the element at the end of a pipe, epoxy the connections, and add a few fittings.
The sticks are then added to the water or wort, plugged in, and heat happens. You can heat all sorts of things with it, including Sous Vide pots, water buckets, hot tubs, etc. You can use this to boost heating for stove tops, or even use it to boil, though you might want more than 1, or a bigger one.
Some notes of caution
- This is electricity, it can kill you, This is a lot of electricity
- This thing gets hot, oddly not as hot when in the liquid as you might think (the heat dissipates into the liquid quickly, but the element is still hot
- If you run the element dry, for any length of time, it will fry (literally it overheats in seconds)
DYI or buy
You can build your own, or buy one from Amazon as a "water bucket heater." The ones form Amazon are around $40, a fellow homebrewer reports that it requires a deeper pot to maintain immersion than he wanted, but it works.
Water heating elements range in power. It is tempting to go for the biggest one possible but over 1500 watts will require a 20 amp circuit, and you likely only have 15 Amp circuits around the house. They pull a lot of steady power, so it needs to have a heavy duty, and preferably short cord, on a circuit with little else on it. If you are building an electric homebrew system, where you can dedicate power outlets, you can go 240 and serious wattage. I would never plug 2 into the same circuit (note, not just same outlet, but same circuit!).
I was able to buy all of the parts in 1 Home Depot run, building takes 30 minutes. It does take a few days to build since you have to let the JB Weld cure for 24 hours. Note, JB weld is rated to 600 deg F, and is food safe once cured. Some of the other products in Home Depot did not meet both criteria. The aquarium sealant I used for other projects is not rated for high temps and one of the example project links below had to rebuild because of that. Total costs was under $30, and if you ignore the JB Weld, probably under $20. I did not need a power cord as I have many heavy duty server cords to cut up.
Here are a few sites with instructions for building:
I was not sure what I wanted for the top end, so I did everything else first. This means I could not run the power cord through a cap (with a hole drilled). My choices:
- Put the element at a right angle so it does not touch the bottom, this also means it might touch my BIAB bag
- Use a J fitting so I can hang it over the edge of the pot
- Went with a 16 inch sink fitting for more room, this was a bad idea as it is too tall to use the J fitting in my pots, next time I will do 12 inch fitting
- Testing, and more Testing
I put it together and JB Welded it. After a day I set it in a pot. No leaks! Then I ran a heat test. It seemed to do a degree a minute from 60F to 100F. I got to 140F when I had to stop. I left it in there. A few days later when I pulled it out, to my surprise water came out the tube . I retested to see if water poured in the top (since I had not added the J fitting yet). It leaked, very slowly. I think the JB Weld had cured away from the threads. I reapplied JB Weld and it worked. Lesson: Test leaks for days, after heating.
I will have to control this via a relay. I could potentially use the STC-1000 box, but at 1500W continuous, it seems a bit much to push through there.
What’s it doing now
Helping heat my hot tub of course!