Introduction: Chest Freezer Kegerator

For this Kegerator, I used a Black Frigidaire 7.2 cu. ft. Chest Freezer that I picked up on sale at HHGregg for $240.  I wanted to use a chest freezer because it seemed like the simplest, most energy efficient and most self-contained kegerator that I could build.

The first thing that I did was detach the door from the freezer.  Each hinge is attached to the freezer with 4 screws and to the door with two screws.  Since I was planning on building a collar onto the door, all I needed to do was remove the screws attached to the door and leave the hinges attached to the freezer.

The door consisted of 3 basic parts:

1.  The rubber gasket that runs along the bottom of the door to provide a seal to the rest of the freezer when it's closed.

2.  The white plastic lining which forms the inside part of the door.

3.  The outside part of the door which contains insulation.

All of these parts were held together by 4 screws and several small plastic push-in clips that are easy to pull out with a claw hammer and could easily be used to put the door back together in its original state.

(I apologize for not having more detailed pictures of this but I didn't start taking pictures until the door was already off and taken apart.)



Step 1: Installing the Temperature Controller

Because this is a freezer it needs to have a temperature controller installed in order to keep the freezer from freezing the beer.  It works by shutting off power to the freezer once a certain temperature is reached within the freezer.  (This is another reason why this kegerator design is so energy efficient.)  The electrical plug for the freezer just plugs into the temperature controller which plugs into the electrical outlet.

The temperature controller that I used was a Johnson Controls Manual Thermostat Control Unit.

The temperature controller needs to be in the freezer so that it can measure the air temperature.  This means that it shouldn't be touching the side of the freezer where it might give a false reading due to the side being cold from the running of the freezer.

In order to make sure that I didn't drill through one of the cooling coils in the freezer when I installed the temperature controller, I turned the freezer on and just watched for where condensation was forming along the inside of the freezer.  It was pretty easy to see where the coils were and where it would be safe to drill through the shelf of the freezer.

Step 2: Constructing the Collar

I'd seen a few kegerator plans where a collar was attached to the freezer, but I liked the idea of having the collar being part of the door instead.  This way, when the door is opened, the faucets and a majority of the plumbing and tubing is moved out of the way.  This makes it easier to get kegs into the freezer and you don't have to worry about banging your nice faucets with kegs as you heft them up and over the edge of the freezer.

So the goal of this collar was basically two-fold:  It needed to be able to have the shanks and faucets installed in it and needed to increase the overall height of the freezer to accommodate the CO2 cylinder that would sit on the compressor shelf inside the freezer.  I used 1x4 pine boards cut so that they would fit the same dimensions as the rubber gasket that would eventually be attached to the collar to form the seal with the freezer.

Step 3: Reassembling the Kegerator Door

Using a friend's woodshop and expertise, I then drilled pilot holes through the collar that corresponded to each original hole in the door.  I Then used a ferring drill bit to counter-sink each hole from the bottom.  This was mostly due to the fact that I could not find machine screws that were 4 inches long.  By counter-sinking all of the holes, I could use 3 inch screws to attach the collar to the door.

I used a router to give a 45 degree angle to the inside edge of the collar and I also had to pry off the corner supports and shorten them so that they would fit over the white plastic lining appropriately, and then reattached them with a nail gun.

Once the collar was installed, I spent several days adding multiple layers of polyurethane/stain to the wood collar in order to bring it to a darker wood color that would go better with the black of the freezer.

After finishing the staining, I installed all of the plumbing in the door.

List of plumbing parts:

3 - Perlick PERL 525SS Stainless Steal Faucets
3 - 3" Long Beer Shanks with Nipple Assembly
3 - 5 Foot Beer Line assemble with Hexnut
1 - 3 Way Gas Manifold
16 feet of Blue 5/16" I.D. Thermoplastic Super Vinyl air line
1 - Premium Double Gauge Co2 Regulator
2 - 745E D System Keg Tap Coupler (D System is the most commonly used in the U.S.  I only got 2 of these because if I have all three faucets running at the same time, then one of them would have to be out of cornelius keg, which used a different coupling system.)
1 - Set of Cornelius keg ball lock keg couplers

As you can see in the pictures, my first method of mounting the gas manifold had to be changed.  This is because I had initially installed it directly onto the collar with its nipples pointing down into the freezer.  This made it so that the door didn't sit on the freezer correctly and I wasn't able to attach the door to the hinges.  So I fixed it by remounting the gas manifold with 2 L brackets, which looks better anyway.


Step 4: Reattaching the Door

All that remained was to reattach the collar of my new door to the hinges and put the Co2 cylinder in the freezer.

Additional Items :

Another issue I hadn't thought about when building this kegerator was the issue of moisture buildup within the kegerator.  Ready-made kegerators or refrigerators that have been converted to kegerators have ventilation systems build into them that move the air inside around a little bit and keep the humidity level fairly low.  This humidity can be a real problem in a chest freezer, especially one that you have essentially hacked (with a temperature controller) to never actually freeze.  Moisture in a confined space with no ventilation is an ideal condition for the growth of mold.  Little bits of spilled beer from tapping a keg make it even more probable that you'll eventually create life of a rather disgusting variety at some point.  I've experienced this so I say this for your benefit: Get one of these Eva-Dry Wireless Dehumidifiers .  It is essentially a large container of silica gel that you can recharge once it becomes saturated with water.   It is another $30 you have to spend, but the first time that you have to empty out the whole kegerator, wipe it down with bleach and put it all back together, you'll understand how worth the money it is (trust me).  It just sits in the kegerator and when it's "full" it recharges by plugging into a wall socket for a few hours.

Ultimately, I caved and bought a drip tray for the front.  Since I didn't want to put anymore holes into the kegerator, I bought four 1" circumference by 1/8" thickness N42 Neodymium cylindrical magnets and used duct tape to attach them to the back of the drip tray.  I also attached a dowel rod to the back of the very top of the drip tray so that most of the weight of the drip tray, and pint glasses that will inevitably be placed on it, will be supported by the lip of the freezer and not cause it to slide down the front of the freezer.

Finally. As far as temperature and pressure go, there's a whole lot of science that you can get into as to what the best settings for those are.  But for this kegerator, I've eventually found that 12 psi and setting the temperature controller to about 32 - 34 Fahrenheit results in pouring a perfect pint pretty much everytime. . .

. . . and after all, isn't that the whole point?


Keg combinations that will fit in this kegerator:
  - One full size keg (1/2 barrel)
  - Two tall 1/4 barrels
  - Two sixtels (1/6th keg) and one Cornelius keg -- This is assuming the 1/6th kegs have 9" diameters.
  - Three Cornelius kegs

Comments

author
Freefix (author)2013-01-22

Thanks! Good points all

author
Freefix (author)2013-01-18

I just bought a similar freezer and wonder why I need to drill into it for the (new) temp probe. Off the shelf, the freezer already has a temp probe connected to the existing thermostat (I think the pic here has that too - the red nub connected to the grey line coming out of the "existing thermostat" in the 2nd image). It's pretty easy to pull that temp probe out. Is there any reason I can't just insert the temp probe from the new thermostat into the same hole? That would mean no drilling and no potential to hit a cooling line (the ambient humidity here is super low - my freezer doesn't have condensation lines showing where the coolant lines are like yours), and no temp probe dangling inside the freezer compartment.

author
scottbre (author)Freefix2013-01-19

I don't see why doing what you've suggested wouldn't work. What I don't know is if there's room, in that space, for the temperature controller thermometer bulb that is being added. But if it fits, I would think it would just be a question of calibrating it to take into account being inside the wall of the freezer instead of inside the freezer itself.

The way I built it, the temperature bulb is floating freely and surrounded by air, so that it would give the most accurate measurement of the air in the freezer, and because by doing it the way I did it I can always use it as a functioning freezer again, if need be. Also, for the freezer I used, I'm pretty sure there were no cooling coils in the horizontal surfaces of the freezer, all of them being in the walls instead, so it's relatively safe to drill that hole, especially given how close the wall it is.

author
Rocksterr (author)2012-03-25

Good job Scott! I like that your design keeps the hoses and faucets out of the way when loading and unloading the chest with kegs. Also, I didn't know about the humidity issue but you came up with a good solution to that. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise.
Rocky

author
woofron (author)2010-12-07

If you make the collar taller; (mine is 15 inches in height), You will be able to put more kegs on the compressor shelf, and also out a drip dray under the taps. Great instructable, and I think my initial idea was from you!

author
scottbre (author)woofron2010-12-07

That's true. However my goal with the collar was really only to give myself enough space to be able to house the faucets and have enough extra height for the CO2 tank on the shelf. I was a little concerned about how much the door hinges could support if I added too much weight to the top via the added collar. (The biggest issue I've seen is the compression of the rubber seal by the weight of the door and collar, which would be worse the bigger the collar the collar is.)

I've toyed with getting a magnetic drip tray, but it's not worth the price for me when a square bucket under the taps works just as well and is way easier to clean. :)

author
jeffeb3 (author)scottbre2011-12-08

Woodworking stores (rockler, woodcraft, etc) sell very large hinges for things like solid wood lids (picture a large chest with a flip lid). Some have some spring to them, so they counterbalance the weight of the door. The trick there is finding somewhere on the base that's solid enough to attach hinges that add 50lbs of force each.

author
BigCommieNat (author)2010-05-17

BEAUTIFUL!!!

How many cornies can you fit in there @ once?

author
scottbre (author)BigCommieNat2010-05-17

This will fit 3 cornelius kegs in the area of the freezer next to the compressor shelf.  (Technically, if you wanted to get a 2.5 or 3 gallon corny keg to set on the shelf next to the Co2 tank, you could have 4, but then that would mean installing a 4th faucet and all of the requisite tubing.)