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HOW TO: Replacing heating elements

 
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 9494
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, English IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison

Working on: Kölsch


PostLink    Posted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 6:56 pm    Post subject: HOW TO: Replacing heating elements Reply with quote


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HOW TO: Replacing heating elements



Replacing kettle heating elements (the grey/black curvy part in the picture above) doesn't normally need to be done. They are not like lightbulbs or other consumables that eventually 'wear out' or break down. Clean them after each use and they'll last forever. Since I started brewing electric in 2009 I find a quick wipe down with a blue non-scratching sponge works well. For a deep clean, once a year I'll throw a scoop of Oxiclean Free in the kettle, fill it half way with water, and set the temperature to 170F and run for an hour. This always gets the elements and everything else clean like new.

That said, we've been selling stainless Camco heating elements made specifically for brewing for a year now so I thought I should probably swap mine out too (got the employee discount! Wink).

Just like the popular Camco 02963 model I was using previously, the grey heating rods are still made of 804 stainless (a mix of the highest Grade Nickel and Chromium Incoloy) which is more corrosion resistant and about 8x more expensive to manufacture than standard (shiny) 304/316 stainless. The new element is still ULWD (ultra low watt density) at only 50W per square inch (7.8W per square cm) to avoid scorching and still UL listed.

What's different however is that the base on the new elements is now stainless (not iron) so they will not rust if left in water for extended durations. This means you can fill your HLT the day before if you like. They will also not turn black and/or rust over time if a sacrificial anode is not used. (The less bits in the kettle, the better, as it simplifies cleaning and less chance of hitting something).

This new Camco model 02965 I'm going to be using is 5500 watts at 240V. Perfect for boiling up to about ~20 gallons. You can do more (I've seen 1bbl/31 gallon brewers use them happily) but heating times will be longer. Lower wattage 4500W and straight models are available too. Complete details on our order page here: http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/stainless-steel-heating-elements



Camco stainless heating elements made specifically for brewing have a stainless base:





The old Camco 02963 elements without a stainless base:



More rusted than I thought! These were installed in 2009 and used about once a month for 7 years.

Because of the rust, you may find it difficult to remove the old heating elements so this is the biggest hint: Use the right tools for the job.

I recommend using an adjustable wrench with 2" jaw on the inside and a Camco 9953 element socket on a 24" breaker bar with 1/2" drive on the outside. This made the job really simple for me despite the rust. You can see these tools in this picture below.

New elements installed:



The Camco 9953 element socket is better than any normal socket not only because it's the right socket for a water heater element nut (your average socket set will not have one this big anyway) but also because the depth is correct and the end of the socket is ground flat to better fit the thin element nut. Most sockets have bevelled edges which makes it hard to catch the edge of the thin element nut.

Nothing else needs to be removed from the kettles. The HERMS coil stays in place. The food grade silicone that was previously added was removed with a small flat edge screwdriver (2 minutes) and then removal of the actual elements took 60 seconds. Not much torque was required at all given the long breaker bar. Replacing with the new Camco model 02965 was quick and simple. Simply follow the existing installation instructions to secure the new heating element.

The longest part was waiting for the RTV108 silicone (a safety precaution, though many people skip this step) to cure overnight before re-attaching the wiring and covers. The wiring does not (technically) need to be removed either but made it simpler for me given how I had routed the wires in the enclosures.

Give everything a good clean after installation too. Here's a video: https://www.instagram.com/p/BDo-VXbIKlz

Parts mentioned:

Camco heating element made for brewing, stainless base, 804 stainless rods
Adjustable wrench with 2" jaw
Camco 9953 element socket (also available at Amazon.ca)
24" breaker bar with 1/2" drive (also available at Amazon.ca)

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Good luck!

Kal

P.S. Best part was being able to add a breaker bar to my tools lineup. Never had an excuse to own one but now I have an easy way to tighten (or remove) the wheel nuts on my car. Wink


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Last edited by kal on Tue Dec 04, 2018 3:54 am; edited 7 times in total
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mcl



Joined: 11 Oct 2011
Posts: 156



PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I finally got around to replacing my BK element with the SS ones. It was a huge pain. I use a inverted keg so I have less of an angle inside the kettle to get leverage. Also, in the hopes of keeping rust down I used switched to aluminum nuts a long time ago. The nuts were stuck on pretty good. I ended up having to use a torch to heat the nuts and they finally broke loose. I ordered a element socket for the next job as my vice grips were a pain.

Just sharing my experience nothing else.
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 9494
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, English IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison

Working on: Kölsch


PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2016 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did you use tools similar to what I recommended above? Mine came off really easily but then I had used a stainless nut (not aluminum) and it was with Blichmann kettles (not keggles). With two dissimilar metals (in both of our cases) there can be some corrosion which can make things difficult to remove.

Kal

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mcl



Joined: 11 Oct 2011
Posts: 156



PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2016 8:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't have a element socket. I now have one on the way.I think the different metal caused the biggest issue. I replaced the aluminum nut with ss as well.
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 9494
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, English IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison

Working on: Kölsch


PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2016 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

FWIW, I until I got the better tools I can't get mine undone at all. There just wasn't enough leverage trying to use a regular element socket tool or a regular wrench on the outside. The element socket on the breaker bar is really what did it for me.

After wrestling trying to get it off for a good 20 mins with a regular wrench using all the force I could, I ordered the element socket and breaker bar and it was literally a 2 second job with barely any force. It's amazing how much simpler it is with proper leverage (from the long breaker bar) and the right socket.

Kal

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mcl



Joined: 11 Oct 2011
Posts: 156



PostLink    Posted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just ordered another SS element for my HLT. Here is what the aluminum nut looks like from the BK. I am replacing them with SS nuts as well.


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kal
Forum Administrator


Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 9494
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, English IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison

Working on: Kölsch


PostLink    Posted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow! Is that after cleaning/scrubbing?

I'm becoming more and more a proponent towards not using dissimilar metals...

Kal

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milldoggy



Joined: 23 Dec 2010
Posts: 570
Location: Pottstown, PA


PostLink    Posted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 2:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finally replaced my camcos, used for 5 years. I had welded the coupler on. They would not budge even standing and jumping on my socket wrench. Used an old trick from working with cars. Heat it up! Uses my plumbers torch and heated up the coupling. Came off easy as cutting hot butter. Just wanted to share in case someone else has the same issue.
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rcrabb22



Joined: 23 Dec 2010
Posts: 458
Location: Illinois


PostLink    Posted: Thu Dec 21, 2017 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I replaced my element in the HLT with the SS element as well. My HLT element had the same amount of rust as Kal's picture.

I used a large pipe wrench on the SS nut inside the kettle and the standard element socket tool with a large screwdriver inserted the perpendicular holes to steady it. It took a bit a muscle to break the nut free but one good "umph" with the pipe wrench and it loosened enough to use the element wrench to go the rest of the way.

One tip is to loosen the wire connecting screws before installing the element. One of the screws was cranked down so tight the whole element started to twist in the direction I was turning the screw. I had to use the element wrench to steady the element to finally break the screw free. I was worried I would need to uninstall the element.

I also replaced the silicon o-ring and it was flattened from the first install.
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RyanTheSimp



Joined: 28 Mar 2017
Posts: 18


Drinking: El Jefe (Hefeweizen), Belgian Cream Ale

Working on: Electric Pale Ale, Smoked Bacon Red Ale


PostLink    Posted: Thu Dec 21, 2017 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kal wrote:
Wow! Is that after cleaning/scrubbing?

I'm becoming more and more a proponent towards not using dissimilar metals...

Kal


Kal if you ever need an expert or scientific reasoning on corrosion topics, fill free to reach out. My day job is of a corrosion scientist in the energy industry.
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kal
Forum Administrator


Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 9494
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Hop Candy Jr, Scottish 70/-, English IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter, Saison

Working on: Kölsch


PostLink    Posted: Thu Dec 21, 2017 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good to know! Thanks!

Kal

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mjo2125



Joined: 27 Feb 2017
Posts: 158
Location: Dayton, OH

Drinking: FuP Czech Lager, Czech Lager, Imperial Stout


PostLink    Posted: Thu Dec 21, 2017 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My day job is of a corrosion scientist in the energy industry.[/quote]

just curious - oil refining?
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RyanTheSimp



Joined: 28 Mar 2017
Posts: 18


Drinking: El Jefe (Hefeweizen), Belgian Cream Ale

Working on: Electric Pale Ale, Smoked Bacon Red Ale


PostLink    Posted: Thu Dec 21, 2017 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mjo2125 wrote:
My day job is of a corrosion scientist in the energy industry.


just curious - oil refining?[/quote]

No but am qualified to advise that industry on their internal and external conditions. I deal with natural gas infrastructure corrosion concerns, mainly in transmission, distribution, and storage.
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mjo2125



Joined: 27 Feb 2017
Posts: 158
Location: Dayton, OH

Drinking: FuP Czech Lager, Czech Lager, Imperial Stout


PostLink    Posted: Fri Dec 22, 2017 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a slightly different set up using a tri-clamp and twist lock cord connection. This avoids threaded connectons, dissimilar metals and tools.


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