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Billy
Billy, HVAC Technician
Category: HVAC
Satisfied Customers: 19951
Experience:  Endorsed for unlimited heating, cooling, oil burners, boilers, refrigeration, hydronics
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I want to convert a small refrigerator into a meat curing chamber,

Customer Question

I want to convert a small refrigerator into a meat curing chamber, with temp. at 55-60 degrees F, and RH at approx 70%, with occasional air exchange outside the unit. My fridge is not frostfree. There are many online ideas, but all involve expensive temp and humidity control switches and a lot of wires (http://curedmeats.blogspot.com/2007/07/key-equipment-piece-3-curing-chamber.html, http://www.sausagemaker.com/tutorials/chamber/curing_chamber.html). I want something simpler and less expensive. If I could find a small fan with a humidity sensor to mount to both provide air exchange and vent excess humidity, that would be great. Temperature is not as big an issue, since my basement runs 50-65 degrees through year, but some control would be nice in the summer (without paying too much for a temp control device). Also, some solution, like louvres that stay closed generally, but pop open for air circulation when the fan comes on. Would love a full solution that's cheap and simple.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: HVAC
Expert:  Billy replied 5 years ago.

Hi Meat Club,

 

I know this is going to sound very basic, but I actually have worked at a gentlemans home where he cured and smoked meat as a hobby. he took a upright single door fridge, cut a hole in the upper side and a hole in the opposite side lower. He then mounted a simple small exhaust fan in the upper hole and installed a dryer vent with flap (backwards) in the lower. He mounted a $20 humidistat in the cabinet and wire it in series with the exhaust fan. He also intalled a potentiometer (speed control) to lower or raise the rpms of the exhaust. Wasnt pretty but it worked!

 

Billy

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thanks, Billy. This is more or less what I envisioned, but some more detail would be helpful, since I have not worked with the equipment you've referred to. So, some clarifications would be helpful: 1) what would you use to cut holes in the fridge and do I need to worry about the insulation being exposed and potentially subject to molding (and that mold spreading inside the insulation due to humidity)? If insulation exposure is a concern, how would you seal it off? 2) how large holes would you recommend? 3) could you give me a link (like amazon, ace hardware, or something) for a "simple exhaust fan" that you might recommend (note, my fridge is only 3.5 cu.ft. -- large dorm style fridge); 4) i think I know what a dryer vent flap is, but again, a link to the product type you have in mind would help. 5) now the harder question: can you provide an example of a humidstat that would work and explain how I would wire it "in series" -- I think I get the idea, but I'm no electrician -- that is, i like the idea, but I need guidance on execution. 6) how would I integrate the ptentiometer and do you think it's necessary? 7) what about the temperature control issue?

 

Did you look at the links I emailed? I wonder if you have thoughts on those designs.

 

By the way, I also looked at your background on your page here and was fascinated to find that you're raising 5 adopted children. My wife and I have one child and have had trouble with a second (which she really wants), so we've started exploring adoption -- but it's a very daunting and compliated process! Maybe I'll need to post an "expert" question to you on that down the line!

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
By the way, I don't need this answer immediately, so if you need time to respond, by all means, take it. thanks!
Expert:  Billy replied 5 years ago.

Ok, I will probably devote more time to it Monday when I have a bit more time, its the kids that get most of my weekend attention!..You are serious about adopting?

 

We adopted from foster care. Some tough times, but rich rewards....

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Sounds good. I also did a bunch of research online last night, so I'll try to forward you some of what I found and you can let me know if it's right or wrong. And, yes, potentially serious about adopting -- but my wife leads the show in this regard, so I need to see where we end up with trying ourselves a while longer. We had looked into international adoption, but put a hold on it half way through. thanks again, and I'll drop to drop you an email later today or tomorrow with some of what I found and further brainstorming.
Expert:  Billy replied 5 years ago.

Ok, I will have some info around for you monday.

 

My wife and I went about 10 years of infertility treatments......I do not recommend that for anybody!!

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Here's some further information, from my web searching:

 

1) Here's the type of fan I was thinking of using -- a small computer fan since the fridge space is only 3 cubic feet and I'd like to keep the hole small and the cost low:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Mechatronics-80x80x38mm-AC-Fan-UF80A12-BWLR/dp/B000VY6OBE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1237160140&sr=1-1

 

Would that work? If so, is it correct to get the AC version with power cord?

 

Here are other models: http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&search-alias=electronics&field-brandtextbin=Mechatronics

 

Here's the company website with fan info: http://www.mechatronics.com/

 

2) Re. humidistat, I found many of different types with different costs. There are a bunch of inexpenseive ones on ebay, but I don't know which types would work. Here's some:

 

http://shop.ebay.com/items/_W0QQ_sopZ15?_nkw=humidistat&_sacat=0&_fromfsb=&_trksid=p3286.m270.l1313&_odkw=humidistat&_osacat=0

 

Some of the inexpensive ones look appealing since they go up to my target RH range, but I don't understand how I would wire them to the fan. It seems like either the fan or the humidistat would lneed something like both input and out wire terminals to wire them in series (as I'm guessing at the concept).

 

3) I couldn't find any inexpensive louvers or flaps that I thought would work, but maybe I could modify something, like a simple hinge with a piece of aluminum glue on? Any ides on this would be appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

Expert:  Billy replied 5 years ago.

Hello,

 

The computer fan would work just fine. Also, the cheap humidistat is also acceptable.

 

I forgot to tell you that the guy who had the homemade unit kept it in a small room and ran a dehumidifier in the room. The humidistat wired in just like a light switch. Power came from his power source, The hot went through the humidistat and then to the fan and then the neutral came from the other fan wire back to neutral at the plug.

 

So he started with a slightly controlled environment with the dehumidifier, and then had his contraption in that room. Thus when the unit called for exhaust (too much humidity) it started and pulled in dehumidified air. I can not recall if he ducted the exhaust out or recirculated that air for the dehumidifier to treat that air.

 

But you are right on track with the motor and humidistat choices. Just make sure the humidistat can handle 120 v.

 

When you trace your holes cut make them 1/8 big. then push the insulation down and seal with expando foam. When dry cut it to fit snug. Then the motor should slide in with a good seal.

 

The speed switch would be just like having a ceiling fan on a rheostat. If it draws too much air, you can play with the speed to get it dialed in. For you air intake, make sure you use window screen to keep out insects and debris. You can get a moving louvered dryer vent which is cheap and install it inside the unit. (screen outside.)

 

Billy

Billy, HVAC Technician
Category: HVAC
Satisfied Customers: 19951
Experience: Endorsed for unlimited heating, cooling, oil burners, boilers, refrigeration, hydronics
Billy and 6 other HVAC Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thanks so much for the input. With your guidance and flipping through some do-it-yourself books, I think I'm almost there. If you're willing to confirm that I've got a good plan worked out, email me at: XXXXX@XXXXXX.XXX and I'll email you a drawing of my plan and you can see if I have the right idea. thanks again! XXXXX
Expert:  Billy replied 5 years ago.

Jamie, the site blocks phone numbers and emails so I can not see you can attach the drawing by clicking the little tree at the top of the dialogue box.

 

Billy

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Well, I thought I had it all figured out, and was just in the process of making the cut for exhaust fan and I seem to have the terrible luck of cutting in the wrong place and cutting into the copper capillary tube (?). See attached picture. I've cut almost all the way through the top of it, and just nicked the bottom (I got wise something wasn't right on the top and was more careful below). Can I fix this easily? Is it unsafe? capillary tube
Expert:  Billy replied 5 years ago.

I wondered how your project was going...

 

if you plan on using the cooling function of the refrigerator, you are out of luck. It could be fixed but would cost more than another unit. It would involve the repair of the line, install service port, vacuum unit and recharge with refrigerant.

 

If you do not plan on using the cooling function of the unit, you can just finish cutting the line out, fill ends of pipe with silicone, and finsh up.

 

Good Luck Jamie, good to hear from you again,

 

Billy

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Hi Billy,

 

I just wanted to let you know things are going well, even with the severed refrigerant line. I finished the project, and have a batch of salami that's just about done. Looks and works great. Attached is one picture (I couldn't attach more due to size limits, but you can reach me at jamrosen[at]yahoo[dotcom] if you want to see more).

 

To keep things cool, I just put in a frozen water bottle once a day. Of course, if you have other brilliant ideas on cooling, let me know.

 

Thanks again for all the help.

 

Jamiegraphic

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