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Howdy folks, welcome back to another Heads episode. In this episode, we’ll be discussing the different heating options you have for your still. There’s two main heating options, propane or electric. You can see the propane turkey fryer burner here on your right, and the electric options here on the left. The turkey fryer burner is the way most people go to begin with, because it’s a lot cheaper to get set up. The burner itself is $50-70 depending upon where you get it from, and propane is readily available at any grocery store.
To get started with electric, it’s a little bit more expensive. It’ll generally cost you about $400 or more. You can either run a 220V setup, which is what this controller box is for, with this larger element (which you can see has obviously been used). Or, you can run a 110V setup with this smaller element where you can just wire it directly into the wall.
One of the main benefits to the propane is that it can get very hot very quickly. This allows for very low heat up times. Generally, you can heat up your boiler in about half an hour or less. However, propane also does have its limitations. Since it does produce so much heat, it can actually be very hard to control the heat once you get the boiler up to temperature. When you’re using a 2″ reflux tower, you often have to turn down the burner so low that it doesn’t combust properly and leaves a bunch of soot on the bottom of your burner. Also, it exposes an open flame to an area where there is potentially going to be ethanol vapors.
The last thing I should mention is that with propane, you do run the risk of running out of propane in the middle of the run. While this isn’t the end of the world, it can be a huge inconvenience. Especially with a reflux still, after you’ve spent all that time to get it balanced, it can be very hard to switch out the propane tank, get it re-balanced, and get your heat all adjusted properly.
However, aside from the cost difference, the main reason I use electric over propane heat is the controllability. With the propane heat all you have is this little adjustment regulator, however, with the electric controller with the ammeter I know the exact amount of heat I am putting out each time, and generally once you get to know your equipment you know exactly where you want your levels.