Sunday, August 16, 2009

Project: Cold Box

The other project I have going on right now is a "cold box"... or at least that's what we call them at work. It's really a large refrigerator built out of insulated panels.

Around noon on the Saturday before Memorial Day, I decided to have a beer in the studio. I grabbed a Stone IPA and kicked back in my favorite desk chair. While it wasn't extremely warm outside, it was definitely a bit too warm in the studio. Well, too warm for the ten cases of beer I have stored out in the open up there. My wife was busy, my son was more than occupied with his Legos, and I had nothing planned, so naturally a "project" started poking at me. I resisted the urge for as long as I could—perhaps a whole five or ten minutes elapsed before I buckled under the pressure—and then dove into the project with full force. I moved the makeshift bar, emptied the closet, and tore out the wall... then the ceiling. As I got down to the studs, I was amazed at the poor construction. hardly any ceiling structure, but four 2x4s on one side of the doorway!

"Mini-me" came up during the deconstruction and totally got into it, banging holes in the drywall and laughing maniacally... the same way he does when he plays a driving arcade game while crashig into everything. Perhaps we "parental units" should worry about that a bit.

Anyway, once I had the space cleared out, the first couple of insulated panels went up quickly. Then everything slowed down as I figured out how to fit the remaining pieces in place of the wall, ceiling, and cold box door. The most important "trick" I needed to remember was no metal outside of the box can come in contact with the metal inside the box. If it does happen, I will have a big condensation problem. On the off chance I still ended up with condensation, I put in a PVC underlayment and shower drain. I covered over the insulated panel wall with drywall... which makes it completely boring to look at in a photo, which is why there isn't one of that phase here.

After much delay (heh, go figure!), I finally got back to the project. I used some more of those insulated panels--the same kind that make up the walls--as doors. An online order supplied the wire racking. A trip to Home Depot netted me the much needed strap hinges, foam-in-a-can, box o' self-tapping screws, and ducting for the cooling system. Currently, my cooling system is a salvaged window-mount air conditioning unit, but hopefully some day I will be able to swap it out for a Breez-Aire (or similar) cellar cooling system. Everything but the cooling system got put together during the spare moments I found here and there. I decided to hang two doors instead of one because it was "easier" and I didn't have an insulated panel big enough to act as the "single door". As I thought out this hare-brained scheme a bit more, it actually works in my favor: the bottom door will be for the kegs and coldest beers I don't access that often, while the upper door will cover the beer archive and "in-the-clear" (and already represented in the archive) interesting beers I have. Andie suggested I sheath the door in some luan "doorskin" to make it match the door adjacent to it. That awesome suggestion will be incorporated as soon as I tweak the doors so the don't rub each other and split the black insulating tape on the seams.

Ultimately, I found a little more time this weekend to burrow through the insulated panel ceiling to insert the supply for the cooling system. The cooling system is happily humming away as it chills my beer archive to cellar temperatures and below. After transferring most of the beer out of the old "beer 'fridge" into the new "cold box" I realized that... um... okay, don't tell anyone this... no, really, I'd be a bit embarassed if this got out... I have too much beer. Okay, there, I said it. I've got a problem that I think can only be solved by an "Open Bar" kinda party. I have to figure out when it could... wait a second. Septoberfest. Heck yeah! This might be the answer to my "problem". Until then, I have to whittle down the cellar a bit... one 22oz bottle at a time.

When everything was all said and done, I wondered "how much beer can this thing hold?" After a quick count of all the stuff I found energy to put in there tonight, the total is currently three 5-gallon kegs, twenty cases of 22-ounce bottles (that's 12 x 20 22oz bottles equalling 240 bottles), and an uncounted quantity of 750ml "laid-down" bottles, loose 22oz bottles, and 12oz (or less) bottles that are either "drink now" or "don't touch 'cause I'm aging 'em" beers.

::sheesh:: I've got to free up some room for the wine that is supposed to go in here. This was, after all, supposed to house not only beer, but wine as well. Sure, the bar just on the other side of the wall will have a small fridge for white wines (and maybe a cold 6-pack if it'll fit), but this thing has to be able to hold some laid-down reds. Well, there's only one thing left to do...

So... when does Septober arrive again?


  1. Geez. I hope I win the lotto tomorrow if only so I can fly out and help you empty that there nifty fridge. :)


  2. One way or another, we hope you, Sarah, and the little one can visit us someday!