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Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

This is a discussion on Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2 within the Cigar Accessory Discussion forums, part of the The Cigar Lounges at Puff category; BACKGROUND: I took the plunge in December 2011 from a couple of table top humidors to a Wine Cooler conversion ...

  1. #1

    Wildman Dual-500's Avatar


    Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    I took the plunge in December 2011 from a couple of table top humidors to a Wine Cooler conversion setup. The first generation or Phase 1 system used an Avanti 28 bottle Thermoelectric wine cooler with a Charleston 7 drawer humidor slid into it. Initially I used a Hydra SM for moisture. That worked fairly well, until the first Hydra failed in the first 6-8 weeks of use. This discussion isn't about the Hydra, Beads, or Kittly litter - nor is it about Thermoelectrtic -vs- Freon. It's about sharing some of what I have learned about using coolers or referigerators for cigar storage - to help the next guy getting ready to take the plunge. What I do may or may not be the best method or equipment, but it's what I do. Always willing to learn so, discussion is always interesting.

    When doing initial research about Freon -vs- Thermoelectric, I read comments about Freon based units pulling moisture out of cigars. Didn't understand how that could be at that time. What I know now is that an incorrectly setup Freon based could indeed pull moisture out of cigars. This I learned recently when the first cooler, a 28 bottle Avanti failed after 23 months of service. After the dissapointment of the unit not cooling any more, I discussed the situation with a long time friend that is a repair technician with 30+ years experience in a large medical facility. They have many coolers for storage of drugs, chemicals and tissue samples, etc. His comments were simple, Freon based referigeration technology is much more reliable than Thermoelectric. I took his comments and my own personal experience with Thermoelectric units and decided to switch over to a Freon cooled unit in the hopes it would have better longevity.

    During the initial research in setting up a Wineador I looked at several project threads. Some were custom drawers, some prefab drawers slid into wine coolers, most of not all were the Thermoelectric type. Some planked the sides and back with cedar in addition to cedar drawers. One guy slid a pre-fab multi-drawer humidor into a wine cooler with the rational that if the unit failed, no problem to move into another. I chose that path.

    First purchase at a local appliance store was the Avanti 28 bottle thermoelectric wine cooler. Then I measured the inside and found a nice 7 drawer humidor that fit inside it. A Charleston 7 drawer humidor. I modified the humidor as follows: 1) Put feet under it to raise it up ~4" from the bottom of the cooler, 2) cut a hole in the bottom and installed an 80mm 12v computer fan to pull air out of the humidor, 3" drill a series of 1" holes in the back of the humidor near the top to serve as air vents. Also, installed a digital hygrometer in the middle drawer, removed lock and replaced with a custom know on the front door and installed a magnetic door latch.

    This setup worked well, and as mentioned initially I used a Hydra SM for moisture management. When the Hydra went kaput, I tried Kitty Litter after discussing with a cigar pal on one of the car forums I belong to. The Kitty Litter arrangement worked well, so well in fact that the Hydra was never reinstalled. I kept the unit at the highest temperature setting of 64 degrees, left it plugged in year round and RH maintained in the 65-67% region throughout the year. With the Kitty Litter in a bread loaf size tin pan sitting under the humidor, the unit only required service with distilled water 3 or 4 times a year. This is with daily access to pull the evening smoke out.

    That brings the timeline up to today and the transition from (Phase 1) with the Avanti 28 bottle thermoelectric wine cooler to the (Phase 2) and transitioning over to a Freon system in an Igloo model MIS1530 36 bottle beverage and wine center cooler. Both units served to house a Charleston 7 drawer humidor.

    The Stage 1 setup worked well. Transition to Stage 2 was driven by premature failure of the Avanti cooler.
    Last edited by Dual-500; 11-22-2013 at 05:45 PM.

  2. #2

    Wildman Dual-500's Avatar


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    Some pictures of the initial setup showing modifications to the Charleston humidor.





    As the Stage 2 Igloo conversion project progresses I'll post pictures

  3. #3

    Wildman Dual-500's Avatar


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    Initial testing of the Igloo freon based cooler shows what I believe are the "how and why" of RH issues. I ran the rig all week with the humidor installed inside it along with the Kittly Litter (no cigars). The first thing I noticed was the run time when the compressor cycles a cool down period. The cooling system in the Avanti thermoelectric cooler was a ~4" wide aluminum finned heat sink that was about 8" long with a small centrifugal fan blowing over it. It would typically run about 3-5 minutes of "On" to keep the cooler at 64 F. The Igloo freon based unit runs 10-12 minutes per cool down cycle set at 60 F, near it's highest point of 61 F. This yields an internal temperature of 65 F when measured with auxillary thermometers. The Igloo freon cooler has a flat plate inside the cooler mounted at the top of the back wall of the cooler. It measures about 12" square and has no fans in it. Overall cooling power of the Igloo is probably 3-5 times that of the Avanti. This is where the issues lie when it comes to drying out of cigars in a freon based unit, or at least with the Igloo. In conjunction with the passive type thermo coupling in the Igloo unit, the temperature probe is mounted in a cutout area in the side panel of the cooler. The temperature sensor in the Igloo is damped (probably both mechanically and electronically) much more than that of the Avanti unit. The temperature readout on the door will read a steady 60 F while the internal temperature varies 15 degrees or more during a cool down cycle with the compressor running. What happens during the lengthy cool down cycles is where the problem lies for cigar storage. The temperature plummets within the cooler and the evaporator coil (part inside the unit that cools it) chills down and starts collecting condensation moisture. This condensation is when the freon based cooling system wrings the moisture out of the air. Looking at the hygrometer in the humidor when the cooler runs a cool cycle shows the RH to drop ~20%, from 65% down to 45-47%. Temperature within the cooler drops down 15-20 degrees as well to the 47-50 F range. Not a good situation. I won't claim this to be true of all freon based units, but it is how the Igloo works.

    What to do?

    Being an engineering type by nature, this looks like a fun and interseting project. I probably would have been lost 2 years ago, but having a little experience with wine coolers helps. At least I think it does, that is yet to be seen. One thing I am fairly sure of at this point - the Igloo freon based unit is not suitable for cigar storage without some modifications and will probably cause cigars to "dry out" or at least not provide optimum storage conditions as the RH has some downward swings that are undesirable at a minimum. My guess is that with normal cycling of the cooling system in the Igloo freon based cooler, the RH swings it causes would never let the cigars normalize.

    On to the project.
    Last edited by Dual-500; 01-25-2015 at 02:31 PM.

  4. #4

    Wildman Dual-500's Avatar


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    THIS IS A SCIENCE PROJECT - needed to say that.

    My path, with the choice of a freon based beverage/wine cooler isn't the simplest solution by any means. Using electronics from when I purchased the first cooler and never put into use. The first cooler ended up basically a Plug & Play setup and didn't need auxillary temperature control. Probaby would have improved on things, but it worked just fine as it was so I never got around to "Fix" it.

    I have the control box wired up enough for testing. Did a couple of days of testing and it works well. So, I took it back off of the cooler and am lengthening the wire lengths on the temparature sensors and humidity sensor. Also, waiting for the 4 x 120mm 12v fans to arrive, figured they would be here today, but no show yet, probably arrive Black Friday.

    I'll try and produce a schematic of the thing and post it up. Testing went well, comparisons have been made and significant improvement in performance achieved. The cooler, empty and running a cool down cycle from 65 F, as noted above runs for ~12 minutes and cools the thing down to 43 F. Way too much temperature swing for cigar storage. With the new temperature controller connected and temperature probe laying in the bottom of the cooler, with it empty on a cool down cycle only has a 5 degree maximum downward temperature swing. With the setpoint at 65 degrees, it cycles on at 66 F, runs for just under 3 minutes and shuts the compressor off at 64 F. Then the internal temperature continues to track downwards for another 3-5 minutes to 61 F. This is with the cooler empty, adding the 7 drawer humidor will serve to dampen the temperature swing and it's probably close enough to use in that confuguration.

    But, I want better. That's where the 4 x 120 mm fans come into play. The Igloo is convection cooled and no fans. Adding the 120mm fans will serve two purposes. 1) Making a better interface between the cooling system (evaporator coil) and the contents of the cooler to include humidor and air volume, Kitty Litter, pans, probes, wires, moisture, etc. - which will serve to reduce run time of the compressor during cool down cycles. 2) Greatly reduce or completely eliminate any condensation. Once the fans arrive, I'll mount them in front of the evaporator coil/plate. Then some more testing to determine fan run time and cycling. Initially, I'm thinking just turn them on and off syncronized with the compressor. That's where I'll start the next phase of testing. Also, I'll add the Kittly Litter and start watching the RH tracking. A friend suggested putting a couple of bottles of water inside the rig to help dampen temperature swings and I agree with him, a very good idea. Since there is plenty of room inside the cooler, it will have a gallon or so of water in it - in sealed container(s) of course.

    When the 7 drawer humidor goes into the new cooler, the fan in it will be set to run only between compressor cycles. The old setup, the fan ran constantly. It's on a speed controller and is slowed down, but ran 24/7. With the new setup, the fan will be on a relay. the NC side of the relay that will control the 4 x 120mm fans that will be in front of the evaporator or cooling plate. This will serve as an additional environmental buffer for the environment where the cigars reside. After compressor completes cool down cycle, the fan in the humidor will return to operate. It may be a timer will be added to the fans to delay turn off on the evaporator fans and delay the re-start of the humidor fan. That will be determined when the fans are installed and the next phase of testing is performed.
    Last edited by Dual-500; 11-27-2013 at 06:28 PM.

  5. #5

    Wildman Dual-500's Avatar


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    The WILLHI temperature and humidity controllers have 5A rated relays in them, SPST type. I use them to control some auxillary 12v relays with higher current ratings on the contacts. One for the fans is a DPDT configuration with 10A rated contacts. The other is a standard 12v Bosch automotive relay, SPDT type with 30A rated contacts - that one is for the compressor. I had these relays laying around from other projects and decided to go ahead and use them.

    The Edison plug to the right of the 12 lugh terminal strip is switched on and off by the 30A rated Bosch relay and the cooler plugs into it. The unit is "On" all the time and has no on-off switch so when power is applied it goes to it's default temperature of 46 F and after a slight delay, the compressor cycles on and it runs until the temperature controller removes the 12v to the relay coil.
    Last edited by Dual-500; 11-27-2013 at 06:49 PM.

  6. #6

    Wildman Dual-500's Avatar


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    Project is almost complete. RTV on the inside RH where the original temperature probe was in a cavity is drying. Will take a couple of more days to dry completely. Did an initial temperature test run after installing the evaporator plate fans in it with the cooler empty. "0" mass inside to dampen temperature swing from cool cycle. The initial test was posted above with the stock thermostat setup and again with the Willhi remote temperature controller. With the temperature probe installed to the LH side of the cooler near the top and the four 120mm avaporator plate fans installed the temperature tracks dead on with the controller set points. The first cool down cycle the compresor ran for 1:33 and cooled it down from 67F to 64F with a set point of 65F. With the door closed it cycled on again after about 5 minutes and the compressor ran for 27 seconds and it shut off again at 64F. Looking good on all tests so far. I picked up some Rubber Maid "Blue Ice" packs to keep inside to further dampen temperature swings.

    Picures should speak for themselves - I'll post more when I put the humidor inside and begin seasoning and final testing in a couple of days after the RTV has fully dried.

    DanyBoyBrazil likes this.

  7. #7

    Newbie in the ocean


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    Great thread sir! I'm looking into designing a system similar to this for my wineador as well. Did you ever happen to jot down that wiring diagram? Thanks for posting this as it's been very helpful!

  8. #8

    Wildman Dual-500's Avatar


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    The wiring was done freestyle - not my first rodeo. I'll create a schematic for the thread to complete the how to plans. Also a basic parts list. Give me a couple of days. The system is seasoned in and up and working now with a few cigars in it. I may do a bit more tweaking to it - add a couple of fans in the bottom to blow over the bread pans full of kitty litter to promote faster recovery of RH level when the door is opened. The fans will be controlled by the Willhi humidity controller relay and be 12v like the other fans. Also considering a fan delay controller to run evaporator fans for 2-3 minutes after compressor shuts off.

    Thus far, it's working well. I reset the Hysteresis on the temperature controller from 1 degree to 2 degrees and set point to 68 degrees F. Now, the temperature climbs to 70.0 F and the compressor comes on cooling it down to 67.9 F. This change has decreased compressor runs to about once an hour or less.

    RH level inside the humidor is 68% and appears to be stable. RH swings down about 10% inside the cooler when compressor runs. If climbs back up over a 5-10 minute time period. The humidor circulation fan shuts off during compressor runs so the cigars really don't encounter the RH drop. Probably not really a big deal, but with a fan Delay timer and a couple of more circulation fans near the media it can be reduced further. More to follow on that.

    Glad this was helpful.
    Last edited by Dual-500; 01-04-2014 at 01:10 PM.

  9. #9

    Newbie in the ocean


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    Awesome man! Thanks for taking the time.

  10. #10

    Chicken of the Sea Bondo 440's Avatar


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    Nice job. Some of that hardware looks familiar

    Kitty Litter Convert #KL1245

  11. #11

    Wildman Dual-500's Avatar


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    Some final pictures of the build. The initial setup didn't have a delay on the internal fans. They switched on and off with the compressor. There was a slight drop of the RH within the cooler after a cool down cycle and I figured it to be the result of condensation accumulation on the evaporator plate. Appears that was the case. I ordered a 12V fan delay timer and installed it. Now, after a cool down cycle, the RH returns to normal or set point faster. Timer is set for a 5-6 minute run time. There are jumpers on the circuit board of the time to adjust operating paramaters. I set it up to trigger from a 12V positive voltage applied to the trigger input. When the temperature controller calls for a cool down cycle, the relay in the controller closes sending 12V to the compressor control Bosch 30A relay and also to the fan delay timer. The compressor cycles on and the ELK-960 fan delay timer begins a cycle: turning off the humidor circulation fan and turning on the evaporator plate fans. The compressor runs for about 1 minute and turns off, while the evaporator plate fans continue to run for another 4-5 minutes and humidor fan remains off.

    Once the timer runs it's 6 minute cycle, the evaporator plate fans turn off and the humidor circulation fan turns back on. Buy this time, the RH in the cooler has returned to it's quiescent or set point and all is well. The cigars, being inside the humidor are not subjected to any of this. Not that it would probably matter anyway.

    Here's a basic block diagram of the controller.

    stin187 requested a wiring diagram. I created the block diagram above in Microsoft Visio. I chose to do a block diagram format -vs- wire to wire schematic due to complexity and time. If anyone needs a wire by wire schematic, send me a PM and I'll crank one out by hand. Won't take too long to do a full up schematic, I'll take the block diagram from Visio and just lay in the wiring by hand as an overlay.

    I'll post up some final thoughts on the project after I run it a month or two. Thus far, after installing the fan "Off" delay timer it's running very well and maintains temperature and RH levels very well. One thing I would do differently if approaching this as an initial build would be a larger humidor. The 150 count Charleston Humidor was the largest that would fit within the initial 28 bottle Avanti wine cooler I purchased. That was where the project started, so I needed a humidor that would fit inside the Avanti. The Igloo beverage cooler is a 36 bottle size and a 200 count humidor will fit inside it. That will be a future upgrade, a larger 200 count, 7 drawer humidor.

    This has been a fun project. Developing the system, doing the testing along the way, and making changes which yielded the desired results made it a pleasurable experience. Thanks to those along the way that posted their projects and shared experience and insights as that was of immeasurable benefit in execution of this project.

    I'll also put together a basic parts list for the build in the next few days and post it up in the thread.
    Last edited by Dual-500; 01-18-2014 at 03:08 PM.

  12. #12

    Wildman Dual-500's Avatar


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    The basic parts list:

    Some of the components are overkill. These are components I had laying around from other projects like the 12V 8A power supply module and the 30A rated 12V Bosch relay, 1/4" aluminum plate, etc.
    Last edited by Dual-500; 01-19-2014 at 12:46 AM.

  13. #13

    Wildman Dual-500's Avatar


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    Here's a picture of a Coleman cold pack (10 are in the cooler):

    Need to give credit to my long time pal Tom for suggesting use of the cold packs to further dampen temperature swings. On the topic of temperature swings. The Avanti cooler as well as the new Igloo cooler have a default set point of around 56 degrees F. When electric service drops out, the coolers return to the default temperature set point when the electric service is restored. I came home several times the first 2 years using a Wine Cooler finding my cigars had been cooled down to 56 degrees. While it didn't cause any noticable problems, it's not a condition I want in my setup. So, with virtually any type of beverage or wine cooler system REMOTE TEMPERATURE CONTROL is a must in my opinion. With the remote temperature controller, when power is removed and restored to the setup, it keeps the established temperature set point and resumes normal operation.

    What did it cost? Somewhere around $200 for the controller & enviromental setup, $175 for the 36 bottle Igloo beverage cooler, and as I recall the Charleston humidor was $175 or so. Probably came in under $600 bucks for the whole mama-jama.
    Last edited by Dual-500; 01-19-2014 at 02:01 PM.

  14. #14

    Newbie in the ocean


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    Great build! Thanks for taking the time to document it. This info was very helpful in the build I've just finished and have settling in.

  15. #15

    Wildman Dual-500's Avatar


    Re: Wineador trials and tribulations - Stage 2

    ^ Very good sir. Are you going to or have you posted some pictures? Feel free to use this thread if you haven't yet.

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