Author Topic: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations  (Read 2230 times)

Offline Mike Richards

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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2013, 06:16:42 PM »
Don't think too hard--just come up with a plan of how you'd do it.  The more you think about how your going to do it, as opposed to whether or not you will do it, the better of an idea it becomes (both because you'll become attached to it, and because it will be a well-thought-out design).  Feel free to share your thoughts and we'll shoot holes in them (like any good engineer) ;).
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Offline Al Lewis

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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2013, 08:52:43 PM »
I can see setting up a closet but how would you cool a cabinet?  An air conditioner would weigh more than the cabinet.

Offline Mike Richards

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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2013, 09:16:45 PM »
Wine chiller units can be pretty small.
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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2013, 09:50:48 PM »
Ok, here is one thing that had crossed my mind...

I will have to toy around with the concept but the basic principle for maintaining atmosphere would be this:

To maintain an elevated rh level, air is bubbled through water tanks in the bottom of the cabinet.

If you want to be low-tech with everything, you could control the air temperature by adjusting the temperature of the water through which the new air bubbles. Circulating fans in the top could be used, or alternately the water could be on top and rely on natural convection to draw the cooler fresh air to the bottom. By bubbling the air first through limestone in the bottom of the water, you would help keep the water clean so that it would not need to be changed as frequently.

There would be a need for some well placed vents on the outside of the cabinet. These could be opened and closed to help maintain a desirable RH. Also, RH could be adjusted by changing the rate at which new air bubbles through the water.

This would be a positive pressure system, which would minimize the infiltration of airborne mold spores, and would also have a total air exchange over a period of time, helping to keep air quality relatively higher.

This low tech application would of course require some fairly consistent monitoring. Maybe you would need to check it once a day and make any necessary adjustments (which is fine if you are making many washed rind cheeses or others that require daily maintenance) Obviously this low tech option is not desirable for a hobby cheesemaker or a high volume producer, but could be viable for an off-grid, small production farm.

A higher tech unit could instead utilize an electronic thermostat running a small cooler unit. And an off-grid type unit could be made to work with a thermostat and a gas cooler.

An option for added temperature control would be to first direct all incoming air through hoses submerged in a small underground water tank. I don't know how it is where you live, but in my county the ground below the frostline has a constant year round temperature of around 54 degrees.
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Offline Mike Richards

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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2013, 12:36:54 AM »
Interesting idea.  It would be useful to run some numbers and see what kind of cooling you could achieve with a system like this.  I have no experience with transferring heat from water to bubbles of air, so I have no real sense for how efficient the heat transfer would be.  My initial reaction is that the temperature of the air wouldn't change a whole lot, though as I think about it, I suppose if the bubbles were really small, you might be able to see a good amount of heat transfer, and if the air were dry, it would cool down as well.  Unless someone else knows, I'll see if I can find some data on that.

If you have a source of cool water, though, just running the cool water through the cabinet has the potential to maintain a reasonable temperature.
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Offline Al Lewis

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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2013, 03:10:35 AM »
Many large capacity air conditioning units use water towers to cool the air.

Offline Mike Richards

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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #21 on: January 03, 2013, 09:10:00 AM »
I have seen plenty of situations where water is used to cool air.  Typically this involves a spray of water into air (like with cooling towers) or drawing large amounts of air through damp/wet materials (swamp/evaporative coolers).  As far as I've experienced, these all operate because of the energy required for the phase transformation o the water (from liquid to gas) which cools the air.  I just found an article on passing water through hot water as part of an air heater/humidifiy.  I suspect it would apply to cooling air, too.  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs002310100200?LI=true
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Offline Al Lewis

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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #22 on: January 03, 2013, 09:15:11 AM »
Bottom line to all of this is do you want to invest all of the time and money it would take to build something like this on the off chance it will work properly for a extended period of time, years, or would you rather just buy an upright fridge or freezer?

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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #23 on: January 03, 2013, 10:56:55 AM »
I can see setting up a closet but how would you cool a cabinet?  An air conditioner would weigh more than the cabinet.

Assuming that a given air conditioning unit outputs air which is cool enough to cool the cabinet using a reasonable amount of energy- one option would be to either place it on the top or bottom and have air blow up (or down) into the cabinet. Another option I would see would be running a duct line from the AC into the cabinet.
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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #24 on: January 03, 2013, 11:04:15 AM »
Interesting idea.  It would be useful to run some numbers and see what kind of cooling you could achieve with a system like this.  I have no experience with transferring heat from water to bubbles of air, so I have no real sense for how efficient the heat transfer would be.  My initial reaction is that the temperature of the air wouldn't change a whole lot, though as I think about it, I suppose if the bubbles were really small, you might be able to see a good amount of heat transfer, and if the air were dry, it would cool down as well.  Unless someone else knows, I'll see if I can find some data on that.

If you have a source of cool water, though, just running the cool water through the cabinet has the potential to maintain a reasonable temperature.

I think you and I are thinking along the same lines.... What pops into my head is the water might cool off the air at first (and certaining moistify it... cool word huh?) but assuming a constant input air temperature, eventually the system would achieve a steady state temperature- the question is what temperature. This should be "fairly easy" to model as a function of time, position (in the cabinet and water), temperature in, and the temperature flux out. The flux could be a pain but I am sure we can make some safe simplifying assumptions here based on the specific heat of the materials used and perhaps assuming some kind of bounds on the external ambient air. Some kind of crazy 3-D Newton's cooling law sort of deal.
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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #25 on: January 03, 2013, 11:05:35 AM »
Bottom line to all of this is do you want to invest all of the time and money it would take to build something like this on the off chance it will work properly for a extended period of time, years, or would you rather just buy an upright fridge or freezer?

If it is geeky, I'll make the time to invest (assuming a sufficient supply motivation of course)! That is why they invented coffee!
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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #26 on: January 03, 2013, 11:44:15 AM »
IF the air supplied is in the form of compressed air, coming from a steel tank that remains more or less at ambient air temperature, the air supplied through the hose will as a result be a few degrees cooler (depending on the pressure of the compresses air and a number of other factors as well)

This would be one way to supply cooler air.

Another way, like suggested above, would be to have air supplied to the unit from a central cooling unit. Now we could do this cheaply, as theoretically we could use a pure water source system. That is, we have water cooled air that is cooled to the temperature of our ground water -c. 55 degrees F. and that would happen to be the exact temperature we want. Water source heat pumps for residential use need to have a secondary heating/cooling unit to bring the air from the 55 degree water temperature to comfortable room temperature, but we could eliminate this step. The disadvantage would be an open-ended lop would generate a lot of waste water, and a closed loop system is expensive and requires a good bit of land to implement.

By the time it passes through all the pumps and pipes and everything, water straight from our well
(no softening) comes out of the faucet at around 60 degrees.

Al,
for hobby use for a single individual this may not be worth the effort.

However, for commercial applications, aging and storing cheese is a pain in the neck. It is expensive to maintain the climate in a large room -large enough to house the shelves full of cheese, walkways, and a place to keep all of your stuff for caring for the cheese. If we can only worry about maintaining the climate at the spots where cheese is (which comes out to maybe 1/3 of the volume of the room, if even that) then we have a different scenario.

This is especially attractive when we consider that I would implement this in a cellar which already maintains a mean temperature slightly above the target temperature range (our biggest difficulty is controlling humidity, which is easier and more precise in a smaller space). So heat gain from the outside environment is going to be minimal for me(even more minimal with a positive pressure system).

For me, I can consider some fairly elaborate setups since I would be running enough of these to store 200-300 30-40 # cheeses at any given time, or something like that. This means a number of units controlled from a central source.

For a hobbyist, the most practical system to implement would probably be a unit relying on a thermostat and an electric refrigeration unit.

Then of course, there is the possibility that if you develop the idea and get something that works well, you could sell them.

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Offline steffb503

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Re: Fridge Controller (or other cheese cave) Recommendations
« Reply #27 on: January 06, 2013, 02:48:00 PM »
http://www.storeitcold.com/

Check this out.
A dairy near me uses it in a aging room.