It must be kept in mind that temperature is by far the most important factor in dispensing draft beer. It is critical that temperatures of non-pasteurized ale & lager type beers be maintained between 36-38° F all the way to the point of dispense.
Simply insulating the length of beer hose from the refrigerator to the tower will cause problems. Even a few inches of beer hose that is not kept at 36-38° F will result in foam and promote sour/cloudy beer. See What Temperature Do I Need to Store Draft Beer At?)
Dispensing draft beer from a tower located a short distance from your home refrigerator (or freezer) is quite simple. To accomplish this create what is called an "Air Cooled" system; Cold air from the refrigerator is circulated along side the beer hose to maintain the critical 36-38° F temperature as the draft beer travels from the refrigerator to the draft beer tower.
Maximum Distance and Blower Size
The system length is limited to a 5' maximum distance due to the small size of blowers that can be used within residential grade refrigerators (or freezers). These small blowers have a cubic foot per minute blow rate of (12 to 15 CFM) which is not sufficient for an Air Cooled system greater then 5' in length.
Note: Large air blowers (60, 131, and 273 CFM) are intended for use only in large commercial grade refrigeration units or walk-in coolers. This is because such blowers are large in size, and they generate considerable heat which residential grade and small commercial grade refrigerators simply do not have the cooling capacity to overcome.
Creating an Air Duct
The first step to building a (home) Air Cooled system is to construct a duct from the refrigerator (or freezer) to the base of the draft beer tower. Through this duct the beer hose will be run and cold air circulated to maintain the temperature of the beer from the refrigerator all the way to the point of dispense. This is best done with a length of 2” PVC pipe, which can be purchased at your local hardware store.
If your PVC duct will include a turn, be sure to use a long sweeping type of PVC elbow fitting which will allow easy air flow rather then a sharp 90° elbow fitting which will restrict air flow.
Determine the locations where the 2” PVC pipe will connect to the refrigerator; as shown in the diagram and depending on the location of your kegerator, a hole will have to be drilled on the side of the unit, preferably a location where the manufacture recommends is the safest area to drill thru, extending the 2” PVC pipe to the underside of the counter top above which the tower will be mounted. In both locations, using a 2-1/2” hole saw, drill a hole to accommodate a snug inside fit of the 2” PVC pipe.
Using silicone to seal the joints and prevent any leakage of the cold air that will be circulating through the pipe. Install the PVC pipe (and PVC elbow fitting if using one). Then use some sort of bracing to secure the pipe in place until the silicone dries.
Insulate Air Duct
Once the silicone has dried, insulate the pipe with 2-1/2” I.D. foam Insulation. While PVC is a natural insulator, the addition of the foam insulation needs to be done because the cold air circulated through the PVC pipe will cause the pipe to become cold, which in warm or humid climates could cause condensation issues. The addition of the insulation will help to prevent condensation.
Increase Beer Hose Length
Keeping in mind that the PVC pipe length is limited to a maximum of 5 feet. You must also keep in mind that the tower comes with a 5 foot length of 3/16" I.D. vinyl beer hose that approximately 1 foot is within the tower. In the event your beer hose is not long enough to reach your keg due to the length of PVC pipe used, you will need to purchase 12 feet of 1/4" I.D. vinyl hose.
While this length may seem too long for a 5’ run, to ensure proper restriction and pressure it should not be shortened. The extra length of hose can be simply coiled up neatly inside the refrigerator.
(See What is restriction?)
Mounting the Tower
Mount the tower to the counter top, and run the beer hose through the 2” PVC pipe into the refrigerator. Most draft beer towers include a mounting gasket which is installed between the draft tower and the counter top. The mounting gasket helps to prevent any accidental spills of liquid on the counter top from flowing beneath the tower. Be sure the gasket is properly positioned when mounting the tower. And if you wish, apply a bead of silicone between the gasket and the counter top as this will further help prevent any spills on the counter top from getting beneath the tower.
Installing the Blower
At this point the duct is complete. The last step is the installation of the air blower which will create the constant cold air flow through the duct and maintain the draft beer temperature between 36-38° F all the way to the point of dispense.
Mount the blower inside the refrigerator, on the opposite side from where the PVC pipe connects to the refrigerator. This will assure the blower draws cold air, and allows the warmer air that will be returning through the duct to circulate within the refrigerator and become chilled again.
Creating Good Air Circulation
Place one end of the 1” flexible blower hose into the blower and secure it in place with silicone or duct tape. Be sure not to push the blower hose to far into the blower, because the hose may hit the louvers of blower intake.
Remove the cap from the top of the draft tower. Route the blower hose through the PVC duct and up into the draft tower. At the end of the hose, in the tower, peel back the plastic on the outside of the hose so about 2” of the inner wire coil is revealed. Then form the wire into a small hook, and using the hook hang the hose from the shank assembly near the top of the tower.
Verify Cold Air Circulation & Beer Temperature
Before replacing the cap on the top of the draft tower, check air circulation. Apply power to the blower. Hold your hand over the open tower; you should feel the cold air escaping. If circulation is present, replace top cap. Allow the cold air from the refrigerator to circulate and cool the beer line for 10-30 minutes.
Now you are ready to connect the keg coupler and allow beer to flow in the line. Pour a glass of beer and take its temperature. Compare the dispensed beer’s temperature against the temperature inside your kegerator. They both should read 38° F. As we mentioned at the start, the point of the air duct is to maintain the refrigerator’s temperature all the way to the faucet. Maintaining temperature is essential to dispensing a consistent glass of cold draft beer. Cheers!
Note: Do not plug the blower into an outlet controlled by a wall switch, as this could result in the blower accidentally being turned off. The blower needs to run constantly to assure cold air circulation and to maintain the 36-38° F temperature throughout the system that is critical for non-pasteurized Ale & Lager types of draft beers.
Items You Will Need
| 1 Each
|| 2-1/2” Hole Saw
| 5 Feet
|| 2” PVC Pipe
| 1 Each
|| 2” PVC Long Sweep Elbow
| 1 Tube
| 6 Feet
|| 2-1/2” I.D. Foam Insulation (ES-FRI258)
| 1 Each
|| Tower Kegerator Conversion Kit
| 12 Feet
||1/4” I.D. Beer Hose (548C)
| 2 Each
|| Hose Clamps for the Beer Hose (705W)
| 1 Each
|| 12 CFM Air Blower(2C782)
| 1 Each
|| Hanger Bracket for Air Blower (2C703)
| 8 Feet
|| 1” Flexible Blower Hose (1651-10)
| 1 Roll
|| Duct Tape