Kegerator on a Budget
Building a keg refrigerator with limited funds
Fully assembled kegerators are easy to come by these days. You might have seen all the new units to choose from here on Kegerators.com, but they come at a specific price point (usually starting around $400ish). If this pricing is outside your comfort zone, don't fret because you do have options.
When you're building a keg fridge on a budget the main thing you will be sacrificing is time. Patience will test you while you wait for the perfect parts to show themselves, but good things come to those who wait right?
I recently challenged myself to build a fully functional kegerator for under $200 bucks. Also, I wanted the kegerator to look similar to the kind you buy for $400. No easy task. Luckily I ran into some great deals and was able to wait for the right price to come along on some very key items needed. Let me show you what I did and where I sourced the parts.
"Before you begin making a kegerator remember that punching holes through stuff usually voids any warranty. With that said, its time to punch holes through stuff!"
The most vital piece of kegerative equipment is definitely the fridge. You get what you pay for, so don't expect to buy a $100 fridge and have it last 50 years. You will want to go with something commercial like TRUE or BEVERAGE-AIR if that's the case.
A lot of amazing deals can be had using Craiglist's barter/trade section as well as searching local print and online classifieds. I used FreeCycle.org and was able to score a single draft beer tower with faucet that someone didn't need after upgrading to a three tap tower. It was FREE. Seriously free. Now, I know this is probably not the norm, but why not check it out? You just might hit a sweet deal.
To be fair to the challenge I kept looking and found the same 2.5" chrome single tap tower and faucet on Craigslist. They wanted $50 and I offered $25. They took it. I was now up two towers and met a really cool local homebrewer during the transaction.
Another way I have acquired kegerator equipment on the cheap is by requesting samples for review direct from manufacturers. You will have to pay for these, but normally they will sell to you at cost or lower than retail. Try AliExpress.com or DHGate.com for finding overseas companies willing to send samples at reduced costs.
Check eBay for quick deals on draft towers, regulators, co2 tanks, couplers and faucets. You might even find a used kegerator that someone is retiring for even cheaper. Amazon is another good resource for finding used gear. The HomeBrewTalk forum has a For Sale and Want to Buy section that is always a great resource for sourcing keg dispensing equipment.
Don't forget about your local scrap salvage yards. I've found perfectly working co2 tanks and old stainless steel kegs.
Get creative with a kegerator registry on MyRegistry.com and list out each piece you need to complete your kegerator build. Then ask your family and friends to help you fill the registry!
Scratch and Dent
Most major cities have scratch and dent appliance stores and many web stores appliance shops now have their inventory online. Also keep an eye on open box and scratch and dent appliances on OpenBoxDirect.com
I chose a homebrew setup for my kegerator, but you would be able to swap a few parts out to be able to dispense a sanke style commercial keg too. Here's a cool little part you should know about if you want to go between homebrew and Sanke fittings.
Kegerator Part List
|Mini Fridge (Magic Chef MCBR445B1)
||$85 (scratch and dent)
|| Home Depot (in-store on sale)
|Tower & Faucet (no lines)
|Beer Line (5 ft)
||$4 w/ free shipping
|CO2 Charger & Gas Disconnect Combo
||$23 w/ free shipping
|Hose Clamps x 2
||Local Homebrew Shop
|Beer Disconnect (barbed)
||$5.50 w/ free shipping
|Plastic Drip Tray
||$7.50 w/ free shipping
|Plastic Tap Handle
||Local Homebrew Shop
|Used Ball Lock Keg
|16g CO2 Cartridges (6)
||$7.50 w/ free shipping
Here's what I started with. There are a lot of modifications that are needed in order to convert this regular mini fridge to a keg fridge. (Make sure the fridge is UNPLUGGED and be careful working with electronics and electricity in general.)
Place your keg inside the fridge to make sure you have ample room above the keg for disconnects and hoses. This particular model is a perfect fit for homebrew kegs.
Remove the screw on the temperature control knoband pull it away from the fridge wall. Do not remove any of the wires, just let it hang. Pop out the freezer door. Remove the freezer screws. Slowly fold down the entire freezer shelf. You only have one shot at this, so be careful. Make sure you do not crack or break the tube holding the freezer shelf. This is the coolant line and is what actually cools the entire unit.
Next we need to remove the molded plastic from the inner door. Lift up on the inner door gasket to reveal the screws. Remove all of the screws and pull the plastic and gasket off of the fridge door.
Remove the gasket and set aside. Use a dremel or other saw to cut out the center portion of the molded plastic. Cut along the inside about 1/2" from the screw holes.
Line the gasket back over the plastic cut out..
Reattach the modified plastic gasket piece with the screws. You have now modified the door so your kegs will fit. The inside of your door is made of foam insulation. You can spray paint this black if you want to make it pretty.
Drill a 1"-1 1/2" hole through the top center of the kegerator. There are a few layers of plastic, foam and metal, so make sure your hole saw can cut through these materials. The hole only needs to be large enough for your beer line. Line up your tower and drill some pilot holes for mounting screws.
This is not a necessary step, but it adds stability to the tower. I used a plastic pipe flange on the underside of the tower and secured the two with screws, washers and bolts. Not a big investment... maybe another $10.
Connect the beer lines, pop on the co2 charger and you are ready to dispense. These co2 chargers run off of 16G co2 cartridges. This is an inexpensive and portable method of dispensing kegs, but the draw back is you do not know your exact pressure. Use 2-5 16g cartridges to push 5 gallons of beer.
Not interested in building a kegerator? Browse our full line of pre-made kegerators.
||Christian Lavender is a father, husband, computer geek, homebrewer and founder of Kegerators.com and HomeBrewing.com in Austin, TX.
Published On: Thursday, January 31, 2013
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