When one starts kegging their beer one has to serve it, right? And what better way then to have it readily accessible in the dining room? This page describes how I converted a GE Clean Steel 4.3 counter-high refrigerator into a kegerator, model # SMR04DASCS. Lots and lots of people have done similar conversions like this but fewer with this style of refrigerator because it has a freezer section that would ordinarily obstruct the top of the keg. I’ve broken up the conversion into three sections as seen below.
Freezer Bend & CO2 Line
Out of the box this fridge is just barely wide enough to fit two cornies. With the freezer out of the way it has tons of vertical space; to get that space I needed to bend the freezer down against the back wall and to move the thermostat.
The thermostat I moved to the ceiling toward the right side. Using a length of 14 gauge appliance cord I extended the power cable to reach the top. Bending the freezer wasn’t too tricky because I did it while the fridge was warm (to avoid brittle metal) and went slowly. The first thing I noticed was that the weak point in the assembly is where the main line is soldered onto the evaporator. Had I simply grabbed the panel and bent down it would have kinked at this spot. So I grasped the panel plus junction, applying force to the short bit of line coming out of the wall. As you can see the final bend wasn’t perfectly round but the fridge works just fine as far as I can tell two weeks after doing the bend.
I didn’t bother screwing the freezer to the walls in its new position as it’s sort of wedged back there, and is also held in place by the line.
I’m keeping my CO2 tank outside so I had to pass the gas line through the wall. The below photo shows where I drilled the 1/2″ hole. 1/2″ works well because it makes for a snug fit for the 9/16″ OD hose.
To make room for the kegs the door panel has to be removed, and to cover up the insulating foam a replacement panel is put in place. While many people use a piece of white board material, I couldn’t find any at my local big box store so I settled on two pieces of HVAC panning.
One piece wasn’t quite big enough so I riveted two together. I’ll find some other means of labeling my taps, and frankly I think the reflective interior looks pretty slick.
Nicely enough the fridge has a diagram describing where the coolant lines are.
In reality the top crossing line is about 4″ from the front, it’s easily identifiable by feeling for the warm area on top. I put the tower towards the back because I felt it looked nicer and it also keeps the hose tangle away from the kegs.
A universal problem with a draft tower is keeping it cool. If the beer in the tower is warm, when dispensed its carbon dioxide will quickly come out of solution leading to foamy first pours. Consumer-grade kegerators all exhibit this problem because they make no effort to cool the tower. One popular solution is to use a small fan to pump cold air into the tower. A more elegant solution is to use copper tubing as a heat sink for the beer lines. It uses no moving parts and doesn’t require the electricity to power the fan. Additionally one must choose to either run the cooling fan 24/7 or to build a thermostat/timer controller to regulate how much it runs. This alternative solution works very well and only incurs the cost of copper tubing (which admittedly can be high these days).
I made the tubes long enough to extend to the top of the beer line plus about 3″ down inside the fridge. In order to get extra cold air contact surface area I sweated on some scrap tubing onto tees at the bottoms of the cooling tubes. I really don’t know if these are absolutely necessary but it didn’t cost me anything to do. Surrounding the beer lines is a piece of 1 1/8″ ID pipe insulation. This runs from the top of the beer lines to the bottom of the tower. After this photo was taken I stuffed some of the insulation that came with the tower on top of the exposed lines and shanks to perhaps better insulate things.
The first pour does produce a bit more foam than subsequent ones, but only about 1″ total. And you do hear the built-up gas escaping the faucet with that characteristic “pss-up” sound. Certainly good enough for my purposes!
I secured the tower using the included machine screws and some fender washers on bottom. Initially I had intended to use pieces of aluminum angle stock on the ceiling to add rigidity but the fender washers work just fine. Wiggling the tower moves the whole fridge which is solid enough for me.
Parts & Sourcing
- Refrigerator: GE Clean Steel 4.3, #SMR04DASCS. $140 at Sam’s Club
- Tower: Two faucet stainless tower with Perlicks & ball lock adaptors. $160 from KegConnection.com.