Control Panel Troubleshooting

 

Electric Brewery control panel troubleshooting

 

Introduction

Having issues with your Electric Brewery control panel? Our troubleshooting tips will help you get things resolved quickly!

These instructions apply to our Standard 30A Electric Brewery Control Panel for countries that support both 120V and 240V as documented in our build instructions and sold pre-assembled or in kit form. They are still useful for our alternate control panels but there will be slight (hopefully obvious) changes to some of these instructions depending on your panel version.

General precautions apply here as in some cases you may be required to take measurements inside a live panel to troubleshoot. Please be careful! If you are uncomfortable with this please refer to a qualified electrician.

Should you need them, replacement parts are available in our shop.

Take a look at our Testing Your Control Panel as You Build It guide too for additional hints/tips that may prove useful.

Questions? Visit our Control Panel Troubleshooting forum thread.

You may also contact us at sales@TheElectricBrewery.com. We support our products and customers for life.

 

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My heating element isn't firing (or firing continuously)

Standard 30A Electric Brewery Control Panel heating element controls

This is a common problem as it can occur due to numerous issues including incorrect wiring (both in the control panel and in the wall receptacle), incorrect PID settings, incorrectly using the PID, a defective part, or a combination of these. If you supplied your own parts instead of using one of our control panels then the problem may also be due to an incorrect or incompatible part. Use the logic below to troubleshoot.

Control from the PID to the heating element goes like this:

PID -> SSR -> ELEMENT SELECT switch -> RELAY (BOIL or HLT) -> ELEMENT (and corresponding yellow ELEMENT ON light)

When the PID is sending a signal to turn on the element, the PID "OUT" light should be ON. If it isn't on and you expect it to be, stop there and look in the PID for the problem. The settings may be incorrect, the temperature may be set too low, or you may be using the PID incorrectly.

Some background: PIDs used in our control panel design can be set to work in AUTOMATIC mode, MANUAL mode, or both:

  • AUTOMATIC mode:  The brewer sets the target temperature and the PID intelligently fires as required to heat up and hold at that temperature based on what the temperature probe sees. Automatic mode is used in the HLT to maintain specific temperatures and in the BOIL to do hop stands (steeps).
  • MANUAL mode: The brewer sets the duty cycle (0-100%) and the PID fires on and off continuously to maintain that level of power. Temperature is not used. Manual mode is used in the BOIL to maintain the desired boil vigor based on batch size and brewer preference.

For the correct initial PID settings see our Control Panel (Setup) guide.

For the correct usage see our Brew Day Step by Step guide (or keep reading for the short version).

If the HLT PID is programmed with the correct settings it will only work in AUTOMATIC mode. Manual mode will not be available, and pressing the "A/M" button on the HLT PID to switch between modes will do nothing. Press the UP/DOWN buttons on the HLT PID until the lower green SET VALUE (SV) is higher than the upper red PROCESS VALUE (PV). Once SV is higher than PV, the PID "OUT" light should turn ON, telling the SSR to fire.

If the BOIL PID is programmed with the correct settings it will work in both AUTOMATIC and MANUAL modes. Press the "A/M" button until the "A-M" light is ON, meaning that the PID is in MANUAL mode. You should see the lower green SV number display as "M XXX" where XXX is a number from 0 to 100. If the "M" is not displayed press the SET button to switch the display mode. Press the UP / DOWN buttons on the BOIL PID until the lower green SV number reads "M 100". This will tell the BOIL SSR to fire 100% of the time.

If the PID "OUT" light is on then the SSR should be receiving a signal and turning on too. The PID "OUT" light and the SSR light (assuming your SSR has a light) should always be on at the same time. If the SSR light isn't on then either the PID is defective, the wiring between the PID and the SSR is incorrect (check your wiring), or the SSR is defective. To troubleshoot a possibly defective PID or SSR, swap wires with another known working PID or SSR.

40 amp SSR (12VDC input voltage, 240VAC output voltage)

If the SSR light is on but there's no heat at the element, then either the relay between the SSR and the element isn't closed, there's a problem with the element, the wiring somewhere from the SSR -> ELEMENT SELECT SWITCH -> RELAY -> ELEMENT is incorrect, the relay is defective, you have not turned the ELEMENT SELECT switch to one of the two ON positions, or the wrong contactors have been used in the ELEMENT SELECT switch. If using one of our 50A control panels check the corresponding fuses or breakers too. It is also possible that the element itself is defective. Switching the ELEMENT SELECT switch to either ON position should make the corresponding RELAY close with an audible 'clunk' - if it doesn't check your ELEMENT SELECT switch wiring. It could also be that the wall outlet supplying 120V AC and 240V AC to the panel is wired incorrectly such that only 120V AC is available and not 240V AC.

If the ELEMENT SELECT switch is turned to either of the ON positions to power the BOIL or the HLT, the corresponding yellow ELEMENT ON light on the front of the control panel should be turning on and off in unison with the corresponding PID "OUT" light and the SSR light. All three should be turning on and off at the same time. If the SSR light is ON when the PID "OUT" light is OFF, then the SSR is likely incorrectly receiving a signal to turn on all the time. Check your PID and SSR wiring. The SSR may also be defective. If the ELEMENT ON light is ON when the PID "OUT" light and SSR light are OFF then the element receptacle is receiving 240V AC when it shouldn't. Check your relay and SSR wiring. The relay and SSR may also both be defective, but a double failure is highly improbable.

If everything in the control panel appears to be working correctly to this point, use a multimeter to (carefully) measure the two HOT connection points on the heating element receptacle on the bottom of the control panel - careful not to short the probes together! With the ELEMENT SELECT SWITCH in either ON position to close the corresponding relay and the PID firing a signal to turn on the SSR, you should be measuring 240V AC. If you do measure 240V AC, the control panel is working correctly and the problem is external to the control panel and will be somewhere in the heating element cord, plug, or box. If using one of our 50A control panels you may also check the corresponding breakers or fuses for continuity using a multimeter. 

If one of the yellow ELEMENT ON lights does not light up but the corresponding heating element is firing, then the ELEMENT ON light is either wired incorrectly or is defective. The LED nature of these lights means that they should last a very long time but failures do happen with any equipment. The ELEMENT ON lights do not need to function for the heating elements to fire.

Using a multimeter to measure for 240V AC at the various points along the chain can help troubleshoot the issue further.

Replacement parts are available in our shop.

 

Electric Brewery heating element assembly

I think one of my elements died. Can I test it?

Unplug your heating element from the control panel and remove the cover from your heating element box using a screwdriver.

Measure the resistance across the element by measuring between the two screw connection points using a multimeter.

Resistance on our 5500W elements is approximately 10.4 ohms, while resistance on our 4500W elements is approximately 12.8 ohms. Make sure your multimeter was properly zeroed first to negate any resistance from the probe wires. If the heating element is defective you will most likely measure an open circuit (infinite resistance). This can happen if the heating element is accidentally damaged or fired dry (not submerged in water or wort) for more than a few seconds.

If the measured resistance is correct and you're running one of our 50A Electric Brewery Control Panels, check your control panel fuses or breakers.

Replacement heating elements are available in our shop.

 

A wire or part in my control panel looks like it's burnt or melting!

Burnt wire due to poor connection

This is most likely to happen when building your own control panel and wiring connections are not done properly, causing excessive heat. This heat is created when current flows through an area that is too small to handle the amount of current. This can happen for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. When connections are not properly fastened / tightened / crimped such that only a few strands are making contact. Make sure to fasten securely.
  2. If an undersized wire is used that cannot handle the current. Always use the recommended wire gauge (or larger) and wire that is rated to the voltage being passed (or higher).
  3. When some of the wire copper strands are cut / trimmed to get it to fit. This should never be done as it reduces the wire gauge.
  4. If an electrical socket or plug blade is dirty or charred, or the plug is not pushed and locked in properly with the receptacle.

All of these cases effectively reduce the contact area meaning that more current flows through a smaller area which in turn creates excess heat. Often this heat will damage surrounding components as well. Look first to where the heat is created. If a wire is discoloured or melting, it's likely the closest spot to the bad connection.

It could also be that you're actually pulling too much current by using oversized heating elements (larger than 5500W). This would only be possible if an incorrectly sized breaker was installed in the electrical panel (larger than 30 or 50 amps, depending on your control panel model) as otherwise the breaker would trip. A double pole 30A or 50A GFI breaker should be used (sized for your control panel) per our control panel build instructions or order pages.

Note that cheaper parts tend to be more easily damaged. This is especially true for soft rubber molded plugs that are used by some to lower cost. These rubber molded plugs melt or become deformed much easier than the industrial grade nylon plugs / connectors / receptacles we sell and use on all of our equipment.

Any parts or wiring that are damaged from heat should be replaced. Replacements are available in our shop.

 

One of my PIDs is displaying "orAL". What does that mean?

PID orAL error

If a PID displays "orAL" (short for 'over range ALarm') then the PID is unable to communicate with the temperature probe. This can happen if the temperature probe is not connected (wired) correctly to the PID, the temperature probe type in the PID is set incorrectly, the temperature probe is defective, or the PID is defective.

To set the temperature probe type correctly refer to your PID manual, or if using one of our control panels refer to our Control Panel (Setup) instructions.

You can test if it's the temperature probe and cable by swapping cables with a known working temperature probe / cable. If you suspect the cable, try swapping just the cable.

The connection point between the temperature probe tip and cable can be damaged if one is not careful when disconnecting / reconnecting the cable and the connectors are twisted and / or turned when connecting instead of lining up the tabs and pushing them together straight. There's a little tab that needs to be lined up when you mate the two halves together. To connect / disconnect, the tabs need to be lined up and pushed together. They should NEVER BE TWISTED / TURNED as you may damage one or both ends. Twisting / turning can pull apart the wires inside the connector.

If twisting / turning caused damage and you are handy with a soldering iron, you can easily repair the probe yourself. Remove the four small screws from the back of the probe and slide the resistor and cable end out of the probe (you should not have to remove it from the kettle or tee). You will see one end of the resistor soldered to pin #2, and the other side soldered to either pin #1 or #3 with a jumper between the two. One of those points is most likely broken and/or making intermittent contact. A quick re-soldering is all that is needed.

If you need to get into the connector on the cable, plug the cable end into one of the probes to prevent it from spinning and rotate the winged portion counter clockwise, it will unscrew from the other section allowing you access to the connections. We recommend desoldering all 3 wires (if not already detached), trimming them back a little, and making sure there is a good solder connection.

Replacement cables and probe tips are available in our shop.

 

My GFI breaker trips as soon as I plug in the control panel

If your electrical panel GFI breaker trips as soon as you plug in the control panel, the GFI breaker may be wired incorrectly. This is especially true if using a control panel that has been pre-assembled by us as they are all tested under load prior to shipping.

Miswiring a GFI breaker is unfortunately very common, even by licenced electricians. Check that the GFI breaker NEUTRAL wire (white) coming from the wall outlet is connected to the breaker NEUTRAL pole and that the white pigtail wire from the GFI breaker is connected to the NEUTRAL bus bar in the electrical panel. Most often when wired incorrectly the NEUTRAL wire (white) coming from the wall outlet is incorrectly connected to the NEUTRAL bus bar in the electrical panel through the pigtail (this is how non-GFI breakers are wired).

More information is available in STEP 1: Supply power from our control panel build instructions.

 

My control panel doesn't turn on. It used to work fine.

If you built your control panel following our design (or purchased one pre-assembled) it will include a safe start interlock feature that does not allow the panel to turn if any of the pumps or heating element switches are in the ON position. If your panel worked fine before but now refuses to turn on, make sure both PUMP switches and the ELEMENT SELECT switch are in the OFF position.

If you've confirmed that these switches are off and the panel still won't turn on, we'll need to use a multimeter to measure the voltages being fed into and throughout the panel systematically to find the issue.

First we'll ensure the standard 4 wire dryer outlet is correctly wired.

A standard 4-slot dryer outlet supplies both 120V and 240V AC with ground to our Standard 30A Electric Brewery control panelA NEMA 14-30R 4 wire dryer outlet supplies both 120V and 240V AC with ground to our Standard 30A Electric Brewery Control Panel

Using your multimeter, you should measure approximately 240V AC between the two HOT lines and approximately 120V AC between either of the HOT lines and NEUTRAL. If not, check your wall outlet / electrical panel breaker wiring. If you measure 0V AC between any of these test points, ensure that the circuit breaker in your electrical panel has not tripped. Reset if required. To reset any breaker turn it all the way OFF and then to the ON position.

If the wall outlet is correctly wired, next measure the voltage coming out of the 30A control panel power cord's L14-30 connector.

L14-30 connector voltages and measuring pointsL14-30 connector voltages and measuring points

You should once again measure approximately 240V AC between the two HOT lines and approximately 120V AC between either of the HOT lines and NEUTRAL. If not, check your power cord wiring.

If you've confirmed that the power cord is feeding power to the control panel correctly, check the 7A fuse inside the panel to ensure it has not blown. If it has blown, this means either a pump or a 120V AC part in the panel has shorted and the 7A fuse is simply doing its job to protect wiring and other components. The defective pump or part (PIDs, timer, buzzer, transformers, DC power supplies, relays, all lights except ELEMENT ON) will need to be fixed or replaced before the fuse is replaced. Parts may be disconnected one at time to confirm. Replacements are available in our shop.

It may also be that you are using an overrated current device in one of your control panel pump receptacles that increases current draw higher than the maximum 7 amps. This should not be done. The 7A fuse size is chosen to ensure that the draw from the pumps combined with the heating element(s) does not exceed the electrical panel breaker limit.

If you've confirmed that the 7A fuse is not blown, it is most likely that one of the following parts responsible for the safe start interlock feature is defective and not allowing current to pass for the panel to the turn on:

These parts are shown in the following wiring diagram:

Standard 30A Electric Brewery Control Panel safe start interlock wiring diagramStandard 30A Electric Brewery Control Panel safe start interlock wiring diagram

To test these parts, follow these steps:

  1. Turn all of the switches to the OFF position.
  2. Turn the POWER KEY switch to the ON position.
  3. Using a multimeter, measure the voltage between NEUTRAL (such as from the NEUTRAL bus) and the various points along the wiring diagram above starting at the POWER IN receptacle to ensure that you see 120V AC. Start by measuring between NEUTRAL and point "Y" on the POWER IN receptacle. You should measure 120V AC. If you do not, go back and check your power cord and wall outlet / electrical panel breaker wiring.
  4. Next measure between NEUTRAL and the side of the POWER KEY switch NO contactor that is not directly wired to the POWER IN receptacle (the output side). With the POWER key switch in the ON position you should measure 120V AC. If you see 0V AC the POWER KEY switch NO contactor is defective and should be replaced. Replacements are available in our shop.
  5. Continue working along the diagram measuring between NEUTRAL and the various switch NC contactors one at a time (ELEMENT SELECT switch, WATER PUMP switch, and WORT PUMP switch), always measuring the contactor side electrically farthest from the POWER IN receptacle (the output side). If you measure 120V AC between NEUTRAL and the NC switch contactor for all switches then the switch NC contactors are fine and 120V AC is making it to the SAFE START INTERLOCK relay. If you see 0V AC at any contactor output, the contactor is defective and should be replaced. Replacements are available in our shop.
  6. Measure between NEUTRAL and screw 2 on the SAFE START INTERLOCK relay. You should measure 120V AC. Next measure between NEUTRAL and the SAFE START INTERLOCK relay screw 3. You should measure 120V AC. If not, the SAFE START INTERLOCK relay is not closing (you will not see it close when you turn on the POWER KEY switch) and should be replaced. Replacements are available in our shop.
  7. If the SAFE START INTERLOCK relay screw 3 measures 120V AC then 120V AC is making it to the POWER IN relay. The POWER IN relay is most likely defective and not closing properly. With the POWER IN switch ON and all other switches OFF, you should measure 120V AC between NEUTRAL and the left (input) side of POWER IN relay coil and 0V AC between NEUTRAL and the right (output) side of the POWER IN relay coil. If this is true and the relay does not open / close as you turn the POWER IN switch ON / OFF, the POWER in relay is defective. Replacements are available in our shop.

 

My 7A fuse keeps blowing

If the 7A fuse blows continuously then either a pump or a 120V AC part in the panel has shorted and the 7A fuse is simply doing its job to protect wiring and other components. The defective pump or part (PIDs, timer, buzzer, transformersDC power suppliesrelays, all lights except ELEMENT ON) will need to be fixed or replaced before the fuse is replaced. Parts may be disconnected one at time to confirm. Replacements are available in our shop.

It may also be that you are using an overrated current device in one of your control panel pump receptacles that increases current draw higher than the maximum 7 amps. This should not be done. The 7A fuse size is chosen to ensure that the draw from the pumps combined with the heating element(s) does not exceed the electrical panel breaker limit.

 

Electric Brewery Control Panel switches with colour coded NO and NC contactors

One of my switches seems to work backwards

Switches use either normally open (NO) or normally closed (NC) contactors (or both). The ones we sell and include in our control panels (both kits and pre-assembled) are colour coded green (NO) and red (NC) for easy identification. When wiring your own panel, make sure to use the correct ones following our wiring guides.

If you are sure the correct contactors are being used, reverse the position on the switch. For example, if the switch has the correct contactor installed on the left side and the switch is working backwards, install the contactor on the right.

Ignore the 1/2/3/4 numbers marking the connection points on some contactors. Contactors are not polarized (there are no specific in or out connection points) so it doesn't matter which side of the contactor is used for input or output when wiring.

 

My yellow ELEMENT ON lights glow dimly. Is that normal?

Yes. This is normal. Turning the ELEMENT SELECT switch to either ON position without the heating element connected to the control panel will cause the corresponding yellow ELEMENT ON light to glow dimly even when the PID is not telling the SSR to turn on. It will not occur when a heating element is connected.

All SSRs have a small amount of leakage current and without the element connected to sink that current, the LED light will glow dimly.

 

I'm measuring voltage at the SSR output even though it's off. Is that normal?

Yes. This is normal. Since SSRs have voltage / current characteristics of semiconductors rather than mechanical relays, they have a small amount of leakage current which causes voltage to be measured on the output at all times. This is inherent to all SSRs. You cannot use regular continuity (resistance) or voltage testing to test an SSR.

Since very little current is allowed to flow when the SSR is off, the heating element will not fire even though voltage is present at all times on the SSR output. This leakage current is one of the reasons why our control panel design includes the added safety of mechanical relays to physically disconnect the power from the heating elements (controlled by the ELEMENT SELECT switch). The mechanical relays ensure that there is a complete physical disconnect between both HOT lines and the heating elements when the relays are off. This is important as when SSRs fail they tend to fail closed (on) and brewers are often working in or cleaning one kettle while the other is operational.

 

I'm measuring a short between the HOT and NEUTRAL buses. Is that normal?

Yes. This is normal, and is due to the doorbell transformers connected to the HOT and NEUTRAL buses.

Inside the doorbell transformers are two (or more) coils of wire wrapped around a core (usually iron). If you measure between the buses with a multimeter to test continuity, you'll measure a short due to these transformer coils. Through the laws of electromagnetic induction, when you turn the control panel on and 120V AC is fed into the transformers you do not draw infinite current and pop a fuse / breaker.

 

Can I test a PID without a temperature probe?

Our PIDs require that a temperature probe be connected in order for them to work, even if you want to run them in manual mode (such as it done in the boil kettle).

If you wish to test one of our PIDs without a temperature probe, set the PID SN setting to 0 to set the probe type to a 2-wire thermocouple probe and then use a copper wire to short the PID terminals 4 & 5 together. The PID will then display ambient temperature and you'll be able to run the PID in manual mode.

 

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