Selecting the correct CO2 Regulator for your Kegerator
A CO2 regulator is the heart of your kegerator. It's job is to precisely regulate the amout of CO2 gas that's fed to your beer keg so that you get good serving pressure but at the same time you don't over carbonate your beer. Most prople don't give their CO2 regulator a second thought, they just hook them up, set them & forget - until something goes wrong.
There are hundreds of ragulator manufacturers across the country but the best known USA manufacturers of beer regulators are Cornelius, TapRite, Norgren and Chudnow. Stick with one of these brands and you won't go wrong. In addition to these there is a wide variety of Chinese imports. Some are very good and some are horrible - with imports you take your chances and get what you get.
Regulator Construction and Life Expectancy
We've seen CO2 regulators fail in as little as 6 months and some last over 10 years. The ones that last 10 years are rare - most customers get 2 - 6 years of service from a quality CO2 regulator with an occasional "early life" failure. The cause for most CO2 regulator failures is contamination or corrosion in the internal pellet or metering valve or internal diaphram failure. There is actually a lot going on inside a CO2 regulator. All regulators, no matter who manufactured them, are based on the same system.
Here's how they work:
Welding Gas Regulators
You can drive down to your local Harbor Freight Tools and buy yourself a dirt cheap welding gas regulator. You can also buy a high priced welding gas regulator at your local welding shop, and either regulator will regulate CO2 gas. But welding gas regulators are designed to flow high volumes of CO2 gas for welding, not for fine regulation needed to keep the beer in your kegerator stable! Welding gas regulators are more likely to dump higher volumes of CO2 gas into your kegerator than your beer needs, leading to over carbonation and foaming issues. So do yourself a favor and buy a proper beverage regulator for your kegerator!
Tank Mount Regulator
If you bought a complete kegerator you have a tank mount regulator and you don't need anything else. Better regulators have a high pressure gauge displaying your tank pressure and some sort of shutoff valve at the output. This is also the most basic regulator needed for a homebuilt kegerator.
Tank Mount 1 Pressure 2 Outlet Regulator
This is the most common reguator in a kegerator that has been converted from 1 keg to 2 kegs. You can buy a new regulator or just replace the outlet fittings with a Y adapter and a additional ball valve.
Tank Mount 2 Pressure Regulator
A tank mount 2 pressure regulator is 2 regulators connected together but their pressures are set separate. This is the most common regulator used by homebrewers because of flexibility. You can set different pressures for different beers, or you can temporaraly set one regulator to a higher pressure to fast carbonate your latest keg of beer. You will never see a tank mount 3 or more pressure regulator because the regulator would be too heavy & tip over your CO2 tank.
Wall Mount CO2 Regulator
A wall mount regulator separates your CO2 tank from your regulator with a high pressure hose. Wall mount regulator sets are available from a singles to 4 or more and just like the tank mount regulators, wall mount regulator pressures are all set separately. These work will for a large kegerator with several beer styles that all require different CO2 pressures.
Secondary CO2 Regulators
Secondary CO2 regulators are intended to regulate pressure that has already been dropped by a primary CO2 regulator. Typically your primary tank mount regulator would be set to about 45 PSI then pressure from your primary would run to a set of secondary regulators. One real advantage secondary regulators have is - because they are regulating from a much lower high pressure their outputs will be much more stable. Most homebrewers who have already bought a tank mount regulator buy a secondary regulator set when they decide to expand, then they mount the secondary regulator set inside their kegerator.
Regulator / Manifold Combination
A great alternative to a secondary regulator is a CO2 manifold especially if you don't care about setting different pressures. With a CO2 manifold you set your tank mounted CO2 regulator to the pressure you want then feed the pressure into the manifold, then you can use the manifold to turn off any keg at will. CO2 manifolds come with 2 to 6 or more outlets.
Regulator with Attached Manifold
Our CO2 regulators with attached manifolds were developed for one purpose - to use in a freezer that has been converted into a kegerator. With the L manifold we added a 45 degree fitting so that the regulator gauges are pointing straight up so that you can look straight down into your freezer and see your set pressure, and as far as I know we are still the only ones doing this. This is the most compact way I know of to put a CO regulator and manifold inside a converted freezer kegerator.
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