Amana refrigerator to cold smoker conversion?

Discussion in 'Info and Practices' started by twschmidt, Aug 11, 2014.

  1. Well I really blew it this time...

    I converted our old Amana refrigerator to a dry-curing chamber with a MyPin TA4 temp controller and a WH8040 humidity controller.  It was working well, so I screwed in some L-channel aluminum brackets and hung up some hams to dry.  Everything was good.  Then yesterday I decided to add a couple of PC fans to improve the airflow, one on each side.  I got my 3" hole saw and cut two holes for the fans.  All good.  Then, when I went to drill a tiny little hole for a screw to hold the fan, I hit a Freon line!  Woooooossssshhhhh!  I wrecked my refrigerator!  Doh!

    So now I have a non-functioning fridge with racks for hanging meat, it seems like my best option is to move this thing out to the barn and convert it over to a cold-smoking chamber.  I'm sure somebody here has done one of these conversions before, so I'm looking for advice.  Any tips on exhausting fumes out of the barn?  How to build a firebox and connect it to the smoker?  Do i need to strip the plastic from the inside of the fridge?  What about the foam insulation?

    I'm pretty handy at rigging things up, but I don't need any more drama after this latest catastrophe, so any advice is appreciated!
  2. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to SMF why not have a refer repair man, take look see if he can silver solder the damage. You can aways patch what ever area he needs to  open. Good luck let us know how u do

  3. Hi Tropics, thanks for the reply!  I actually considered trying to either repair or get it repaired, but then I'd still need to have it pressure tested and re-charged with Freon.  Since it's an older refrigerator I'm not sure it would be worth it.  Craigslist has some old reefers listed for around $75, which is probably less then I would have to spend to get this one fixed, and I suppose I will probably buy one of those to continue my dry-curing project.  For now I just want to convert this one over to a cold smoker. 
  4. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Well, that's a bummer!  I would say that it would be best to strip the plastic, even if you only plan on cold smoking. You could leave the insulation in depending on what type it is and also depending on the temps you will be smoking at. You would need to re-line the interior with another substrate like wood or metal. Once again the liner would depend on the temps you plan to have in there. You'll also need to strip all of the refrigerator parts off, wiring, pumps, tubing etc...
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2014
  5. Hi Dirtsailor,

    Yeah that makes sense...I'll want to keep the insulation to help manage the temps but I can see the point in stripping out the plastic.  I can probably scare up some sheet metal to line the inside.  The insulation is a foam type, it looks sort of like styrofoam but it is yellowish and a bit denser.

    Any thoughts on how to plumb the smoke in and out?  Can I use the smoke generator from my Bradley with it, or should I make some sort of firebox?  I have an old two-barrel stove in the barn, can I use that somehow?  
  6. dcarch

    dcarch Smoking Fanatic

    I did the exact same thing, same stupid mistake cutting the refrigerant line.

    But I was able to reconnect the line and recharge with freon.

  7. Hey Dcarch, do you think I could fix mine?  Where did you get the Freon?  Did you do it yourself or hire somebody?  Believe me, I'd love to save this 'frig if possible!  It's a nice big one, and as I said, it already has all of my racks installed and the temp/humidity controllers hooked up to it.  I'm good with a soldering iron, so I'm sure I can repair the leak, but I've got no clue how to recharge it...
  8. dcarch

    dcarch Smoking Fanatic

    You can get the freon from an auto supply store.

    Repair was done with a smaller tube inserted inside the cut tube and exopy glued air tight.

    You will need a thing to tap into the refrigerant tubing to recharge the freon. I forgot what that tap thing is called. Costs about $8.00.

    You can search my posts which show my set up.

  9.  It's so much more involved than that. That older unit likely used R12 which is not for sale anywhere by law. There will be a data plate somewhere on the unit with all the needed information about type and quantity. The system would have to be evacuated after installing a new dryer and service valves (unless you had the tools to use the factory service stubs) and then charging with the required amount of refrigerant. If you don't own any R12 (or whatever it requires) and don't have the ability to do this yourself I'm sure it will be expensive.

  10. dcarch

    dcarch Smoking Fanatic

    You have some very good points there.

    However, a refrigerated, PID controlled hot/cold smoker is an incredibly flexible and capable appliance. For me, it has been worth going thru all the troubles. 

    I will not waste my time to work with a vintage refrigerator. A new refrigerator, or a used new refrigerator costs not much. I got my brand new 4.5 cu  ft. one for $39.00 because it had a small dent on the side.

    New refrigerators can work with 134a refrigerant. You don't need all the fancy tools, vacuum, pressure gauges. etc. to make it work, (assuming you cut the tube by mistake like I did.) A tap, ($8.00) and a small can of rerigerant is all you need.


    The working hot/cold/indoor smoker

    The unfortunate cut refrigerant tube

    The tap and refrigerant charge

    Working again! Frost formed right after turning on the refrigerator.

  11. dcarch

    dcarch Smoking Fanatic

    How do you control humidity?

  12. Sorry to resurrect an old thread, I got sidetracked on other projects (converting 15 live ducks into confit, pate, pastrami, and stock, among other things).

    To answer the question about humidity control, I purchased a small humidifier on Amazon (this one) and plugged it into a humidity controller (this one). Of course, you'll want to put it in a project box and connect some electric plugs to it so you can plug/unplug the humidifier without actually splicing the wires, but it's a pretty simple hookup.

    I'm very interested in repairing this Amana refrigerator like you did, DCarch.  Can you give me more details on how you actually effected the repair to the freon line itself?  The one I pierced is very small diameter tubing.



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