Now that the construction of the still is complete, the last remaining consideration for operation is the heat source.
Initially you will have to decide whether to use electric or gas to provide the heat source to the boiler.
Electric immersion heaters are readily available for hot water heaters in either 1500 or 3000 watt sizes. But regulating the heat delivered to the boiler from these devices requires a very expensive voltage controller. The electric heaters also require a separate 120/240 volt source to operate, and respond very slowly to controls that would regulate the boiler temperatures. They also have to be mounted inside the boiler (a messy thing to clean) and the wires run to the outside (a hard thing to seal from leaks).
For safety's sake all electrical work should be done in accordance with the building and electrical codes, and is best handled by a licensed electrician.
External electric hot plates avoid the internal mounting problems, but they are less efficient, and in the US, generally limited to about 1600 watts on a 110 volt house circuit. That is inadequate for larger boiler sizes.
On the plus side, electric heating is better suited for indoor use. It is cleaner, safer (if wired in accordance with electrical codes), needs no venting, and provides less risk of alcohol fires or explosions.
Bottled LP gas, on the other hand, avoids many of the boiler fabrication and cleaning problems associated with electric heat.
Adjusting the heat level with Gas controls is much more flexible. The heat can easily be adjusted to any setting from off to maximum, unlike the typical Low, Medium, High settings on electrical switches.
A gas heat source will also react much more quickly to control changes than electric, and is capable of producing far more heat than electrical household circuits can supply.
Gas also makes the entire apparatus much more portable. That portability gives you the freedom to move the whole setup out to the garage, barn, utility shed, deck, backyard, or even the deep woods. That way you don't have to smell up the basement or garage (and the house) with the odors from whatever you might distill in the boiler.
A small 15,000 BTU cast iron outdoor cooking burner can be bought for under $15.00 that does an excellent job. It will bring 7 '/2 gallons of cold (4° C.) water to boil in less than an hour.
The downside is that gas heat, in a confined space and without proper ventilation, will deplete the oxygen in the air. It can also produce dangerous carbon monoxide if the burner is not adjusted properly. Lastly, gas heat is much more likely to start alcohol and combustible fires if great care is not taken.
LP Gas Heating
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