Do You Save Money With A Kegerator?

If you’re in the Western Hemisphere and you drink beer, chances are you like it cold. Sure, it’s easy to keep a can of your favorite brewsky cold in a refrigerator, but think about something larger, like a keg. That is too big for the refrigerator, so a kegerator might be the solution, yet it comes at a cost that requires considering multiple factors.

Think of What Purpose the Kegerator Serves

So, on the elementary sense, a kegerator is specialized refrigerator for a keg that can also monitor the temperature. These features help keep the beer from spoiling, which could leave you or your guests with a bad taste (no pun intended). Yet, keep in mind that this is a specialized refrigerator to hold a keg (or two), and no other food or beverage items.

Remember that when you’re shopping for one. This isn’t like the mini-fridge in a college dorm or office that can cool just about anything that will fit in it. Kegerators are made for one purpose and one purpose only: refrigerating beer kegs.

How Often Will You Actually Use a Kegerator?

Sure, the kegerator looks cool, it keeps beer cool, and it can be the conversation piece that can even make you look cool as well. The truth is that you really need to use this thing a lot in order to even begin to save money. If you’re not cooling kegs you want to drink, you’re doing something else with the kegerator.

For one, you could end up wasting electricity to cool an old keg of beer. While kegerators do keep kegs fresh for a couple of months or so, they still require electricity to do so. We will figure out just how much that could cost you later. Right now, think of whether you want to keep up on making sure you get back the deposit on the keg.

So, if you’re not potentially cooling old or otherwise unconsumed beer, you’re maybe wasting electricity to cool air space inside the kegerator. It’s the same basic idea of plugging in a refrigerator and having it cool nothing but the inside airspace. You are best served to own any type of refrigeration appliance when you actually have something to keep cool in it.

Well, you may wonder what would be wrong with just unplugging the kegerator when it’s not in use. On the surface, this may sound like a wonderful and brilliant idea. The truth is there are two things you can do to wear down your kegerator:

1) Plug in it and use it: Anything with electrical or mechanical parts will wear out with use, just as with a regular refrigerator.

2) Just let it sit: Much like how you would not want to leave a vehicle sitting idle for years, you really should not do this on a regular basis for long periods of time.

Seriously, the latter of the two scenarios is actually the worst of these to do. Leaving a kegerator unplugged while it is not in use subjects the evaporator and condenser coils to thermal cycling that can shorten their useful lives. If you’re still not convinced, the next time you’re partaking of some adult beverage with a mechanically inclined friend, just ask if this is true, and if the alcohol hasn’t started talking yet, you’ll learn the same thing.

Since you probably don’t need to hear that parts cost money, we’ll elaborate more on the potential issues later about parts, service, and repair. We have not begun yet to fully justify a decision either way. Just like with membership warehouses, sometimes the price you pay upfront is justified because you’re saving money over time through massive quantities.

Think about the Purchase Price

The price range for a kegerator is on the high end for an appliance. You can expect to spend over $400 for the most basic model, and they go up in price from there. Right now, $700 is about the typical price for a good quality kegerator.

If you can plop down that much cash for a kegerator, this is not so much a factor. For those who have to finance this over a few months with a credit card, consider that you are potentially tacking on interest charges. Monthly finance charges add to the final purchase price of that kegerator.

Truthfully, it could take the average to above-average consumer around 2 to 2.5 years to justify the cost. Depending upon the interest rate you’re paying, you could end spending more. Just on the qualitative sense, that would most likely cost you more over time.

Is This for You or for Parties?

There’s something to be said about a gift for oneself, provided that it will actually be used frequently enough. If you’re throwing a bunch of parties, this could be a nice conversation piece and a high-end touch that makes your place the envy of others. Maybe you can get your buddies to chip in to keep the beer flowing at your place to help defray the costs.

While there is a certain gotta-have-it factor, you seriously should look at the price of this from-me-to-me gift. Even though it’s fun to impress your friends and look so awesome and cool in front of them, we still live in a world where kegerators cost money to own and maintain. For some, the costs we look at will either wipe an ear-to-ear grin off your face or have you thinking, “Eh, so that’s the cost of ownership. Oh well, I’ll still buy this thing.”

What if You Want to Return or Exchange the Kegerator?

Retailers of common appliances have a much easier time handling returns or exchanges because there is still a market for open box or returned items. While there is a sufficient enough market for kegerators at this time, some retailers may define it as a specialty item. That may make a return or exchange a little bit harder.

So, as it is, some stores charge a restocking fee to return an item. That comes out of your pocket. You can think of it as a fee for letting you try after you buy.

It might be a bit annoying to see that some stores do this. However, please consider the viewpoint of the retailer. The purpose of that store is to earn a profit by selling you something, such as a kegerator, and if you return said kegerator, it can no longer be considered new, and somebody ends up taking a hit.

Though you might be able to resell the item through some classifieds to recoup as much of the costs as possible, keep in mind there are hassles with that. First, you have to post the ad, and then you have to arrange a time with potential buyers to complete the transaction. Well, in theory, this is a nice idea, to unload anything that you don’t want, but that is not always trouble-free, and now those issues are amplified with an item that only a certain segment of the population wants.

How Will You Get Replacement Parts, Servicing, or Repairs?

Just as previously mentioned, nearly anything with electrical or mechanical parts will fail at some point. Whether it’s a compressor motor, a coil, or a spout, you may be challenged finding replacement parts. This is one factor to check ahead of time when shopping for a kegerator.

Much like vehicles, the more popular brands are more likely to have a good parts line. Just as it is true for cars and trucks, so it true for anything else that may need parts or repairs. That is only part of the issue when locating replacement parts.

Suppose that you have been able to locate replacement parts. Great, now who is going to service it? If you’re so handy with tools, then maybe you can do it.

However, there is an issue now. Since the kegerator is a refrigeration unit, that means it requires refrigerant. If you have to replace an evaporator or condenser coil, you will have to drain the refrigerant properly, though with today’s refrigerants you won’t need to reclaim any of it. Then, after you’re done you’ll need to charge it back up and start cooling the brew.

It’s so simple to get the refrigerant…if you’re already licensed as an HVAC technician. All you would have to do is just flash your certification card at a supply store to buy it and be on your way. Most consumers do not hold a CFC card, and even though many of today’s refrigerants do not contain CFCs, it’s potentially hard to buy it if you don’t already hold this certification.

Oh yeah, just like your refrigerator, the kegerator can develop refrigerant leaks. That will involve finding the leak and fixing it. And, if you hadn’t guessed already, that also means recharging the system.

Speaking of charging a system, consider that you might have to buy CO2. That same gas we exhale is the same one that makes soda and beer so marketable. That’s also going to cost you.

What Will the Utility Costs be Over Time?

So, let’s assume that you leave the kegerator plugged into a 120 VAC outlet all the time. Now, find out how much the current draw is for the model of kegerator that interests you. You should be able to find that somewhere on the kegerator itself, or you should be able to look it up online or in certain pieces of product literature.

Next, take a look at your utility bill, and look for the price you are being charged for every kW•hr. This should be very easy to find because this is information the utility is required to disclose to you. You need that to do some simple math here.

To calculate the energy required for a specific model of kegerator, use the following equation:

Power Required for Kegerator, kW = (120 VAC) x (Current Draw of Kegerator in amps) / 1000 W

To calculate the utility cost per day, use the following equation:

Utility Costs to Operate Kegerator for One Day = (24 hr/day) x (Power Required for Kegerator, kW) x (Utility Rate per kW•hr)

Okay, now let’s calculate the total utility cost for 30 days to find out about how much it will cost for one month. If you ran the numbers from the last equation, take the result and calculate your monthly utility cost by multiply the result by 30. Otherwise, you can calculate your monthly utility cost with this equation:

Utility Costs to Operate Kegerator for 30 Days (~ One Month) = (24 hr/day) x (Power Required for Kegerator, kW) x (Utility Rate per kW•hr) x (30 days/month)

So, now that the costs are starting to add up, let’s go ahead and calculate the costs for a whole year. To find that figure, we can take the cost for one 24-hour period and multiply by 365.25. That multiplication factor takes leap years into account, which will give you a more accurate result when factoring in the costs for the next several years at today’s cost per kW•hr.

Given that we do have inflation, that figure is expected to increase over the years. Since utilities are regulated for how much profit they can earn, this affects the utility rate for consumers. So, bear in mind that as the electric utility sees a cost increase in doing business, you will surely see an increase in your bill, which will increase the cost of having your kegerator running all those years.

Think of Where it Will Go and if You’ll Need to Make Some Adjustments

Since this is really a specialized refrigeration unit, you can install it nearly anywhere that you have electricity. Or, you can have a custom counter made to accommodate guests and lots of beer glasses. Even the best of plans can be foiled by small details.

So, if it’s just going to stand alone by itself, then have it placed in its position, plug it in, and start cooling the keg. The costs of ownership have not been increased by a new custom counter. However, if you want something else to go with the kegerator to make it more prominent in its purpose, you may have more costs now.

There are many nice options for counters, and all of them come at a different cost. Just as many car owners like to accessorize their rides, some homeowners and keepers of man caves want to go all out with their kegerators. Some are even installed in the kitchen counter right next to the sink.

Yeah, that’s what you need…a convenient source of beer to drink working around knives, a food processor, and a hot stove or oven. What could possibly go wrong there? Seriously, though, if you hire a contractor to put in a counter as well for your kegerator, you’re looking at an additional $400 or more, depending upon what you want.

Make Sure You Have the Right Electrical Supply

Kegerators typically run on a 120 VAC single phase connection. This is convenient for those who desire one. Just make sure that the current supply for that circuit is enough that plugging in the kegerator will not cause a breaker to trip once you plug it in or at some seemingly random time when you’re not nearby it. That could be bad news for any keg you may have tapped.

You might want to consider being proactive and keeping the kegerator on a separate circuit to keep other appliances from tripping the associated breaker. If that’s the case, then expect to add to the initial cost of owning a kegerator. Weekend warriors who know enough about basic electricity, electrical safety, and handy work can have that new circuit put in within a few hours, but a those who prefer to hire a licensed electrician are looking at an additional $100, $200, or more to have a dedicated circuit for the kegerator.

Will a Beer Run Make More Sense?

When factoring the cost of something like the ubiquitous red cups, that can be the cost that tips the scales of sort. This factor causes some would-be buyers to consider buying cans or bottles and just keeping them chilled. If it makes you feel any better, that’s what many other party hosts do.

Though a kegerator may make you the envy of others, the truth is it’s much like the expensive sports car. You really don’t need that to go to work, it incurs more costs, and many really cannot justify the cost to own one. However, for those who have the means and the desire, those same people find a way to have that fancy schmancy keg chiller for their own.

The kegerator is an investment, and it’s made specifically for one purpose. At the time of this writing, we don’t know of any market for kegs of apple juice, so we’re still safe talking about beer. There are many local craft breweries offering many great-tasting beers in various pockets of the United States, and they come at a cost. If you regularly find yourself partaking of your favorite brew from a keg, then a kegerator may be a good choice. However, if you’re hosting a keg party every once in a while, then consider just chilling it with some ice or opting for bottles and cans.

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