I'm getting ready to convert a mini-fridge into a kegerator, for no other reason than it's something I've wanted since college. I've been justfiying the project by claiming the price of a keg must be less expensive than individual 6 packs and that a kegerator will eventually pay off in savings.
I did some math this evening to see if economies of scale (my basic assumption) applies in this situation. The mini-fridge only fits a 1/6 barrel, which is 56 12oz beers (~9.3 6-packs), about 1/3 the amount of beer compared to a full keg (165 beers, or 27.5 6-packs). I found a relatively close liquor store that advertises keg prices online, which I called and confirmed has similar prices to the local place I would buy kegs (note: I need to confirm all prices, which I'll do the next time I buy beer). Here's what I discovered:
||1/6 Keg Price
||6-Pack Price, Keg
||6-Pack Price, Store
||Savings per 6-pack
|Dogfish 60 Min IPA
|Magic Hat #9
|Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
|Victory Hop Devil
My first discovery was that I wish I liked cheap beer. My absolute favorite beer, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, only gets me $.75 saving per 6-pack if I get a kegerator. Interestingly, proximity to microbrewery has nothing to do with savings; Victory Hop Devil, which is a microbrewery about the same distance away as Dogfish, has the best savings. On the other hand, Sierra Nevada, which is located in Northern California (ummmm, like 3000 miles away), has the second best savings.
The average savings is $1.63 per 6 pack. The cost to convert the fridge is ~$165, including a conversion kit and filling the CO2 tank. This means I need to purchase eleven 1/6 kegs before my savings are greater than my startup expenses. That's equivilant to drinking 616 beers, or about 103 6-packs. That's a lot of beer, even for a college student. A better way to put it (or more precisely, a more wife-friendly way) is that I'm saving $15.25 for each 1/6 keg purchased compared to purchasing 6-packs. That's the kind of shopping we all like to do. :)
So my theory was correct, economies of scale works when it comes to kegerators, however it might take some time before I realize any savings. Perhaps my family, friends, and neighbors will stop by and help me save money. After all, isn't that what a kegerator is about?