This is a work in progress, please be patient.
Getting into kegging is a little scary at first and because of that, many people go out and buy a ready made kegerator. The major downside to doing this is that those ready to use units are assembled with the cheapest components possible, usually chrome plated brass. You WILL have to upgrade many of the components in the future.
Here are things you need to consider before buying any conversion components:
There are all kinds of refrigeration appliances you can consider for kegging and most of that decision is going to be driven by how many and what types of kegs you want it to hold and/or serve at the same time, corny kegs, commercial sixtels, half barrels, etc. Always go to the store with keg dimensions written down and a tape measure in your pocket.
Common units include chest freezers, upright freezers, upright refrigerators, dorm fridges, etc. Anything meant for freezing food will require an external temperature controller such as our Inkbird ITC-308. You can even buy a regular used fridge on craigslist and use it for a keg or two as well as other packaged drinks without even needing an external temp controller. The form factor only really comes into play if you are placing it into a somewhat decor-sensitive living space.
For the most part, you'll be deciding between a 5 or 20 pound tank as they are the most common and easy to swap for full ones as needed. Pros and Cons? The 5 pound tank is more portable should you decide to take your kegs outside of the house. 20s are about the same size as a 5 gallon corny keg (or sixtel) but the tank cost is only twice that of the 5 and the refills are only 50% more than the 5. On average, expect to carbonate and dispense about 5 gallons of beer per pound of CO2 allowing for some waste. Simple math says a 20 pound tank will run about 20 5-gallon kegs before needing refilling.
If you're fortunate to be local to our NJ warehouse, you can buy the tank already full of CO2 in either the 5 Pound or 20 Pound varieties. If we have to ship, you're limited to the 5 Pound or 20 Pound empty tanks and you will have to have them filled locally.
Gas distribution begins with a pressure regulator that will connect directly to the CO2 tank because the tank pressure is 800-1000psi and would explode the kegs. We need a regulator to get the pressure down below 50 psi. We've tested a lot of regulators over the years and can confidently say that you do NOT want a cheap Chinese regulator. We only sell Taprite regulators that are made and supported in the U.S. as they have the least number of problems out of the box and over time.
Before selecting a regulator and downstream distribution system, it's worth considering how many unique pressures you may want to have at the same time. Purists will recognize that some beer styles benefit from lower carbonation (Milds, ESBs) and some higher (Wheat Beers and Belgians). Most beers are right down the middle. Budget will ultimately dictate how many pressures you can play with and it's not THAT bad to run all your beers at a median pressure. The simple and lowest cost solution is to put a single pressure regular on the tank such as the Taprite T742HP-02.