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  • toning down electric smoker

    I have a Brinkmann smoker and love cooking in it. I recently bought an electric element made for the smoker. Looks like a big oven element. It runs on 120 and does draw a substantial amount of electricity. Not over 15 amps since my breaker is still intact. It keeps the smoker about 30 degrees hotter than i'd like. Is there a way to use some kind of reostat to vary the voltage down so I can lower the temp without sending the amps too high?

    Thanks from Mark, the "chicken lover".
    Congratulations to Mr. "the sky is falling" Al Gore, nominated the new Village Idiot!

  • #2
    Re: toning down electric smoker

    I have a 15A rheostat but the cost is likely more than the smoker. You could make a controller if you are handy with electronics with a 20 triac and variable firing trigger for around $40 or so. Another thought is a router variable speed controller but I am not sure if it will work on a purely resistive load, you would need to read the package or call the supplier

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    • #3
      Re: toning down electric smoker

      If you could find 2 large resistors you could connect them in series and tap the voltage across only one.
      For example--If you connect a 100 ohm and a 20 ohm resistor in series and tap the voltage across the 100 ohm resisitor only, you will have 100v if the source voltage is 120v.

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      • #4
        Re: toning down electric smoker

        That works great for low current (high resistance loads) but in this application it would not work.
        The heater element is likely less than 10 ohms (1440W/12A at 10 ohms)
        So the parallel resistance of the 100 ohm with the 10 ohm will be 9.1 ohm.
        The power distribution would actually be 37.5 V on the smoker element and 82.5 V on the 20 ohm resistor. The 20 ohm resistor will also have to dissipate 340 Watts of power.

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        • #5
          Re: toning down electric smoker

          I think as wild as it seems that he might do well to try the 100 foot 14-3 extension cord if he has or can borrow such. I have a hunch that a few volts dropped at the heating element might do just what he wants. As for using a big wire wound power resister in series, it would work, but things get wild. Let's say that the heater draws 12 Amps. A 1 Ohm resister in series would drop the Voltage to the heater by 12 Volts. It also would have to disipate 144 Watts of waste heat. I don't like that one. A bucking transformer would work, but you can only get a few steps of drop. I think for this a variable transformer rated at 15 Amps or higher would be the best bet. The problem is that they don't come cheap. Maybe someone around has one he can borrow along with a good AC Volt meter. The more I think about it, the more I would be tempted to try the 100 foot extension cord. If that lowers the temp too much, then try a 50 foot one. Be sure to use 14-3 or 12-3 (less drop), but not 16-3 as that won't carry the current.

          Hint: Home Depot and Lowes are pretty good about returns. For a fast test, try the extension cord and be sure to keep it clean. Then coil it up carefully and return for store credit if it doesn't work out. Now I need to go look up a few specs on what would be the Voltage drop.

          I really would like the specs of this heating element. If I assume it to be a 1500 Watt and 120 Volts, then it's hot resistance would be 9.6 Ohms. This would mean that with 120 Volts applied that the current draw would be 12.5 Amps. A 100 foot 14 gauge extension cord would have 200 feet of wire in the circuit path. It would also add about 0.594 Ohms. This would mean that the heating element now sees 112.6 Volts and disapates 1320 Watts. This just may work. Now let's get real and remember that in real life nothing is text book. I'm thinking why not try what is easy?

          If the load can be assumed to be resistive as would be most heating elements, then the power law is Voltage squared divided by the resistance when hot = power in Watts. It's not going to take much resistance. I figured that the extension cord will give off some heat and thus must be uncoiled first.

          Now my brain needs to rest LOL And, I would really like some info on the heating element.

          Oh what the heck, just try the extension cord. It just might work.
          Last edited by Woussko; 02-26-2007, 01:20 PM.

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          • #6
            Re: toning down electric smoker

            Now thats a practical idea. You are right about uncoiling the wire first. I had a 100 ft cord on one of those windup caddies and the wife decided she neede to plug in the 1500 watt micro furnace, I walked into the garage and could smell that burning plastic scent, looked at the micro furnace (on the bench beside a plug) then noticed it was plugged into the cord.
            Practical test with same furnace and cord ...
            Wall unloaded is 119.7
            plug in heater 117.9 measured at wall
            plug in 16 AWG ext ~90 feet (shortened over the years for new ends)
            Measure 101.5 at the end of the cord
            Which make the extension cord a 240W heater
            BTW as said above it is not safe to use a 16 AWG cord for more than 10 A

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            • #7
              Re: toning down electric smoker

              I do have a couple of long cords, I'll give one a try and see how it does. thanks. (although the heating element says "do NOT use extension cords"!! LOL)

              Mark
              Congratulations to Mr. "the sky is falling" Al Gore, nominated the new Village Idiot!

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: toning down electric smoker

                Wood Meister,

                I've got a brinkman, in the middle of modifications to drop the firepan.Using the bottom 1/3 of a solvent tank I got off a gas station.

                What do you say,want to open a forum category for smoking.How about a ridgid smoker in your backyard

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: toning down electric smoker

                  I've got 2 Brinkmanns now. I like smoke chicken mostly. Did a turkey but not a fan of smoked turkey. Did a pile of chicken thighs 2 days ago.....awesome! Just wish I could afford to buy some ribs to try. Need a second morgage for that. Been using Hickory that I had left over from a job. Now I've got about 50 pounds of Cherry scraps from a large home office. You need any cherry? LOL

                  Mark
                  Congratulations to Mr. "the sky is falling" Al Gore, nominated the new Village Idiot!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: toning down electric smoker

                    For what this is worth, most electric heating devices say NOT to use an extension cord. There are 2 serious issues that come to mind. (A) You have to watch the wire gauge and length of the extension cord so as not to burn it up, and (B) Many extension cords have pretty sad molded on plugs and connectors with poor contact quality. The good extension cords use better quality parts all the way around. Anymore I only buy 14-3 or heavier and my choices are either Polar-Solar by Coleman Cable or Yellow Jacket by Woods. To me the others are pretty much KRAP. If I really want to go all out, I get and install HUBBELL industrial grade plug and connector and use type SOOW cable, but that gets into some big $$$.

                    Test: Any time you have a heavy load running through any electrical device, be it a short cord plugged into a wall receptacle or an extension cord or an outlet strip, always check it for overheating and do that several times about every 5 minutes or so. If it gets hot, shut off power and disconnect the load. Far too many electrical devices are poor quality and overheat with less than rated current passing through them. It pays to check for heating problems. This is one reason I want all push-in back wired electrical devices banned. I bet up in Canada they have been if they were ever allowed.

                    OK Enough of me. Just think safety and check for any overheating. Remember to uncoil the extension cords too. If you must, zig - zag them.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: toning down electric smoker

                      Originally posted by wbrooks View Post
                      That works great for low current (high resistance loads) but in this application it would not work.
                      The heater element is likely less than 10 ohms (1440W/12A at 10 ohms)
                      So the parallel resistance of the 100 ohm with the 10 ohm will be 9.1 ohm.
                      The power distribution would actually be 37.5 V on the smoker element and 82.5 V on the 20 ohm resistor. The 20 ohm resistor will also have to dissipate 340 Watts of power.
                      My bad.
                      With the extension cord you are putting a resistor in series with the heater.
                      Using a 2 ohm resistor in series would reduce the voltage to 100v at the heater if the heater is actually 10ohms. The resistor would use about 200W and will get a little warm or hot.

                      Measure the Volts and Amps of the heater and calculate resistance.

                      Resistance=Volts/Amps

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                      • #12
                        Re: toning down electric smoker

                        This isn't going to do anything about the hot running smoker but it is something to think about. A friend has a garage (free standing) with a 225 (give or take a few feet) foot run of 12-2 with ground running from his breaker panel in the house out to the garage. It handles a few lights and 2 duplex receptacles. Everything was fine until he took his big shop vac out to the garage to clean up. When he turned it on, the lights really dimmed. Worse yet was his attempt to run an electric pressure washer. It simply wouldn't start up. I tried plugging in a 1500 Watt portable heater and remember it dimmed the lights. I wish we had tried measuring the Voltage at one of the receptacles with everything off and then with just the heater load. Then with the lights turned on which were (2) 150 Watt light blubs in sockets.

                        By the way my friend is planning to hire an electical contractor in the spring to run 6-3 with ground and install a small sub panel in the garage. For him it's overkill, but in time it may pay off.

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                        • #13
                          Re: toning down electric smoker

                          Well here is one thing you can do. Get a short heavy duty extension cord and a "pig tail" socket. cut the extesnion cord and insert the "pigtail" socket in series with the black wire in the cord. Then plug your smoker into the other end of the extesion cord. using trial and error insert a 25Watt or 40 watt or 60 watt or maybe a 15W light bulb in the pigtail until the temperautre of the smoker is pretty much what you want. The bigger the wattage light bulb the less the smoker will heat up. There are things called VARIACS that is the ideal tool for this job, but they are expensive. Although you can probably get one cheap on e-bay. You would want a 120V 15 amp variac, if you want the right tool for the job, but the light bulg trick will work. I would ditch the resistor method for sure and the long extesnion cord.
                          Lou

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                          • #14
                            Re: toning down electric smoker

                            Lou, you are correct on the variac but a bit off on the light bulb theory.
                            The light bulb has a much higher resistance than the heater and therefore will dictate the current flow. In order to decrease the current by 10% to the heater you would need a 1 ohm light bulb, or 14 KW bulb (rough figures for ease). The bulb would barely glow when hooked in series but would provide the necessary drop.

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                            • #15
                              Re: toning down electric smoker

                              Well true, but we don't really know what voltage we want acorss the smoker heat coil to get the temp. we want at the end. I was off on the light bulb size, but it will still work if we put in couple of 300 watt bulbs. If we put in a 1500w bulb, that would drop the voltage to 60 volts, that might be too much of a drop, so since we don't know the ideal voltage drop, perhaps a 300 watt bulb might drop it enough to lower the temp enough. Ultimately the variac is the best and you could probably get one for about $50.00 on e-bay. In theroy the light bulb(s) would work fine though. I admit the 40 or 60 watters would do little, but upwards of 300 watts would make a difference. Lou

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