anyone got a temp controller hooked up to their MES?

Discussion in 'Meat Thermometers' started by flyweed, Jul 16, 2010.

  1. flyweed

    flyweed Smoking Fanatic

    I've been thinking about buying a BBQ Guru temp controller..but just wanted to see if anyone has one on their MES 30?  How do you like it?

    I just want complete and accurate temp control on my MES..and this seems like it would be just the ticket.'

    Any thoughts, or input?


  2. flyweed

    flyweed Smoking Fanatic

    (echo mode on)...hello...hello.....anyone here???  (echo mode off)

    no one has put a PID of any sort on their MES??  THought there would be quite a few replies.  i am wanting to do this to control my temp a bit better, but don't really want to drop $250 on a Brand name unit.

  3. dick foster

    dick foster Smoking Fanatic

    Well if you're at all the handy type you don't need to spend that much to do it. Just buy a PID, a good sensor and an SSR and hook it up yourself for a fraction of that price.

    Here is all the hardware that you're likely to need for the job.


    This one also has a seperate programmable alarm output.  

    Temp Sensor

    This is actually a platinum type RTD with a stainless steel body. It's the one I use for my smoker and it is ideally suited for any smoker.  

    Solid State Relay

    40 amps should more than do the trick for you, if not get two of em. For example 40 amps at 120VAC works out to 4.8 thousand watts.  I doubt seriously if the MES uses that much power or you'd need a special circuit to run it. Home outlets are on 20 amp circuits these days so the one 40 amp relay should be more than enogh for ya.  

    I have one of these PID's controlling a stoker fan for my lump and chunk fired offset. It holds my target temp within a couple of degrees. For an MES it should do even better, a lot better like within one degree or less as you could use the full on PID algorithm. I just use a simple on off type of program with a few degrees of hysteresis to run a small fan that stokes the fire. 

    I could give you a little coaching if you need it.
  4. flyweed

    flyweed Smoking Fanatic


    thanks for the reply...I am actually really handy (and a bit cheap)...I was about ready to pull the trigger on a BBQ Guru setup..but I just couldn't see spending that much on a temp controller. OUCH.

    Anyway...I'd love some coaching...any diagrams and photos ALWAYS help me, as I am a very visual learner.  Actually I can usually hook something up pretty easy as long as I have a wiring diagram and a couple photos.

  5. flyweed

    flyweed Smoking Fanatic

    Hey Dick

    Well I did it.. I ordered the PID, 40 amp relay and thermocouple from them...a whopping $63.00 with shipping.  Not bad at all.

    Anyway..I assume I'll need some sort of small project box to mount this all into?  Also..what about power to this thing?  I assue I need a male power cord to power it...and then some type of female power cord to plug my smoker in to, to turn it off and on when it calls for heat???

  6. dick foster

    dick foster Smoking Fanatic

    Good for you.

    Well You'd have to actually get the hardware to work with but it would go something like this using the hardware at the links I posted. 

    You would get your line cord and connect terminals  1,2 and 3 of the PID to the black, white and green wires of the line cord respectively. This provides power and safety ground to the controller. This controller will work with practically any line voltage you have available anywhere in the world.  

    If you want to use something like a light bulb for a temp alarm you could wire it to terminal 5 of the controller, the relay output, and jumper terminal 4 to terminal 1 for the power for the light bulb. Then you'd program the controller to light the warning lamp for either an over temp or under temp alarm. For example I have a red light bulb connected to mine and have it programmed as an under temp alarm so it lets me know when I need to add some charcoal. Of course you could use a buzzer, bell or what ever or maybe just ignore that output and don't use it at all.

    To connect the PTD sensor, that's what you actually got if you ordered what I said, then you first jumber pins 6 and 7 then connect the PTD sensor to terminals 7 and 8. The PTD is a platinum resistance type sensor and this hook up will supply the needed current to the sensor and read it back to determine temperature. PTDs are very linear and the range is just right for a smoker. There is little change of overtemping them with your smoker like some PN type sensors and there are both more accurate and more linear than a standard thermocouple type.  

    This controller will work with just about any type of sensor you can buy however.  

    I do suggest sealing up the end where the senor wire comes out of the stainless housing with some Permatex Ultacopper high temp silicone. I use the same stuff for wireless thermometer probe wires which seems to eliminte the main vunerablilty those units have.   

    Pins 9 and 10 of the controller drive the inputs for the solid state relay terminals 3 and 4 on the relay. This is a DC voltage so observe proper polarity pin 10 of the controller the positive output to the positive terminal 3 on the relay while pin 9 on the controller is the negative output for the negative input on terminal 4 of the relay. 

    The relay output terminals of the relay, terminals 1 and 2 switch line voltage to your heater elements. I don't have an MES or a schematic for one but basically the relay would replace the existing control on the MES. Input power black or hot wire for the heaters would connect to terminal 1 of the relay and the heater would connect to terminal 2 while the other lead of the heater would connect to the white or common lead for the AC wall supply.  

    Shoot me a PM with your email address and I can send you some PDFs for the controller as the instructions that come with it are a bit cryptic since it's written by Chinese folks. I could also send some pics of my stuff for what ever good it may do. I think little for your application. Maybe I can work up a wiring diagram for ya. If you can find one, get me a schematic for the MES and I can do it up in detail.

    Yeah find a project box to hold the controller and relay or maybe even hack it all into the MES itself.

    I used a regular duplex outlet for mine with a shallow Wiremold outlet box to house the duplex outlet and I hang that on the smoker with a little clip I bend from sheet metal.

    The controller and small PCB style SSR I used for mine, I put into a small aluminium project box. I split the outlets on the duplex and used one for the low temp warning light and the other to plug the muffin fan into.

    I have a sneaking hunch we can figure out a way to put it all into the MES for your application. It's a really small controller so it shouldn't be all that hard to do especailly if you take the existing stuff out. I hear that the existing control stuff doesn't doesn't work all that well anyway. I'd have to know more about the unit itself to know for sure. Whatever it is, this ain't gonna be rocket science, this much I do know.  
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2010
  7. dick foster

    dick foster Smoking Fanatic

    OK I looked and I assume this MES you're talking about is a Masterbuilt unit, correct?

    If not who's unit to do have if so which one do you have.

    If your's is the 30" analog unit it looks like you will need to add a box to house the new control goodies. If you have their digital model, then I think you can fit the new stuff inside the existing housing.

    I see where someone else added an SSR and hooked their digital  unit up to an Internet accessible controller. In my mind that is a tad bit of overkill for a smoker but who knows, maybe it makes a lot of sense to some folks.
  8. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I must be missing something.

    Why would you need to add a temperature control to a digitally controlled electric smoker?

    Maybe you're not talking about that smoker?

  9. dick foster

    dick foster Smoking Fanatic

    From what I can read the temp regulation of the Masterbuilt units is terrible. A PID controller like the one I am recommending can automatically learn how much the controller needs to lead the smoker and heater elements and so hold the temp regulation much tighter.  PID stands for Proportional, Integral and Derivative which are the elements of a sophisticated closed loop control system to control things like temperature and mechanical motion.

    Tuning PID loops can sometimes be frustrating unless you know what you're doing but this particular PID controller one has an auto-learn routine that can be invoked. You'd have to let it make some dry runs so it can teach itself your smoker but it would learn to regulate the temperature very close, probably within a degree or less.

    Using the SSR it will basically control the duty cycle of power applied to the heater element so it's not simply either on or off but held actually to a temp that maintains the temp inside to what you want it to be. If the temp drops the duty cycle of power on is increased to make the element hotter. As the target temp gets closer to the target temp, it starts dialing back the duty cycle therefore cooling down the heating element so it doesn't over shoot the mark. That's the Proportional bit, the duty cycle is proportional to how far off the mark the actual temperature is.   

    Digial doesn't always mean accurate although a lot of people seem to think it does. It just means that some part of the control is digital or has a digital readout or input of some kind.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2010
  10. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    The controlls on my mes 40 work just like an oven. when the temp drops below the set temp.

     the element comes on and heats the unit back up to the set temp.

     I know that a PID would be alot more efficiant but i can't see where it is necessary.

      The unit does a great job as is from the factory.

     In my opinon the only thing that my mes has a problem with is recovery times and i can't see where a PID would help .

     The only thing that would help me is to replace the 800 watt element w/ a 1200 watt element.
  11. dick foster

    dick foster Smoking Fanatic

    I think it would depend on which MES you have.

    It looks like have what they call an analog unit which looks to me like it uses a temp controller like one of those electric fry pan things. To me that wouldn't seem to be able to work worth a damn as the temp sensor is in the bottom of the smoker where the cord and control unit plugs in so it would naturally be all over the place depending on the weather and ambient temp.

    You want a sensor probe located somewhere in the vicinity of the food you're cooking. For example in my charcoal fired offset, I have the sensor mounted just an inch or less below the grill the food sits on. 

    Then again if whatever you happen to have works for you, there is no reason what so ever to fix what ain't broke.

    Then again the typical PID algorytym is a lot more precice than a simple on/off type of control as it learns to lead predictively what the temperatre will be instead of simply reacting to what it is and allowing substancial overshoot. 
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2010
  12. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    MES has a few problems (slight), but the digital controller is not one of them. As far as accuracy goes, it depends on where you put the sensor. Will a PID "automatically learn how much the controller needs to lead the smoker and heater elements"? Will it learn that in the morning---then adjust wrong in the afternoon? Sometimes it's 35˚ when I start smoking, and 78˚ when I'm done. The MES is often way off from a separate probe, but only because of "WHERE" the sensors are. It doesn't need a PID---It needs a baffle like many of us already use, to keep the heat from going up the right side. If I had a smoker without digitally controlled heat, I would want to get a PID, but my MES knows what it's doing.

  13. flyweed

    flyweed Smoking Fanatic

    guys..the reason I want to add a temp controller to my MES 30 is because it fluctuates in temp far too much for my liking.  It swings a good 20-30 degrees over the course of a smoke. I will add a PID controller to hopefully hold that swing to a few degrees..or even better.

    I got my Masterbuilt Electric smoker from Cabela' does have the digital temp unit on top of the smoker.

    Here is a photo[​IMG]
  14. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    I don't think that the PID will help you much over the digital controller.

     I have used the 40" for allmost 2 years and yes it does fluctuate around the controller on the unit but i really don't see where spending another 80 bucks for a new controller will make enough difference to make it worth what you spend.

      I have no problems w/ my smokes as the unit is.

     let me add the reason i say this is that fluctuations of 20- 30 degrees either way won't ammount to a hill of beans during a smoke. I'm not trying to cook a souflee on my mes.

     In meat cooking there is alot of room for fluctuation . we may say cook at a certain temp. but it's just a guide.

     if you want to spend another $80 for a pid and the time to install it ,Buy all means go right ahead. But will it make your smokes come out any better than anyone elses ? I doubt it.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2010
  15. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You will find most MES mods that have been done by SMF members in this thread

    MES HOT MODS and Creations

    There is at least one with a PID controller...

    This thread is a not a MES but another electric smoker which a PID controller was installed.  Follow the link to the web page and it is clearly documented, this would be essentially what you need to do with an MES.

    Do you need a PID, not really if you MES controller is functioning ok meaning it is shutting off and turning on, with the addition of a 2nd remote probe placed appropriately in the MES cabinet, you can quickly learn how much you MES controller is sensor is off and then just adjust the temp on the MES controller.  My controller/sensor reads about 15º low,  so if I set MES temp at 225º the real temp in the cabinet is usually about 140º.  So I just adjust the temp down.  When I first start the smoke I adjust down 5º the first hour, 2nd hour another 5º, 3rd hour the full 15º.  I cross check the temp with an analog dial thermometer that is in the cabinet.

    I intend to add PID control either when the wiring/connectors finally fail (this is prevalent in my vintage of MES), or I just decide to do it.  When that happens I will upgrade the wiring to heavier gauge, replace the controller with PID control, and either add a secondary heat element or just replace the existing with 1200 watt element.  This is the reason I bought the MES, because it is easy to find after market components to keep it running.  With component replacement, as long as the cabinet remains in good condition my MES 40" all stainless inside and outside should last longer than the years I have left.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2010
  16. flyweed

    flyweed Smoking Fanatic

    Like I said..maybe I am overly picky or critical..but I find that me temp flucuations during a smoke from 225 on up to 270 is just unacceptable.  I am hoping the PID will solve this problem.  In essence, I will turn the smokers temperature up as high as it goes, and then plug in the PID and have that control the temp, so I'll get more accurate smoking temps through the PID with alot less flucuation.

    ALso, for $63.00 for a DIY temp controller that will improve the MES is pretty easy for me to undertake.

  17. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yeah, if I put my Maverick on the right side, I might get a 270˚ reading on it, and a 225˚ reading on my MES, unless I put the baffle in the bottom right. Then once it has been at a fixed temp for awhile, the readings come together.

    Try putting your other remote sensor right in front of the MES sensor in the back wall, and see what the difference is then. I believe the difference is due to "Where" the sensors are. A PID will not change that. The other thing is, the MES reading changes more slowly due to the fact that it is not exposed to the air at 360˚ X 360˚----It is built into the back wall. When my heat is running up fast, my Maverick is way above the MES temp, but after it gets to the targeted heat, and settles into the set temp, the MES reading goes up & the Maverick comes down, and they end up almost identical (if the baffle is in the bottom right)----This is even with the Maverick probe on the right & the MES sensor on the left.

    In the summer, if I have it set at 150˚, it starts up at about 149˚ and runs up to 150˚. then it shuts off. The heat might coast up to as high as 156˚. Then it will slowly come down until it hits 149˚ again.

    In the winter, If I have it set at 150˚, it starts up when it hits 149˚, but it might fall to 142˚ before the heat starts rising, because it doesn't have the balls to get it hot faster than that in the Winter. Then it will run it up to 150˚, and shut off. The heat might coast up in the Winter too, but maybe only to 152˚. Then just like in the Summer (only quicker), it will fall back to 149˚, and restart.

    I don't see how a PID is gonna change much of this, but I'm done. I just thought I could get someone to not waste his money, but in the end, it is HIS money, not mine.

    $63 isn't much to invest, to improve the MES, but it's a lot of money if it doesn't do diddly.

    Just my unwanted 2 1/2 cents.

    Last edited: Jul 18, 2010
  18. dick foster

    dick foster Smoking Fanatic

    Apparently you are unfamiliar with PID controllers and how they function or exactly what they do. At least that is what I am able to  from what you are saying. As I said, if what you have works for YOU and you are happy with it then there is absolutely no reason you need to do anything but that doesn't mean that what suits YOU suits everyone or that the unit he has suits him as it is now. I think perhaps you could stand a good dose of live and let. Let him decide what he needs and what he wants. It's this sort of attitude that has our government so screwed up now. Not everyone likes vanilla, some prefer chocolate and some strawberry and there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with that.   
  19. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I don't have to know anything about PID controllers to point out that the MES digital controller works fine on it's own. The heat problems it has are from other aspects of the unit itself. Others who have MES units agree. I don't think "flyweed" has had his very long.
    I explained how my MES works in different weather, in different parts of the box, when it starts, when it stops, etc. At no time did I tell him what to do. I just tried to help him understand how the MES works on it's own. I don't need any instruction or any comparing of my attitude to politics by you. When I see someone who I think may be making a mistake, and I think I can explain something to them that might keep them from making that mistake, I try to help. Anyone who can comprehend what they read, can see at the end of my last post, I was saying "I said all I can about this topic, but it's his money". So now you come around when I'm through trying to help, and want to scold me for trying to help. When you help as many people on this forum as I have, let me know.
  20. dick foster

    dick foster Smoking Fanatic

    Then maybe you need to work on your language some because it sure sounded that way to me. Basically, I don't know what it is or how it works and don't need to know to know that you don't need it. LOL I'm not tying to scold anyone, just pointing out how silly it sounded.

    I too would like to help people do what they want to do but I sure won't be pretending to know it all or trying to tell them what they want. The man clearly said that the was unhappy with the way it is now and finds it unacceptable so he wants to attempt to fix it with a better controller. On that I offered my assistance and showed him that he didn't have to spend $250 to give it a shot. 

    As someone who has had some back ground in closed loop control systems, including everything from frequency synthesizers, autopilots and electro/mechanical servo systems I can tell you from experience that PID control loops do a much better job of regulation and control than the typical primitive on/off type of system. One is proactive and somewhat predictive in its behavior while the other is purely reactive.  

    Who knows, if he gets it done and finds that it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, you may even wind up wanting one too.

    That and no other way is exactly how innovation happens. People trying different solutions to solve different problems.

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