MES 30 electrical modification to heating element using an incandescent dimmer switch

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by daveomak, Apr 22, 2011.

  1. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    About a month ago I posted a thread about this very subject and the advice I received was a great help.

    I have temporarily installed a 1500 watt dimmer switch to check out my mod.

    IT WORKS !!!!!!!

    Now I will have to finish the install correctly but I could not wait, until then, to post so here it is. 

    First, check your outlet for correct polarity. I am showing a device that tells you if it is correct by lighting up 2 yellow lights. The wide spade is the neutral. The narrow spade is the 110 volt hot side. This can be accomplished with a multimeter. The hot leg will show 110 v to the ground leg. If the ground leg is down, the hot is on the right.

    Unplug the smoker and remove the element cover plate. On my smoker, the hot wire is coming in from the bottom of the box.

    I removed both shrink tubings and both wires from the element to check stuff out.

    Then I plugged the smoker back in with the element disconnected. All the controls still worked letting me know the element is not in the circuit for the controls. One wire was hot with 110 v. That is the wire I connected to the dimmer. Then I connected a wire from the other side of the dimmer to the element and reconnected the neutral wire, in the smoker, back to the remaining leg on the element.

    For your info: The 800 watt element had 21 OHMS resistance.


    Here you might be able to see the wire coming from the bottom of the box to the dimmer and then to the element. The neutral connected back to the element also. Short jumper wires were used for this test. Which side of the elements you reconnect the wires is not important to the element operating correctly. It may be important when you feed the wires into whatever conduit you use.

    I plan on using a step drill, in the cover plate, to facilitate the attachment of the flex conduit I plan on installing.

    My check of the operation of the dimmer showed @30 VAC the element operated at approx 320* F over a 15 min test.

    I am not sure what temp chips will smoke but that should be close. Tinkering will tell.

    I will have to make another chip pan. One that sits directly on the element so heat transfer will get them smoldering at a lower setting. Leaving the chip dispenser tube out and the top vent wide open should allow for a cooler smoking temp and good air flow.

    Below is the dimmer I used. I know the element is 800 watts. I chose the 1500 so as to not overheat the dimmer. I guess you could call it a safety factor.

    After all is said and done, my original purpuse for this mod was to slow the temp swings. With any luck, settings will be found to operate at desired temps with little or no overtemp swings. Other benefits may surface. Time will tell.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2015
  2. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member


    Sounds great---I know absolutely nothing about how you do things like that.

    I'm a little confused as to the reason for doing this.

    In a perfect world, I believe there is close to no temperature swing with my MES.

    If I have the heat set at 200˚, when the heat drops to 198˚, the element comes on.

    Then when the heat gets up to 200˚, the element shuts off.

    That is a 2˚ temperature swing.

    If it drops below that 198˚, it happens after the element comes on, but it would be because of outside influences, like wind & cold, but mostly wind, so it's not caused by the MES heating element or the control.

    If it goes much above 200˚, it would be after the element shuts off, but it would be because it had been well below 198˚ for some reason (like the door was open for awhile), and it had a big run to get back to 200˚, therefore it gets going & coasts a few degrees above the setting, after the element shuts off. This would not be caused by the MES element or the stock control unit.

    These are just my observations of my MES 40, with 1200 watt element.

    Last edited: Apr 22, 2011
  3. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hey there Bear,

    I have found my 30 has temp swings anywhere from 15* below to 20* above set point. Then there is the hot spot in the back right corner of the smoker box.

    I figure if I get the element close to "maintain" temp of the original set point there will be "no" swing and the temps should be consistent in all areas of the smoker. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA !!!!!!!

    Another dreamy hope is to set the element at the smoke point of the chips (about 300) and have a slow temp rise to  "cooler" smoke before the fat melts. I know I could get an AMAZN but then I would just nap all afternoon.
  4. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yeah---That's why I was talking about my MES 40 in that last reply.

    I had much bigger temp swings with my MES 30, but that wasn't a control problem either.

    That was a problem of my MES 30 not having enough cojones.

    With that one, if it was cold out, and lets say again I had it set at 200˚.

    When it would drop down to 198˚, the element would come on, but the heat would continue to drop to maybe 185˚ or 180˚, before the temp would start climbing.

    Then because it had to heat for so long to get it back to 200˚, it might coast all the way to 210˚, before it started falling again.

    But there again, it wasn't a problem with the control. The problem was with the heating element's ability to heat the box, during cold & windy days.

    I hope yours works out great for you!

  5. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Nice work Dave!

    I am quite interested in how this is going to work.

    I am making some mods in my 30 to make it my low temp and sausage smoker.

    Mods being taking out the chip chute and drawer and putting a plate in for dissipation.

    Glad we have a mad scientist here!!

  6. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The final install of the "temporarily/permanent" location went well.

    I found this conduit at HD Big Box store. About $10 for 6 feet of stuff. I only needed 3 ft. I had to buy 1--90 deg ell fitting. It came with 1-90 and 1-straight fitting. Considering the wire and all was in the pack, it made it simple.

    I used the step bit to hog out the inspection cover. The thinness of the metal posed a hitch. Should have drilled it rotating between front and back a few times. The metal rolled on itself and I had to use the die grinder to remove the flash. I think the step bit was pretty dull.


    I dug thru my treasures and found this piece of aluminum to use as a bracket. Drilled and pop-rivetted everything into place. The 4" square box left more room to manipulate the wire and looks better than a single gang box.


    I decided to mount the dimmer opposite the exhaust vent to reduce heat and smoke build-up.

    The first cold start was set at 100*. The element shut off at 102 and drifted to 104. Turned back on at 95. Now that the smoker is warm, it should get better. I think the dimmer is set at about 30ACV. Not sure.

    With some tinkering and practice things will improve. I do bellieve this mod is a winner.

    If I can be of help, do not hesitate to ask. Dave
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2015
  7. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Must be nice to know how to do that kind of a thing!

    This Bear is strictly a woodworking Bear!

    Keep us posted on your results.


  8. fife

    fife Master of the Pit

    WOW nice work there
  9. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Craig, Morning. About 5:30 the outside temp was 41, now it is 42 at 7:10.  At 5:40 I set the dimmer to its lowest setting to check out the cold smoking potential of this setup. Using the non-contact infrared, the element temp has been hanging between 130-140*F. The smoke box slowly rose to 61*F and has been there for 40 minutes or so. I have the chip tube removed and the exhaust wide open. Checking the inside of the smoker, the 61*F is confirmed throughout. Checking the exhaust, there is air flow thru the smoker. The chimney effect is working. It is 7:20 and the temp is still 61*.

    I am going to go out on a limb here.........I think a load of ice in the water pan, covered and sealed to keep the moisture down, would keep the temps low enough to cold smoke with higher ambient temps. I know that is alot to assume, (you know what assume means? but that is the best I can do at this time.

    This would be a good application for the amazen or the soldering iron smoke generator.

    I spent yesterday trying to get the element to smoke chips at lower element heat settings and that was a total failure.

    At least I can control the heat and have eliminated the temp swings.

    It is 7:35 and the temp is 63* in the smoker. Hope this helps you and others. Have a good day.

    It's 8:10 ----65*

    8:55-----67*----amb 48*

    Last edited: Apr 25, 2011
  10. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member


    Instead of a load of ice, covered & sealed to keep moisture down, just keep a couple jugs, about 80% filled in the freezer.


    dwsmith43 likes this.
  11. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    That is a better idea. Thanks Bear

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