Mod to my underpowered MES30.

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by miatawnt2b, Jan 12, 2016.

  1. miatawnt2b

    miatawnt2b Fire Starter

    Some of you read my thanksgiving stories and how I modded my MES30 to hit 350*, and also how I feel the heating element in this unit is grossly underpowered for the size of the unit. So my thought was to add an additional heating element to this thing as well to help speed preheat and recovery time.

    As luck would have it, I happened to find my long lost kill-a-watt meter as I was gathering pieces for the mod. I was curious how much power this thing actually pulled, so I tested it. Turns out my unit, even though it's supposed to be rated at 950Watts only pulled 800. So that's strange... The wiring in this thing while I won't say it's undersized, I think it could use an upgrade so I went ahead and replaced the element wiring with 14Guage High temp stuff I got at my local appliance repair shop. Unfortunately there was no change after this 'upgrade'.

    So, I went ahead and took another couple wires off of the power relay for my second heating element. I purchased a replacement element for a bradley smoker (BTHEAT) and with a couple of brackets I had laying around from an Ikea project. I attached it to the rear wall of the MES30 just under the main element. The brackets I used were the ones from Ikea that hold kitchen cabinet uppers to the wall, and can also be found in many of their bookshelves/etc. I drilled a small hole through the smoker where the main element attaches to feed my wires through and wired it all up.

    So now I have an additional 500W of heat as verified with the kill-a-watt showing 1300W.

    An interesting note, when I tested everything, I noticed that the new 500W element is bright orange/red when on, but the orig element is very dim in comparison. I'm wondering if my orig element is giving up the ghost and that's why it only pulls 800W. HUMMM...

    I also added in the bottom of the smoker 4 fire bricks. I think this is going to help even out heat and help recovery times as well.

    Thanks all.

  2. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I'm not so sure I would want my MES to go much over 300°, since it was designed for a Max setting of 275°.

    I would think they had a reason for putting a limit on it.

    Mine has coasted over 300°, but not much over.

  3. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    Which Mes 30 do you have? Any pics to post? The digital Mes 30's have 800 watt elements and the 40's are 1200. Hopefully the added heat in the smaller 30 vs 40 as well as the added element being closer to the bottom where the circuit board is won't be compromised from heat. I'd definitely keep the bottom drip pan in place.
  4. miatawnt2b

    miatawnt2b Fire Starter

    I have a gen1, with the digital control on top. (at least I'm pretty sure that's what I have) I swear I heard they upgraded gen1's to 900-ishW elements at some point, and I'm fairly certain the tag on the back says 950W. I may be making all of this up, I can't remember off the top of my head. I'll have to look when I get home.

  5. miatawnt2b

    miatawnt2b Fire Starter

    It's model 20070411, so it's a gen1, 800w element. I'm guessing that the tag on the back probably has a fudge factor. I'll get some pics up tonight maybe.
  6. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I believe the MES 30 Digital units started out with 650W.

    Then around 2010 they went to 800W.

    I don't know of any other wattages on Gen #1 MES 30 Digital units.

  7. miatawnt2b

    miatawnt2b Fire Starter

    Here is the best pic I can get with the unit put back together. You can see how the bracket is attached to the back wall and the element just floats resting in the bracket.
  8. miatawnt2b

    miatawnt2b Fire Starter

    This is the bracket. PN102591
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
  9. bill1

    bill1 Smoke Blower

    When posting measured power numbers, it's good to give the voltage as well.  The 800W reading might have been at 110Vac so at another time of day or location, you could get 120Vac.  Since power goes as the square of the voltage, 10% under the max rated voltage will give you 20% less than the rated power, which is about what you're seeing.  

    I think adding more power to these commercial units is a good idea, even if you only use the auxiliary heater for faster warm-up, as long as you recognize the issues and WHY the manufacturer doesn't do it.  .  

    Since consumer products need to be sold with a 15amp normal plug to appeal to a wide market, and you need to design to only 80% of the max power, most consumer products are limited to 1350 watts max, such as floor heaters. You didn't say if you're using a 15 or 20 amp circuit.  But if you're at 1300W at 110V, if/when your line voltage goes to 120, you'll be at 1560W, and then if just one other appliance gets energized on that circuit you'd trip a 15A breaker.  If you're only drawing the extra power during warm-up when you're likely to be around and paying atttention, you could say it's only a nuisance.  You'll know to turn off your auxiliary heater and re-set your breaker (of course everything needs to be turned off when resetting a breaker).  But you can see why smoker builders are hesitant to design too close to the 1350W max for fear people "set and forget" and then find 6 hours later the breaker tripped, their meat is raw and their meal plans are toast.

    And of course tripping a breaker at full load is hard on a breaker and is to be discouraged.  They're NOT routine switches!   

    The Bradley bheat elements look good to me and aren't too expensive.  Still, since that style is so common in cheap toaster ovens, I'd like to think there's a cheaper supply for them than Bradley.  Anyone know of a direct source or what search terms to use in eBay?  

    I was glad to hear you say they "float" in your brackets.  Since they get very hot, they can expand in size and put a lot of stress on the ends if they're strongly mounted.  Good job!  

    My only suggestion would be to add a thin sheet of shiny steel behind it as a heat shield. (Like around catalytic converters in cars.)  It should be weakly attached to the back wall so there's minimal thermal conductive path to the unit.  It will then sit at an intermediate temperature and prevent a lot of thermal loss to the back of the unit.  I suspect right now the back of your unit is noticeably hotter when that element is on.  
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
  10. miatawnt2b

    miatawnt2b Fire Starter


    I really like your idea of the heat shield... a lot. I'm going to install that tonight!

    Additionally I looked pretty hard for an acceptable heating element. I found it pretty tough to find one in the 500W range which is what I was shooting for.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
  11. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Under the floor of the MES 30, on the back left, is an assortment of electronic devices...  They are very susceptible to heat...  If your unit fails, it could be due to overheating that area and frying those electronics....
  12. radioguy

    radioguy Smoking Fanatic

    bill1 was right on with the variance in line voltage.These things are usually not spot on...+/- 10-20% is realistic.

    I would strongly suggest putting a over temp switch in-line with the main power. This would maybe save a melt-down and

    give piece of mind.


  13. miatawnt2b

    miatawnt2b Fire Starter

    Good point about the overtemp switch and one of the parts of this mod I forgot to mention. In the stock wiring that overtemp  switch is wired in series with the element. I removed it from the element wiring and instead wired it in series with the control panel so that if the switch trips, it shuts down the whole smoker. I had to do this because the wire for that dinky temp switch would have been way underrated had I run both heating elements through it.  By doing it this way, I don't need a separate temp switch.

  14. bill1

    bill1 Smoke Blower

    If you haven't already, you might want to google up the part number on that thermal switch and check the temp at which it opens on heating & when it closes on cooldown.  Many are based more on the flash point of stray papers (Fahrenheit 451) than on protecting potentially nearby electronics which like to stay well under 250F.  And where you put it is sort of important too.  Finally I'd note that the pic you sent shows the back side of the sensor.  The sensing side is away from the viewer in that picture.

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