My First MES and Auber PID Experience (Plug and Play)

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by tallbm, Feb 2, 2017.

  1. tallbm

    tallbm Master of the Pit

    Last week I bought a used MES40 Gen2 1200 Watt on the cheap ($40) ! 

    I decided I would rewire it and use an Auber PID to replace the controller and I would give the unit to my mother as a gift. 

    I chose the Auber WS-1510ELPM plug and play PID.

    This was my first time using a PID of any kind and rewiring an MES.  I didn't know what to expect and reading everyone talk about their Auber PIDs and using the Autotune feature it seemed like it would be a cake walk using the PID.


    Here is are my experiences with the Auber WS-1510ELPM and Autotune:
    1. Physical setup of the PID was simple.  Just plug everything up and turn on
    2. Configuration setup of the PID was a little more challenging.  It is not what I would call user friendly right out of the box BUT once you grasp PID "language" you should find it is actually quite simple.  Simply put, when you are talking the same language things make sense.
    3. The PDF manual comes on disk with the unit.  I read through the PDF manual separately from playing with the PID and was quite lost the first time through.  It definitely takes playing with the PID and reading the manual at the same time to grasp what the manual is talking about.  The order of information vs setting instructions in the manual also seemed backwards to me.  I would read about all of these settings and configs but not know where or how I would be setting them until after the information was presented.  Very backwards in my opinion, and not always consistently done that way for every section.
      My Suggestions:
      1. Plug in the PID in your living room and open up the manual on a computer where you can have both the PID and the manual side by side or you can look back and forth between the two easily.
      2. Identify the default values listed in the manual before you play with the values.  For instance, it already comes configured in Fahrenheit (F) vs Celsius.  Don't go trying to set for F since that is the default regardless of the fact that all temperature configuration start with a value of "C".  So when you set "C-1" (temp) your numeric value is actually in Fahrenheit (F) even though the configuration label happens to have a "C" in it.  This is confusing if you just turn things on and start pressing buttons.
        Why didnt they use "t" for temp?  Well they use "t" for time, example "t-1" would be the time configuration.
        C-1 and t-1 are for "Step 1" temperature and time.
      3. Know that a number of the steps are already pre programed (steps 1-3 I think).  Go ahead and change steps 2 - 6 so the temperature is "0" and the time is "0", this will make the steps be ignored according to the manual.  Steps 2-6 will be indicated by the labels "C-2" & "t-2", "C-3" & "t-3" ... "C-6" & "t-6".
    4. Run the Autotune feature so the PID will do all the work configuring it's controller settings (P.I.D. values)
      1. Set "C-1"(temp) to 275 for max temp of an MES smoker (this is in Fahrenheit because that is the default)
      2. I set "t-1" (time) to 600 for minutes.  I'm not sure this matters with Autotune but I didn't want the time to stop before autotune finished
      3. Set all other steps temp and time to "0"
      4. Autotune Lessons Learned:
        • It takes a while for Autotune to run, it took like 45 minutes or so for me
        • After Autotune completets the temp will drop quickly and by like 30+ degrees.  This really confused me because I thought it would just hold when completed.  I believe it completely exits autotune and then takes a while to kick back into running as normal
        • After the big fast temp drop it will take a while for the temperature to heat up again but it will
        • When the temperature heats up it will overshoot the 275F you have programmed in, and mine went over about 8 degrees to 285F.  I was confused again thinking it should not have overshot so much and started Googling manual PID configuration because I thought I had an extreme swing going from 248F to 285F.  I WAS WRONG [​IMG]
        • The temp slowly dropped down to 273F and then smoothly worked up to 275F where it held beautifully for the next hour!
        • It seems to me that the drop to 245F was just the system going out of Autotune and then finally starting back up to do it's job normally
        • The overshoot to 285F seems like the system just firing up and overshooting a little which is desired from what I read. 
        • The system them seemed to do it's job and methodically work to 275F and held!
        • In short, don't panic and let it do it's thing.  Give this about 2hours total to autotune and prove itself
    5. My Maverick smoker probe temp and my Auber smoker probe temp are at a 5 degree difference with my Maverick being 270F and my Auber probe being 275F
      1. This seems ok to me as the probes are clipped to the same wires of the rack but the Auber probe is about 3-4 inches away from the Maverick probe.  The Auber probe is closer to the back of the smoker and the Maverick probe is closer to the front (door) of the smoker.  In my experience the further away from the door the hotter a stove/grill/smoker will get so the temp difference seems to make sense
    Finally a little bit on the MES40 Gen 2 rewire:
    1. Pulling off and re installing  the Gen 2 back panel was a pain.  It did not come all the way off but I got it loose up to the top where the smoker handle is fastened.  I removed the handle but those rivets for screwing in the handle to the smoker did not want to budge so I just rolled he metal back.  The edge of the sheet metal back goes into a groove of the smoker body and was problematic. When you remove the sheet metal back that inserted edge of the metal bends and crinkles up.  You then have to try and form it back into shape when reapplying the sheet metal back.  A hammer, some needle nose plyers, and patients were needed.  In the end I got it back on in an acceptable manner and then put some sheet metal screws through the sheet metal backing into the frame of the smoker to hold it all in place well.
    2. I ran the Auber smoker temp probe through the same fixture that the Gen 2 uses for it's meat probe.  This took a little effort and ingenuity but worked.  I just took a large screw driver to punch through the insulation to make a channel the new probe could easily move through.  I then taped the new probe to the old MES probe and pulled the old MES probe through the hole and channel like fishtape.  Viola a moveable smoker temp probe that seems like it was stock installed!
    3. I swapped the existing snap disk/rollout temp limit cuttoff switch for a reset-able one.  I also used a switch rated to 350F because I had no idea what the old one was actually limited at and I didn't know how the autotune of the Auber PID would temp swing and didnt want to pull everything apart again to change the snap disk/rollout.  BEWARE the new temp limit if you follow in my footsteps here, you have been warned. It was a perfect fit with no issues!
    4. I rewired the MES to basically go from chord to heating element.  The only thing I made sure to do was to wire the hot wire of the MES chord into the snap disk/rollout limit temperature sensor so it is included for safety reasons.  I didn't want to leave out a safety measure ESPECIALLY when the new wiring changes go directly from chord to heating element.
    5. I switched out aluminum connectors with high temp steel connectors to the snap disk/rollout and the heating element.  Also used a high temp steel butt connector/splice to connect the hot wire to the snap disk/roll out wiring. I bought them from "Fry's Electronics", online was outrageous in price and did not offer much in variety (spade vs ring vs butt, etc.).
    6. I used high temp plastic shrink tube over any and every exposed connector or wiring splice.  I used my butane grill lighter to carefully shrink the tubing because I don't have a heat gun. I bought them from "Fry's Electronics" and it was way cheaper than online options.  Like $1.50 vs $5-$10 online.
    7. I used all existing 14 gauge wire and a 14ga extension chord to be consistent with all of the wiring in the existing MES system.  I was tempted to go to 12 gauge but I didn't want to risk inconsistency in the wire capabilities and amperage limits within the system.
    8. I pulled all old wires out of the system and cut the wires to the existing MES smoker probe.
    9. I completely removed the old MES top/front controller
    10. I replaced insulation with some high temperature stove/oven insulation I bought off ebay.  The snap disk/rollout wires were burried under the foam insulation and to get to them you have to cut all the way through the insulation as they are pinned to the body on the opposite side.  This left a channel all the way down to the bare metal of back side of the smoker's interior smoking chamber.  I wrapped the wires in the stove/oven insulation and filled the channel well so there were no gaps without insulation
    11. In all the disassembly, rewire, and reassembly took about 8 hours with the proper tools, a great and confident amount of research, and zero experience in ever doing something like this
    I hope this helps everyone with their Auber plug and play PID ideas as well as any MES wiring ideas they may have [​IMG]
  2. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit

    And the results of your first smoke?
  3. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit

    The Auber is Plug and Play.  But you have the option of bypassing completely the stock controls and having a dedicated PIC controlled smoker. Many have done this with their Smokin-it units.  Some have even wired in a toggle switch so that they can select either the PID or the stock analog controller.  Just in case. 
  4. tallbm

    tallbm Master of the Pit

    First smoke was a success, it was chicken quarters.  I ran into some minor issues.  The probe for the PID is a small one and it was kind of hidden behind a chicken quarter so it wasn't getting very good airflow but my Maverick was.

    The lesson learned was to make sure the PID prob is unobstructed as it is much smaller than the Maverick hybrid probes.

    I have since smoked another chicken galantine using my lesson learned and all went well with no issues :)
    I thought it to be necessary.

    The MES smoker chord plugs into the PID and the PID plugs into the wall.  If I didn't rewire I would have had two controllers in series (PID and then MES Controller).

    The way the MES is wired is that the power that comes form the MES power chord goes to the heating element through the MES controller circuit board and solid state relay

    This meant that the PID would have always been at the mercy of the MES controller and it's solid state relay (a switch for on and off power to the heating element).  So, I rewired the MES to bypass the MES controller unit so it could have no effect on the PID's ability to control the heating element.  I eliminated the middle man because I could not see the MES controller would allow the PID to work without interfering with control of power to the heating element :)
  5. tallbm

    tallbm Master of the Pit

    Seems correct. I saw an MES analog unit for $45 on Craigslist and that was going to be my original purchase to play with the PID and to give to my mother as gift.  The morning I went to look up the seller I saw the $40 MES Gen2 for sale and jumped on it.

    The analog has a "dial" controller so you just dial like a stove.  With an analog electric smoker I believe you just open up the dial all the way and the PID will handle the juice to the heating element to keep temp.  BTW, those Analog Masterbuilt smokers can go up to way way higher temps than the digital MES.  They have zero insulation so no insulation to burn up.

    The rewire on the MES was actually quite simple.  I've never rewired anything in my life like this but I researched and understood it well enough to be very confident I was doing the job properly and doing the job well.  The rewire of the MES is much simpler than the "building" of a PID controller.  Auber's prices are so good that building a PID controller for this kind of setup was just not cost effective over buying the plug and play.

    If you are curious on the info I looked up for the rewire let me know and I will send you what I found to be helpful :)
  6. front sight

    front sight Newbie

    I know I'm very curious on the info you looked up to rewire. I've looked a few times into an Auber Plug & Play and just don't understand what has to be done.

    So if you could post or send me the info it would greatly be appreciated.
  7. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Smoking Fanatic

    What is the source of your smoke, now that you have a PID? Are you still using the chip loader, or are you using a tube or tray, like the AMNPS?

    I ask because I have always thought that the PID was not such a great idea. The reason is that the swings in temp that you get with the MES are probably by design. If I had been the engineer on that project, I too would have designed the controller to include a large amount of hysteresis. This is a fancy engineering term for the difference between the temperature at which the heating element turns off, and the temperature at which it turns back on again after the temperature drops. The reason is that I think the chips need a really hot element, and need it for several minutes, before they are going to "catch" and begin to smoulder. If you have a controller which maintains the temperature within a degree or so of your set point, that element will turn on for just a minute or so, and then back off again. After you reach your set temperature, it may not turn on for long enough, or get hot enough, to get your chips going. This would be especially true at lower temperatures. Thus, I've always suspected that a PID would reduce the ability to convert chips to smoke.

    However, that is simply my guess, and I'd be interested to know what actually happens.
  8. tallbm

    tallbm Master of the Pit

    Here are a couple of element and rewiring threads with step by step instruction points and images.  They may be able to help you visualize what you would need to do.
    I've used the mailbox mod and an AMNPS from day one.  My smoke is generated independent of the MES heating element.

    I think your logic on the temp swing and wood smouldering makes sense and a PID would possibly cause an issue with the intended smoke mechanism of the MES. 

    I wanted my smoke generation and smoker heating separate from day 1 because I plan to smoke sausage, jerky, and do cold smokes on salmon for lox.  The MES alone just cannot properly handle those types of smokes with it's design and setup. 

    Solution?  Mailbox mod and AMNPS.

    The mailbox mod with AMNPS has so many advantages:
    • AMNPS generates a ton of smoke
    • AMNPS is set and forget from 1hr to possibly 12+ hrs depending on burn rate of wood and airflow
    • AMNPS allows for various pellet blends
    • AMNPS plus Mailbox mod team up to provide cold smoke capabilities and ability to reduce risk of introducing heat from burning wood
    • When following directions for AMNPS and pellets, risk of flame up is minimal
    • Then Blue Smoke (TBS) with no hassle
    Disadvantage:  Building a mailbox mod and buying an ANMPS

    I make about 100 pounds of sausage a year from hunting (50 pounds or so cured for smoking) and now I can smoke them rather then cooking fresh sausage.  The lower smoke temps for doing sausage made the decision easy for me to adopt the mailbox mod.

    I hope this info helps :)
  9. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Smoking Fanatic

    Yup, that answers the question. I use the AMNPS + mod as well. The temp swings using the stock MES controller are pretty wide (about +- 10 degrees F around the set point), but I haven't yet felt the need to correct that because, for what I've been doing, I don't think that getting the temperature more constant would help much.

    The MES temp calibration, of course, isn't that great, but I just correct that by reading my Maverick, about 1/2 hour into the smoke, and then adjusting the MES temp up or down, as needed.
  10. tallbm

    tallbm Master of the Pit

    I was getting at least 25F or more swings.  I also couldn't hit max temp of 275F which is what I want to do brisket at.

    Finally with the temp swings I would potentially start to render fat in my sausages when smoking, that was a deal breaker.

    I think the PID solves a lot for me.  This PID Gen2 was my playground.  I am doing the HeaterMeter/LinkMeter wifi PID and controller once the parts come in.  They were on backorder and may be in within 3 weeks.  At that point I will PID mod my Gen1 MES.

    I'll post on that once its going as well :)
  11. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Smoking Fanatic

    Wow, that is a big swing. I can see how the PID would be almost essential. I'm sure it will work well for you.
  12. tallbm

    tallbm Master of the Pit

    Well I ran into an issue this weekend.  My spade connector to the safety roll out/snap disk had somehow loosened and was overheating causing the switch to trip.  This is a good thing that the safety mechanism worked but a bad thing that I now need to replace the connector and the switch so that they are in good working condition again.

    I guess I didn't ensure the connector was on as snug as I thought or maybe I knocked it at some point.  In any case I'll be fixing it soon.

    Beyond that issue, things had been working well.  I hope this info helps people out :)
  13. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    If you cut off the original power cord to wire directly to the heating element neutral leg (may need a longer power cord) and ground the ground wire in the junction box to chasis, is there a way to find the wire that goes to the disc emergency shut off sensor in the lower back or bottom to terminate the hot wire to without removing the back panel or the entire panel? Soldering high temp lugs to a three wire power cord is a quick indoor job and then terminating them inside the eleme t junction box. The PITA is utilizing the emergency shut off sensor without tearing up the back. The gen 1 40 has only the bottom access to the element. I dont know if other gens have an access panel to replace faulty sensors. That would make utilizing the sensor much better.
  14. tallbm

    tallbm Master of the Pit

    In the case of the Gen2 I rewired MES basically abandoned the color coding on the wiring after the power chord.

    The properly colored wires goes from the Power chord into the bottom circuit board.

    From the circuit board the hot wire and the neutral wire coloring both went to a braided black colored wire :(

    I believe that before you tear everything apart you could turn on the peel back the insulation on the circuit boards black braided wire and use a multimeter to figure out which wire was the hot one and which one was the neutral wire.  Once that is figure out you could do what you want without tearing everything apart!!!!

    In the image below you can see the Hot (solid black) and the Neutral (solid white) that come from the power chord.

    You can also see where Masterbuilt decided to go all black and braided from the circuit board to relay of the hot and the neutral flow.

    Peal back the insulation on the connectors of the black braided wire, turn on the smoker, and use a multimeter to determine which black braided wire is hot and which is neutral.

    The hot goes to the roll out cutoff disk and then on to the hot terminal of the heating element.

    The neutral goes directly to the neutral terminal of the heating element.

    Simply rewire here once you know what the black braided wires are, and no need to tear off the back of the smoker!!!! 

    Additionally I would replace the stock roll out cut off disk with a manual resetable one, but again you wouldn't need to tear the back off.  You would simply need to just open the panel.

    Some extra 14 AWG wire would be helpful as they don't give you much slack and replacing the aluminum terminals with hi temp stainless steel spades would be a good idea.

  15. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    I'm not ready to PID because my temp swings don't warrant this mod. It's a future mod when my current gen1 40 has a controller/relay/circuit board failure and I gut it for parts and start using my identical back up. When that smoker fails and back parts fail I'll PID but that maybe years from now. Inbetween my post and your reply I figured on measuring the emergency switch on the inside of the smoker from the top and left side, taking into consideration the thickness of the insulated walls and transfering it to the back. After making my mark I'll cut starting above the mark a 4"x4" square around it with my dremel to make my own access to the sensor. I guess with the Ohm meter I can confirm continuity of the lead to the heating element from the sensor. The hot will go to the other side of the sensor. The neutral and ground will go to the element junction box. Since I'll have parts I'll replace as needed with easy access. I'd rather carefully make an access to the sensor on the back panel than to take off the entire back just to get to the sensor. Anything electrical can fail even if the switch resets itself so if I did get that switch I'd still want easy access to it. I really want to use as little wire that came with the Mes as possible. With this set up I may even be able to fish a new heavier guage wire from the sensor to the element if it ever fails. I appreciate all the info. I did ask a couple times in different threads if the Mes stock emergency shut off sensor is shot once tripped or if it resets itself. I was under the impression that it did reset but I guess it has to be replaced to use the smoker again.
  16. tallbm

    tallbm Master of the Pit

    Your MES must be one of the older ones that doesn't have the rollout switch panel, that sucks.  It sounds like you have a plan to rock and roll with.  You will be in good shape.  

    I was under the impression that the original MES rollout switch was a one shot johnny.  I thought I read about it in some thread while searching things a long while back.  

    I looked for auto reset rollouts at 350F but couldn't find any.  They only had the manual reset at 350F.  I wanted the 350F rollout switch to make sure the autotune for the PID would do it's thing without tripping the stock switch.  Also I wanted to sparingly be able to go to 325F for chicken skin purposes and not trip the stock switch :)

Share This Page