Warmer to Smoker conversion - is all polyurethane insulation bad?

Discussion in 'Other Builds' started by dward51, Apr 10, 2012.

  1. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Ok, here is a question....

    Has anybody converted a Victory stainless steel reach in style full height warmer to a smoker?  My question is about the insulation.  Manufacturer specs say it's polyurethane but the unit temp control is rated for 220 max temp "as is" before conversion.  Sounds like it may not be necessary to rip the skin open and pull (chip) out the old polyurethane and install new.  I do want to hot smoke, but I'm only looking at the 220-250 degree range and not trying to crisp turkey skin at higher temps.

    Has anybody found a cabinet with polyurethane that was OK to leave the insulation "as is" before?

    It's got a 1440 watt heater "as is" and I'm thinking I may just need to wire in a new controller, SSR and change out the high limit sensor for one with a higher set point.  Yes, it's 240v but I can run a dedicated line from my 2nd 150amp shop panel in the basement to my covered porch where the smoker will likely live.

    Of course it's a salvage piece and needs new gaskets, but it's all stainless and not aluminum so it may be worth the effort assuming the price is decent (and it's within driving distance of the house to pick up).
  2. mneeley490

    mneeley490 Master of the Pit OTBS Member


    Check out my fridge conversion here:


    It is a Victory, and probably looks much like your warmer. It was full of polyurethane too, and I agonzied for a while over ripping it out. I finally decided to err on the side of caution and remove it. Not fun and not quick, but at least I can sleep now while running it overnight with no worries about fire or toxic smoke.

    Since yours is set up to run heat instead of refrigeration, you're already miles ahead of where I was at the beginning. Good luck!
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2012
  3. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Wow, thanks!   I had seen that build before, but totally missed it was a Victory fridge.

    Since the one I'm considering is a warmer and their rated temps in the spec sheet are pretty high, I may see if I can pull a small chunk out of and test it before gutting the whole thing. Sure would be nice not to have to pull all the foam out.  The specs did say it was polyurethane foam though, but I know there is more than one type and some are ok for heat (to a point).

    I see you had good results with the Brinkmann 1500 watt element. I already have a Omega digital controller from an old project.  The elements in the warmer now are 230v and my controller can run either.  It would be less of a hassle to make the cabinet 120v as I would not need to run a 230v line to the covered porch where I'm going to put the smoker.  So after a couple of smokes do you feel the 1500w element is plenty for that size cabinet?

    This one is surplus from a school and it's an auction next week. I guess my first hurdle is getting it for a decent price as I have to drive about 150 miles to pick it up. But going with stainless is more attractive than some of the aluminum rolling cabinets I've seen lately (and their condition was junk and the price ridiculous for the ones in the Atlanta area).
  4. mneeley490

    mneeley490 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I've been running it on 120v. and it seems fine so far. The wood chunks I use in the firebox that surrounds the element burn completely into little piles of ash.

    Like yours, my controler can do either voltage, but for 240v, I'd also have to run a dedicated line to a new outdoor recepticle. It can be done, but it would involve lots of crawling around in the dirt & mud under the deck. And I'm not sure how the Brinkmann element would handle it.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2012
  5. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Just a guess here but if the insulation in the cabinet is sealed, I don't think beaking that seal is a good idea. Not to mention the Warmer was designed to run up to 220*F...Do you really think at 221*F or even 275*F the Insulation will suddenly Vaporize. I am sure different formulations have various melting points but the Material Safety Data Sheet for generic Polyurathane Foam lists the Melting Point/ Vaporization point at 350*F to 375*F...And that is not designed for a cabinet that gets Hot. Besides, you should never see those temps in a Low and Slow Smoker anyway...This warmer to smoker is not such a good deal if you need to spend 6 MONTHS tearing out Sheet Metal and chipping out Foam then coming up with new Insulation and reassembling. I honestly believe you are safe to proceed with just some additional Insulation, heat barrier or large air gap between the Heating Element and the floor of the cabinet. Here is the MSDS...JJ

    http://www.amconvas.com/materialspdfs/msds/MSDS - Ester Polyurethane.pdf
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2012
  6. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks JimmyJ,

    That's what I've been thinking also.

    The beauty of this unit is it has two 750watt heating elements, one on each side inside at the bottom, and a moisture vent at the top.  From looking at the specs, it really is only missing an air intake and smoke source (would likely use one of Todd's Amazin' Pellet Smokers).  I would change out the analog dial temp setting control for a digital Omega model I have sitting around along with a new SSR to control the heating elements.  The digital display on the cabinet is separate from the heating element control, so I may be able to change out the sensor for a meat probe and use it as a meat temp display.  It also has a external air/heat circulation fan already installed.  From the spec's it is basically 90% a smoker already.

    Wildcard is getting it at a decent cost
  7. processhead

    processhead Fire Starter

    +1 on leaving the insulation alone.

    The only area of concern I would have would be any foam insulation in close proximity to where your heating elements are mounted.  It sounds like that cabinet should be the basis of a fine smoker.
  8. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Moot point.  I got tied up at work and missed the end of the online auction.  Oh well......  the search continues (until I get tired of looking and buy a MES40).

Share This Page