MES tripping GFCI

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by buckman52, Sep 22, 2010.

  1. is it just me or does my iPad hate me. My brother wants to know if what will happen if you insulate the MES FROM the ground put some wood under the legs and cord something is interfering with the flow from hot to neutral ever so lightly just wants to make sure it isn't going to ground. P.s. He says he hates those dam GFCIs says even weak insulation in perfectly good looking wires could cause It. Myself I still don't think its in the electronics...still betting on the relay.
  2. greywolf1

    greywolf1 Fire Starter

    Being in the woodworking industry , I have had the joy of dealing with heating elements . There are no GFCI's on the  machines  that I work on just breakers . The main causes for issues with the heating elements when they start tripping breakers are  age or moisture , age being amount of use . If it gets a ton of use it wears out faster , moisture , if it sits for an extended amount of time without use in a damp place ( like on our decks ) moisture will creep into everything . If it starts tripping the breaker , nine times out of ten its the element ( at which time you clean or change the connectors anyway ). This has little to do with smokers just heating element issues . I don't do a ton of smoking but if it sits for more then a week or two  I do heat it up for a couple of hours to dry it out  

    Just my two cents worth
  3. walta

    walta Smoke Blower

    I disagree it is not a just a heater issue. How often does your Electric stove, toaster oven, coffee maker, hair dryer fail?  The MES failure rate is off the chart compared to other appliances.

    In my opinion the problem has mutable sources.

    1 The poor quality plating on terminals of the heating element.

    2 The size of the wire connecting to the element is too small.

    3 The connector between the wire and the element is poor quality.

    4 The poor seal between the smoke chamber and the electrical connections.

    5 Storing our smokers in unheated locations, allows moisture to attack the connections.

    I feel Masterbuilt could fix the problem but chooses not to as they have this market niche (electronic controlled smoker under $500.00) to themselves. If you are unable to fix your MES most of us will buy another. The only way they will change is if market competition or the regulators force a change.  

    I for one have filed a complaint with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  If Masterbuilt were going to change on its own it would have done so by now.

    If you have had a similar failure please consider filing a complaint.

  4. Almost sounds reasonable, I was going to store mine in out door head, no air conditioning,no environmental control at all. My brother keeps his in climate controlled garage (well sort of) what do you think. Maybe heat it up weekly? Or what ...unfortunately no garage for me.
  5. Hi, I agree with some of your ideas. Yes the connector is junk,plain and simple it fails. Weather or not they have chained the connectors to hi temp nickle plated ones I hare no idea. if they have a nylon or silicone insulator on the connector they probably have not changed it. 

    The wire on my MES 30 is hi temp and appears to be 16 GA wire. That is adequate to operate 6.6 amps.

    The seal between the smoke chamber and the connectors is minimum at best since it is just two holes with a rubber grommet to separate the spaces. I feel the rubber seal is ok. Some smokers just have the element just sitting in the bottom of the box. The connectors are somewhat protected. There is a another out side seal between the inspection plate and the connectors. 

    I whole hardily agree that we often store our smokers in the wrong places. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to that. I store mine outside covered in the weather. that is my fault not Masterbuilts. 

    Had I spent 300.00 dollars for a 40" I would have not abused it. 

    As far as involving the government I have my own feelings and opinions on that. I don't want to involve a group of bureaucratic paper pushers who don't know the difference between a electric and a stick burner. But that is just me.   Jted
  6. a g k

    a g k Fire Starter

      I have a Bradley Digital with the 900 watt element mod that worked fine for a while. It is stored in our walk out basement so it stays dry. When the GFI started tripping after about 2 hours into smoke several times, I tried using a 3 wire to 2 wire adapter to see if it still tripped, & it didn't. Then looked further as didn't want to run without safety ground in place. Noticed there was burnt grease on element and power connector. & also on oven frame. After a good cleaning of old grease, no more GFI trips. This may be another possible cause to look for as it worked for me.

    A G K
  7. GFI's may save lives, but they're the tools of the devil. On some occasions it's the GFI's fault and they need to be replaced. Unfortunately to the best of my knowledge there's no reliable was to test them.
  8. I had the same problem with a refrigerator.Ran perfectly for about (10) years then started kicking the GFCI, not all the time but on an annoying basis. I am fortunate enough to work with some very knowledgeable Electrical Engineers so I posed the problem to him. Here's what he told me:
    A GFCI operates by measuring the voltage in and out of the device plugged into it..if the voltage in/out varies more than a certain amount (don't remember the exact amount) then the GFCI trips.
    This meant something was wrong (electrically) with the fridge. Since the biggest electrical draw from a fridge is the compressor motor, I assumed this motor was going bad, but not bad enough to trip the GFCI all the time.
    What I did was replace the GFCI with a standard outlet knowing that if the motor was going really bad I.e., shorting out, I was still protected by the circuit breaker in the main panel.
    The fridge ran fine for another (8) months until (3) weeks ago the compressor motor died for good! Never kicking the breaker in the main panel.
    Let me include that the first thing I did was replace the original GFCI to rule it out of the equation. The new GFCI tripped out as well, so I knew it wasn't a bad GFCI.
    From the afore mentioned experience, I think you have an electrical issue with the largest, and probably only, electrical draw on the smoker-the coil, burner, element or whatever the proper term is.
    Don't know the cost of a replacement element but it's your decision whether is worth the cost.

    Hope this helps. Didn't mean to ramble...............

  9. a g k

    a g k Fire Starter

      I agree that they are a PITB, however I have found if you can plug the suspected appliance into a different GFI circuit using a heavy duty extension cord to see if it trips that GFI circuit as well can indicate if GFI is bad or not. I happen to have a 50 ft 10 gauge extension so voltage drop is not a problem.

    A G K
    cayotica likes this.
  10. I agree my brother who smokes with an MSE says if you have to use an extension cord use a very heavy duty one, he says GFI will trip for almost no reason at all even a little bit of moisture will cause that to happen
  11. I sure wish I could get my hands on a smoker that did this so I can do some testing on it.  We know it is rated at 15 amps, Ohms law tells us that R resistance is E over I and we know E is 120 volts

    120 volts divided by 15 amps is 8 ohms. The resistance of the heating element will be around 8 ohms depending on its use.   I would open the back of the unit ( >>>WITH ALL POWER REMOVED ! <<< )  and remove all the wires on the heating element and check its resistance and check for  > any < resistance from both ends of the heating element to ground, there should be none.  then put the wires back on the heating element one at a time and check for resistance to ground again, from both ends of the heating element.

    are you using wood chips or pellets ?  When we first started we used the chips and found that they can touch the heating element and there was resistance to ground through the wood.  Your GFI outlet is built so it will trip ( to keep you safe ) if there is any voltage on the green ground wire.  When we changed to the pellets we no longer had a problem with it tripping

    what happens if you remove the green wire on the power cord at the smoker ? ( be sure all power is REMOVED when you work with any of the wires <<< )  Does it still trip ?  Oh so many things I want to check ((>>>>> BE SURE ! to put the green wire BACK ! <<<<<  where it was)

    I would try to plug it in to a non GFI outlet and check for VOLTAGE from the smoker to ground, it may be a very small amount but start with the meter on the 120 or more scale and work your way down to the lowest range and see if there is any voltage.

    If anyone with this problem does this please email me direct at     [email protected]      and let me know what you found out    >>please !!!! <<
  12. I have been informed that a GFI the checks moisture in the circuit that's all it does the text moisture and if it does the text moisture it trips hey does anybody know if this is true for not?
  13. It does not " check" for " moisture"  it checks for current flow balance .  A GFI monitors the current flow from the hot to the neutral and hot to ground, any time there is an imbalance it will trip and turn the current off.  It can sense a mis match as small as 4 milliamps.

    Now, one of the things that can cause current to flow from hot to ground is moisture but the GFI does not check for moisture as there are other things that can cause it to trip

  14. Hi, GRCI's are not as mysterious as they sometimes are thought of they are very simple in theory. All they do is measure The power (amperage) that goes out on the Hot wire and then what comes back on the neutral or white wire. That is the slightly wider prong on the plug. If there is any difference (4 to 6 Milliampers) it trips the receptacle. It figures the lost amperage has gone to ground.

    Good common sense should always prevail. Any damage to the cord should be repaired prior to use.

    Saying this is like having a warning label on a gun barrel or on a pack of cigarettes.

    Just to get a feel for what low levels it trips at you may feel 1ma (a tingle)  at 4-6 the GfCI trips and at 10 ma you can still let go but at 15 ma you hang on and it goes on from there. Most of us will survive a encounter of 30ma. From there up amperage causes damage .Remember that electricity is harder on children than adults.

    I hope this helps   Jted

    Edit of the post.

    I just read WaOauu post. I guess we were writing at the same time. He is correct It can sense moisture but that is not it's main function.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  15. Actually it helps a lot, so a gfi looks for a loss of amps between the spades, does a circuit breaker measure run away amps?
  16. smokeymose

    smokeymose Master of the Pit

    Have you considered switching to gas, buckman? I smoked electric for two years, also on a GFI circuit, when one day the outlet just stopped working. Nothing tripped; it just quit, as did the outlets in the bathrooms and garage (all the same circuit). Four outlets had to be replaced. Although I was careful not to have anything going on the circuit while the smoker was going, apparently it was enough to slowly cook the GFIs (the old ones were actually brown with melted insulation on some of the wires). Having worked HVAC for Trane about a hundred years ago, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about electricity, but GFIs are a whole different animal, and frankly I don't have a clue what they're about, except that they're mechanical and electronic and don'follow the same rules.
    Maybe there's a problem with the element or the controller or something. At what point do you decide it's not worth the hassle (or danger).?
    I hope you get it sorted out. For what it's worth, I've has a gasser all summer, and other than not being able to get the low temps, I love it.
  17. Safety first! Take a multimeter and put one probe on your mes.. (while plugged in)..any major metal part, next take the other probe and touch it to a true ground... the metal part of a junction box or a water pipe. If you read any significant voltage scap the unit and get a new one, it's not worth an accidental electrocution.
  18. greywolf1

    greywolf1 Fire Starter

    I'm sorry but I can't take this any longer , anybody that works in manufacturing , how long do you think you would be working if everything that you made lasted to our expectations.

    Big or small companies, everything that is manufactured is made to break down at some point . Some parts are made to last longer then others. Parts are how a lot of companies made a big part of their money . To bash a company for making something that breaks down is selfish on our part . No I don't work for Master Built but I have manufactured  machines in the past and I have worked for companies that kept people working because of the parts that they manufactured . A perfect world would be one where nothing breaks down but at the same time nobody would be working either . Sorry for the rant but to bash someone for wanting to make money and keep people employed come on now.

    Again , sorry for the rant
  19. Doesn't much look like anyone's making that complaint.

    Any time any company makes something they have to balance between what the customers are willing to pay and how much the pieces and process cost them to deliver it.  There's not many times where a company deliberately short-changes a customer in the hopes of baiting them into buying replacement parts.  Word of that kind of nonsense gets out and the company's reputation (and sales) tanks as a result.  Yeah, it sounds like a great rumor, it's just not usually true.

    It's important to realize there's likely always a better or more durable part or process that could be used, for ANYTHING.  But it's sadly not usually cost-effective to make and sell it.  Best you can hope for is the better part/process being something that can be added or replaced later. 
    novegan007 likes this.
  20. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Smoking Fanatic

    Having an EE degree (although a LONG time ago), wa0auu's explanation is the correct one: the GFI looks at current, not voltage, and compares the current going into the smoker with the current coming back. The two must be equal. If they are not, some of that current found another place to go, like through your body and out through your bare feet standing on concrete. This can happen if there is moisture between the hot lead and something that eventually touches the floor, or if there is insulation breakdown, or if a wire has come loose.

    The GFI is not a circuit breaker and is not necessarily going to trip if something shorts out or starts drawing too much current.

    The idea of putting the smoker on a sheet of plastic or a dry cardboard box is a good one, and should help determine if there really is a fault to ground. Either of those items will completely insulate it from the floor.

    In my experience, GFIs in outdoor receptacles can get very flaky and start tripping, sometimes with nothing connected at all. When this happens you have to replace the GFI. When you do replace them, get one that is labeled "weather resistant," or something similar. Here's one of hundreds of weather-resistant GFIs (I'm not necessarily recommending this particular unit):

    Weather Resistant GFI

    These weather resistant units have additional potting material around the electronics that makes them last a little longer in damp locations. Also, check the outlet's receptacle for signs of moisture. Just two months ago I had to replace the box next to my BBQ (and which I now use for my smoker) because the weather seals had failed and the inside was actually partially filled with rain water. Needless to say, the GFI failed.

    Finally, just as a fun fact, I used my "Kill-A-Watt" power meter just now to measure the power consumption of my new 30" MES:

    Plugged in, but controller off: 1.0 watt

    Plugged in, controller on, but not heating: 1.5 watts

    Heating (red light on): 777 watts

    I'll try to remember, the next time I smoke, to leave the Kill-A-Watt attached the entire time. It has a neat feature that is useful for things which turn on and off while operating (like your fridge) where it will "accumulate" how much power is used during the entire measuring period. This should let me give you an idea of how much electricity is used for, say, a four-hour smoke. Of course ambient temperature will be important (it will require more power when the outside air temp is 30 degrees F then if it is 95 degrees), so I'll have to include that when I report my measurements.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
    novegan007 likes this.

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