More on the thermometer that came with the S.H. 30166E smoker: The thermometer itself when tested outside the smoker checked out fine as per my previous post. But put it in the smoker and the results were not so good. It reads about 20 degrees lower than center of the smoker during operation. I note that the thermometer is mounted metal on metal to the door, If there is any thermal heat transfer from the door/mounting it might cause the thermometer to read lower than the interior box temperature. Secondly, past experience with my Little Chief smoker showed that there can be a large temperature difference at different locations within a smoke box. It is hottest at the top (heat rises) and likely also at the center. If the smoker drafts intake air enters from the bottom, depending on how the meat racks are loaded, the path of least resistance for the rising air flow may be along the outside edges of the smoker resulting in lower temperature there. If you look at the position of the probe through the door, it is taking reading from very near the door-side edge; not the center of the smoker. So, I think that if you really want to monitor the interior temperture, do what many have recommended and buy a thermometer with a probe on a cable extension and monitor the temperture where the smoking action is. (or if you are a real cheapskate like me, just note that the thermometer is reading off (20 degrees for me) and adjust accordingly - after all this is a Black Friday $99 deal, and I don't want to tarnish are good thing, at least not yet!)
More testing on smoke production at low temperature: A whole host of options that work for getting the S.H. electric to generate smoke at low temperatures have been posted here and elsewhere. They include buying and installing an add-on smoke generator, cutting out a portion of the lower pan rack so that the smoke pan sits directly on the heating element, cuting vent holes in the smoker to increase air flow provide and someone asked about placing the wood on a sheet of metal on the heating element. Yesterday I did little more testing and made a "dry run" using my new S.H. 30166E . I removed the bottom chip and water pan rack (loosen 4 nuts and slip out the rack - takes about 5 min.) and used the larger water pan for chips. I placed the pan directly on the heating element near where the chip pan was origianlly positioned. I tested this without meat in the smoker (didn't need more ruined jerky). It worked great. I put my version of wood chucks (apple rounds cut from a debarked limb) in the water pan (rather than the small chip pan) and set the pan directly on the heating element. I then cranked up the temperature to the lower end of the "high" range and got the wood smoking in about 10 min. Then I opened the door as if loading meat racks, during which time the temperature dropped to around 100. I then lowered the temperature control. After closing the door the temperature stabilized to within my lower jerky making range and TBS continued until the wood chunk was exhausted. No added cost, no mods, not much fuss.
I note that I was concerned that cutting out a portion of the rack (a nonreversable modification) and dropping the chip pan through so that it sets directly the heating element may cause the chip pan to overheat at higher meat cooking temperatures and either flare the smoking wood or burn it out too quickly.
Now when I want to smoke chunks of meat and at higher temperatures (where this unit produces good smoke as built), I will just reinstall the lower pan rack AND not have voided the warrenty by cutting out portions of the my new smoker. :)