one more line of data...
Do you use your water pan?
yes! Never would consider NOT using it. Blonder's arguments for humidity/moisture seem convincing. (Also, it's a stabilizing heat "anchor" in there, although the same can be said about a pan of sand, concrete, etc.) I even put a drip/catch pan OVER the water pan (in a vertical ECB) so the water/air interface doesn't get masked with low-density fats/oils floating on top.
What do you put in your water pan?
I confess I've frequently added cheap beer and minced garlic. Not sure it does anything. Carbonation might help the boiling surface release a bit more vapor, or so I tell myself.
If using liquid, do you refill your water pan when it goes dry?
I've got the parts to externally install a siphon and auto-fill system (like an old fashioned 5-gallon water cooler) but for now I remove my insulation and quickly open the access door. If I'm in a long stall and get impatient, occasionally I'll give up on the refilling--might speed things up a bit.
What have you found to be the best way to deflect heat, retain heat, and stabilize temp?
Most of my heat is from electric filaments (rest from external pellet burner) so I thermostatically control them with a cheap PID. Plus insulation is critical. I've been using a cardboard box with top and bottom opened up so it's a diamond chute in cross-section and then slide it over the entire unit. Wife says it's ugly so I've bought some sheet steel to put an outer layer on over the Brinkmann can spaced with a couple dozen brass circuit board spacers--should work like double-walled boxes in the commercial electric smoker world. (The sheet will cover the access door so that's why I need the water auto-fill system.)