4PoGo7 needs PID advice and help

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by 4pogo7, Oct 20, 2015.

  1. 4pogo7

    4pogo7 Smoking Fanatic

    I am working through the details of modding my electric ECB


    After doing some searching I see that many people use PID's to control the temperature in these. I have little to no knowledge of what these are or how they work. Many of the threads I have found just confuse me more.

    If you can explain how this works and what I would need to do it on my ECB I would greatly appreciate it! 

    Thank you 

  2. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    Let me give it a try... a PID is a controller that turns something on or off. In the case of an ECB it would be turning the heating element on or off. The controller uses algorithms to track the temps and adjust it on/off switching to keep the temp as close to the set temp as possible. In theory it would "learn" well enough to keep the smoker within a few degrees of the set point. So if you bought a plug and play PID controller it would plug into the outlet then the smoker would plug into it. Then you would place the temp sensor in the smoker, set your desired temp, and let it take over. 
    4pogo7 likes this.
  3. 4pogo7

    4pogo7 Smoking Fanatic

    That sounds pretty simple.
    Hmm I didn't realize they were that much. That would greatly increase the cost of my smoker mod. When looking at the website for Auber I found this


    I am assuming the cheaper PID's need other components and that is why they aren't "plug and play"? Like this one

    This might take me back to one of my original ideas of a universal replacement element that has a dial. Then I will just have to practice with it and watch it closely.

    I really like the idea of a PID and the accuracy it gives, but I just don't know if I can justify the investment....especially not to my wife lol

    Thank you again for all your help and advice!!
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2015
  4. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    The cheaper ones are just the control box with wire lugs on the back. You add the relays, plugs, bus bars, etc to make it meet your needs (which is what I did). 

    An analog controlled heating element will meet your needs it will just take a little more monitoring and you will be the one to "learn" not the controller. 
  5. 4pogo7

    4pogo7 Smoking Fanatic

    That is what I thought.
    This is what I will probably do. I don't want to get too advanced just yet lol

    When I am ready to upgrade to something more precise, I will probably get an MES or something similar that is already setup and ready to go.

    Again, you have been a big help and I thank you!!!!
  6. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I have that first one you linked (the $135 one) and it is a very nice unit.  Built like a tank and holds my 1,300 watt element that I use in my e-WSM mod to about 1/2 a degree precision.  You can buy elements with analog dial control for around $30-$40, but you will find you are constantly chasing the right setting when doing sausage and snack sticks (which is where electric excels in a smoker).  If you are wanting electric to smoke pork butts, ribs, chicken, etc... then I would suggest that most electric elements that run on 110v are not up to the higher heat tasks, especially when you add a bunch of meat.  That cold thermal load really bogs an electric element down.

    It really depends on what you expect to use the mod for?

    That element you posted in your other thread is the one I use in my e-WSM mod.  There is no way I would consider using that for smoking butts, ribs, chicken, etc...  It's just not up to the task IMO.  Perfect for sausage and sticks where you start very low to dry casings, then step the temp up every hour or two with smoke applied to finish the meat at 152* internal temp.   This is more difficult in a charcoal smoker which is why electric and especially a PID controlled electric element is perfect for that application.   For general smoking, I think you will be disappointed with that element.
  7. 4pogo7

    4pogo7 Smoking Fanatic

    Thank you for the information. I am going to try and understand your setup a little better. You are using this


    with this?

    I currently have an E-ECB with the stock 1500 watt element, no control, just plug and go. I am looking to either: A) add a way to control the stock element, or B) replace the stock element with one that already has some sort of control. (All options must be fairly inexpensive, and simple to set up)

    I personally haven't had any problem smoking butts and such with my stock E-ECB, but I would like to be able to have at least some control over the temperature. However, I can't justify spending $135 or more for that control. I would love a PID for the precision but I just don't see it happening for my current setup.

    If you could PLEASE give me some advice on what I am looking for that would be greatly appreciated!!! Also what are the temperature ranges you can get out of your setup? Thank you
  8. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yes, that is the PID and the element.  Here is the original thread on the e-WSM mod (using the element mounted in a spare WSM door so I can smoke with either charcoal or electric by swapping doors).


    And here is the thread where I added the PID controller.


    I also have a 1,500 watt Brinkmann element but I did not like the way the cord exited the bottom of the metal plate.  I would have needed to drill a hole in the WSM base that the plug would fit through and I did not want to do that so I went with the other element and mounted it in a spare door so I can switch back to all charcoal if I want.   I wanted electric for sausage and snack sticks as it's harder to control charcoal at the low temps you commonly start those at.  The Amazon.com element is only a 1,300 watt element and It did run at the 250*ish degree range on high.  But that was on an empty WSM.  Since I did not build that mod for smoking ribs, butts or anything other than the initial smoke of sausage and snack sticks at lower temps, I have not tried it with the cuts of meat for "normal" smoking at higher temps.

    Originally I was going to just use the analog dial control to set the temp.  With smoking sausage and snack sticks, you usually start at a low temp for an hour or two to dry the casings, then bump the heat up to start smoking and every hour or so increase the temp by 10* while smoking.  What I found with the analog dial temp control was I was constantly chasing the desired temp.  You guess where it needs to be initially, let it settle at that setting and then adjust as needed and repeat the process.  So basically you over & under shoot the mark and slowly narrow it down.  By the time you have it dialed in, it's time to up the temp to the next setting and you start the chasing the mark process all over again.  Although the first smoke using the electric element came out great, I knew I needed a PID to ease of control.  I also found the analog dial controller had a range. What I mean is once I had it dialed in for say 150*, it would cut the element on at around 140* and then back off at around 160*, so you actually had a 20* swing from the set point.  A PID will hold 0.5 to 1 degree all day long.  That PID also has the ability to be programmed to run at "X" degrees for "X" minutes, then step up to "Y" degrees for "Y" minutes, etc...  That is exactly what you do in a sausage or snack stick smoke.  It can be a "set it and forget it" type of thing.

    I have built PID control systems before, and I work fairly close to the Auber Instruments store.  So before I ordered some quality parts to "roll my own" PID controller, I looked at their pre-made $135 unit (the one you are looking at).  That thing is built like a tank.  Metal box, precision machined openings, and all quality parts.  I could build one of the same quality, but it would cost me close to the $135 for the parts as I can't buy in the bulk that they do.  It was a no brainer to buy the pre-made unit.   I have used it several times since, and it performs beautifly.   It holds temps rock solid and I have yet to see it vary, so I presume it's holding it to 0.5 degrees or less.   I did run an auto-tune cycle on my smoker with a simulated mass of meat (bricks) before the first use.

    I know you have also looked at a plug in analog dial control and some good suggestions have been made by others in that area.  I would think you will still be chasing the set point like I was as that is just the nature of analog controls.   So I guess what you need to ask is do you want to spend $40 on a new element or a new control and then still find you need a PID for more precision in the temp settings?  That's $40 you could be putting towards that PID which will work with your existing 1,500 watt element.  And since you are using the 1,500 watt now and it's apparently doing the job you want temp wise, I would be wary of downsizing to the 1,300 watt element.  Also keep in mind that even though you are spending $135 on a ECB, that controller will work with another smoker in the future if you upgrade.  It will work perfect with a MES, Bradley, or any other electric smoker up to the limits of the wattage rating. 

    So for the above reasons, my recommendation is to get the pre-made Auber PID unit.  I think in the long run it will be more economical and you will be much happier.

    Oh, and not to confuse things, but you can get a similar unit with a 2nd probe to measure the meat temp and alert you when the meat is done.  It is a little more expensive, and I only needed pit temp for my use, so I went with the $135 single channel model.  But for general smoking you may want to upgrade to the dual probe unit.
    4pogo7 likes this.
  9. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    I'm not going to read all this. I can help but. Wow!'
  10. 4pogo7

    4pogo7 Smoking Fanatic

    Dang it Dave! LOL Why’d you have to go and do a thing like that?! Using logic and sound advice against my poor choices!!

    In all seriousness, THANK YOU!! You have made a very good point, several of them actually! Ugh….meh, I guess I am going the PID route….I think this will be better in the long run and I will be happier.

    Thank you for taking the time to make such a lengthy reply!!!!

    Both you and bmaddox suggested getting a “plug and play” from Auber, and punter9 says I can build one pretty easily and cheaply. (I am hoping he jumps in on this thread, I asked him nicely!) The plug and plays are really nice....like REALLY NICE, and simple. Plug...and play. But the price $$$. I am going to have to starting saving more pennies and collecting more pop cans ($0.05 redemption in Iowa)

    My smoking budget is pretty low. Almost empty. If you ask my wife it probably is empty, or negative. So I really need to know my options before I jump into this. Between the 3 of you, and anyone else reading this, I am hoping I can get this figured out and get things rolling

    Here goes:

    As I am hoping you all know at this point I have an E-ECB with the stock 1500 watt element. I am now looking to either build or buy a PID controller for it. As stated by punter9, I should oversize whatever I do. Dward51, you suggested programmability and a second probe for meat. Bmaddox, you said to go with Auber or similar for good reliable equipment. 

    Facts and options:

    - 1500 watt element

    - oversize everything

    - programmable

    - multi probes

    - Auber parts 

    Questions and thoughts:

    I am assuming building will be cheaper than buying.

    Do I need multiple probes? I have a wireless meat thermometer and I want a Maverick ET-733. Would there still be a need for more PID probes or can I save cost there? Is it really nice to have the 2nd probe with the PID even with separate meat thermometers? In reverse, if I have multi probes so I need the ET-733?

    Do I need to be able to program it? Is the programming part just for bumping heat up or down at certain times? Does it need to have programmability in order to have temp alarms and timers?

    How oversized do I need to go? Punter said 50% I think. So would I need a PID capable of 2250 watts? I saw options that will handle 1600 and 1800.

    Should I stick with Auber for all my parts if I am building, or can I find cheaper, reliable parts on Amazon?

    I don't need this to look awesome, I just need it to be awesome and perform awesomely. With that I am thinking I can build a basic PID for a decent price that will control my smoker temp and nothing else really. Then if all goes well and I like how it works I may upgrade later to a fancy shpancy "Plug and Play" with bells and whistles when I can afford more toys. 

    HELP!!! Straighten me out, get me on track, and help me get this thing rolling!! Thank you all for your help so far and for getting me to this point. Anyone else who is looking at this, please help too!


    Last edited: Oct 23, 2015
  11. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Let me point out a misconception about PID's that you just noted.  This is common, and it comes up all the time.

    A PID is a control device, and not the actual "switch" that control the load (the heating element).   The PID sends a low voltage DC, and very low amperage control signal to one side of a SSR (solid state relay).  The PID does not actually power the SSR, it only provides a control signal.  DC signal present = SSR closes the other side of the circuit which performs the same function as a switch (but it's not a mechanical switch, it's a logic device).  So there is no need to "oversize" the PID.  What you would want to properly size is the SSR.  Most PID builds use a very common 25 amp SSR. This uses the low voltage DC control signal to control or "switch" up to a 25 amp 110 to 220v AC load on the other side of the SSR.

    Although the workings of a SSR are not exactly like a mechanical switch, the easiest way to visualize what a SSR does is to think of the load side of the SSR as a momentary light switch and the DC control signal as your finger flipping the switch.  Finger on switch and the light is on, finger off the switch and it flips back to off.

    Since the element in your ECB is working and performing as desired on cooks, I would stick with it and just add the PID controller unless you have some need to oversize or increase the wattage of the element (go much higher and you will be into a 220v element and will need a special outlet on your deck to use it).

    As to programability, the Auber units have it and so will a PID that you buy for a home made build (most of them will).  Just double check the specs of the unit you are looking at.  On the Auber pre-made, you do not have to use all of the functions and can just use it as a simple "set and control the pit temp" unit if you want (single probe), or a "set and control the pit temp while monitoring the meat temp" unit if it's a dual prob model.

    As to buy pre-made from Auber or buy quality parts and build?  If you buy quality parts from Auber you will be close to the cost of the pre-made units.  Yes you can source parts from eBay and other online auction sites.  They will be coming from China and may or may not be the actual brand advertised.  If you get the real deal, it may be OK, but if you get a knock off clone (which will look exactly like the real deal because counterfeiting is common in China), you may get a dead or not fully functioning unit.  Factor in the possibility of having to repurchase the parts a 2nd or even 3rd time (or give up on China clone junk and spend the money on the Auber for the 2nd go round), I would just go Auber.  Good customer service, and they actually back their warranty.  I've exchanged private messages with more than member here who got dead or partially working parts from an eBay seller that were clone knock offs.  Buying something for half price is not a savings if you have to buy it more than once.

    The other thing is the case on the pre-made Auber.  Not every one has the tooling to machine the openings so cleanly for all the components like the pre-made Auber.  Like I said earlier, it's built like a tank and is all metal.  If you make your own, you need to think about the cost of the PID, the SSR, the case, the jacks in the case, the heat sink for the SSR, the safety fusing, temp probes, etc.... and the price starts to add up.

    And the final consideration is you will be working with household AC voltage and amperage that can kill.  If you have any doubts about the circuitry and how the entire unit is wired, buy the pre-,made or work with a friend who has the necessary skills to build a home made unit safely.  Wire a PID or SSR wrong and you will at the very least blow the unit.  At the worst you get a very nasty shock that could possibly be fatal.  Pre-made avoids this.  If you have a friend who is an electrician or heating & ac technician (or any professional who works with electrical control circuits), trade them some BBQ for their help.

    Not trying to talk you out of a home made unit, just use quality parts, and be 200% sure of the safety of your build.

    Oh, and if you do build your own, make sure you use the schematic that is actually printed on the side of the PID and SSR when you design the wiring layout.  SSR's are usually all the same as there are only 4 connection points (2 for control signal in, 2 for switched load or the heater), but the number associated with those terminals can vary.  And polarity will matter on the DC side of the SSR for the control signal.  PID's will vary widely so a drawing of one someone else made that you find here may or may not match the unit you buy.  Even if it's the same brand and model number, they sometimes change the pin out (what connection number is for what function) on the PID's.  The drawing on the actual PID will be the correct one.

    Let us know what you decide and we will to walk you through a build, but it's best to have someone actually there who knows about AC circuits and AC safety. Sorry I'm so wordy, but I want you to make an informed decision (and be safe).
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2015
  12. doctord1955

    doctord1955 Smoking Fanatic

    costs about $100 dollars for all the parts from Auber then a box to mount it all in!

    Ive made 3 or 4 for my boys and nephew!
  13. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yep, that was my original point.  Buy quality parts for home made (and add cost for the metal box of the same quality) and you are basically at the cost of the $135 Auber pre-made.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015
  14. 4pogo7

    4pogo7 Smoking Fanatic

    I apologize for the mix up, let me clarify. I was using PID as a general term for the whole unit. I am calling an Auber "Plug-n-Play" a “PID”. I know this isn’t correct but it was simpler. Also I have done some research so I have a basic understanding of the components, but thank you for going more in depth. I didn’t mean to imply that the actual PID needs to be oversized, just the components like the SSR. This is the quote from punter that I was reffering to.
    I also didn’t mean to imply that I wanted to oversize my element, just oversize the appropriate components of the PID for my specific element wattage.

    What would be better for meat temp monitoring, PID dual probe or Maverick ET-733?

    You make a good point about the cheap parts from China. I wouldn’t want to buy crap. I was mainly wondering if people like punter9 have had good luck finding quality parts that are a little more inexpensive.

    A buddy of mine is an electrician so I will talk to him about possibly building a PID controller and see what he thinks.

    Thank you for all the information. I really appreciate you taking the time to be so wordy, and explaining everything. Safety trumps being cheap!
    Thank you for the information! What type of box did you use? Any pictures of the final controller? Thanks
    Yeah, I see your point. Makes me lean towards buying a "Plug-n-Play". Once I was talked into going the PID route, thank you sir lol, I was leaning towards homemade because others had said I could do it for between $60-75, which was already more than I was planning on with the analog heating element. But if I can't make a quality controller for a discounted price, then I might as well let the pros do it for me. 

    So if I am going the route of the Auber "Plug-n-Play" will the $135 unit be appropriate for my 1500 watt element? I am going on the principle it needs to be able to handle the 1500 watts and then a little more so that it is not maxing out during the initial heat up period. The $135 unit has a max of 1600 watts according to the instruction manual.

    The three units I am looking at are listed below.

    Model #:   WS-1500EPM, single probe, 1600 watt limit, $135.00


    Model #:   WS-1510ELPM, single probe, 1800 watt limit, $179.35


    Model #:   WS-1500GPH, dual probe, 1800 watt limit, $213.00

  15. You have been getting great advice from some very knowledgeable people. I can't supplement their already good advice and instructions, but I did want to post about my 'contrary' experience on buying cheap China junk on eBay. I bought on eBay a PID for under $15, a 25 amp SSR for under $4, and a thermo couple for under $5 , all with shipping included. These parts all worked fine and so I was able to install a working PID for much cheaper than an Auber kit. I did this on my espresso machine and not on my smoker, but the scenario is comparable.

    I too usually buy better brand name stuff, knowing one gets what one pays for, but sometimes I go with a much cheaper alternative to justify a project that I would otherwise not want to do because of the cost.

    Just saying...
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015
  16. crankybuzzard

    crankybuzzard Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    dward knows his stuff...

    However, I too have built controllers with the same materials you refer to.  But, the comparison may not be accurate...  Does the espresso machine draw 13 amps of current?  What is the duty cycle of the machine?  Not down playing your system, just trying to make sure that the OP isn't disappointed, or worse, have an incident with heat and electricity.

    I bought the 1800 watt Auber dual probe after finding that on cooks longer than 3-4 hours, my home made unit was getting VERY hot due to the constant switching of the SSR.  Even after adding a cooling fin block and a small PC fan, the SSR still had issues.  It was at that time I decided that since the smoker would be running during times that I wasn't able to constantly watch, I needed the peace of mind that the Auber provided.  Yes, I could have purchased quality off the shelf components and built another unit, but by the time I did that, and got a nice project box, I would have exceeded the Auber price for the 1800 watt unit.

    I still use my homemade units for various things, but I keep the amperage requirements low.  One of my homemade units is now set up to sound a piezo buzzer if I exceed XXX temperature on the high end, or XXX on the low end inside of my smoker  The other is about to be configured to operate a stack light that illuminates either red or green; red for still cooking, green for IT achieved.  Then I can lean forward a bit in my recliner and see if I'm about ready to pull.  Yep, I've gotten a bit lazy in my old age...  [​IMG]  

    Toying with a Bluetooth setup idea as well, but that's for another post...
    4pogo7 likes this.
  17. I don't know the specs of my espresso machine as a reference point, but I believe  a 25 amp SSR will handle anything that does not blow a 20 amp house circuit breaker. My rule of thumb would be to get a SSR that far exceeds the rating of the circuit breaker that handles the outlet the smoker is plugged in to and of the smoker itself. A 25 amp SSR should be more than enough. One can get a 30 amp SSR for extra peace of mind.
    The PID settings control the frequency of SSR switching. The automatic programming of a PID will not usually cause excessive switching but if it does, the PID settings can be tweaked to eliminate that such as by expanding the low/high temperature range the PID is targeting. 
    No offense taken. I was just suggesting that if the OP was going to decide against doing the PID modification because of the higher cost of a Auber kit, then he might consider doing it the "cheap" way. I think the "cheap" way is better than not doing it at all, unless of course he doesn't know what he is doing or is careless and ends up electrocuted.  After using smokers for many years that required constant manual (analog) adjustment to keep temps in proper range, recognizing the benefits of having a smoker with automatic temp control (such as a MES or PID controlled smoker) was a eureka moment for me.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015
    4pogo7 likes this.
  18. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Oh, that is a great point. 

    Since you are talking about hot smokes (ie, full temp from the 1,500 watt Brinkmann element), I strongly recommend the 1,800 watt Auber unit if you go pre-built.  Reason is the duty cycle.  The 1,600 watt unit (the $135 one), will handle a 1,500 watt element, but not at 100% duty cycle (it is in the documentation on the Auber site).  I use mine for reasonably low temp smokes an my duty cycle is way under 50% at the most, so it's not an issue for me. My heat sink does not even get warm to the touch. But you are talking about higher temp smoking & cooking so the SSR will have a much higher "on" time or greater duty cycle.  SSR's do generate heat as they work and that is why they need a heat sink. The heat sink pulls the heat away from the SSR and keeps the SSR from overheating and destroying itself from within.  The heat sink needs to be adequately sized for the anticipated load. If you are building your own, you can oversize the heat sink (that is one place to absolutely oversize as is wire gauge)

    Yes you can use a Maverick to monitor the meat temp, there is nothing wrong with that.  A single probe PID controller will be less expensive and if you already have a Maverick and wanted to save a few dollars, that would work.

    As to your question about can you build a lower cost unit, certainly you can.  But sourcing eBay parts from China, you may or may not get working components and they may or may not be of the quality you thought you were ordering and the parts may or may not last for more than a month or two before failing.  If you get lucky, yes you can build one for the $60 or $70 you mentioned.  But that is the risk you take by going low buck.  It's sort of like this engineer's triangle.  If you want it fast and cheap, it will not be good; and if you want it fast and of good quality, it will not be cheap; etc....

    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015
  19. crankybuzzard

    crankybuzzard Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Dave, the long cooks at temp were my concern when using the unknown ACTUAL specs of the components.

    The EPAY SSRs are rated at 25 amps, but they get too hot for me when I'm only running at 160 degrees for sausage cooks, however, when swapped out with a known SSR, the temp went down. So, I went to Mouser and speced out all of the quality components needed to completely redo what I had done with the CCC (Cheap Chinese Components) and found myself at $170+, and that was before a good box, connectors, wire, switches, etc... Homemade unit when cooking at high temp (225 degrees) I couldn't touch the cooling fins without burning my fingers, with the Auber unit, it's hot, but I can keep my fingers on it without issue.

    The 1800 watt unit, with dual probes was $213.00 before shipping. Save a little back each paycheck, and before you know it, you'll be controlling your pit with peace of mind, great accuracy, and with customer service that can't be beat. Also, if you save enough, a dozen roses can be delivered just prior to the controller. :biggrin:

    Oh, by the way, I'm totally stealing your engineer's triangle! That's going to be a lot of fun!
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015
  20. drewed

    drewed Meat Mopper

    Before you go and plop down your cash, make a list and really think about what you want this to do.  Do you want it to keep your smoker at temp? Do you want it to auto off when the meat hits temp?  Do you want it to make you a slushy beverage with an little umbrella?  You don't want to over buy, but you also don't want to under buy.

    As a WSM owner, I want my PID to kick on the fan to keep the temp up and cut the fan so it doesn't get too hot.  All meat monitoring is done by the igrill 2.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2015
    4pogo7 likes this.

Share This Page