Building a smoker out of 80 gal water heater

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dr d

Original poster
Dec 1, 2006
Phoenix AZ
Since this is my first post, please correct me if I do something wrong. I have just purchased a MIG welder and need to use it. On the advice of a friend I saved my old 80 gal solar water heater and removed all the sheet metal and insulation. I wish to convert it into a smoker on wheels. I am looking for suggestions on vertcal vs horizontal; charcoal, electric, gas? as the heat source; internal vs external combustion chamber; venting etc. I thank you for any help.
Topic moved to "General Discussion"
Doc-what kind of tank did you use for your solar water heater? We could better help answer your question if we know what you are working with.
The tank stands about 52" high, and is about 20" diameter. Since I have not cut into it as yet, I can only guess at the wall thickness; maybe 1/8" or more. The rounded top cap which is welded on has four threaded water outlets. I hope this gives you enough to point me in the right direction. Thanks for the help.
Doc, I'm a Plumber and I have cut open some regular electric water heaters to make watering trough's for farm animals, but I've never seen them used for smoker's or grills and I think it is because of the glass lining. Here is a link to AO Smith, which is one of the largest water heater manufacturers. Maybe you can get some info there.

Hope this helps. I'll be interested to see the developments on this as I have a virtually unlimited supply of used water heater tanks. :D
I've used a few discarded water heaters for target practice, so I have no idea what the metal make up for one of these units.

I know when we select metal for fabricating smokers and such we stay away from the galvanized stuff because of the zinc used and the toxic fumes that is thrown off when the metal is heated. I was just wondering what type of metal you are working with.
Cajunsmoker- I tried to pull up the link that you suggested, but was unable to. Since I have never seen the innards of a water heater, it might be time to pull out the trusty Sawzall and cut out a portal for viewing. The idea of using a water heater came from a friend who has seen one made from a heater and eaten fowl smoked on it. Once I cut it open I will let you know what type of coating might be on the inside, and if it can be removed by burning or a wire wheel. The outside looks like mild steel. Thanks for the input.
Doc my first smoker was made out of a water heater. The inside was lined withfiberglass. I took my torch and burned the glass out, be sure to wear safety glasses and long sleeve shirt because this stuff pops off. Thats the way I did it and it all came off. That smoker was built 14 yrs ago and is still being used today. I gave it to a friend when I built my new smoker. Hope this helps you out. The gauge of steel in yours is probally 1/8.
M Smith's post would indicate that a smoker could be built from a water heater without risking the health of consumers of meat cooked in it. I was thinking about a horizontal smoker with firebox at one end, separated from cooking area by a baffel, with the exhaust vent at the oposite end. Does this sound reasonable?
Dr. D yes you can build a smoker out of the water heater tank. Just be sure you burn all of the fiberglass out of the tank. Mount the firebox on one end and keep the opening beneath the grate . On the oppisite end where the stack goes cut the opening below the grate. Put a diverter plate on the firebox end just below the cooking grate so the flame does not enter the barrel. The best way for me to show you I will take some pictures of the way mine is set up to give you a general idea of what i am talking about. I will post the pictures tomorrow. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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