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Pellet Smoker - Electrics Help (LG)

dragonsm

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On to my 3rd post within this forum, and I am at a loss with my current grill - Louisiana Grill LG700

On my other post (sep 30, 2019), I was awaiting a new hot rod and PID controller from LG as I was running into the issue of the PID not shutting down after 4 1/2 minutes. Well, I received the PID, installed last September some time and continued to use the grill.

I won't comment on customer service, other than I am less than impressed.....in the past couple of years, they have gone down hill.

Forward ahead to June 2020......hot rod goes out again.....called LG again, and their fix was to send another hot rod and PID controller....(I think this is my 4th PID controller from them) to correct the issue of premature hot rod failure...I think I am on #5.

The last couple of times I have begun down this road, once I turn the grill on......it heats up to about 80 degrees (pellets start to ignite) and then my 20 amp GFCI pops on the house.....GFCI outlet recently replaced along with the outlet I use for the grill. The circuit itself doesn't have anything else on it.

Last Sunday, it did that for the first time with the new set up......and once resetted and start back up....I could smell an electrical "burn/melt" smell. I have experienced this in the past....and more than likely the hot rod is probably on the way out again. (frustrated) I've gone through everything inside the hopper and can find no signs of any melted wires...etc

From a grill standpoint, it has been a good grill for the family, so I have been trying to chase down this "gremlin". I've done troubleshooting in the past and when the hot rod is unplugged, the grill runs flawless and I don't get the electrical smell......my wife does not prefer the manual light method during the week while I am driving home to get everything ready to grill.

Before I completely pull the plug on this grill......I am possibly thinking the PID controller is junk...again. Rather than continue this song and dance, I tossed around the idea of trying a PID controller from smoke daddy. Their patriot PID has wifi however isn't supported on IOS yet. Their other model doesn't have the wifi stuff, but has been around and I'd think would be tried & true.

Anybody have any thoughts on the above? Advice?....am I looking in the right direction? Just trying to get out of this rabbit hole.

Dennis has been great at smoke daddy and has offered advice and answered my questions about their controller in the past. If a simple PID would correct it....great! If it is more than that, I'd much rather toss my money at something new.

Anybody have any experience/thoughts on the PID's from Smoke Daddy?

All help appreciated.

Steve
 

JLeonard

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Sorry for the troubles your having. I was hot for a pellet pooper until I started really researching them. Seems that all brands have their share of problems. I've about decided that when I upgrade from my propane vault smoker i'm going to offset stick burner.
 

Fueling Around

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I have a low end Masterbuilt pooper I got on sale at Sam's for under $200 including shipping. The grill itself has been great. I've had a couple of problems that turned out to be operator error. Don't turn the temp knob down a lot and watch for pellet bridging in the hopper.

My son-in-law has a Cabelas unit that is a rebranded Pit Boss or Louisiana.
He is on a third controller, second auger motor, and fourth auger motor coupling bolt.
After the last controller swap, he used cable ties on the connector bodies to keep them ... well connected.
The last auger bolt was a surprize. No reason for it.

We both store our poopers in garage along with pellets.

Hot electric smell to me is a poor connection. Are the connectors fully engaged?

No experience with Smoke Daddy.
 

dons2346

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I had trouble with the Traeger controller and occilated between the Smoke Daddy and the Savannah Stoker. I don't consider the wifi worth the extra money and after reading a couple of other boards, I selected the Stoker. I've had only 4 smokes with it but it performs very well.Temps within a few degrees and I'm happy. It was shipped with a new temp probe but I elected to use the one from Traeger because I'm lazy and didn't want to change out the probe.

Tomorrow I'm going to try a cold smoke where the controller just runs the fan while using a smoke tube and see how it goes.
 

3-2-1

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So you are on your what 5th PID controller and igniter with a LG 700 and you're smelling electrical fire smell. Something tells me it's not the controller or igniter that is the RC. Below is the link to the manual, I would take the unit apart and make sure no wires are pinched but also make sure you have it assembled correctly. Check Section 4. This smoker is ETL rated safe so you can and I can safely bet the smoker is electrically safe. Now just rule out operator error or assembly issue, (operator issue) these types of smokes are sensitive to every part being correctly orientated.

 

forktender

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I had trouble with the Traeger controller and occilated between the Smoke Daddy and the Savannah Stoker. I don't consider the wifi worth the extra money and after reading a couple of other boards, I selected the Stoker. I've had only 4 smokes with it but it performs very well.Temps within a few degrees and I'm happy. It was shipped with a new temp probe but I elected to use the one from Traeger because I'm lazy and didn't want to change out the probe.

Tomorrow I'm going to try a cold smoke where the controller just runs the fan while using a smoke tube and see how it goes.
Why would you run the fan while cold smoking? You will get better results using fewer pellets or dust without the fan running.
 

mike243

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I think running the fan might help to stop the smoke from making a bee line to the vent, the fan will swirl it around no matter where you place the tube from what I have seen in my smoker
 

flagriller

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I've had my Rec-Tech for about a year and it has run flawlessly.
 

dons2346

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Why would you run the fan while cold smoking? You will get better results using fewer pellets or dust without the fan running.
I tried using just the tube and cracking the lid on the smoker a bit and did cut the pellets to about half but I thought the finished product had a bitter taste to it. I was following directions on another forum so now I know. Smoked some salt so I'll know in a few days how thigs turned out. I do think the fan keeps smoke moving from one side of the pit out the stack. Is there such a thing as stale smoke?
 

forktender

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I tried using just the tube and cracking the lid on the smoker a bit and did cut the pellets to about half but I thought the finished product had a bitter taste to it. I was following directions on another forum so now I know. Smoked some salt so I'll know in a few days how thigs turned out. I do think the fan keeps smoke moving from one side of the pit out the stack. Is there such a thing as stale smoke?
I thought you were going to say something about bitter smoke. Honestly you should really buy a maze and use dust. It burns so much cooler than a tube and it's a much mellower smoke. You can make the dust from your favorite pellets by just adding a little H2o to some pellets in a ziploc bag. By the next morning the pellets will crumble in-between your hands. Then dry the dust in the oven for a few hours on bake @ 200*.
I use dust to smoke cheese, fish,bacon and steaks that I cold smoke before grilling.
Give it a try.
Dan
 

bill1

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Back to dragonsm's problems...
Two things stand out to me:

1. It'd be nice to know where the burned electrical smell comes from...the crucible area where the hot rod is? Or the hopper area where the controller is?? Or maybe the outdoor outlet where the unit plugs in? Or maybe the upstream GFCI outlet that feeds it?
The last two should be pretty easy to trouble shoot. Plug a hair dryer or even a 100W incandescent lamp into it...any smell/smoke? How about upstream at the GFCI? After it runs for 10 minutes, push the GFCI "monthly" test button...what happens?
If there's zero chance of rain, I wouldn't hesitate to try running an extension cord out to it from a non-GFCI outlet somewhere else in house or garage to see what happens.

2. Skipping the smell, there are legitimate/understandable/normal ways for hot rods to age and trip a GFCI. But if you're consistently averaging only 6 months each, that's not normal. (It sounds like 4 hot rods in a 2-year span of ownership???) But did Louisiana Grills mention "premature failure"? That could be a clue to a design "issue". There's a lot of similarity among manufacturers in controller hardware, but they each have their own algorithms and ways of programming them. I can easily believe LG might have written code that leaves the hot rod on a little too long (maybe forever) after a fire's been started in the crucible??? That's the sort of thing that could prematurely age a hot rod. And if only half their customer base uses GFCI, they may not have figured it out right away. (Can other Louisiana Grill owners comment?) LG is under the Danson's umbrella with the larger Pit Boss...I can easily believe the engineers discussing similarities and differences in their approaches and this problem only being discovered relatively recently.

I'm assuming like most, yours came pretty much fully wired and you just had to made a few connections. I can envision a poor (resistive) connection possibly causing an electrical smell issue in a controller so it could be worth checking those few connectors. And you may have pinched a wire in assembling things that could cause intermittent ground faults. A forum search shows quite a few controller replacements on these, but I might find that for any brand. Smoke Daddy seems to have a good reputation for being helpful and having well designed and tested products so maybe an all-new (different) controller and hot rod is worth a try. Kind of a shame to spend the money since it sounds like the reduced temp variations or wifi features aren't a big plus for you so maybe give LG one last chance (if they're responsive.)

But you need something reliable. "Manually" starting a pellet grill s/b an emergency sort of trick...it shouldn't be a skill every wife needs to learn.
 

3-2-1

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If you plug a hair dryer into your GFCI outlet and turn it on high heat does it pop the outlet or the breaker back at the panel? My Louisiana Grill smoker doesn't ever pop the gfi or the breaker...I clean/vacuum out the micro burnt pellet turds before every smoke including the burn pot. Never a problem!

Something isn't right here, you shouldn't be blowing control boards and the heating elements/igniters. The electronics on these are bababasic. These have a UL/ETL electrically safety approved mark so in practice they are safe! Are you Starting Up or Shutting Down the smoker per manufacturer instructions?

Debug the outlet power and robustness of the circuit (sounds electrical). Try replacing or swapping gfi and or breakers, these derate with every pop. A hair dryer of ~1800 watts works great to debug with. Something tells me the issue isn't on the smoker side of the connection!
 

dragonsm

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Joined Aug 3, 2017
Thanks for the reply's....in regards to the questions from bill1 and 3-2-1....I'll try and answer everything. I had a little time to do some looking and trouble shooting on Friday evening....however, we were running with kids and an out of town soccer tourney all weekend. As for the grill itself, I took the model that was still in the box, and assembled the grill myself. The hopper itself was all prewired so really the only wire that could have gotten pinched in assembly would be the temp prob...however that was pushed through as the hopper was attached.

1) If you look at a picture of the LG700 grill...specifically the hopper area (right side) there are some vents cut into the hopper where it attaches to the grill. The space is maybe 1/2 - 3/4" and I assume it acts as some sort of "buffer" for the heat between the grill and the hopper itself. Some of the air from the fan gets pushed out here also. I did look in the vent slits and the only "wire" running through there is the temp prob for the PID near the top. When the smell starts, it starts from the vent holes and then becomes stronger in the cooking chamber. Left side of the chamber tends to have a stronger smell. (LG uses a burn tray on the left side of the grill) Last time this occurred, the GFCI outlet tripped, to which I reset (grill was roughly 80-90 degrees) and then started back up....continue to have a smell but dissipates once cook continues. Once grill reaches PID set temp of 360.....and I let it run a little bit....the smell is no longer there. Also, last time this occurred, I took the outside panel off end of the hopper and did both a visual and "nose test" inside the hopper where the majority of the wires are, with no detection of anything there. (thus the reason I'm lead to and focused on the hot rod and what is controlling that)

2) As for the PID itself and the algorithms written, that is where I am attempting to focus my attention. I have ran tests in the past where I manually lit the grill with the hot rod unplugged and tested the wire leads off the PID to see how long they stay hot. On the prior PID....it did not shut off after 10 minutes to which LG stated it should shut off after 5 minutes. I actually want to wire a dummy LED indicator inline with the hot rod to where it will light up when the hot rod is on. It'd be a very easy eye test when operating the grill.

3) I did run a test Friday evening where I unplugged a few items and then plugged them in 1 at a time.......I ran out of daylight but the grill ran as should with everything plugged in except the hot rod.

4) I know the GFCI outlet is good.....I replaced it this summer just in case it was getting weak (located in my basement furnace room) along with the outlet outside at the deck. The fuse on the grill itself isn't blowing (I believe it is 5 amp)......and it isn't tripping at the fuse panel (20 amp) I had some outside projects going on this summer where I ran my table saw, miter saw, and my air compressor off of this outlet, without an issue. When I swap in a new hot rod....the grill runs without an issue, but over a few months of use....this begins to occur which makes me wonder if the PID is leaving the hot rod on constantly and degrading it over time to where it finally gets to the point of shorting out and tripping the GFCI.

5) In regards to start up/shut down.....yes, everything is done as should.....basically push the power button and walk away until it settles into the preset of 360 and then go from there. Shut down.....once it is done cooking, let it burn off any residual and then hit the power button and allow the cool down cycle to occur. Once the grill is "cold".....cover goes back on it and is unplugged.

I'll hopefully have some more time this weekend to where I can play around with it....possibly pick up an LED indicator and see if the issue lies in the hot rod not turning off.
 

bill1

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Thanks for the reply's....in regards to the questions from bill1 and 3-2-1....
You sound competent electrically and you're certainly experienced at changing out the hot rod. Do you have access to an ohmeter? These hot rods work direct from the 110V line (I believe) like the fan and consume ~400W. I assume they're nichrome-based so cold and hot resistance is about the same. Hence 110*110/R1=400 and R1=121/4~30ohms, terminal to terminal. Since it works (ignites pellets) if it's different significantly from 30 ohms it just means my line voltage assumption needs to be adjusted for the next calculation...

If you're tripping a GFCI, the ground fault current > 5mA (although it appears to need a minute or so for this to develop since your grill got to 80-90F when this last occurred). At that point the resistance R2 of the internal element to the grounded metal can of the hot rod is such that 110/R2>.005 or R2<22kilo-ohms. Since that is so much larger than 30ohms, it really won't matter which of the two terminals you choose to measure R2--just put the ohmmeter leads from one of them to the hot rod's case. Make sure the point you contact is cleaned and shiny since cases can corrode and/or be coated with soot. What value is R2? It really should read like an open circuit...at least 100's of kohm. If it's getting anywhere near as low as 22kohms, well that WILL trip the GFCI.

Pay close attention to the wires leading into the body of the hot rod for evidence of charring. When your lungs are clean (not after smoking!) smell the hot rod carefully...bring it right up to your nostrils. Burned electrical stuff tends to retain a bit of the smell long after the fact when everything's cooled down. Multiple independent problems aren't impossible in life but they're rare. So I'd really like to think the burning smell and the GFCI tripping are manifestations of the same problem.

Finally, how far are you inserting the hot finger into the crucible when you install them? If it's more than .25", that could be the issue, even if the controller is properly shutting off power to it soon after the pellets first ignite. In other words, when you've got a good fire in the fire pot you only want the tip of the hot rod in the direct flames, not the whole thing. High-resolution pictures of one of your failed hot rod may tell a story too?
 

3-2-1

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Great stuff bill1 bill1

For some reason do not think the issue is a design flaw across the board, to go through several control boards and igniters is not normal especially in short time gaps. When I really read through the entire manual there is quite a bit of information in here including not using a GFI potentially. I just highlighted a few below but again, probably not a design flaw here, dirty power issues can wreak havoc on electronics. The quality of the power is something that is hard to remotely troubleshoot but for some reason, I am still leaning towards a power issue (signal integrity).
Try "On the Road" and see if the behavior is there :)


pg 25 cheesy schematic


CONNECTING TO A POWER SOURCE
• STANDARD OUTLET This unit requires 110 volt, 60hz, 375w, 5 amp service. It must be a 3-prong grounded plug. Ensure grounded end is not broken off. The control uses a 5 amp, 120 volt, fast-blow fuse to protect the board from the igniter.

• GFCI OUTLETS This unit works on most GFCI outlets, with a recommended size of 15 amp service. If the GFCI outlet is highly sensitive to power surges, it will likely trip during the start-up phase of operation. During the start-up phase, the igniter draws 300-700 watts of electricity which can be too much power for a GFCI outlet to handle. Each time the GFCI trips, it increases in sensitivity. If the GFCI keeps tripping, replace the outlet or change to a non-GFCI outlet.

• ON THE ROAD Disconnect the igniter from the main wiring harness. Use the manual start-up procedure. The unit can operate using a 12 volt, 100 watt POSITIVE WAVE LENGTH inverter plugged into your automobile outlet. To use the automatic igniter, it is recommended to use a minimum of a 1000 watt POSITIVE WAVE LENGTH inverter.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

SET-UP PROCEDURE These instructions should be followed the first time the grill is ignited (after grill burn-off), and after every few uses, to ensure proper ignition:
1. Remove all cooking components, and the burn grate, from the interior of the grill. Inspect the burn pot to ensure it is clear of debris. Open the hopper lid. Make sure there are no foreign objects in the feed system or hopper.
2. Replace the burn grate into the burn pot. Ensure the hole in the burn grate is facing the igniter to light the pellets, and the lip of the burn grate should be flush with the top of the burn pot.
3. Re-install the cooking components into grill. The grill is now ready to use.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

4. MOUNTING THE HOPPER TO THE MAIN BARREL Parts Required: 1 x Hopper Assembly (#5) 6 x Hopper Screw (#H) 2 x Screw (#D) 8 x Washer (#E) 8 x Locking Washer (#F) Installation:
• Place the hopper on the ground next to the grill barrel, ready for installation. On the exposed side of the hopper, locate the grill probe wires taped to the outside of the hopper. Remove the tape, and let the grill probe wires hang out of the hole. Note illustration 4A.
NOTE: Locate the igniter and tuck it completely into the opening at the bottom of the hopper, as it will be installed on the next step.

• Lift the hopper off the ground, and with your foot resting on the bottom shelf, carefully support/balance the hopper on your knee. Firmly connect the silver grill probe temperature wires (on the main barrel) to the wire spade connectors from the hopper. Once the wires are connected, tuck all excess wire back into the hopper.
IMPORTANT: Ensure that all excess wire is tucked into the exit hole. Do not place wires near the fan blades, auger tube, or the igniter.

• Carefully, lift the hopper, with the grill probe wires connected, and insert the auger feed tube into the auger hole on the main barrel. Raise the hopper slightly, and rest on the mounting ledge of the main barrel. Note illustration 4B.
 

bill1

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• STANDARD OUTLET This unit requires 110 volt, 60hz, 375w, 5 amp service. It must be a 3-prong grounded plug. Ensure grounded end is not broken off. The control uses a 5 amp, 120 volt, fast-blow fuse to protect the board from the igniter.

• GFCI OUTLETS This unit works on most GFCI outlets, with a recommended size of 15 amp service. If the GFCI outlet is highly sensitive to power surges, it will likely trip during the start-up phase of operation. During the start-up phase, the igniter draws 300-700 watts of electricity which can be too much power for a GFCI outlet to handle. Each time the GFCI trips, it increases in sensitivity. If the GFCI keeps tripping, replace the outlet or change to a non-GFCI outlet....
I'm shocked (no pun intended) this manual got released written this way. Apparently the ETL rating did not include the manual!

There is nothing less than a 15A-rated GFCI outlet. 120V outlets in US are 15A or 20A and there are some weird plug configurations allowing more. That means they're rated for 15*120 or at least 1800W. 700W loads are not too much for your GFCI to handle.

But LG "showed their hand" in the first bullet that they have a 5A fast blow fuse in the power circuit causing the unit to fail for any power draw over 5*120 = 600W. If a cold igniter can draw 700W in normal operation and your unit fails, it's because of poor product design, not your GFCI.
However I doubt very much the power draw of the hotrod varies from 300-700W. Everyone uses nichrome for filaments today and they have less than 2% resistance variation cold to hot. This hotrod design just might have problems. Not a degradation in the insulation to the ground of the case (causing nuisance GFCI trips) but turn-to-turn shorts! There are apparently known failure modes where the hot rods drop from 30 ohms (see earlier post) to half that or even dead shorts. Apparently the board designers could think of no more clever way to deal with this than to fuse it "to protect the board from the igniter". There's probably enough reactance in the board (and in the fan that's still running) that a sudden current interrupt to the hotrod causes a temporary hot-to-neutral current imbalance exceeding 5mA. That is what then trips the GFCI, not a true ground fault.

Finally conventional panel circuit breakers tend to have two methods of operation. For high overcurrents, a solenoid is suitably energized such that the plunger mechanically opens a switch. It puts as much wear on things as flipping the operating handle. The 2nd method is for slight overcurrents, and it's based on a bi-metallic spring that slowly eases a levere to spring the handle open. One could argue that repeated use could cause this to increase its sensitivity. (Although in the real world, you worry about breakers losing sensitivity from friction, debris, etc) But GFCIs can only open via solenoid plunger operation. It's meant and designed to be used repeatedly. Read the case: they say "test monthly". Take one apart. It's clear these are designed for many 100's of trips without degradation. The 5mA trip point is set by electronics, not mechanicals. Telling customers in a manual to replace their GFCI outlets is crazy.

So I think the real issue here is LG uses a 300W hotrod while the rest of the world uses a 200W, which at about the same size means a lot more conservative thermal design. It's quite possible the LG probes may only have 6-month lifetimes. You can buy $12 replacements for the 300w LG design, but I'd sure recommend LG owners having these problems try the Traeger style 200W probes instead. They're both 3/8" dia so no drilling needed. Save the connector....they don't look interchangeable. But it's AC so any way you connect the 2 wires will work. And remove the control board to verify the 5A fuse is ok...I don't think you'll ever need to check that again if you use 200W hot rods.
 

3-2-1

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Hi bill1 bill1 have you discussed any of this with LG? [email protected] 877-303-3134 There might be some valid points here and/or they can advise what the problem is and best remedy or proper troubleshooting. These pellet burners are not rocket science by any means but they could have sensitivity to voltage issues (low or high) who knows, could be any number of things that are causing the high infant mortality rate.
 

bill1

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No 321, I own no LG products. But I wouldn't think they're very serious about smokers if they don't follow this forum already. :-)
I've gotta' believe there's at least one engineer there who'd love to move from 300w igniters to 200w. But it might be hard to do that without appearing you made a mistake in spec'ing the 300w in the first place. One of the advantages (disadvantages?) of being part of an outfit like Dansons is you have lots of lawyers giving you advice!
For any LG owner having frequent igniter failures, you're only out $12 to try a 200w igniter. (Make sure you haven't already blown the 5A fuse on the control panel. 5A is a perfect value to "protect a board" against a worse-case failure in a 200W hotrod as well.)
 

3-2-1

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bill1 bill1 I own a LG vertical pellet smoker and while I must say I really like pretty much everything about it, I have had no problems. I do notice something though on my Danson design the igniter draws 200W to 700W which would indicated this design has a 200W igniter. I'm sure this is easy to check with a amp clamp and see what is being pulled. The entire design of my smoker design is different, much more simplified imo (auger, element, thermostat, controller, burn pot, 🔥 arrester).
However if my smoker was blowing through electronic PID controllers and stupid elements, I'd be all over LG 😎
 

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