How to hook up this heating element? (solved!)

Thread Starter

wrybread

Joined Jul 3, 2005
32
I'm building a smoker for meats, and trying to use the heating element from a smoker that I've had good luck with in the past. Its a coil of metal with two leads that look like they could simply plug into wall power. However, when I tried that (very carefully, expecting the worst) it blew a fuse.

Attached us a picture of it. Any idea how I might rig up a circuit to connect that to wall power?

Thanks for any help.
 

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drc_567

Joined Dec 29, 2008
1,135
Does the packaging mention anything about the nominal / correct AC voltage and amperes or watts, that is to be used with the heating element?
...Just an idea, but it may be necessary to use a heavy duty extension cord with a length of only 3 feet, or maybe 4 feet. This would be due to inductive reactive AC impedance that is built in to a longer extension cord. Once the heating element reaches the operating temperature, the element resistance will increase and the operating current will decrease.
... Another idea, if you are using cartridge fuses, is to get a slow blow type fuse that will allow the starting current enough time to decrease as the heating element warms up.
 
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Thread Starter

wrybread

Joined Jul 3, 2005
32
It's this one:

https://www.smokehouseproducts.com/products/heating-element-big-chief-electric-smoker

The specs say 400 watts @ 110v.

Just an idea, but it may be necessary to use a heavy duty extension cord with a length of only 3 feet, or maybe 4 feet.
When I plugged it in for testing (well prepared for the possibility of a short circuit) I used a 4 foot computer power cable:

power cable.jpg

But it didn't work.

Unfortunately I don't have access to one of those Big Chief smokers anymore, but I think it's a pretty standard system since for example other smokers use the same looking heating elements. I found this power cord for the Big Chief smokers, but I'm not sure if the heating element connects directly to it or if there's additional circuitry:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000ZKZJNS/ref=ask_ql_qh_dp_hza
 

drc_567

Joined Dec 29, 2008
1,135
Something doesn't sound just right. Those voltage and wattage numbers indicate a current of only about 3 amps. Can you wire in a different extension cord or is a plug necessary? Maybe find a heavy duty short extension cord someplace and try that.
... Unless you have a short circuit that is inside the smoker, it should work.
 

Thread Starter

wrybread

Joined Jul 3, 2005
32
> Unless you have a short circuit that is inside the smoker, it should work.

Interesting, I thought so too. To be clear, I don't have the smoker, I'm trying to build my own smoker. I simply connected the two leads of the heating element to the power cable (excluding the ground of the cable).
 

drc_567

Joined Dec 29, 2008
1,135
Is it possible! to measure the actual cold resistance of the heating element using a multi-meter? This resistance measurement would necessarily subtract the probe or lead resistance of the meter.
... You should get a value of something like 30 Ω resistance.
 
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drc_567

Joined Dec 29, 2008
1,135
I measured the cold resistance of my electric stove small burner ... maybe 6" diameter.
It has about 37 Ω cold resistance.
I am guessing that your heating element is defective in some way.
 

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
3,453
Didn't see 110V on the site but from the cord, it must be. That is less than 4A on a 15A circuit. What else is on the circuit?

Also: Plugging that element into a cord set is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS! You may have shorted the cord connector when you jammed it into it.
 
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Thread Starter

wrybread

Joined Jul 3, 2005
32
Also: Plugging that element into a cord set is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS!
That's why I used a lot of caution (as I mentioned). I don't recommend other people do it, but I used a power strip with a fuse, connected the extension cord from a distance, etc. As I said, I expected the worst, and got it (a blown fuse). And to anyone else reading this, don't try this at home.

As far as shorting it, I definitely didn't. The end of the heating element is basically a North American plug, very easy to insert to the cable. And I inserted it before connecting the cable to power, there's no chance it was shorted.

What else is on the circuit?
That's what I'm wondering too. (Again, I don't have the smoker, I only have the heating element, and I'm wondering how to use it).

I am guessing that your heating element is defective in some way.
I guess that's possible. But looking at this ebay auction for their cable, that shows some more pics, it looks like there might be some more circuitry. Can anyone take a guess at what that might be?

https://www.ebay.com/c/1990031703
 

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The Big Chief is very simple. 120VAC 450W heating element, no thermostat, no controller in the power cord. Because the power level is low, that seems to be what limits the temperature of the wood in the pan.
A heating element is resistance wire inside magnesium oxide powder which insulates it from the outer tubing.
If a heating element (wire) shorts to the tubing, you get a ground fault. You might have used the wrong IEC power cord pins i.e. hot and ground. Either way, that would trip a GFCI breaker- not from overcurrent but from ground leakage current.
 

Thread Starter

wrybread

Joined Jul 3, 2005
32
There wasn't any GFCI involved, and I didn't connect to ground. So you think I can just connect to the hot and neutral pins of an IEC cable? I thought the same. Maybe I should try it again. (In a very controlled and safe way of course).
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
9,025
Does the packaging mention anything about the nominal / correct AC voltage and amperes or watts, that is to be used with the heating element?
...Just an idea, but it may be necessary to use a heavy duty extension cord with a length of only 3 feet, or maybe 4 feet. This would be due to inductive reactive AC impedance that is built in to a longer extension cord. Once the heating element reaches the operating temperature, the element resistance will increase and the operating current will decrease.
... Another idea, if you are using cartridge fuses, is to get a slow blow type fuse that will allow the starting current enough time to decrease as the heating element warms up.
This answer makes no sense at all.
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
9,025
I am guessing that somehow the pins have been connected to the outside covering of the heater element, which would be a short circuit. So you need to examine that area very closely to see if the center conductors are touching the metal jacket of the heater. That would also create a shock hazard. I have seen that happen with unknowing people mishandling oven heater elements. That is the logical explanation for popping the fuse when it is connected.
And a standard caution: Do not touch any part of it when it is connected to the mains! At least not until you have verified that it is electrically isolated. No need for fear, just caution.
 

drc_567

Joined Dec 29, 2008
1,135
This answer makes no sense at all.
It seems that you are correct. Heating and voltage drop in long extension cords is due to resistive effects, caused by excessive I^2*R, and I*R, and not due to inductive or magnetic factors. I was thinking of something else.
 

Ian0

Joined Aug 7, 2020
2,661
Best way of connecting it up would be a ceramic terminal block.
https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/standard-terminal-blocks/8133105/
You will need fibreglass of silicon cable for a permanent connection, but pvc will do just to see if it works.
If you didn‘t connect the outside to earth, then it wouldn‘t trip a ”ground fault interruptor” even if there were a fault.
The element tends to be nichrome, which changes very little with temperature. The hot resistance is much the same as the cold resistance, and it should be about 30Ω.
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
9,025
I am still guessing that there nis a shorted circuit to the sheath and that is what blew the fuse. Either a manufacturing defect or due to some abuse. An ohm meter check could verify as an alternative to a visual inspection.
 

Thread Starter

wrybread

Joined Jul 3, 2005
32
The resistance is 33 ohms. I definitely didn't short circuit anything, connection is very straight forward: at the end of each end of the heating coil is a plug that I inserted to the hot and neutral sockets in the IEC cable (with the cable unplugged of course). I can't imagine a way that would short circuit. But I guess I could test it again.
 

Thread Starter

wrybread

Joined Jul 3, 2005
32
Well I just connected the heating element to an IEC cable again and.... it turns out I'm an idiot! Works great. Heats right up. No idea what I did wrong the last time, oh well.

Anyway, thanks for the help!
 
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