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Looking for experienced advice on choosing a thermostatic controller

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    Looking for experienced advice on choosing a thermostatic controller

    Ok, MCS has struck I guess and perhaps I am a little tired of chasing temps on very long cooks. I want advice as to what I would need to purchase as well as your reasoning as to why your recommendation is a great choice. I am interested in being able to use it on both my PBC and my Weber Performer if possible as I do not want to need two different units.

    There are several brands on the market but I have no idea which gives the best value and why. Please educate me!

    #2
    I use controllers on ceramic cookers, so I can’ give any specific advice. You might start by looking at controllers that are oriented to your particular cookers. The controllers I use are specifically oriented to ceramic cookers,

    Comment


    • Alabama Smoke
      Alabama Smoke commented
      Editing a comment
      That makes sense @LA Pork Butt.Thanks.
      Last edited by Alabama Smoke; September 29, 2021, 02:00 PM.

    #3
    I use the Fireboard Drive system. As far as value goes I am not sure that is the best value, per se, but I have found it to be reliable and steady. It has served me well for the past 4 years or so in all kinds of weather conditions.

    Honestly, most of the controllers that are out there now are decent. You do not need to spend a ton of money to get what you need. I actually find that spending a little more on charcoal goes a long way. A solid fuel source is always key.

    Here is what I have. The FireBoard system requires the Fireboard 2 Drive System ($249.00) which comes with two food probes an ambient probe. You do have to buy the blower separately. Which is $60. I actually bought the BBQ Guru fan for my set up because I think it is better quality and it works a little better for my set up. I have always had their fans over the years when I had different controllers. I use the 25 CFM fan and it works great. I have had it for about 6 years now and I have not had any issues. Even while cooking in sub-zero Minnesota temps.

    Before the FireBoard, I had the Digi DX3 which worked great, but you can't graph your cooks nor can you adjust it remotely from anywhere, like you can with FireBoard. You have to upgrade to the Ultra Q, which is more than the DX3 but a little cheaper than the FB sent up. However, you do not get the extra temp probe that you get with FB. You DO get the adaptor included, with is what you will beed to retro fit your grill/smoker. You Can graph with the Ultra Q and controllers it remotely, which is a really nice feature.

    There are other controllers out there, but I have not used them and I can't really speak to how well or poorly they work. However, I have been very happy with the FireBoard system.

    Comment


    • Alabama Smoke
      Alabama Smoke commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Spinaker. I appreciate your comments. I have never heard any negative reports on the FireBoard and it is definitely on my list of possibilities.

    #4
    Fireboard. As Spinaker says, it may not be the best value. I have two of them. One I've had for 4 years with zero problems. Fireboard and Pit Viper fans run both my kettles. I did get the adapter for the PBC, but have yet to install it.

    What I love in addition to super precise temp controls, is you can save your cook sessions. You can add notes and pics. Even pics real time to the graph. I find it super helpful when trying to dial in a recipe or technique. It records everything you need to know about the cook so you can make adjustments for future cooks if need be. I also love that you can access your cook sessions anywhere you have internet as everything is stored on the cloud. And with wi-fi you can control everything from anywhere with a connection.

    I can't speak to any other set up, but maybe you don't need the cloud storage or even wi-fi. If that's the case then you can probably find something cheaper that works equally as well. I'm sure others will chime in on those.

    Comment


    • Alabama Smoke
      Alabama Smoke commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Rod. I keep hearing the same name! Seems everyone's run for years without any problems which is good. I found a longtime ago that the one that lasts a longtime is usually the better buy. Would rather pay for one premium unit than for two cheap ones that may well not be made as well.

    #5
    Tom,

    I have a PartyQ, now discontinued, from bbqguru.com. It is pretty simple, and pretty much looks like a Pit Viper fan that everyone uses, with a flexible neck coming off the fan with the controller attached at the end of the 10-12 inch long flex. Works like a champ, but chews through 4 AA batteries after about 2 overnight cooks. I monitor things remotely with my Thermoworks Smoke, but have no remote control capability. It does a great job though - and nice thing is it tweaks every last bit of heat out of the coals on my Performer. I've yet to buy a second adapter for the SNS Kamado, and that cooker stays pretty stable so I just monitor it with the Smoke.

    I don't know that the newer line of controllers from bbqguru.com are cost effective. The lowest entry is the DigiQ, at $219 - the PartyQ was $149. However, I got it for something like $115 on a Black Friday sale they had a few years back.

    Knowing how much folks love their Fireboards, and all seem to combine it with the Pit Viper fan and the adapter from bbqguru.com, I almost think that is what I would recommend if you don't mind spending the cash.

    As much as I love my Thermoworks products, I am not sold on their design for their Billows fan, which is the only fan that works with the Smoke X or Signals. The way the Billows fan mounts, you cannot use an adapter that plugs easily like the one I mounted to my Performer. You have to drill a hole (like the smoke hole on the SNS Kettle) for that fan to mount.

    I keep coming back to the Fireboard. I think if I were spending the money today, I would go for the Fireboard 2 Drive, and get the Pit Viper fan and adapters for both the kettle and the PBC from BBQ Guru. That will set you back well over $300 though.

    You MIGHT want to see if you can hold out until Black Friday or Cyber Monday, to see if any of these type things go on sale.
    Last edited by jfmorris; September 29, 2021, 02:07 PM.

    Comment


    • Attjack
      Attjack commented
      Editing a comment
      https://www.amazon.com/Lenink-Batter...a-851494170400

    • jfmorris
      jfmorris commented
      Editing a comment
      Attjack thanks for that - saves me the effort of finding a 6V supply and cutting dowels to simulate AA batteries. Added to my Amazon wish list until I just gotta have it. To be honest, I've not used the PartyQ since getting the SNS Kamado.

    • Attjack
      Attjack commented
      Editing a comment
      Yeah, for $10 it's hard to beat by doing it yourself.

    #6
    I really love my FireBoard 2. I loved my original FireBoard, too, but it has finally given up the ghost after I accidentally melted the outer case. I didn't get there FB Drive model because I already had the Drive cable from the FB1. I have the first generation of FireBoard's own fan, which has 20 CFM output. It works fine controlling my COS for charcoal cooks. But the cable that connects it is getting frayed (I already repaired one break in it) and when it finally goes, I will probably get the Pit Viper fan to replaced it. FB's new model fan has gotten pretty pricey.

    Comment


      #7
      jfmorris Jim, great comments and good suggestions which I appreciate. Looks like the Fire Board is going to be the choice but I have plenty of time to decide. I had forgotten Black Friday will be here in a couple of months. Expect I will study this while I wait for a sale.

      Comment


        #8
        I love my Fireboards. I got my original as part of their KickStarter and sold it and upgraded to the FB2 Drive a while back. I also use the BBQ Guru Pit Viper fans like others. I do think there probably several that would work for you and Fireboard definitely isn’t the cheapest. However, I do think it has the most features, especially if you like tech, apps, and data. The logging and alarm functionality have been great, the WiFi very reliable, etc. They have a web interface and API’s you can interact with too instead of just a mobile app.

        I went with the BBQ Guru fan with it because of all the adapters they have so if I add a cooker I can probably get an adapter for it. I’ll let others focus on the performance of temp control itself, I only use the fan on my WSCG (and Performer before that). For me it’s always held great steady temps, but the WSCG can really do that on its own.

        Comment


          #9
          Same as above. I started with DigiQ’s and PartyQ’s. And when they died I went with the Fireboard. I’m happy and as Spinaker stated, go with the 25 cfm fan. What you are going to have to do is determine what adapter you want to use. I have not seen an adapter made specifically for a PBC, but not really looking for one either. Bbqguru website has a slew of adapters and I’m sure one of them would work. I remember when they just had a couple adapters listed.

          question, why put an ATC on a PBC? I thought the beauty of the design was add fuel, load meat, adjust vent cover for altitude and let her rip.

          Comment


          • Alabama Smoke
            Alabama Smoke commented
            Editing a comment
            TripleB for the most part the PBC does tend to take care of itself, although I find mine tends to run hot much of the time. Its great for chicken and turkey but my Webers are more easily run cooler which I prefer.

          • TripleB
            TripleB commented
            Editing a comment
            Alabama Smoke - I agree on the webers. ATC works great on them. So for the PBC your going to put in a fan adapter that covers the bottom vent. But what do you do about your exhaust vents? It's still pull one/two bars out and/or crack the lid. It's not like a weber exhaust vent where you can open or close it down. But again, I don't use my PBC all that much.

          #10
          Alabama Smoke And just to be clear, the Fireboard/fan combo does require you to drill a hole in your kettle for the adapter.

          Comment


          • jfmorris
            jfmorris commented
            Editing a comment
            I think he knows this - I've got a Performer like his, and will be happy to send him pics of where I drilled the hole when the time comes.

          • Alabama Smoke
            Alabama Smoke commented
            Editing a comment
            Yes Rod, I am aware of that drilling requirement. There are several really good videos here on AR that show details, plus I can count on help from friend and fellow pitmaster jfmorris. I already plan to drill holes for the probes like the ones that come standard on the SNS grill. Oh, and for those who might be unaware, SNS offers hardware that covers those holes, etc just like the ones on the SNS grill, including a larger hole near the bottom for better air flow control.

          #11
          There are many here who have installed temp control on their PBC and have indicated how well it works. Hopefully we will soon hear from some of them. PBC is too much fun and the food product too good not to keep and use it regardless. TripleB I think they will be able to answer the questions about the upper vent holes.

          Comment


            #12
            Alabama Smoke There's also this how-to.

            Comment


            • Alabama Smoke
              Alabama Smoke commented
              Editing a comment
              Great thread! Thanks for sharing this.

            #13
            Alabama Smoke Tom thanks for letting us know that SNS Grills is selling the probe port and smoke hole covers separately now. I had no idea. With that type cover for the hole in your Performer, you could technically use the Billows fan. I am not sure how you would use the Pit Viper however, as it really needs the adapter permanently mounted in the hole. The adapter comes with a silicone plug that plugs the adapter when not using the fan.

            I may order that probe hole cover and finally make a hole for probes in my Performer. Lately I've just run them under the edge of the lid, and not worried about a little smoke leakage around the wires. Hasn't seemed to cause any issues for the probe wires if I run them sorta at an angle - they don't get crimped or anything in other words. Back when I worried about leakage more, I would run them through the top vent, which was a pain when taking the lid off and on.

            On the PBC - I think the fan controller will force air through the PBC faster as needed, and out around the rebar even with both installed. I wouldn't worry about it. You are trying to get it under control to go at lower temps anyway, right?
            Last edited by jfmorris; September 30, 2021, 09:58 AM.

            Comment


            • Alabama Smoke
              Alabama Smoke commented
              Editing a comment
              Jim, Right I am trying to go more low and slow. PBC is a great cooker but there are some things that are just better cooked at lower temp. Are you telling me that the Billows would be better in the performer if I had installed the lower air hole? Also are you telling me the Pit Viper would not work or not work well if I had added the SNS hole? Somewhat confused right now.

            • jfmorris
              jfmorris commented
              Editing a comment
              Alabama Smoke not sure why I didn't see this comment before now. What I am saying is that the billows fan from Thermoworks only installs into a flat hole in the body of the grill - like the smoke hole in the SNS Kettle. Versus the adapter from BBQ Guru, which is a protruding pipe that the fan inserts into. To use the Pit Viper with the SNS air hole, you have to install the bbq guru adapter, which basically clamps over the hole, with a nut and screw and a peice inside and outside, and is kinda

            • jfmorris
              jfmorris commented
              Editing a comment
              (con't) kinda a permanent install for the BBQ guru adapter. With the Billows fan, it would hook through that flush round hole, no adapter required.

            #14
            Alabama Smoke , I use the original Fireboard with the drive cable, along with the medium Pit Viper fan and the PBC adapter both from BBQ Guru. I'm not aware of another vendor who sells a PBC adapter, although there must be some out there.

            There are several topics that discuss adding ATC to the PBC with various methods, but for me the simplest was to drill a hole in the adapter and use the hole from the vent cover (removed) on the PBC to attach it. The edge of the adapter slips into the PBC seam from the inside and the single screw holds it in place pretty nicely. That way I didn't have to drill into the PBC, which I didn't want to do, just in case I wanted to restore my PBC to its original state for some cooks.

            It works just fine, both for cooks at 250-290deg and for poultry cooks in the 350deg range.

            I really like using the Fireboard. There is many a time when I use all 6 of its probe ports. Plus the recordkeeping log for each cook starts automatically, and you can add to it via your computer, iPad or phone, including marking points on the temperature graph with a corresponding note about what happened at that point (for example, vent adjustment). You can also include photos in that record of the cook. It's pretty robust and very easy to use. The Fireboard performs just as I expect it to every single time, so far, and I've used it for a ton of cooks.

            I've had not a lick of trouble with the Pit Viper fan or with the PBC adapter either. I leave the PBC adapter on now for all PBC cooks, even though technically I think I could swing it out of the way and tape the vent cover in place as needed to use the PBC as it was originally built.

            Note as you read through some of these topics, that some folks put the adapter on the outside of the PBC and others do as I did and put it on the inside, sometimes using additional screws/bolts, which I did not:

            https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/fo...rol-on-the-pbc

            https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/fo...-pit-viper-fan

            https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/fo...istance-needed

            https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/fo...an-mod-for-pbc

            https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/fo...rilling-center

            https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/fo...n-on-their-pbc

            HTH,
            Kathryn

            Comment


            • Alabama Smoke
              Alabama Smoke commented
              Editing a comment
              Kathryn you are a gem! Was hoping you would see my questions and comment. . I knew you had installed one on the PBC. Is there any need to change top vent adjustments?

              Also I believe you indicated in another post that you had also done so on a kettle. I realize each smoker will need its own adapter, but were you able to utilize the same units otherwise or did you have to purchase two complete units?

              Thanks also for all those links above! I am sure they will be extremely useful.

              Tom

            #15
            Fireboard and pit bull fan on the PBC. Works great. Though all the main brand controllers are probably really good now. The old guru controllers were annoying and the fireboard phone app is very well refined now.

            https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/fo...sts#post457459

            Comment


            • Alabama Smoke
              Alabama Smoke commented
              Editing a comment
              Polarbear777 thanks so much for sharing all this data as well as the link above. Great information.

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