Heater Upgrade on a 4 rack

Started by jharding08, December 03, 2021, 10:02:51 AM

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I have a 4 Rack Bradley digital smoker that is about 8 years old, moderately used. I moved from California to Idaho and then to Colorado and the 500W element couldn't get the overall temp above 215 even at 60 degrees outside temp, so I upgraded the heating element to a 900W Tempco heater. 

I used 2 inch bolts and put it as far at the end of the bolt as possible (away from the back of the smoker). When I heated to 280, it only took 15 min on a 60 degree day, but I noticed that the back of the smoker was getting real hot. I took off the back and noticed the insulation foam was all burnt up.  I know my smoker is old, but I don't think it did as much damage to the insulating foam and the new heater is.  My concern is it gets real hot around the wires back there. I have 14AWG that I am going to upgrade to, just wondering what else I should do? I have seen many videos of other people doing this and putting the heater as close to the back wall as possible. Is it just because my insulation is so old?

  • Get longer bolts? Maybe 2 1/4 or 2 1/2?
  • Create a heat shield on the back behind the heater that sits maybe 1/4 from the heater back wall and 1/4" from the heating element? What would I use for that? "
  • Get new insulating foam for the back? Is it fiberglass?

Thanks for the help. BTW, I love my Bradley smoker, while everyone else is getting pellet smokers, I am sticking to the Bradley with the wood biscuits. I can do everything I need with that and the searing burner on my grill

Habanero Smoker

Hi jharding08;

Welcome to the forum.

I did the the dual element upgrade on my Old Bradley Original. When I removed the back panel the insulation was pretty much burned off for the length of the element, and about three inches above and below. If you look closer you will see what looks like to be a small patch of mineral wool insulation on the wall (it could be fiberglass), that is meant to absorb heat directly behind the element.

If your back panel is getting real hot, then I'm sure that may cause further damage to the foam insulation. Adding fiberglass insulation would be alright for temps under 300°F, but mineral wool would be a better choice - if you can find it.

Moving the heater further from the surface may work, but make sure it is not too close to the drip pan and water bowl, where it may potentially cause a flare-up.

If you upgrade the wiring make sure you get high temperature wire, which the wire insulation can withstand the temperature.

A heatshield is also a good idea, but I don't have any idea of how to go about that or what material to use.