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Thread: Signals/Billows struggle to heat

  1. #1
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    Signals/Billows struggle to heat

    Set up my new Signals and Billows for a butt cook. Had ran a trial run yesterday at 225* to confirm everything worked as expected. It did.

    Today I set the butt run at 300* and absolutely nothing I do will get my 18.5 past 271*. I suspect it may be the Billows air entry into the smoker doesn't strike the coal bed effectively. I have used an Auber for the past couple of years with a small deflector. It has no problem hitting upper temps with it's small fan.

    Have any of you experienced something similar with an ATC?

    Merry Christmas!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanM View Post
    Set up my new Signals and Billows for a butt cook. Had ran a trial run yesterday at 225* to confirm everything worked as expected. It did.

    Today I set the butt run at 300* and absolutely nothing I do will get my 18.5 past 271*. I suspect it may be the Billows air entry into the smoker doesn't strike the coal bed effectively. I have used an Auber for the past couple of years with a small deflector. It has no problem hitting upper temps with it's small fan.

    Have any of you experienced something similar with an ATC?

    Merry Christmas!
    Sounds like you didnt light enough coals to start
    Try a full overflowing chimney

    Fan or no fan, light enough coals and its going there initially...doesnt take much to maintain really
    Last edited by MartinB; 12-25-2019 at 02:21 PM.

  3. #3
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    I have a WSM 14 and recently got the Billows as well. I have similar trouble at times getting over 250 and tried different amounts of charcoal. I am still trying to find the right combination of lit coals to achieve the required temperatures. I have used a lava Rock temperature controllers before on the WSM and agree that it seems like the Billows is under performing compared to other ATC units. However to be fair I have only used the billows 4-5 times over the last few months. I used mine on Christmas as well and smoked a 9 lb ham, outside temp was 38 with no wind. I lit 1/3 chimney of coals and was only getting a temp of 230-240. I had to wrap the smoker in a welding blanket to bring up the temp a few degrees. Hopefully Its just a matter of figuring out the right combination of lit charcoals. exhaust vent I have to run full open. So far I havent been overly impressed with the billows, air flow seems very little, difficult getting enough heat on a 14 WSM.
    Last edited by CRobertson; 12-26-2019 at 07:29 PM.

  4. #4
    TVWBB Guru Bob Bass's Avatar
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    On the flip side, I too use a Billows and have had NO problems on a 22.5 WSM. It has held whatever temperature I asked it to achieve.

    Two differences from the printed instructions... Previously I used a Stoker from early 2012 (bought late 2011) on the 22.5 with no problems, but have since moved to the Signals and Billows. Instead of blocking off the 2 other intake holes per instructions, I reused the Stoker's dog bowl to feed all three holes to supply a gentle air supply. Secondly (and maybe most important...) is keeping the top vent fully open, contrary to the Billow's printed instructions. Somehow the 1/8 open instruction just seems too restrictive !
    KCBS, SCA, Operation BBQ Relief

  5. #5
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    I am similarly experiencing "Billows air entry into the smoker doesn't strike the coal bed effectively."

    Over the holidays I took advantage of the Thermoworks sale and bought the Signals/Billows combo to pair with an 18.5 WSM I also recently acquired. I've tried it out twice now with the same mixed results. It gets up to temp and holds great for a couple of hours, but then the temp drops and it never seems to hold steady again. It appears only the fuel near the vent with the fan burns, leaving the rest of the charcoal unburned. If I add fuel to the fan location it will pick the temp back up, but then drops after that charcoal is burned. I am using KBB and dry hickory wood chunks, water in the pan, top vent at 1/4 and starting by lighting a few briquettes on the top with a torch. My next attempt will be to light a few briquettes on the opposite side of the fan vent to see if I can better promote burning all of the available fuel instead of only that close to the fan vent.

  6. #6
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    FYI... I finally got my billows to perform well on my 18.5 with regard to temperature control.

    I made a mounting manifold which permits all three holes to be used on the active inlet port. I included an air cutoff slide gate which permits me to reduce the 40+ cfm of the billows to something considerably less, maybe 5 - 6 cfm. This now permits my signals/billows to manage the temp very well from 225* to 325* with the top vent 100% open. May also work well beyond these limits. I just haven't tested. In fairness, billows recommends setting the top vent to 1/8" on this WSM. This also reduces the air flow but I'm not comfortable with a restricted top vent on this smoker.

    I'm currently exploring an air baffle configuration to deflect the inlet air which hopefully will help balance the fire box burning. With no shield, the briquettes next to the blower burn significantly faster. This in itself isn't an issue other than at the end of the burn I have unlit coals on the farside. Using a previous shield made for another ATC which directs the air downward causes the burn pattern to flip. So more work is in order to find something that performs in the middle.

  7. #7
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    I had a similar issue with Billows on my 18.5 WSM on a rib cook on New Year’s Eve but I attributed that to being cold and windy. It worked great holding temps at 225 or 250, but struggled with 275. I’ll have to try it again when warmer or not as windy to see if I’ll still have that issue.
    26 Kettle Summit S-670 18.5 WSM Jumbo Joe

  8. #8
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    Follow up...

    I have had several cooks with my Signals/Billows since this thread was started. All have performed very well with no difficulty in holding the various temperatures programed. No idea why I had the initial difficulty it reaching the programmed temperature. I'm certain it was operator error of some sort.

    I will say the Signals/Billows as implemented currently performs exceeding well with the exhaust 100% open on my WSM 18.5. Still tweaking inlet baffles to promote an even burn across the fire bed. I'm close but no cigar just yet.

  9. #9
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    Good to know that your setup is working. I’m curious to see if it will work for me at temps higher than 250 without any extra modification, but will most likely wait for the weather to warm up before trying again.
    26 Kettle Summit S-670 18.5 WSM Jumbo Joe

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