While the automated nature of pellet grills/smokers is a key feature of their appeal, the downside to this high level of automation is a source of power is constantly required. While this article on portable/off-grid power is mainly going to appeal to existing and future portable pellet grill owners, anyone with an inconsistent supply of power at home may also be interested. If the power cuts out when a pellet grill/smoker is in operation for more than just a few minutes there are potentially significant consequences. But first, we need to discuss how much power a typical pellet grill/smoker requires.
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How Much Power Does A Pellet Grill/Smoker Need?
Ok, so this is question is as general as ‘how long is a piece of string‘, the answer of how much power a pellet grill/smoker is going to consume depends on the specific model. However, as a general rule, typically a pellet grill/smoker is going to be pulling around 300 Watts of power for around 4 minutes while the hot rod igniter is getting the fire going. Once the fire is established and the hot rod igniter is turned off, the control panel, auger and induction fan together are going to be pulling around 50 Watts of power continuously.
Again, the above 300 Watt then 50 Watt power consumption figures are very general, and I would encourage you to do a deep dive into the manual of your respective pellet grill/smoker to find the exact figures before purchasing a portable power station etc. Obviously, the auger motor doesn’t run continuously, there will be spikes in power consumption when the auger motor turns on. Different pellet grills have different powered auger motors. For instance, I would expect the older auger motor fitted to Traeger grills to pull less power than a grill fitted with the latest D2 Direct Drive motors.
Peak Power vs Continuous Power
So as discussed above, the biggest power draw on a pellet grill/smoker is going to come from the hot rod to get the fire going, but it’s only going to run for a short period of time. When looking for a portable power station etc to run a pellet grill/smoker while you will obviously want to work out which option can provide the longest run time for the money but peak power output is equally important.
First, obviously check the specs in the manual for the pellet grill/smoker or email the relevant pellet grill/smoker manufacturer to find out what the peak power draw is. You then need to compare that against the peak output figure of the portable power pack etc you are considering. As an example, the Traeger Power Inverter to run a Traeger Tailgater from a vehicle’s battery has a peak output of 800 Watts and a continoust output of 400 Watts.
Jackery Portable Battery Power Stations Examples & Run Time
There are lots of different brands of portable power stations now on the market. One of the most popular brands is Jackery, which produce a range of different sized portable power banks which we will use for this example of calculating run times. To make this a relatively simple calculation and as a general guide, let’s presume an average of 60 Watts of power consumption for the pellet grill/smoker. Higher than the 50 Watts stated above which is more likely for continuous use, but 60 Watts should also help to factor in the high power draw of around 300 Watts for the hot rod at the start.
For portable power stations, their energy capacity is often stated as Watt-hours (Wh). A Watt-hour is simply the number of Watts multiplied by the number of hours of operation. So for this example, to run a typical pellet grill/smoker it will be consuming 60 Wh. We then divide the Wh energy capacity of the Jackery portable power station by the 60 Wh requirement of the pellet grill/smoker to get an indication of run time.
- Jackery Explorer 240: 240 Wh / 60 Wh = 4 Hour Run Time
- Jackery Explorer 300: 293 Wh / 60 Wh = 4.8 Hour Run Time
- Jackery Explorer 500: 518 Wh / 60 Wh = 8.6 Hour Run Time
- Jackery Explorer 1000: 1002 Wh / 60 Wh = 16.7 Hour Run Time
- Jackery Explorer 1500: 1488 Wh / 60 Wh = 24.8 Hour Run Time
So this first thing to note from the above is other than with the Explorer 1000 and 1500 you’re not going to be doing really long ‘low and slow’ smoking sessions on one of these portable power stations. Granted, Jackery sells their own range of Solar Saga panels which can provide up to 60W or 100W outputs to help feed power back into an Explorer portable power station, but then there’s the cost. The cheapest option the Explorer 240 is just under $200, the price then steps up gradually up to the beast that is the Explorer 1500 and its beastly $1,500 price tag.
Small/Portable Gas Generators
So the other and more conventional means to power electrical equipment remotely/as a backup is to use a small gas generator. There are many of these small/portable gas generators available from the likes of Honda, Yamaha, Westinghouse and a number of other smaller brands. You will be hard-pressed to find a portable gas generator with a maximum peak output of below 1000W, hence, any small gas generator can easily cope with the peak power demands of a pellet grill/smoker during start-up when the hot rod igniter is on.
The two problems with small/portable gas generators to run a pellet grill/smoker is noise and running costs. While many small generators are marketed as ‘silent running’ there is obviously going to be some noise and depending on your surroundings, that may become an annoyance. Then there are running costs, when a pellet grill/smoker is in continuous operation, hence typically pulling around 50 Watts, that’s significantly below the capabilities of even the smallest gas generators. So while run time is not going to be a problem, a gas generator is not a cost-effective means to power a pellet grill/smoker.
12V to 110V Inverters & 12V Leisure Batteries
The third option is to take power from a 12V battery in a car/truck and use a 12V to 110V inverter to provide power for the pellet grill/smoker. As referenced above, Traeger sells their own 12V to 110V inverter with a 400W continuous output and 800W peak output to provide enough power for those initial minutes during start-up when the hot rod igniter is running. Though really, there is nothing special about it, it’s just a standard 400W inverter with a Traeger badge on it. Before purchasing an inverter though as stated above, check the manual of the pellet grill/smoker to find out what its peak power draw is and purchase a suitably rated inverter.
So what about run time? Well, first the scenario of the running from the 12V battery in your car/truck. So let’s say you have a large car/pick-up with a starter battery that holds 100 Ah (Amp-hours) of energy. We need to know how many Watt-hours of energy that is which is simply 100 Ah multiplied by the voltage which is 12V with a result of 1200 Watt-hours, hence a similar amount of energy to the large Jackery Explorer portable power stations above.
The problem is you then need to use an inverter to take that 12V DC power and convert it into 110V AC power for most pellet grills/smokers to use. I say ‘most’ as you do have some portable pellet grills such as the GMG Davy Crocket which I discuss in my portable pellet grill article which can run directly on 12V DC power. For this example though, let’s say you have to use a 12V DC to 110V AC inverter, well inverters are not 100% efficient, the efficiency of inverters range from 75% on the low end to 95% on the high end. So the vehicle’s battery will not provide you with 1200 Watt-hours of energy, it will end up being more like 900 Watt-hours to 1140 Watt-hours of energy after the inverter.
Between 900 Watt-hours and 1140 Watt-hours of energy could theoretically run a pellet grill/smoker for around 15 to 19 hours, but you wouldn’t want to do that. If you did your vehicle’s battery will be flat and you’ll be stranded. Also, starter batteries in vehicles do not like going below 50% charge, it can cause damage. Therefore, if you want to run a pellet grill/smoker for a long period of time, a leisure/deep cycle battery such as those found in RVs is what you want.
If you want to run a pellet grill/smoker from an RV you’re likely already set up, though if you were going to be running a pellet grill/smoker frequently off-grid an additional leisure/deep cycle battery wouldn’t be a bad idea. Deep cycle batteries come in all different sizes of capacity and with different battery chemistries which will influence their cost & weight. With simple maths as I’ve used above, you will be able to work out how long a specific deep cycle battery would be able to power a specific pellet grill/smoker.
Conclusions on Portable Power/Backup For Pellet Grills/Smokers
While a portable gas generator is a common means to power electrical appliances remotely, they are not really an efficient/cost-effective means to power a pellet grill/smoker. The simplest most convenient means to power a pellet grill/smoker is definitely a portable battery power station as mentioned above, the downside being, their expensive.
Therefore, the most cost-effective means to power a pellet grill/smoker remotely or independently off-grid if you are concern about blackouts ruining your cook is a 12V deep-cycle battery and a 12V to 110V inverter. You will also need to look into a mains battery charger to put energy back into the 12V deep-cycle battery or how to make it a part of your vehicles/RV’s existing electrical system. Either way, seek professional advice if you are not sure what you’re doing, all electrical equipment, even 12V DC power requires extreme care and attention to be safe.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope this article on your available options/solutions to power a pellet grill/smoker remotely/off-grid has been useful/interesting. If you have more questions my General FAQ will probably help and my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide can provide even more information. 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.