LavaLock® ATC-1 Thermostatic Controller Review

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LavaLock® ATC-1 Thermostatic Controller
The LavaLock® ATC-1 is an easy to use thermostatic temperature controller designed for use with a wood- or charcoal-burning grill or smoker. It features a control box that accepts four included temperature probes and connects to a power supply and a fan. There is no wireless connectivity for this unit.
 
The control box is nicely made of anodized extruded aluminum. The large lit display shows the current temperature of each food probe as well as its individual alarm temperature. The pit temp shows the target temperature as well as the current temperature. There is a small thermometer icon next to each probe's readout that flashes when that particular probe has reached its setting or the pit temperature is out of range. This range is plus or minus 20% of the pit target temperature. If any food temperature exceeds its target, a green light will shine and an audible alarm will sound, and the sound is mutable. The four probes, the power supply, and the fan all plug into jacks on the side of the controller.
 
The fan is a 34 cfm (cubic feet per minute) unit, the largest I've seen on controllers designed for cookers like the Big Green Egg (BGE) or the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM). It is designed to be compatible with a number of different smokers in this size class using adapter plates that are included. The fan also has a gate valve that allows you to throttle the fan output or close it off completely at the end of the cook.
 
LavaLock® makes a number of products aimed at the barbecue market, including seals and heat deflectors. I installed a set of seals on the top surface of the cylindrical section of my WSM as well as on the door. I removed the water pan and inserted a FireDial heat deflector in its place. The seals worked as advertised. I had no way to make any objective evaluation of the FireDial. I did notice that the four hour test seemed to use less fuel than I would normally expect, a possible result of using these two products.
 
The test was conducted over a four hour period using an 18.5" WSM fueled with Kingsford charcoal briquettes. Weather was fair with temps in the mid-70s. The target temperature was initially set at 225°F. The large fan brought the temp up to this value quickly. After one hour, I upped the setting to 250° for another hour, then dropped it back to 225°, then finally set it to 180°. Each change was made manually in order to test the transient response of the controller. What we're looking for here are smooth transitions without temperature overshoot. The controller passed all tests. The graph below shows the temperature vs. time plot. Click on the graph to see a larger version.
 
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The unit comes with four probes: one pit probe with a mounting clip and three food probes. Each has a generous 80" (2m) cable covered with a plastic sheath rated to 356°F. This temperature rating is more than adequate for use in a smoker, but I'd be leery of using it near direct heat. Temperature accuracy was acceptable.
 
The feature set of this product is basic but will probably meet the needs of most cooks. It cannot be programmed to change the temperature profile automatically, nor does it have any timer functionality. It lacks the ability to be monitored and controlled remotely using a smart device app, but that won't stand in the way of conducting a long cooking session while maintaining accurate temperature control. What it lacks in bells and whistles it makes up in simplicity of operation, and all the essential features are there.
 
The controller is covered by a one year limited warranty. The fan and power supply are covered for six months, and the probes for three months. There is no contact info nor an address in the user's pamphlet, but their website is easily found via Google.
 
Overall, this is a nicely-made, functional temperature controller that will meet the needs of many users at a reasonable price.
Thermometer Function: 
Thermostats/Temperature Controllers
Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: 
$149.95
Included: 
Controller, 4 probes, fan and mount, power supply, mounting adapters, storage bag, instructions
Probes: 
Pit: length: 2" (5cm), diameter: 0.2" (5mm), cable: 80" (2m); food: length: 6" (152mm), diameter: 0.2" (5mm), cable: 80" (2m)
Battery type: 
AC adapter
Min / Max: 
32 to 356°F (0 to 180°C)
Ambient operating temperatures: 
Not specified
Display precision: 
At 130°F it actually reads: 
food:129, pit:129
At 225°F it actually reads: 
food:224, pit:222
At 325°F it actually reads: 
food: 321, pit: 321
Speed from 32°F to 212°F: 
n/a
Size of numbers in display: 
Digits: 0.25" (6mm)
Water resistance rating: 
Water resistant but not waterproof
Alarms: 
Audible/Visible
Logging: 
No
C/F Switch: 
Yes
Backlight: 
Yes
Adjustable: 
No
Auto shutoff: 
No
App: 
None
Colors: 
Anodized aluminum

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Bill McGrath

Bill McGrath is AmazingRibs.com's Thermometer Maven. He has sophisticated equipment, an electrical engineering degree from Cornell University, and an MBA (almost) from UC Berkeley. Despite being mostly retired, he is still the person responsible for developing and updating all of ExxonMobil's electricians' training modules.

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