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Modify 2-element toaster oven to use one element at a time

Modify 2-element toaster oven to use one element at a time


Old 09-20-13, 04:01 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 3
Modify 2-element toaster oven to use one element at a time

I want a toaster oven that I can use with my travel trailer's inverter. The inverter doesn't have the 1200W that the oven needs, and I've searched for lower wattage units but there isn't anything good. The oven has two heating elements, at top & bottom.

Upon some disassembly I see "550W" on each heating element, perfect. I'm hoping I can run the oven just using the bottom element, and it will take longer to heat up but that's Ok. I hope it will sustain 350 degrees with just the one element, cycling on more often.

I'd also like to be able to still use the oven for making toast, which necessitates operating the upper and lower elements alternately. It seems a properly wired standard 3-way switch could be used to manually switch between the two heating elements during toasting. A second standard switch could be used to activate both elements when I'm connected to real AC power in a campground.

I'm experienced with DC wiring but haven't done much with AC besides replacing wall switches and outlets. Does this project seem like something that's reasonably doable? Am I on the right track?

Below, the three controls along the right-hand side of the first image are, from top to bottom:

Timer / "always on" dial
Bake / Toast / Broil / Keep Warm selector
Temperature dial

The Temperature dial has an affect on all settings, even Toast.

When "Bake" or "Toast" is selected, both elements activate. "Toast" keeps the elements on longer for the initial cycle.

When "Broil" or "Keep Warm" is selected, only the top element activates.

Here are some pics, any help is appreciated!

The other side of the oven. Looks like just neutral wire to each element.
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Old 09-20-13, 04:13 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 3
p.s. Just in case anyone is wondering - I have a gas oven in the trailer which is solid. But the oven isn't convenient for something quick or small like a cheese melt. I have a 315W solar panel and 2Kwh+ of battery bank, so if I can avoid using the propane sometimes that would be nice too. I just won't upgrade my inverter, the only other thing it doesn't support is my AC which I'm fine with.
Old 09-21-13, 06:10 AM
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 3,100
It would probably be simpler to wire a simple switch to each element rather than use a "3 way" switch.

Ordinary components and methods used for household wiring cannot be used here. You need componets and wire that will withstand the high temperatures inside the toaster.
Old 09-21-13, 11:04 AM
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Location: Northern NJ - USA
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You could also look into a 12v RV type toaster oven. They usually run on the smaller side and operate on 100-150 watts of DC power.
Old 09-21-13, 01:25 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: NC, USA
Posts: 18,154
I've often wondered why small toaster ovens don't have insulation and no seal on the door. They are the epitome of inefficiency. Not a problem at home with unlimited power but when you're off the grid it's a real waste.
Old 09-21-13, 07:38 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 3
AllanJ: It would be simpler to just wire two switches, but the 3-way switch would let me switch from one element to the other without the draw on the inverter going down and then right back up (I think). Plus it would keep them both from being on at the same time when the master switch is set to "off". As far as high temps...definitely a concern, I don't know if there are high temp switches out there.

PJmax: I have been looking for a lower wattage toaster to no avail. The only one I find says it maxes out at 250 degrees, and I found a 24 volt unit made for truckers but it's not rated for temp, and I don't have 24 volts. If you know a 12v unit that will cook at 350 degrees I'd love to find it...even an AC unit that is below 1000W would work.

Pilot Dane: It seems toaster ovens are usually made for low production cost. If only I could find one that was lower wattage. It seems strange that this niche is empty of a device, no demand I guess.

Thanks for your answers, not sure what I'm going to do.
Old 09-21-13, 07:53 PM
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Location: Hamilton County, Ohio
Posts: 4,292
Go to Camping World's site. They have several toaster ovens - 120 V in the 475 - 500 watt range.

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