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Three stage controller – there are three options to choose from, smoke ( or low), medium and high. It’s an old and very poor controller. It only has three options to choose from, it’s very poor at maintaining temperature. It doesn’t take weather and other factors into account. The result is that the temperature inside the grill can significantly rise or drop without you knowing. Such solution makes it impossible to set a precise temperature and limits the cooking options.
After about 10-15 hours of cooking, you should remove the burn cup and dump the ash. If the ash builds up it can prevent ignition. Ash also accumulates in the bottom of the unit, but doesn't impact cooking. A vacuum cleaner with a hose makes short work of it. Only a few manufacturers, such as Blaz'n Grill Works and Camp Chef have a slide out combustion cup that makes cleanup much easier, but you still have to get underneath the deflector occasionally and suck out fly ash that has scattered around the lower part of the grill body.
Hey Jeff – I think that due to pellet smokers requiring much of the wood pellet for “fuel” leaving a smaller part for the “smoke” means that you want as much of the smoke to stay in the chamber for as long as possible. Just my opinion. I’ve not used charcoal pellets. Those I’ve spoken with who have used them weren’t extremely happy with the results. Regarding the water pan, I feel that pellet smokers don’t typically require water pans. However, you can surely use one and see how your results go.