Choosing and Purchasing an Electric Kiln
Your Guide to Kiln Buying Basics
A ceramic or glass kiln can be a major capital expenditure; however, with careful selection, placement, maintenance, and care, it can be a piece of equipment that will last for many years. Before buying a kiln, several important factors must be considered including location, electrical supply, firing capacity, ventilation, controller type, warranty, and accessories.
Due to the high temperature and the emissions the kiln may give off, the best location is a dedicated, low traffic kiln room with a locking door and exterior wall for easy ventilation, preferably near the art room for convenience of transporting ware.
Things to consider:
- A dry, well-ventilated area
- Non-combustible floor (sheet metal or a layer of tiles under the kiln site is an option)
- At least 18" of space around kiln and ceiling clearance for kiln to be opened
- A size that can fit through all doors
- A sprinkler system that is not triggered by increases in room temperature
When you purchase a kiln, be sure you have a dedicated circuit breaker that allows enough amps to fire the kiln. Allow for a 10% minimum cushion in the breaker size. Do you have 208 or 240 volts? Is your current single or three phase? NOTE: Some larger kilns do not come with a cord and must be hard wired by your district electrician.
Besides determining the physical placement for the kiln and the electrical requirements, getting the kiln that serves your needs is vital. Often, a shorter wider kiln is easier to work with. Sometimes though, you need a deep kiln for tall pieces. Front loaders are more expensive but are built to last and can save the loader from a backache.
Ask yourself the following:
- What are you firing and how big is the work?
- How often will you be firing a load?
- To what temperature are you firing?
- Are you physically able to reach down in a kiln to load and unload?
- Will your needs/enrollment grow and can your kiln keep up?
When clay fires, it gives off fumes due to the burning of organic materials in the clay body. Formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide, and even carbon monoxide are released. A vent is a must and is often required by building codes.
Kiln sitters and timers are dependable and easy to use, but require you to be there to turn up the switches during firing. Electronic (digital) controllers allow freedom in firing, hold your program for repeat firings, and may allow you to even fuse and slump glass.
When reviewing the warranty, consider what is covered and for how long. Is the manufacturer responsive to your questions/problems? Are parts (elements and relays) readily available?
Consider what kiln accessories you may want to enhance your ceramics experience. Some options include furniture (posts and shelves), a kiln stand, a lid lifter, test cones, glaze stilts, kiln wash, and tile or plate setters.
Before Using Your Kiln
Make sure to read each page of your owner's manual in detail before you install or operate the kiln. Warranties do not cover damage caused by failure to follow instructions. We suggest you read the manual twice. The first time read it straight through before you plug in your kiln. The second time use it as a guide as you set the kiln up and for the initial firing. After your purchase, our customer care department would be happy to assist you with any questions, concerns, or replacement parts for your new kiln. We want your ceramics experience to be creative and enjoyable!