How to choose the right Kiln
PLEASE READ before choosing your kiln
There are many factors in choosing the right kiln for you. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to understand the process and for you to make an informed choice! As man, the information out there is hard to get a handle of!
There are a number of things to take into consideration. We have put things into an easy table below if you are wanting some help in understanding this complex process. Just click on each tab below to give you more information.
If you already know this information, click here to check out the kilns, the specs and prices.
The power you can draw from your property is dependent on what phase wiring you have (single, 2 or 3 phase). Most residential houses run off single phase, some 2 phase. Most indsurial properties have 3 phase power. Basically this is the amount of cables running power to your house. Single phase is a single cable, 2 phase 2 cables and 3 ... you guessed it, 3 cables. Each cable will have a max amount of power it can draw, say you draw 20 AMPs (explained on the next tab) on each phase. With single phase you can draw 20 AMPs, with 2 phase you can draw 40 AMPs and with 3 phase you can draw 60 AMPs. The more power you have available the bigger area you can heat, quicker. It basically allows you to draw more power at a time to your Kiln.
Example: a single phase kiln at 10 AMPS (explained below) draws 10 AMPS at any given time
a two phase kiln at 10 AMPS will draw 20 AMPS (2 cables running at 10 AMPS each)
a three phase kiln at 10 AMPS will draw 30 AMPS (3 cables running at 10 AMPS each). As a guide a smaller 60 Litre top loading Kiln will draw 10-15 AMPs, whereas a 139 Litre front loader will draw 32 AMPs.
You will need to get an electrician to confirm what phase your property runs off. You may be able to get 2 phase or 3 phase power to your property but you will need to consult with an electrician to see if this is possible and the costs involved.
Three phase wiring is more expensive to install than single phase. However 3 phase power is not more expensive to run once installed.
The second main consideration is how many AMPs you can run off each phase and how much you can run in total (combining all the phases together). Most households are single phase and the appliances run off 10 AMPS. You can usually install 15 AMPS pretty easily in a residential setting but you would need to check with an electrician and get them to wire up a 15 AMP power point. A 15 AMP power point has the middle prong bigger that the top 2 prongs. similar to Caravans.
You also need to be aware of how many AMPS your property can draw at any one time. Again an electrician will need to come out to assess this. Say for example your house has a 40 AMP power supply in total on single phase and you want to run a single phase kiln at 15 AMPs. That woudl leave your house hold availble AMP's at 40 minus 15, so 25 AMPS left. You would need to get an electrician in to assess approximately how many AMPS your general use is and make sure that does not exceed 25 AMPS (fridges, TV’s, lights etc).
If the kiln is single phase, 30 AMPS you would need your house to handle 30 AMPS plus the amount of AMPs your usual household would draw from your everyday use (fridge, heaters, washing machines, toasters etc).
You can get three phase wiring installed in your property if the property has access from the main lines to do so. It can be very expensive. Again you would need to check with an electrician if you can get three phase wiring, and also your max amount of AMPS you can draw at any time. A 3 phase kiln at 10 AMPS per phase (a total of 30 AMPS all together at any given time to run) but you can only run 35 AMPS at any one time from the property circuit (including your usual household use), then you will not have enough power from your property to run the kiln without tripping out your circuits, even if you can get three phase wiring.
Again, please check in with an electrician to see how many AMPs you can draw at any time to see what excess AMPs you have available. This will determine how many AMP's you have extra, determining which kiln you can get.
Anything above 6 KW are either single phase or 3 phase and neutral. Only difference is installing electrician fits a link in the mains connection at the kiln if used as single phase and removes the link if 3 phase. Any Kiln below 5 KW are single phase.
"It's my first. It's robust and easy to move around and efficient"
The space you have will also play a part. Make sure you have enough room around your kiln. As the kilns will heat up, you do not want it too close to walls etc.
You will need enough ventilation and room around your kiln for it to not overheat. You may need to get a ventilation system put in place for bigger kilns. Ventilation in your space is important as the firing process gives off gases. The kiln itself is fairly inert and after a few firings will not release any contaminates, but, the items (clay and galzes) that you are firing will release impurities etc. Also take into account the ceiling height and composition. There is a vent on top of front loading kilns and there will also a large amount of warm air rising from the kiln body. If you have a standard height ceiling then it may be worth considering either a metal canopy above the kiln with ventilation or at least a heat resistant board fixed to the ceiling to dissipate some of the rising heat.
Have a think about what you would like to make which will determine what firing temperature you want the kiln to fire to.
1. The firing temperatures (as well as clay firing temperature) usually range from earthenare, to high fire and porcelain. If you are making functional wear (like plates and mugs etc that you are eating and drinking off), then you need to be firing at least mid fire (approx. 1200 degrees celsius) to high fire (approx. 1270-1280 degrees celsius). Porcelain is a high fire clay so you would need to take this into consideration if you want to work with porcelain (1300). Earthenware (approx. 1,000 - 1,100 degrees Celsius) is still porous after fired and therefore is not food safe. Examples of this type of clay is terracotta.
2. It is also important to note that consistency in the right firing temperature is essential to ceramics. For those newbies on here… first welcome! Second the temperature your kiln fires too and having this consistent not only each firing but around your kiln (this means that not one section of the kiln is hotter than the other which can often be the case), can mean the difference to an amazingly finished piece you have spent weeks making, or to it not firing properly and completely missing the mark and the glaze not turning out as you had planned.
3. The life of your kiln will depend on how you use your kiln. The more you fire your kiln to its max temperature will impact how long the kiln and/or elements will last. Firing a high fire kiln at mid fire elements will last longer than a mid fire kiln’s elements firing at mid fire. ie if you are wanting to fire midfire, a kiln that fires to high fire (1300) will last longer than one that only fires to mid fire
DURABILITY AND EFFICIENCY
"I have a Kilncare Kilns for firing glass. Its fantastic - reliable, compact and very easy to use"
When looking at how the kiln is made, you want to make sure that it is durable to withstand firing at high temperatures over and over. Some kilns have issues with certain clays and bodies and can corode.
You also want to look at how the gasses are extracted, as if they are not flowed through properly they can get trapped and cause areas of intense concentration, leading to degrading of even the hardened materials.
Durability also includes -
- how the kiln fits together (what joins are used)
- handles (how they are attached and what they made of)
- what hydraulic system is used (if any – especially considering the top loader and kiln lids can be heavy and cumbersome)
- the stand materials and joins or any wheels and brace systems
- how thick the walls are. The thinner the walls the less durable the kiln will be. This is effected in a number of ways. The thicker the internal wall the slower the kiln cools down, meaning less impact of the heat shock to your kiln and the elements (including the thermocouple. Ie the less heat shock you can give your elements, going from hot to cold, the longer everything will last). Thicker walls also reduce the electricity you use, meaning it is more fuel efficient as well as a more consistent even firing process. Essential if you are a production potter and want to create consistent work.
All Kilncare products are built to last
1. They are reinforced where possible.
2. Gas lifting mechanisms where repeated lifting is required (on top loaders)
3. Joints and handles are all fitted with quality materials and fixtures.
4. IKON Kilns are fitted with lockable wheels to easily move around your studio
Hand in hand is the efficency with durability. The longer lasting the kiln, the better built it is, then usually the more effient it is.
After Market Assistance and Replacement Parts.
"You can't go wrong with them... fantastic after sales servie too. Fire away"
Check how long the warranty is on the kiln. Most are 2 – 3 years. Check what the warranty covers. Most do not cover elements, but check what else is covered. Ie Kilncare includes thermocouples if in the unlikely instance they fail within the warranty period. Take into account how often you will need to replace the elements, and what they are made of, and how expensive they are. How easy it is to get these parts and who you contact to get any warranty claim resolved. Where the parts are located, how long it might take to get them and who would replace them if need be. Ask your supplier who you would deal with if something was to go wrong and what the process is. Make sure you are comfortable dealing with them. Kilns are different to wheels or slab rollers. At some point you will need to get them serviced and replace parts. There is also more that can go wrong. You need great customer service and assistance with a kiln. At Australian Pottery Supplies we will stock a number of regular items on hand for any warranty issues. We endeavour to have your warranty resolved as soon as possible.
This can sometimes be the first thing someone asks. How much are they? But this is actually the last question to ask. Once you have worked out the phases and amps you have access to, the space you have available, the durability of a kiln and assistance after the product is bought and the length of warranty and how the claims process is dealt with, then you can look at cost.
If you look at cost before this then you are not comparing like for like. Price is important, yes. But a more efficient kiln, which is consistently firing the right temperature far outweighs the cost of lost time and effort in making work that is damaged or not fired correctly due to poor kiln quality. When you look at the purchase price, you also need to consider how long the kiln will last, the quality of the materials used (how quickly will they corode), and how much is it worth to you to have warranty issues dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Be careful as not all kilns are created equal.
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Still need help?
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