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billyboyva

Buying first kiln

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Happy holidays to all. I am in the market to purchase my first kiln, and am looking for a small kiln. I intend to use it to: a) learn how to fire B) fire small pieces c) experiment with different glaze and firing techniques including single firing. Are there any suggestions? I prefer a 110v kiln, and have been looking at the Paragon Xpress-1193. I would also prefer to be able to fire to cone 10. Thanks in advance for your advice.

 

 

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The Paragon you're talking about draws 18A, 2160W, fires to cone 8/2300F - you realize this is short of your desire to fire to cone 10? I don't think you can get a kiln that'll fire to cone 10 on 120v service - this one is already pushing the limit of what you can do with 120v, kiln-wise.

 

It will require a special outlet, like this:

 

861577-1_11.jpg

It may also require a re-wire. I wouldn't run that on less than #10 wire. Most contractors don't install heavy duty wire - they assume you're going to put several smaller appliances on your 20A circuit (if they even install one that big that's not already dedicated to something else) and wire accordingly. If code doesn't require the heavier duty wire, they don't use it.

 

You'll have to wire that in or pay someone to do it. Also, you will need a dedicated 20A circuit - this kiln draws enough power that it isn't safe to have anything else on that circuit. You might get away OK with a lamp, if it has a CFL bulb, but nothing else. At times the kiln may draw more than 18A, though it shouldn't do that for long, but there could be spikes, and you're close enough to the upper limit on the 20A breaker that it would be better NOT to have anything else loading the breaker.

 

I looked into getting one of these small kilns, and ultimately decided that they are so costly that you're halfway to a full-size kiln anyway - so why waste the time, effort and money? Currently I'm in a situation where I have access to studio kilns, so no real need. If I end up somewhere where I can't get at a community studio, I'd rethink - but if I were living in a home that I owned I would rather just save up for a real kiln.

 

Do you rent, or own? I don't know about you, but there isn't a single 20A circuit in my apartment that isn't occupied by something else (like the dishwasher, water heater, etc). I'm not sure I could safely put anything on the 15A circuits that are available - there isn't a circuit anywhere in the apartment that I could dedicate to just one appliance.

 

If you own your home, I would strongly counsel you to save up the extra 1000 and get an L&L Easy Fire 4.7 cu ft kiln for under $1700. Or watch craig's list - I've seen some smokin' deals on kilns off and on over the past year, one was even being given away because he hadn't been able to sell it before moving. Too bad I'm in an apartment, LOL!

 

Also, results from glaze test firings in small kilns are likely to be different than in a larger kiln where the ramp up and cool down times/programs are entirely different. A large kiln will probably hold temp better in the middle phases of firing, also. A small kiln just doesn't have the mass to maintain even temps throughout the firing process. Which doesn't make it unusable, it just makes it perhaps problematic to do glaze test firings since conditions in a big kiln are likely to be different in ways that matter. That doesn't matter much if you're not interested in repeating the results in a larger kiln at a later date.

 

And finally, that kiln is nominally 11wx9" tall - but you won't actually be able to use that entire space because you can't have your piece crowding up on the firebrick, things will expand/contract - you'll need to assume you can't put anything bigger than 10w x 8" high in there.

 

But it depends on your situation - do you own, or are you renting? Have you checked your wiring? Home owners insurance? Local fire regs? It'll cost you just as much to rewire for a small kiln as it would for a larger kiln, should that be necessary. DON'T skimp on the wire size running from the breaker box to the outlet, pull it if it isn't at least 10g, or wire a totally dedicated new 20A circuit in to be sure nobody ever accidentally plugs into the same line. Doing it yourself could void your home owner's insurance, check to find out; and some municipalities no longer allow the homeowner to do their own electrical work - and it may require a building permit. Bypassing municipal regs about who can do this work and not having it properly certified/inspected will almost certainly void your homeowners insurance. Lots of things to think about, even if it IS "just" a 120v kiln.

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Don’t be discouraged about buying a small kiln. You can learn a lot from having the smaller size. Loading it won’t be tiring and you won’t feel compelled to fill up the kiln as you would have to with a larger model. When you are ready to go bigger you will know.

 

But remember a small kiln can be just as hazardous as a large kiln. All safety considerations are the same. Please read all you can about the safety requirements and electrical requirements. Venting is an important consideration as well.

 

If you have children their safety also must be taken into consideration. If the kiln manufacturer has videos watch them, if they have information and/or manuals on line or to send to you, read them. Read about pyrometric cones understand them and how they are used.

 

My first kiln was a small low fire kiln with a pyrometer. I learned how to care for it, how to fire it safely; even how to calibrate the pyrometer. I learned about glazing and underglazes. I learned how to use the different types of low fire clays. It was a wonderful experience and not overwhelming and not very costly.

 

Because I was learning, mistakes happened of course, but they were not huge catastrophes. I paid close attention to manufacturer’s instructions. I read books about electric kiln firing before, during, and after purchase. There weren’t many, at the time, but I read what I could get.

 

I think the key is to strive for learning all you can about your kiln. Grow in your knowledge and clay skills and when it is time for you to move to a larger kiln you will be prepared for it. And purchasing the small kiln won’t be a waste you will use it for clay and glaze testing. Research, research, research, and read, read, and read. And believe what the manufacturers of your equipment tell you about the proper use of their products.

 

 

 

 

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Happy holidays to all. I am in the market to purchase my first kiln, and am looking for a small kiln. I intend to use it to: a) learn how to fire B) fire small pieces c) experiment with different glaze and firing techniques including single firing. Are there any suggestions? I prefer a 110v kiln, and have been looking at the Paragon Xpress-1193. I would also prefer to be able to fire to cone 10. Thanks in advance for your advice.

 

 

 

 

Hi and congrats on buying that first kiln.

May I suggest installing wiring that will accommodate a higher amperage breaker in the future. If your living circumstance allows of course. Most kilns that will fire to cone 10 are in the 50A-60A range and require heavier wiring. You can still use a smaller breaker to use a smaller kiln but will have the foundation in place to upgrade without tearing things apart again...

Just a thought.

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Happy holidays to all. I am in the market to purchase my first kiln, and am looking for a small kiln. I intend to use it to: a) learn how to fire B) fire small pieces c) experiment with different glaze and firing techniques including single firing. Are there any suggestions? I prefer a 110v kiln, and have been looking at the Paragon Xpress-1193. I would also prefer to be able to fire to cone 10. Thanks in advance for your advice.

 

 

 

 

Hi and congrats on buying that first kiln.

May I suggest installing wiring that will accommodate a higher amperage breaker in the future. If your living circumstance allows of course. Most kilns that will fire to cone 10 are in the 50A-60A range and require heavier wiring. You can still use a smaller breaker to use a smaller kiln but will have the foundation in place to upgrade without tearing things apart again...

Just a thought.

 

 

 

Good catch!

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Also, results from glaze test firings in small kilns are likely to be different than in a larger kiln where the ramp up and cool down times/programs are entirely different. A large kiln will probably hold temp better in the middle phases of firing, also. A small kiln just doesn't have the mass to maintain even temps throughout the firing process. Which doesn't make it unusable, it just makes it perhaps problematic to do glaze test firings since conditions in a big kiln are likely to be different in ways that matter.

 

I agree with the above. However, you can program a small digital kiln to mimic the firing profile of a large kiln. This gives fairly close results.

 

http://www.paragonwe...ter.cfm?PID=348

 

If I were firing to cone 10 on 120 volts, I would use the Xpress-Q-11-A.

 

Sincerely,

 

Arnold Howard

Paragon Industries, L.P., Mesquite, Texas USA

ahoward@paragonweb.com / www.paragonweb.com

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If I were firing to cone 10 on 120 volts, I would use the Xpress-Q-11-A.

 

 

 

That is just REALLY really small. About 6x6x6. So nothing bigger than about 5"wide and 5" tall in that.

 

If that's big enough - then I guess. But even the blurb on the Paragon website constantly refers to it for use in glassmaking, not for clay (PMC doesn't count). It's just so small.

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I have never done anything other than high fire. My first kiln is the same kiln I use today. It is a large gas kiln that I bought used. I was in University and Guild programs for 8 years and ^10 was all we did. I fell in love with Southern Ice porcelain... the rest is history. I use other ^10 clays for larger pieces though. I think a small kiln is a great idea for a first kiln. I often wish I had a smaller one to do test tiles etc. but even with that, I would need one that goes to ^10. I really think you need to decide what temps you want to fire to and go with the kiln that works for that clay and glazes. It is nice to have something that works for everything, but if you are starting out small, that is not always possible.

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I have a Skutt 818P, which is a great first kiln. The only problem I have with mine is that it's older and has the old style envirovent which pulls too much air through the kiln. The new envirovent does not have this problem. I prefer to fire my kiln in a covered patio situation where the kiln stays completely dry, but the air circulates removing potentially harmful chemicals from the area. In doing this the envirovent is not really necessary. Firing this kiln with out the envirovent is awesome. The kiln is powerful, not too big allowing for small quick loads, not too small for a beginner, energy efficient, easy to fire.

 

One serious draw back of a 110 kiln is the inefficiency of 110 power. I'd consider this carefully, because I'm told that the small 110 kilns cost almost as much as my 818P which is only a couple dollars a pop.

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One serious draw back of a 110 kiln is the inefficiency of 110 power. I'd consider this carefully, because I'm told that the small 110 kilns cost almost as much as my 818P which is only a couple dollars a pop.

 

 

wellll.... I did the math and the Olympic small kiln I was looking at came up at around 63c per load. But of course a load in a small kiln like that is like ONE item, LOL! Well maybe a few items, if you're good at stacking things in a kiln that small.

 

It's probably actually a lot higher than your kiln if you go by cu ft, and even higher than that if you go by actually USABLE cu ft. A larger kiln will have less wastage when stacking multiple items than a small kiln that's already cramped.

 

Here's how to figure your firing costs

 

That's assuming you operate your kiln full blast through it's entire cycle, and I don't know how accurate that is. Also, I was only looking to fire to cone 018 or 014 (for burnished items) so if I'm operating at a lower temp, my operating expenses should be lower. Of course they'd probably be lower in a larger kiln, too. But right now, the only way I can fire burnished items is if I fire a whole kiln load at a time, which is an AWFUL lot of output for me. Nobody else wants to fire that low so to fire at the community kiln I'd have to fill it. This doesn't give me as much leeway as far as making, understanding, and correcting mistakes. So this is a situation where a small tabletop kiln is appropriate, but even so, I don't believe there's anywhere I could plug one in here in this apartment.

 

The thing is, once I'm past that initial learning phase, then I'd have an expensive little kiln that I really didn't need anymore. Even in this situation, I'd rather have a larger kiln and just not fill it - it'd take a loooooot of partially filled loads and the higher electric costs before I hit the $700 or $800 I'd spend on a smaller kiln.

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Yes 220 single phase is fairly economical and user friendly. The 110's aren't going to be of use to you much at all unless it's got a digital control. Even then I'd still want a small test kiln with a digital control that was 220 single phase for thrift and power. The smallest kiln recommended to me when I was looking was the one I bought. Now looking at my situation it was over all a good purchase because I got a great deal. If you're not totally learned I wouldn't spring for anything bigger. Now I'm at the point that I want a large production kiln and a digital controller. I will still use my 818P no matter what because it's a cheap way to fire off small amounts of work. I pack in two medium sized vases and about 10 good sized cups or mugs in a glaze load.

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Happy holidays to all. I am in the market to purchase my first kiln, and am looking for a small kiln. I intend to use it to: a) learn how to fire B) fire small pieces c) experiment with different glaze and firing techniques including single firing. Are there any suggestions? I prefer a 110v kiln, and have been looking at the Paragon Xpress-1193. I would also prefer to be able to fire to cone 10. Thanks in advance for your advice.

 

 

 

 

I fall back on the advice that I have been given about many things. First, if you are buying a kiln, then this is not a whim, or a phase you are going through but something you are serious about. That said, I would buy a kiln a little larger than what you think you need so that you may not grow out of it too soon. At the same time bite the bullet, and spend on getting something with 220v so that you can run the full gambit of firing temperatures. This is just a personal opinion, but over the years I have followed this type of advice and almost never been sorry for it. Good luck with the new kiln.

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I fall back on the advice that I have been given about many things. First, if you are buying a kiln, then this is not a whim, or a phase you are going through but something you are serious about. That said, I would buy a kiln a little larger than what you think you need so that you may not grow out of it too soon. At the same time bite the bullet, and spend on getting something with 220v so that you can run the full gambit of firing temperatures. This is just a personal opinion, but over the years I have followed this type of advice and almost never been sorry for it. Good luck with the new kiln.

 

 

I agree. However, in an apartment situation, or any rental situation at all, it is unlikely that one would be able to rewire to accommodate a 240v kiln.

 

But if that is NOT the situation, then yes, a smallish 240v kiln would be the better option than a tiny 120v kiln. We don't know what limitations the OP may have as we have not heard back from him yet - I hope there's useful info in this thread for him!

 

In my situation I can't have even a "small" 120v kiln as there is simply nowhere I could safely plug it in.

 

However someday I hope to be able to get a kiln, when I'm in a more permanent situation. In my situation - limited output due to fatigue and other physical limitations - I'm frankly NEVER going to be in the market for a big kiln. I COULD get along with a small 2.5 cu ft kiln such as the Skutt discussed above; but given the price point break for a kiln in the area of 4.5 cu ft to 5 cu ft, I think it would be a better option to spend the extra $300 or $400 and get a kiln with almost double the capacity. That's still a smallish kiln; but I'm unlikely ever to outgrow it.

 

This may not be the OPs situation at all, but I think Benhim was given good advice when he was told a 2.5 cu foot kiln was the smallest kiln he should consider. I just can't see a lot of advantage in having a kiln so small you could only fire one or two pieces at a time as your only kiln, unless it's absolutely the only thing you could hook up because you're living in a rental property where you have to adapt to the existing wiring. Another consideration is that a kiln in the 2.5 cu ft range is more akin to its larger brethren than those tiny tabletop models are; so from the point of view of learning to fire, I think what you can learn from that 2.5 cu ft kiln will translate better and more accurately when/if you do step up to a larger kiln.

 

You just have way more flexibility even with a 2.5 cu ft model than the tabletops, and the expense isn't all THAT much greater; if there's anyway for the OP to wangle it I think he'd be happier in the long run.

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Something I forgot - a 120v kiln will not operate at the top of it's heat range if you're getting less than 120v on your line, which is fairly likely these days. Those 120v kilns have to operate at the absolute top of their range. A lot of utility systems are under capacity or in need of upgrades or replacement of old equipment nearing the end of its life. Rolling blackouts and brownouts have become part of the power management plan in some areas. You may only be getting 115v or even 110v delivered for at least part of the day. When voltage is low, a 120v kiln just can't deliver.

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I think Benhim was given good advice when he was told a 2.5 cu foot kiln was the smallest kiln he should consider.

 

One of the factors you should consider when comparing kilns is cost per cubic foot in addition to cost of the kiln. Generally, the larger the kiln, the lower the cost per cubic foot. Divide the price of the kiln by cubic feet and you will quickly see what I mean. When I built a house in Hawaii, I discovered that the same principle applies to houses. You can build a large house for just a little more than you would pay to build a small one. So, production studios should buy the largest kiln they can fill frequently. The extra size will pay for itself.

 

Small test kilns are fun. Students love them, because they can test glazes without waiting for the large school kiln to be fired.

 

Sincerely,

 

Arnold Howard

Paragon Industries, L.P., Mesquite, Texas USA

ahoward@paragonweb.com / www.paragonweb.com

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One serious draw back of a 110 kiln is the inefficiency of 110 power. I'd consider this carefully, because I'm told that the small 110 kilns cost almost as much as my 818P which is only a couple dollars a pop.

 

 

wellll.... I did the math and the Olympic small kiln I was looking at came up at around 63c per load. But of course a load in a small kiln like that is like ONE item, LOL! Well maybe a few items, if you're good at stacking things in a kiln that small.

 

It's probably actually a lot higher than your kiln if you go by cu ft, and even higher than that if you go by actually USABLE cu ft. A larger kiln will have less wastage when stacking multiple items than a small kiln that's already cramped.

 

Here's how to figure your firing costs

 

That's assuming you operate your kiln full blast through it's entire cycle, and I don't know how accurate that is. Also, I was only looking to fire to cone 018 or 014 (for burnished items) so if I'm operating at a lower temp, my operating expenses should be lower. Of course they'd probably be lower in a larger kiln, too. But right now, the only way I can fire burnished items is if I fire a whole kiln load at a time, which is an AWFUL lot of output for me. Nobody else wants to fire that low so to fire at the community kiln I'd have to fill it. This doesn't give me as much leeway as far as making, understanding, and correcting mistakes. So this is a situation where a small tabletop kiln is appropriate, but even so, I don't believe there's anywhere I could plug one in here in this apartment.

 

The thing is, once I'm past that initial learning phase, then I'd have an expensive little kiln that I really didn't need anymore. Even in this situation, I'd rather have a larger kiln and just not fill it - it'd take a loooooot of partially filled loads and the higher electric costs before I hit the $700 or $800 I'd spend on a smaller kiln.

 

 

I removed my earlier post because I now think it was a little unfair to Olympia.

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I know there are many parameters that can come into play when buying a kiln....

 

but did most of you who own a kiln decide to buy it new...or take the chance that one that says "hardly used, only fired about 20 times"?? for 2/3rds of the price of a new model?

 

Is there anyway to know how much life is left in a set of elements?

 

I've been looking at new kilns.

 

However, one popped up on craigslist (crazedlist) near my home that is one of the models I'm interested in. I'm tempted....but again...has it only been fired 20 times/will I need to pop for $300 worth of elements right off the bat? The new one (torn between Bailey and L & L) has a 2 year warranty...though I know that is sometimes a sham when you are in one place and the maker is in another.... and it's NEW..... though it is more money than the used kiln nearby.

 

decisions, decisions...

 

thanks for starting this thread

 

teardrop

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Is there anyway to know how much life is left in a set of elements?

 

You could check the condition of the elements with a multimeter. First, measure the voltage under load. Then do an ammeter test while the elements are turned on. Elements draw less amperage as they age. Compare your amp reading with the amps listed on the kiln's electrical data plate.

 

You can sometimes determine element wear just by looking at the kiln. Elements that have been fired only a few times have a smooth, gray surface and are still pliable.

 

More important than element wear is the condition of the steel parts and firebricks. Is the kiln rusted? Are the firebricks broken at the top edge where the lid rests against the firing chamber? Rust indicates either a humid climate or that the kiln was used to dry wet greenware.

 

Here is a short article on buying a used kiln:

 

http://www.paragonwe...nter.cfm?PID=45

 

Sincerely,

 

Arnold Howard

Paragon Industries, L.P., Mesquite, Texas USA

ahoward@paragonweb.com / www.paragonweb.com

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wellll.... I did the math and the Olympic small kiln I was looking at ....

 

 

I'd stay away from Olympic Kilns. ...

 

Jim

 

 

I am not actually considering an Olympic kiln, given that upon investigation it turns out that a small kiln like that just isn't an economic choice for me even if I COULD find somewhere to plug it in. I don't know a lot about them, but the people I know of who have them haven't, overall, seemed particularly unhappy with them. I haven't researched them at all, given, as it turns out, that I couldn't plug that kiln in anywhere anyway, and I'm sorry to hear you've had a negative experience with them. I'm not in the market for a kiln (unfortunately) but if I were, I'd be looking at an L&L anyway, which I *HAVE* researched. If I had my druthers, I'd be looking for a kiln in the area of 4.5 to 5 cu ft capacity. Maybe someday I'll get those druthers.

 

In the meantime, returning to the OP and others who may have space/wiring/other limitations that preclude installation of a 240v kiln, here's a possible option for an acceptably sized small kiln (2.5 cu ft and up), assuming it can be appropriately vented. It's the L&L Liberty Belle, a 2.5 cu ft kiln which can be plugged into a standard dryer outlet and presumably vented through the dryer vent (of course using metal venting and not the plastic stuff that usually comes with a dryer these days). This presumes that your rental unit is provided with the proper dryer outlet; the last place I lived, the guy installed an oven outlet and then told me to change the plug on my dryer, which cost me in the area of $25 or $30, and is probably not an option for a kiln. In my current situation, they installed the washer and dryer as stacking units in what was designed to be a closet. They had to remove the molding around the closet door to get them in there, so (aside from the fact that the dryer is stacked on top of the front loading washer) I'm not moving anything out of there any time soon to get at the dryer outlet. Also, you would need to make sure the dryer vent is properly installed to vent safely outside, and not just under/over someones window or into attic space (incredibly bad place to vent, but I've seen some apartments where they actually did that). Don't rely on code either; rental units are not always up to code, and code is not always up to actual safe practice.

 

Anyway, given that you can get at the correct type of outlet without tearing things apart, and that the dryer vent is properly and safely installed, this would seem to be an option for a rental property dweller.

 

The Liberty Belle is a 240v kiln with an option for 3" firebrick, which I would definitely get, 2.5 cu ft as mentioned above, and comes with a 12 foot cord so you have some leeway about placing it. You would need to have sufficient clearance for safety, you will have to level the kiln, make sure the dryer vent is properly installed and uses the correct wire gauge for safe operation of the kiln, all the things you would normally do for any kiln installation. I would not consider this to be a "movable" option unless L&L has something otherwise to say in that regard, due to the need to level the kiln. I kind of doubt you could store the kiln in a closet or something and then just wheel it out when you want to use it; but I've not actually asked L&L. It does come with the ceramic element holders L&L has become famous for.

 

Again, just a possible option for renters or people who can't necessarily go the whole 9 yards and install totally separate wiring dedicated to a kiln. All safety precautions still apply, and you would need to have space near the dryer outlet and vent to place the kiln that would allow for SAFE and proper installation.

 

Oh yeah, and this kiln seems to market for around $1300 (a little more or less depending on the vendor and whether or not you spring for the 3" brick). True, that's around $500 or $600 more than a tabletop kiln, but its far more capable than a tabletop kiln and has in the area of 4 or 5 times the capacity. It also doesn't suffer from the drawbacks of small 120v kilns that would have to operate at the top of their range to get up to ceramics firing temperatures.

 

Just a possible option for some people, given they can meet the requirements for safe installation and operation.

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I gotta agree with Offcenter here, Skutt and L&L have a good track record. I don't personally have any experience with Paragon, but everyone out here in my neck of the woods uses Skutt and they are work horses.

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Well on looking into it some more, I found that there are actually several smaller kilns (but larger than the teensy tabletop models) that can be plugged into either a dryer or range outlet. The only other one that I've identified so far that's in the 2.5 cu ft and up range, though, is a Paragon, which is apparently sold only by The Big Ceramics Store online. The Paragon Biggest Little Kiln is rated at 28A, fires to cone 8, and has a capacity of 2.9 cu ft. It comes with a NEMA 6-30 plug. I've seen this alternately described as a dryer plug, and also as a range plug. The Big Ceramics Store describes this as a dryer plug. They state this should be hooked up to a 30A breaker, but personally I'm not comfortable with that - YMMV. A breaker should exceed its load by at least 10%, which means you wouldn't normally put over 27A on a 30 A breaker. This may not sound like much, and 9 times out of 10 you'd probably be right, but keep in mind that some building codes limit total circuit load to 80% or even 75% of rated amperage on a breaker. Remember that the further you push into the upper performance range, the more stress you put on the system. Ultimately, you CAN do this; but I wouldn't.

 

In contrast, the L&L Liberty Belle operates at 24A, which is well within the safe operating range of a 30 A fuse. It also fires to cone 10, though if you run it up there very often you will significantly shorten the life of the elements. It comes with a NEMA 14-30 plug, which definitely is a dryer plug. It replaces the older 10-30 which was in common use prior to 2000.

 

And there is the problem with these kilns. Older houses will most likely be wired with 3-wire 10-30 outlets instead of the newer 4 wire 14-30 outlets, but these kilns will be wired for the newer outlets. You can't just switch outlets, either, because there's a physical (and electrical) difference in the wire used. Also, if your outlet is more than 40' or 50' from the breaker box, you will need to go up a level for the wire, eg this kiln requires a minimum of 10 g wire but if the run from the breaker box is longer than that, you will need to run the larger diameter 8g wire. Another thing you can do to reduce stress on the system and reduce overheating in the wiring is to run the wire across the surface in metal conduit instead of pulling it through the walls. Not a big deal if you are installing this at or near the breaker box, but it makes a difference if there's a long run. The wire will run cooler in surface mount metal conduit, and cooler wire also means less expense since you're not paying for the power that would otherwise be wasted generating heat.

 

I've seen some really really HORRIBLE ideas about how to handle this situation in various forums across the Internet and all I can say is, DO NOT CUT CORNERS with your electrical wiring. I've seen people state that you can just switch the outlets or the plugs, with various schemes for how to get around the 3-wire to 4-wire problem. Well, maybe some of those schemes would work, sort of, but no matter how you slice it, this sort of jerry-rigging WILL void your home owner's insurance. Also, it's your life. Just don't do it.

 

Now some houses built prior to 2000 and after about 1995/1996 may have the 10-30 outlets (you can google to see what these outlets look like) but were actually wired in anticipation of the upgrade to the new standard 14-30 outlets - they knew this change was coming but nobody knew for sure when it would be implemented. So there's a chance that you could have the wrong outlet but the correct wire in the wall. You won't know for sure until somebody removes the outlet cover and takes a look at what's in there (with the power shut off, of course). It's easy to switch the cord on the back of the dryer to upgrade to the new outlet, if that's all you need to do. But actually rewiring the entire circuit - it'd be easier and smarter to just run a totally new circuit for the kiln, if you've got the spare amperage.

 

Another problem is that these types of plugs are not suited to constant plugging/unplugging - this will prematurely wear the connections on both the kiln AND the dryer. Probably there's some sort of switch out there that you could use to switch the load on the circuit between the dryer and the kiln, similar to a 30A dual pole dual throw 240v AC switch, which looks like a light switch except it has 3 positions: Load 1 (Dryer) - OFF - Load 2 (Kiln). HOWEVER THIS IS NOT A SOLUTION for this application because I'm almost positive these switches are NOT rated for a continuous load like a kiln. Another possible solution would be a full-on transfer box, wired to switch one power source (the supply from the breaker box) between 2 loads (dryer or kiln), but these are mighty pricey - I looked one up (a 100A transfer switch, which is admittedly way overkill for this application) and it was $750. A 30A transfer switch I found online was listed at $200, and I'm not sure it could be wired up for this application. It's possible there's an appropriate solution somewhere in between a $30 30A DPDT 240v AC switch and a transfer switch or double throw safety switch, but I don't know what it is, and it will still require SOME wiring, though nowhere near as much as if you have to run a totally new circuit. This is NOT, btw, the answer to the 3-wire vs 4-wire problem; you still need the appropriate wire run from the breaker box to your kiln, whether it goes through a switch first or not.

 

So, these kilns might be a solution for some people, but a smaller set of people than you might think at first glance. There just is no such thing as a plug-'n-play kiln, unfortunately.

 

Other things to consider are venting; fire safety (you can't install one of these on carpeted or wooden flooring; I don't know if the fire retardant safety bases for wood burning stoves are sufficient unto this task); proper clearance from walls etc., also related to fire safety; possible contamination of food prep areas (I wouldn't operate one anywhere near the kitchen, not even if it's vented); temperature - kilns can get very hot and if you put this in an enclosed or semi-enclosed area you could quickly exceed the 100F to 110F environmental temp that could cause the kiln to auto-shutdown for safety reasons. Also having it actually IN your living area could significantly increase your cooling bills in warm months, increasing the overall cost to you of firing.

 

Happiest solution would be if you could put it in a garage and if your breaker box is right there nearby. Assuming you have the spare amperage (most houses have either 100A or 200A service, add up the total amperage of all currently installed breakers, subtract that from your service, that's your spare amperage) it's not difficult to install a 30A 240v breaker and run wire in surface conduit a few feet to where your kiln will sit. That's really your cheapest solution. Of course, if you can do that, there's no real advantage to the smaller kiln other than space saving, or if your spare amperage precludes installing a 50A or higher breaker. (eg you have 100A service but have already used 70A worth; if you've used more than 70A out of 100A, you can't even install the 30A breaker; likewise, your service is 200A but you already have 170A of breakers installed, leaving 30A free, you couldn't install a larger breaker for a bigger kiln).

 

When I built my house, I ran 100A service to the house but 200A service to the barn because all my appliances (except the fridge) were going to be propane, and I wanted to be able to run all my power equipment from the barn. Had I wanted 200A service in both places, the power company would have required me to buy, install, and pay monthly fees for a second meter. Given that there is a minimum monthly fee for having the meter whether or not you're actually using power, I really didn't want to do that. The minimum fee was $15 at the time, but I think that's up to $30 or more by now. Fees like that just keep going up, but our income seldom rises to match it. At least I knew mine wouldn't, LOL!

 

Also, all my interior wiring was to be run in surface mount conduit for increased efficiency and safety - you can't have a fire smoldering in the walls for days or weeks if your wiring isn't buried in the walls to start with. Most modern houses are built with 200A service these days, but some (much) older houses don't even have 100A service. If you're rural, outbuildings may be underpowered or separately powered. It's important to check and see what you've got.

 

There are probably other things I've not thought of. Sadly - no plug-'n-play kilns!

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Well on looking into it some more, I found that there are actually several smaller kilns (but larger than the teensy tabletop models) that can be plugged into either a dryer or range outlet. The only other one that I've identified so far that's in the 2.5 cu ft and up range, though, is a Paragon, which is apparently sold only by The Big Ceramics Store online. The Paragon Biggest Little Kiln is rated at 28A, fires to cone 8, and has a capacity of 2.9 cu ft. It comes with a NEMA 6-30 plug. I've seen this alternately described as a dryer plug, and also as a range plug. The Big Ceramics Store describes this as a dryer plug. They state this should be hooked up to a 30A breaker, but personally I'm not comfortable with that - YMMV. A breaker should exceed its load by at least 10%, which means you wouldn't normally put over 27A on a 30 A breaker. This may not sound like much, and 9 times out of 10 you'd probably be right, but keep in mind that some building codes limit total circuit load to 80% or even 75% of rated amperage on a breaker. Remember that the further you push into the upper performance range, the more stress you put on the system. Ultimately, you CAN do this; but I wouldn't.

 

In contrast, the L&L Liberty Belle operates at 24A, which is well within the safe operating range of a 30 A fuse. It also fires to cone 10, though if you run it up there very often you will significantly shorten the life of the elements. It comes with a NEMA 14-30 plug, which definitely is a dryer plug. It replaces the older 10-30 which was in common use prior to 2000.

 

And there is the problem with these kilns. Older houses will most likely be wired with 3-wire 10-30 outlets instead of the newer 4 wire 14-30 outlets, but these kilns will be wired for the newer outlets. You can't just switch outlets, either, because there's a physical (and electrical) difference in the wire used. Also, if your outlet is more than 40' or 50' from the breaker box, you will need to go up a level for the wire, eg this kiln requires a minimum of 10 g wire but if the run from the breaker box is longer than that, you will need to run the larger diameter 8g wire. Another thing you can do to reduce stress on the system and reduce overheating in the wiring is to run the wire across the surface in metal conduit instead of pulling it through the walls. Not a big deal if you are installing this at or near the breaker box, but it makes a difference if there's a long run. The wire will run cooler in surface mount metal conduit, and cooler wire also means less expense since you're not paying for the power that would otherwise be wasted generating heat.

 

I've seen some really really HORRIBLE ideas about how to handle this situation in various forums across the Internet and all I can say is, DO NOT CUT CORNERS with your electrical wiring. I've seen people state that you can just switch the outlets or the plugs, with various schemes for how to get around the 3-wire to 4-wire problem. Well, maybe some of those schemes would work, sort of, but no matter how you slice it, this sort of jerry-rigging WILL void your home owner's insurance. Also, it's your life. Just don't do it.

 

Now some houses built prior to 2000 and after about 1995/1996 may have the 10-30 outlets (you can google to see what these outlets look like) but were actually wired in anticipation of the upgrade to the new standard 14-30 outlets - they knew this change was coming but nobody knew for sure when it would be implemented. So there's a chance that you could have the wrong outlet but the correct wire in the wall. You won't know for sure until somebody removes the outlet cover and takes a look at what's in there (with the power shut off, of course). It's easy to switch the cord on the back of the dryer to upgrade to the new outlet, if that's all you need to do. But actually rewiring the entire circuit - it'd be easier and smarter to just run a totally new circuit for the kiln, if you've got the spare amperage.

 

Another problem is that these types of plugs are not suited to constant plugging/unplugging - this will prematurely wear the connections on both the kiln AND the dryer. Probably there's some sort of switch out there that you could use to switch the load on the circuit between the dryer and the kiln, similar to a 30A dual pole dual throw 240v AC switch, which looks like a light switch except it has 3 positions: Load 1 (Dryer) - OFF - Load 2 (Kiln). HOWEVER THIS IS NOT A SOLUTION for this application because I'm almost positive these switches are NOT rated for a continuous load like a kiln. Another possible solution would be a full-on transfer box, wired to switch one power source (the supply from the breaker box) between 2 loads (dryer or kiln), but these are mighty pricey - I looked one up (a 100A transfer switch, which is admittedly way overkill for this application) and it was $750. A 30A transfer switch I found online was listed at $200, and I'm not sure it could be wired up for this application. It's possible there's an appropriate solution somewhere in between a $30 30A DPDT 240v AC switch and a transfer switch or double throw safety switch, but I don't know what it is, and it will still require SOME wiring, though nowhere near as much as if you have to run a totally new circuit. This is NOT, btw, the answer to the 3-wire vs 4-wire problem; you still need the appropriate wire run from the breaker box to your kiln, whether it goes through a switch first or not.

 

So, these kilns might be a solution for some people, but a smaller set of people than you might think at first glance. There just is no such thing as a plug-'n-play kiln, unfortunately.

 

Other things to consider are venting; fire safety (you can't install one of these on carpeted or wooden flooring; I don't know if the fire retardant safety bases for wood burning stoves are sufficient unto this task); proper clearance from walls etc., also related to fire safety; possible contamination of food prep areas (I wouldn't operate one anywhere near the kitchen, not even if it's vented); temperature - kilns can get very hot and if you put this in an enclosed or semi-enclosed area you could quickly exceed the 100F to 110F environmental temp that could cause the kiln to auto-shutdown for safety reasons. Also having it actually IN your living area could significantly increase your cooling bills in warm months, increasing the overall cost to you of firing.

 

Happiest solution would be if you could put it in a garage and if your breaker box is right there nearby. Assuming you have the spare amperage (most houses have either 100A or 200A service, add up the total amperage of all currently installed breakers, subtract that from your service, that's your spare amperage) it's not difficult to install a 30A 240v breaker and run wire in surface conduit a few feet to where your kiln will sit. That's really your cheapest solution. Of course, if you can do that, there's no real advantage to the smaller kiln other than space saving, or if your spare amperage precludes installing a 50A or higher breaker. (eg you have 100A service but have already used 70A worth; if you've used more than 70A out of 100A, you can't even install the 30A breaker; likewise, your service is 200A but you already have 170A of breakers installed, leaving 30A free, you couldn't install a larger breaker for a bigger kiln).

 

When I built my house, I ran 100A service to the house but 200A service to the barn because all my appliances (except the fridge) were going to be propane, and I wanted to be able to run all my power equipment from the barn. Had I wanted 200A service in both places, the power company would have required me to buy, install, and pay monthly fees for a second meter. Given that there is a minimum monthly fee for having the meter whether or not you're actually using power, I really didn't want to do that. The minimum fee was $15 at the time, but I think that's up to $30 or more by now. Fees like that just keep going up, but our income seldom rises to match it. At least I knew mine wouldn't, LOL!

 

Also, all my interior wiring was to be run in surface mount conduit for increased efficiency and safety - you can't have a fire smoldering in the walls for days or weeks if your wiring isn't buried in the walls to start with. Most modern houses are built with 200A service these days, but some (much) older houses don't even have 100A service. If you're rural, outbuildings may be underpowered or separately powered. It's important to check and see what you've got.

 

There are probably other things I've not thought of. Sadly - no plug-'n-play kilns!

 

 

When I had my wiring in the garage changed, an electrician put in my new service, and I had the meter put on the outside. I put in the wiring, inspected by the electrician. I did make the mistake of only putting in 100 amp service at the time, but will probably put in 200 soon. I have another kiln-used that I bought from the school district I worked in. I was familiar with the kiln, and it had only been fired twice. It is an Amaco. I am not real happy with it, but the fact that it was cheap, and in new condition worked out well. I also have an L&L that I can say nothing but good about. The element holders are a great boon for someone that fires constantly like in a school situation. Changing elements is pretty much a breeze. I had 2 L&L when teaching over 30 years.

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Very informative post, sojourner. Many thanks.

 

What about voltages? I am looking at buying a kiln myself.....so I've been taking note of the set up at the college I take classes at. They have 2 L & L's...

 

Kinda freaked me out when I saw that the smaller kiln is a 208 volt...the larger a 240 volt.... but get this...there's only one outlet..and obviously...it isn't BOTH voltages. I didn't take the cover off the electrical box to see what voltage it is..but needless to say...one of the kilns isn't getting the juice it should one way or the other. I have read that many schools are 208V ut I'll have to wait til they open in Jan to check it out further.

 

I don't know if the teacher knows about this difference in voltages or not. she was already gone for Christmas break when I noticed it.

 

Thoughts? I doubt they will run a new service...being that we are unplugging/plugging in whichever kiln we need at the present time... but you sound very knowledgeable on all of this so I figured I'd take the liberty and ask what the dangers/trouble might be in continuing to run these kilns in such a manner.

 

also....Do the digital controllers adjust for this voltage difference and will the kiln still fire at the proper temp?

 

thanks for any insight

 

teardrop

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Very informative post, sojourner. Many thanks.

 

What about voltages? I am looking at buying a kiln myself.....so I've been taking note of the set up at the college I take classes at. They have 2 L & L's...

 

Kinda freaked me out when I saw that the smaller kiln is a 208 volt...the larger a 240 volt.... but get this...there's only one outlet..and obviously...it isn't BOTH voltages. I didn't take the cover off the electrical box to see what voltage it is..but needless to say...one of the kilns isn't getting the juice it should one way or the other. I have read that many schools are 208V ut I'll have to wait til they open in Jan to check it out further.

 

I don't know if the teacher knows about this difference in voltages or not. she was already gone for Christmas break when I noticed it.

 

Thoughts? I doubt they will run a new service...being that we are unplugging/plugging in whichever kiln we need at the present time... but you sound very knowledgeable on all of this so I figured I'd take the liberty and ask what the dangers/trouble might be in continuing to run these kilns in such a manner.

 

also....Do the digital controllers adjust for this voltage difference and will the kiln still fire at the proper temp?

 

thanks for any insight

 

teardrop

 

 

Most schools have the 208v 3 phase service, but I have heard of at least one instance where they had what they were calling 480v split phase (I think). I don't know much about that.

 

You can run a 240v appliance on 208v service but the lower input power means fewer watts out, which in the case of ovens and kilns means they won't heat up as fast. So it'll run longer, but ultimately uses roughly the same amount of total power (less power x longer amt of time, should work out to about the same total power use for a complete cycle).

 

However the opposite isn't true. If you try to put a 208v appliance on 240v service, you will be putting MORE power through that thing than it is rated for, by about a third. Things will heat up faster. This sort of setup would be a fire hazard. It will cause excessive wear on the elements and will burn them out real quick, but that is the least of your worries. That excess power gets bled off in all directions as extra heat, and not just through the elements, but throughout the wiring of the kiln as well. Especially with a kiln, that already pumps out ungodly amounts of heat, this would be very dangerous. You'll also tend to get a lot of temperature fluctuations which can stress relays. Over all a very bad idea to run 208V appliances on 240v service. It's possible to do it by running it through a stepdown transformer (to reduce 240v to the 208v that would be safe for the kiln) but that seems kind of an expensive thing to do. My moneys on 208v service at your school, because I think you'd have had a fire by now or some other serious problems were it otherwise.

 

Also, there are a few kilns - I didn't note which ones, but a few - that will operate on either 208V or 240V service. I don't know if theres some user configuration involved with those or not, but they do make a few models that will operate on either service. So potentially one of those two kilns is a "switch hitter" and everybody really is still operating safely.

 

Constantly plugging/unplugging those kilns is going to stress those connectors in the plugs though, that's really not a good idea. If they're not inspecting those power cords regularly (and I'd be surprised if they were) that's another potential fire hazard. Appliances this big just aren't meant to be treated that way. If there's only one outlet maybe they should look into getting a switch installed, like I was talking about earlier. Depending on how many amps the "big" kiln is rated at, it might actually be cheaper to do the safe thing and wire in the extra outlet. Really shouldn't be repeatedly plugging/unplugging a kiln like that.

 

As for the controllers - I don't know much specifically about controllers for kilns, except that they are computers, and any computer just runs whatever program you load into it. If there are difference needed in the firing programs for the 208V or the 240V versions of a kiln that would be configured at the factory - it should be in the "firmware" and invisible to you as the end user. You have to trust the company that builds your kiln to get this right. If they couldn't handle it, you'd have heard about it by now, so no, there's nothing to worry about as far as the controllers go.

 

Hope that helps.

 

And don't go thinking I'm some sort of expert with all this. What I've been saying here is basically all surface stuff. I couldn't design the electrical system for an appliance to save my life, nor follow someone else's design. I just know where I should and shouldn't plug 'em in, and that only by checking the manual first, LOL!

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Thanks for the response.

 

there are obviously some problems that need to be worked out. I'm gonna >guess< and say that i think you are correct with the 208 volts guess for wiring at the college. I say this because the original kiln/the kiln owned by the school is the 208V 23" x 27"...and the larger 240V kiln is owned by the teacher and was brought in after the fact. I recently replaced the elements in both...though i don't know how many firings each underwent before the change/etc. (they are never fired to cone 10 because we have the gas kiln for that)

 

The plugs are both in shabby shape....I do know that for sure because I am tall and the ladies are all mostly short...and it's a contortion-type move to get yer arm back in the spot where the plug in is located. Being tall is also why I am targeted for unloading/loading the kiln. Many of the ladies can't even bend far enough or reach far enough to get to the bottom shelf (electric) or top shelves (gas). Therefore..very early-on in the class I was asked to help with the kilns. Fun stuff....mostly!

 

I'm gonna look into this a bit more once school starts back up next week. thanks for the insight.

 

teardrop

 

 

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