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Can anyone help with a kiln element question


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#1 BethP

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 12:51 PM

I'm in desperate need of help!
I have an old, used Gare (now called Evenheat) kiln with a perfect fire kiln sitter.
There are 4 elements.
1 element broke, stopped working.
Called x company who asked for a part number-which is nowhere to be found on the kiln. (they were very helpful and said it might be a sticker....which is no longer there....which doesn't help)
Ordered kiln element for kiln my size ( 240v 17.5 inch wide 22'' tall)
Element was too long so hubby trimmed it and fit it in. (he was an electrician in a former life so I trust him)
First fire after element replacement was very slow and the bottom shelf was ruined(glaze ran onto shelf in a BAD way)
Now testing- kiln heats very slowly once it gets to 1900 and doesn't reach cone 6, (or I shut it off because it's taking way too long-like 14 hours) and I worry about further damage)
When I look into kiln at 800 degrees only bottom 6 rows of elements(so 2 old elements and the new one) are glowing but the top one isnt.
All elements have continuity when tested(ability for electricity to flow through them)
Checked fuses-all ok.
Hubby checked fuse box and tightened connections
Friend suggested it might be relay problem.
I'm worried it's because we put a slightly longer element(though he trimmed it to fit) into the kiln and that's the problem.
BUT it is an old kiln and I suppose the relays could be on the way out too.
I've called evenheat before and always get this horrible lady on the phone and so have stopped dealing with them, have switched to dealing with national art craft . com who are much nicer and order drop ship from evenheat-so I get to deal with nice folks but still get the parts from evenheat.

My question is, I guess, could it be the new element causing problems or a relay switch or something else. If it is a relay switch-is there a way to test them to see which one is on the way out. Hubby says it's best to go ahead and replace both...until we found that they are $60 a piece. :( I'll do it if I have to, if that will solve the problem, but I can't help but think-is it that element?
Can you take an element for a larger kiln (same voltage) and trim it to fit? Part of me thinks 'it's metal, it's the same diameter, what's the difference?' and then part of me tells the rest of me that I'm perhaps an idiot and need advice from folks who know! Which brings me here.

:mellow:src="http://ceramicartsda...lt/mellow.gif">

#2 OffCenter

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 01:09 PM

I'll leave answering your questions to Neil but want to suggest that the next time you are in the market for a kiln, you should remember the kind of customer service you got from Evenheat.

Jim
E pur si muove.

"But it does move," said Galileo under his breath.

#3 neilestrick

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 02:05 PM

You can't trim an element. Each element is made from a specific thickness of wire, and made to a specific length to produce the correct amount of resistance. By shortening the wire you've changed the resistance so it no longer heats the way it should. The element should have been returned.

If your kiln has elements wired in parallel, then you'l get a continuity reading even if one is out. If that's the case you need to unhook the elements to test them, or just do a visual check for glowing elements.


Your kiln does not have relays, just switches. If electricity is flowing to the elements, then your switches are good. You'll have to start the kiln and test the voltage at the elements to see if a switch is working. You can also put an ohm meter on the two power leads on the plug, push the power button on the sitter, and turn on the switch. If it's working the ohms will show on the meter. In very rare cases it is possible for one side of the sitter contacts to be corroded and not working, therefore knocking out power to some elements, depending on the wiring configuration. I'd start with elements, then switches, then the sitter contact plate.

If the element burned out because it was old, then all of the elements are probably due for replacement as well, which is part of the reason it isn't heating properly. As elements wear out the resistance changes and they become inefficient. Your best bet is to call Evenheat directly and speak with their tech, not the person who answers the phone. It's also possible that they just don't have anyone in their shop who is familiar enough with the very old kilns to really help you out. They probably have the information needed to get you the right elements, but without a model number they might not be able to figure it out.

That said, you may be able to get an element that is coiled but not stretched, so you can stretch it yourself to the correct length for your kiln. By knowing the voltage and wiring configuration (single or 3 phase, elements in parallel or series), and size of the kiln they may be able to get you elements that will work for you. You may also want to try call ing Euclids Kilns and see if they have any Gare wiring information. They tend to know a lot about old kilns.
Neil Estrick
Kiln Repair Tech
L&L Distributor
Owner, Neil Estrick Gallery, LLC
www.neilestrickgallery.com

neil@neilestrickgallery.com

#4 Mark C.

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 04:22 PM

(You may also want to try call ing Euclids Kilns and see if they have any Gare wiring information. They tend to know a lot about old kilns.)
This may be the best fix-they have a good reputation with elements.
Mark


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www.liscomhillpottery.com

#5 trina

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 04:53 PM

You can't trim an element. Each element is made from a specific thickness of wire, and made to a specific length to produce the correct amount of resistance. By shortening the wire you've changed the resistance so it no longer heats the way it should. The element should have been returned.

If your kiln has elements wired in parallel, then you'l get a continuity reading even if one is out. If that's the case you need to unhook the elements to test them, or just do a visual check for glowing elements.


Your kiln does not have relays, just switches. If electricity is flowing to the elements, then your switches are good. You'll have to start the kiln and test the voltage at the elements to see if a switch is working. You can also put an ohm meter on the two power leads on the plug, push the power button on the sitter, and turn on the switch. If it's working the ohms will show on the meter. In very rare cases it is possible for one side of the sitter contacts to be corroded and not working, therefore knocking out power to some elements, depending on the wiring configuration. I'd start with elements, then switches, then the sitter contact plate.

If the element burned out because it was old, then all of the elements are probably due for replacement as well, which is part of the reason it isn't heating properly. As elements wear out the resistance changes and they become inefficient. Your best bet is to call Evenheat directly and speak with their tech, not the person who answers the phone. It's also possible that they just don't have anyone in their shop who is familiar enough with the very old kilns to really help you out. They probably have the information needed to get you the right elements, but without a model number they might not be able to figure it out.

That said, you may be able to get an element that is coiled but not stretched, so you can stretch it yourself to the correct length for your kiln. By knowing the voltage and wiring configuration (single or 3 phase, elements in parallel or series), and size of the kiln they may be able to get you elements that will work for you. You may also want to try call ing Euclids Kilns and see if they have any Gare wiring information. They tend to know a lot about old kilns.


Wow great answer, electricity is kinda like witchcraft to me.....

#6 neilestrick

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 05:11 PM

Wow great answer, electricity is kinda like witchcraft to me.....


Thanks. I'm happy to help.

Electricity is fairly logical in how it works. I am not a certified electrician, but I've had a lot of experience working with kilns. There are a few very common problems, and every now and then I hit a real stumper that's hard to figure out. It's basically a matter of following the flow of electricity from the breaker box to the element. Any one of the parts that it goes through could stop the flow. You just have to know where to check with a meter. On manual kilns you can do most tests with the power off, but with digital kilns a lot of the testing has to be done with the power flowing, which is dangerous if you're not sure what you're doing. When digital controllers go bad all sorts of goofy things happen and it can get a bit confusing and hard to diagnose. I find it fun to diagnose kiln problems, but as you can see here, for the owner it's difficult to do if they're unfamiliar with the system.
Neil Estrick
Kiln Repair Tech
L&L Distributor
Owner, Neil Estrick Gallery, LLC
www.neilestrickgallery.com

neil@neilestrickgallery.com

#7 trina

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Posted 20 January 2013 - 10:04 AM



Wow great answer, electricity is kinda like witchcraft to me.....


Thanks. I'm happy to help.

Electricity is fairly logical in how it works. I am not a certified electrician, but I've had a lot of experience working with kilns. There are a few very common problems, and every now and then I hit a real stumper that's hard to figure out. It's basically a matter of following the flow of electricity from the breaker box to the element. Any one of the parts that it goes through could stop the flow. You just have to know where to check with a meter. On manual kilns you can do most tests with the power off, but with digital kilns a lot of the testing has to be done with the power flowing, which is dangerous if you're not sure what you're doing. When digital controllers go bad all sorts of goofy things happen and it can get a bit confusing and hard to diagnose. I find it fun to diagnose kiln problems, but as you can see here, for the owner it's difficult to do if they're unfamiliar with the system.


I guess you are right and it does make sense when you think about it, but I would have thought nothing about trimming the lenght of an element for example. Still glad you are here to help! T

#8 JessicaGrayCeramics

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 12:31 PM

Beth,

I realize you've already ordered the elements for your kiln but if you're still not getting good firings after you switch to the new ones, your switches may be the fault. The infinite switches in your kiln work as a contacting device. Over time, they will build up corrosion on the internal contacts from the huge amount of power a kiln draws. That corrosion causes a lot of resistance and will limit the amount of voltage getting to the coil. When they get really bad, they just won't allow connection at all.

There are a few ways to test this. The safest and most reliable way for someone new to electrical work is to move the switches around. For instance, swapping the top switch with the middle one. If the symptom (element not firing) moves to the middle coil, you know the switch is bad. If the problem doesn't move, it's either the coil, wiring, or connections.
Jessica Gray, MFA
www.JessicaGrayCeramics.com

#9 Phylosilicates

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 02:34 PM

From your description, you need all new elements. If you have infinite switches, leave them alone until you make the element swap. They don't go bad that often.

Never ever trim an element. It is a measured length. If ordering elements for a defunct kiln, best to order from either Euclid or the fabrication shop of another kiln manufacturer (if you know how many amps your kiln draws, how many elements, and what the voltage is at YOUR mains.). It makes a difference in the element between 208, 210,220,240 volts. (not so much the 208). If you know exactly how long the element tray is (where the element rests in your kiln), then they can stretch it properly. I order mine un-stretched from Vulcan Kilns and stretch them just before assembly. Makes for a much nicer storage package, rather than have those messy spiral coils I have to be careful with.

If you have mercury relays, do not replace them. Short of a direct short or a lightning strike, they will probably outlive the kiln - and your grandkids. Plus, they're kind of expensive. The external coil could go bad, but is easy to diagnose and cheap to replace.

Dennis,
Earthen Fire Studios,
Fairborn, Ohio



#10 Benzine

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 09:55 PM

For the record, electricity is witchcraft.
"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"




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