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What is an ammeter and how is it used with a kiln?

The clamp-on ammeter measures the amps that the kiln draws and can help you diagnose kiln problems. At Paragon we consider it one of our most useful tools.

To find your kiln's rated amperage, see the electrical data plate. It is attached to the side of the kiln’s switch box on most models. If an element or a relay burns out, the kiln will draw less amperage. Before checking the amps, check the voltage under load with a voltmeter. (Low voltage will cause low amperage, too.)

The ammeter is simple to use, as you will see from these instructions. But since you will be exposed to live wires, only a qualified repair person or electrician should perform the ammeter test.

1) Read the instructions that came with the ammeter.

2) Shut off the circuit breaker for the kiln’s wall receptacle or unplug the kiln.

3) Open the kiln’s switch box. (It is the enclosure that contains the kiln’s switches or controller.) Place the ammeter clamp around either of the two hot wires coming into the switch box from the cord set.

Caution: Leave the kiln’s switch box open, but be careful not to touch the electrical components during Step 4. Electrical parts inside the switch box carry live voltage when the power is turned on.

4) Turn on the breaker or reconnect the power. Start the kiln. (Manual kilns: Turn all switches to the high position. Digital kilns: Program a full rate in Ramp-Hold mode. Paragon’s Sentry 12-key controllers also have an Element Test option that is designed for testing the elements with an ammeter.) The meter will show the total amperage that the kiln is using.

5) Disconnect the power, remove the ammeter, and close the switch box.

Result 1: Amperage is a little below normal. Consider replacing elements if the firing time is excessive. The voltage could also be low temporarily, in which case you may not need new elements.

Result 2: Amperage is way below normal. The problem is most likely a broken element or relay.

Kilns with more than one relay: By checking the amperage of each individual relay, you can find burned out elements or a bad relay. Clamp the ammeter around one wire that goes from the relay to the element(s).

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