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Economical Ways to Fire a Kiln, Part One

People are always surprised at how little it costs to fire a kiln.


Economical Ways to Fire a Kiln, Part One

Recent Q&As: 3-zone kilns; the element glow test


People are always surprised at how little it costs to fire a kiln. The heating elements hum, and the interior glows brightly. At porcelain temperatures, the interior turns yellowish-white. Naturally you would think it costs a fortune in electricity to generate so much heat. Yet on small kilns, the cost is less than a dollar per firing. The cost to fire the typical studio kiln is only several dollars.

Nevertheless there are easy ways to improve firing efficiency. These pointers are for larger kilns rather than the jewelry tabletop models:

1) Fire your kiln during off-peak hours.

Call your electric company to find out if they have discounts for power consumed during off-peak hours. During hot summer months, the line voltage may be higher at night too.

2) Dry the greenware before firing.

Firing moist greenware wastes electricity and also rusts the kiln. The kiln must be fired more slowly to prevent the moist clay from exploding. Greenware, which is unfired clay, should be bone dry before firing. Place a piece of greenware against the inside of your wrist. If it feels cool, it is too wet to fire.

3) Dry greenware on shelves in the firing room.

You can dry greenware using the heat that the kiln releases as it fires. Place the greenware on metal shelves near the kiln.

4) Can you fire your bisque to a lower temperature?

Ask your clay supplier if it would be safe to fire your bisque to a temperature lower than the typical cone 06.

5) Don’t waste space inside the kiln.



Q. How do you design digital kilns to fire evenly without 3-zone controls?

A. Three-zone control improves heat distribution in a digital kiln by taking separate temperature readings from three sections of the firing chamber. We offer optional three-zone on digital kilns, but most people don’t order it, because we use "tuned" elements on many of our kilns. The top and bottom elements glow earlier than the center elements, because the top and bottom of a kiln needs more heat than the center.

Also, three-zone requires three thermocouples instead of one. So there are three times as many thermocouples to maintain. Problems with a three-zone kiln are also more difficult to diagnose, such as when a thermocouple begins to drift.

Q. I would like to check the glow of my elements to make sure they are all firing. But the center elements are too dim to see.

A. When you check the glow of the elements, turn off the room lights. Then it will be easier to see the center elements, which glow more faintly. Or wait longer until the kiln gets hotter and the center elements begin to glow brighter.


Thank you,

With best wishes,

Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. – Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd. Mesquite, TX 75149-1122 Voice: 972-288-7557 & 800-876-4328 / Fax: 972-222-0646 /

PRIVACY NOTICE: Under no circumstance do we share or sell your email address.

Copyright 2008, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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