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Economical Ways to Fire a Kiln, Part Two

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


Economical Ways to Fire a Kiln, Part Two

Reader Response: The cost of firing a kiln

Recent Q&As: Calculating electrical cost

News: Advanced Kiln Maintenance Seminar next week



People are always surprised at how little it costs to fire a kiln. Nevertheless there are easy ways to improve firing efficiency. Economical Ways to Fire a Kiln, Part One, covered the first five points. Here are five more. These pointers are for larger kilns rather than the jewelry tabletop models:

6) Experiment with faster firings.

You may be able to fire the ware faster--especially glazed ware. Use a small digital test kiln to experiment with firing speed.

However, fire slowly enough to burn out all the organics. If faster firing causes more ruined ware, then speed becomes counter-productive.

7) Make sure the lid is closed all the way at high temperature.

A kiln lid can rise slightly during firing due to binding at the hinge. You will not know this is happening unless you are near the kiln at the end of the firing. A rising lid increases energy consumption.

8) Place 1” of ceramic fiber on top of the lid.

This will not only save energy, but it may improve the heat distribution inside the kiln. This is the easiest and least expensive way to add insulation to your kiln.

9) Add an extra layer of firebricks under the floor of the kiln.

When you replace a lid, slide the old one between the kiln stand and kiln bottom. This will give you 2 1/2” – 3” of extra insulation. For extra support, place a piece of galvanized sheet metal between the bottom layer of firebricks and the kiln stand.

I do not recommend adding insulation behind the walls of the kiln. This requires rebuilding the kiln and will probably void the UL Listing.

10) Replace worn elements.

Worn elements lengthen the firing time as the kiln struggles to reach temperature.



Ardith Willmer of Santa Cruz, California wrote, “I called my electric company two years ago about firing at different times of day for cheaper rates, and they told me I would have to purchase a new meter for about $700. Then when I fired at off hours, the meter would read that information and would be a bit cheaper.....but one DID have to buy the new meter. I guess there is always a catch.”

Marc Hines of Tigard, Oregon wrote, “The cost of firing a kiln is surprisingly low. Here in the Northwest with hydroelectric power, it's cheaper still. Most folks I know who fire a small or medium sized kiln once or twice a week never really notice it on their home electric bill. For us, operating the air conditioner (even our efficient one) during the summer is much more expensive than firing both my glass kilns at the same time. It's the fusible glass that costs, not the electricity.”

Bonnie Hellman, a potter in Ouray, Colorado wrote, “I'm having a blast with the glass. To quote a ceramics friend, ‘It's so easy compared to ceramics.’”


Q. Many of my firings are taking around 13 hours. Does this still cost the approximate $7.00 you talked about?

A. People are always surprised at how little a kiln costs to fire. Though your firing takes 13 hours, the kiln elements are off much of that time, because they cycle to control the heating rate. Out of 13 hours, the elements may be on only 7 hours.

The latest 12-key Sentry 2.0 controller calculates the cost of electricity to fire a load. Program into the controller your cost of electricity and the kiln's wattage. Then include the firing cost in a detailed firing log book. Experiment with ways to save electricity, such as the ten ideas I have shared.



There is still time to sign up for the Advanced Kiln Maintenance Seminar held February 22 - 23 here in Mesquite, Texas. For information, please call 800-876-4328.


Last week I watched “Casablanca” on television. It is one of the best movies I have seen and reminds me of Tripoli, Libya, where I spent three years of my childhood.

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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