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How to Use an Ammeter

Clamp the ammeter around only one of the electrical wires. Shown here is the old-style analog meter.


How to Use an Ammeter

Recent Q&As: Cleaning Kiln Sitter contacts; display message that appears on start up; firing cork clay; opening the door of a hot kiln

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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--more useful than an ohmmeter.

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).



Q. My A-series Paragon kiln fires on Low and Medium but not on High.

A. (The A-series kilns have 4-way rotary switches. You will feel a distinct click between Off, Low, Med, and High.) Ordinarily, this is due to a dirty Kiln Sitter contact block. This assembly is under the plunger button on the other side of the Kiln Sitter cover plate. If one hot line is not making contact in a dirty Kiln Sitter contact block, the following could happen: 1) On Low, the elements light up.

2) On Medium, every other element lights up.

3) On High, none of the elements light up, because both sides of the Kiln Sitter contact block must carry current for the elements to operate on High.

You can usually solve the problem by cleaning the contacts with a pencil eraser. (Never use emery cloth.) The contact block is not difficult to disassemble if you are careful to catch all the washers and nuts as they fall out of the contact block. A magnetic tool makes dis-assembly easier.

Q. Every time I turn on my Sentry Xpress prior to programming, I get an E-1 in the display. This "error" message is not in the user manual. I am assuming it's just a start up code and not really an error.

A. E1 is the software version of your Sentry Xpress 4.0 controller. It is not an error code. Earlier versions of the controller did not show the software version on start up. Controllers that show this on start up have Add Hold Time, Change Target Temperature, Alarm, and Thermocouple Offset. These features are new with the 4.0 version.

Q. Does the flame from burning cork clay hurt the kiln’s heating elements?

A. No, because the clay burns for such a short time.

Q. If I open the door while my digital kiln is hot, will the kiln continue to fire within the programmed firing schedule after I close the door, or will I have to restart the kiln and adjust the firing schedule?

A. Cracking open the door for a moment will barely affect the interior of a firebrick kiln. This is because the insulation stores so much heat. The temperature may go down, but when you close the door, the temperature will quickly begin to rise again.

Opening the door wide will lower the temperature farther than cracking the door open. This may happen when removing a piece during copper enameling or when raking the glass. But the controller will automatically begin raising the temperature again to continue firing the segment that you programmed. You do not need to reprogram the kiln.

Opening the door may trigger an alarm message that indicates the kiln cannot heat as fast as you had programmed. But the kiln will continue to fire.



“Potters are in a very enviable place in the string of humans who have made beautiful things for many, many centuries. Make the best you able to make every day. What we make lasts forever . . . think of it.” -- Mel Jacobson, a potter in Minnetonka, Minnesota


Today at Thanksgiving lunch, cooking smells from the factory wafted through the front office. Several employees brought their small children. As employees talked in the office kitchen, a four-year-old girl said, “Daddy, I love you.” With Thanksgiving here, all of us at Paragon take this opportunity to express our gratitude for your friendship. The year has been good for Paragon and we hope it has been good for you.

To celebrate and give thanks, we will be closed tomorrow, Thursday, November 26th, to spend time with our families. We wish you a loving Thanksgiving.

Thank you,

With best wishes,

Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. – Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd. Mesquite, Texas 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 2015, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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