Everything You Need to Know About Controlling Your Kiln

Guide for understanding electric kiln temperature controllers.
Picture of Brittany Gabel

Brittany Gabel

Understanding Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers

As an artist, your electric kiln temperature controller will have the single biggest impact on how you experience using your kiln. But there are a lot of different electric kiln control options to choose from! This can be super intimidating for newer artists – or even long-time artists who want to upgrade their controller but aren’t sure about what options are available.

This article is designed to help you understand electric kiln temperature controllers and to help you decide what benefits and features you’d like for your kiln or oven build!

The Role of Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers

Electric kiln temperature controllers are the primary point of interface between artists and their kiln or heat treat oven. Kiln controllers receive inputs from the artist, as well as the kiln’s thermocouples, and then sends outputs to the kiln’s relay to make sure the kiln’s elements reach the correct temperature.

The TAP Kiln Controller is an advanced multi-zone electric kiln temperature controller
The TAP Kiln Controller is an advanced multi-zone electric kiln temperature controller with intuitive touchscreen controls.

Types of Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers Inputs

Different kiln controllers provide different methods for artists to enter these inputs. These range from the dials and knobs of manual controllers or complicated 3-key and 12-key automatic controllers, to the sleek, easy-to-use touchscreen controls of the programmable kiln controllers in the TAP Ecosystem.

Electric kiln temperature controllers can be manual or automatic. For manual controllers, it’s up to the artist to constantly adjust the temperature and monitor hold times to progress through their firing schedules. With automatic controllers, the artist just enters or selects their firing schedule in advance, and the controller executes the entire firing schedule without requiring any additional inputs.

Electric kiln temperature controllers can also be single setpoint or multi-setpoint. Multi-setpoint controllers execute firing schedules with multiple steps and specific hold times. Single setpoint controllers only bring the kiln to a specified temperature – and that’s it. However, with most heat treat processes, cooling occurs outside the kiln after each setpoint, so a single setpoint is all you need!

TAP II is an advanced single zone electric kiln temperature controller.
TAP II is a streamlined multi-setpoint controller for single zone electric kilns.

Remote Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers

The most recent advancement in electric kiln temperature controllers came in 2016 when SDS Industries released the first iteration of TAP Kiln Control Mobile. For the first time ever, TAP Kiln Control Mobile gave artists the ability to remotely control their kiln and monitor temperature from their smartphone and tablet.

While other kiln controller manufacturers have released mobile apps in the years since, as of this blog, TAP Kiln Control Mobile is by far the highest reviewed app and the only one that offers true remote control. TAP Kiln Control Mobile gives artists the ability to make real-time firing adjustments, create and edit full schedules from your phone, as well as a premium option for remote start.

All of the electric kiln temperature controllers and pyrometers in the TAP Ecosystem integrate with TAP Kiln Control Mobile to give artists more freedom, flexibility, and peace of mind.

Purchasing an Electric Kiln Temperature Controller for Your Kiln or Oven Build

Once you decide what kind of input method you want for your electric kiln temperature controller, you also have to purchase the kiln controller configuration that fits your kiln or oven build. Electric kiln temperature controllers are generally sold in three different configurations. The configuration that’s right for you will depend on whether you’re building a new kiln or heat treat oven, you’re replacing an existing automatic controller, or you’re upgrading a manual kiln to automatic controls.

Below is a quick summary of each option.

Digital Kiln Controllers (Controller Only)

On the SDS Industries online shop, items on the Digital Kiln Controller page only contain the controller itself and a wiring harness pigtail (as well as a selected faceplate type for TAP and TAP II).

Buying an electric kiln temperature controller in this configuration is a good option for competent DIYers who have knowledge of kiln controller wiring diagrams and are comfortable splicing wires. This is also a good option for if you’re working on a new kiln or oven build (which you definitely shouldn’t do if you’re not a competent DIYer!).

The good news is that for the average kiln user, there are typically easier options! We’ll be describing those in the following sections.

The TAP Monitor is an advanced digital pyrometer and limit controller for electric kilns.
The TAP Monitor – an advanced digital pyrometer and limit controller for electric kilns – is available as a configurable digital controller or as a plug-and-play standalone.

Conversion Kits

If you have an existing automatic electric kiln temperature controller that you’re looking to upgrade, then by far the easiest option is to purchase a conversion kit! With a conversion kit, all you do is select the automatic controller you’re looking to upgrade, and then you’ll receive a kit that contains a new electric kiln controller, as well as everything you need for a plug-and-play installation.

In most cases, all you’ll need is a screwdriver! However, on rare occasions minimal modification to your kiln may be necessary.

Standalone Kiln Controllers

Standalone kiln controllers are similar to conversion kits in that they’re designed to be plug-and-play with no or minimal modifications to your kiln. However, while conversion kits are made for upgrading existing automatic controllers, standalone kiln controllers are designed for upgrading existing manual controllers.

Buying a New Kiln with The Controller of Your Choice

Additionally, if you’re in the market for a new electric kiln, you may have more options for your kiln controller than you think! While TAP is included as a default option on a number of kiln brands (check out our partners below!), some kiln manufacturers don’t include TAP as a default pre-installed option… yet.

If you’re shopping for a new kiln from a brand that doesn’t offer TAP Kiln Controllers as a pre-installed option, we encourage you to reach out to them and ask them about TAP. Then, feel free to email us at info@kilncontrol.com and we’re happy to try to facilitate a 1:1 install for the kiln of your choice.

Afterall, if you’re purchasing a new kiln, you shouldn’t have to settle for a kiln controller that doesn’t offer easy-to-use touchscreen controls, the convenience of being able to create and save an unlimited number of firing schedules, and the convenience and flexibility of remote kiln control!

Explore Electric Kiln Temperatures Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP Ecosystem includes a host of solutions to enhance kiln safety and help you prevent (or safely respond to) kiln relay failure. In addition to being the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today, the TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide advanced diagnostics, preventative maintenance alerts, and remote real-time kiln monitoring and error alerts via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, pyrometers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop the most advanced programmable digital kiln controllers for sale.

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