When it comes to kilns, it’s safety first! With proper precautions, using an at home kiln can be an extremely safe and rewarding experience. But when temperatures run, you don’t want to take chances!
Kiln safety has three main phases: Installation, Operation, and Maintenance. In the guide below, we’ll be covering each of those phases more in-depth and providing tips for safe, seamless kiln firings.
Steps for Kiln Safety During Installation
Kiln safety starts with proper installation. When installing an at home kiln, there’s a couple things to keep in mind:
- Select a space with proper flooring: Kilns get hot! Make sure to select a space with level flooring that’s non-combustible and able to withstand high temperatures. Concrete, tile, and linoleum floors will be more heat resistant than wood, vinyl, or carpet. Never leave your kiln directly on the floor. Always use the manufacturers included stand to ensure safe clearance from the floor below. Note: The same principles apply for table top kilns – make sure not to install them on flammable surfaces or tables.
- Ensure proper clearance: Speaking of clearance, it’s extremely important that you give your kiln room to breathe. It’s recommended that your kiln should be located at least 18″ from non-combustible surfaces and 36” from combustible surfaces. (Note: This includes opening the lid to your kiln, so make sure to account for that as well during installation.)
- Make sure the space is proper ventilated: Depending on the material you’re firing, your at home kiln may emit toxic gases or irritants like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, or chlorine. Definitely things you don’t want to breathe! These gases may impair your health or even interfere with your ability to safely operate your kiln, so it’s important to make sure your kiln is properly ventilated and that respirators are used when dealing with noxious fumes.
- Install your kiln in a dry area: Electricity and water don’t mix. If you’re using an electric kiln, it’s important to make sure you don’t install your kiln in an area that’s damp or exposed to moisture. Additionally, water can cause corrosion, which will reduce the life of your at home kiln components.
- Follow manufacturer guidelines for installation: When you purchase your kiln, you should receive manufacturer guidelines for installation and kiln safety. Make sure to adhere to these closely when installing your kiln. If you purchase a used kiln, contact the manufacturer for installation guidelines.
- Get any electric work done by a qualified electrician: At home kilns, especially larger ones, utilize a lot of electricity, so it’s important to make sure that you use a dedicated circuit with a properly rated power outlet and never use an extension cord. During kiln installation, it’s recommended that you enlist the help of a certified electrician to make sure your at home kiln is safely installed.
- Make sure thermocouples are properly installed: Thermocouples help your automatic kiln controller precisely regulate the temperature of your kiln. However, thermocouples will only give you accurate temperature readings if they’re properly installed! Thermocouples should be inserted an inch or two into the interior or your kiln and should have at least 1″ clearance from any shelves, components, or any materials you place inside your kiln.
- For DIY kiln builds, make sure relays are properly installed: Kiln relays ensure the safety of your kiln by cutting power to the elements if the kiln gets too hot. For DIY kiln or oven builds, it’s important to choose the right type of relay; for instance, solid-state and mercury relays will have far more longevity and reliability than mechanical relays. But it’s even more important to make sure that relays are properly rated and installed and that you utilize a safety relay to add redundancy in case one relay fails.
- Don’t forget to check with your homeowners or business insurance carrier for any limitations or policy changes resulting from kiln use: Installing an at home kiln may affect your homeowners or business insurance policy – make sure to check with your provider to protect your financial safety!
Steps for Kiln Safety During Operation
Now that you have your at home kiln safely installed, it’s important to know kiln safety best practices for operation and firing:
- Always use personal protective gear: During kiln firing, it’s important to use personal protective gear to ensure your safety. Kiln mitts or heat resistant gloves should be used when handling your kiln during firing, and dark, protective eyeglasses should be used to protect your eyes when looking into the kiln peepholes or when opening the lid.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby: High temperatures increase risk of fire, so it’s always recommended to keep a fire extinguisher on hand beside your at home kiln.
- Do not leave your kiln unattended during firing: Although modern digital kiln controllers provide temperature safety shutoff, alerts, alarms, and the ability to monitor and control your kiln remotely from your mobile device, it’s still recommended to never leave your kiln unattended during firing.
- Exercise caution if you need to open lid or door when your kiln is operational: Occasionally, it may be necessary to open the lid or door on your at home kiln while the kiln is operational. But when you do so, exercise extreme caution! Always wear protective gear and stand to the side of the lid or door whenever possible.
- Let kiln cool before unloading: Even after your kiln completes a firing schedule, it can remain hot for hours. Always let your at home kiln cool completely before unloading. It’s also important to let your wares cool inside the kiln to prevent them from being cracked by abrupt changes in temperature.
- Do not place combustible materials on or near the kiln: Before firing, always check to make sure your at home kiln still has proper clearance. Prior to and during firing, make sure not to leave anything on top of or next to your kiln.
- Do not leave your kiln unattended near children or pets: Even if you’re aware of proper kiln safety procedures, it doesn’t mean that your children or pets will exercise the same precaution. Do not leave your kiln running in an area where children or pets will have access.
- Wash your hands after handling: Thoroughly washing your hands after handling your ware keeps you from potentially ingesting toxic materials.
Kiln Maintenance and Upkeep
Kiln safety isn’t just limited to installation and operation. Regularly maintaining your at home kiln will ensure safety and prolong the life of your kiln components:
- Clean the kiln between firings: Between firings, clean your kiln to ensure there is no residue or debris.
- Always unplug your kiln before making repairs: Always unplug your at home kiln when making repairs or modifications. For additional safety, it may be prudent to leave your kiln unplugged any time you’re not using it.
- Regularly inspect electrical components: Regularly inspect the electrical components of your at home kiln for discoloration, brittleness, or corrosion. Immediately replace these components if necessary.
- Regularly replace thermocouples: In order to ensure accurate temperature readings for your at home kiln, it’s recommended to replace Type K Thermocouples every 30 to 50 firings.
- Invest in digital controllers that have advanced onboard diagnostics and preventative maintenance alerts: Manual inspection has its limitations. Advanced digital kiln controllers like the TAP and TAP II Controllers from SDS Industries include onboard diagnostics, enhanced data logging, and preventative maintenance alerts to help you stay up-to-date on kiln maintenance.
The Role of TAP Automatic Kiln Controllers in Ensuring Kiln Safety
Even with all of these kiln safety tips, the safety of your at home kiln is also determined by the quality of your kiln components and the precision and reliability of your kiln controller. At SDS Industries, we are dedicated to providing the most advanced, precise, reliable controllers for your at home kiln, oven, or furnace. But more than that, we equip our controllers with features and functionalities that enhance kiln safety. These kiln safety features include:
- PID-driven precision to ensure that your kiln precisely adheres to its intended firing schedule with fast response, minimal overshoot, and limited steady-state error.
- Max temperature safety shutoff to ensure your kiln doesn’t surpass its rated temperature.
- Integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App to provide you with advanced diagnostics, abort firing, and preventative maintenance alerts – so you have insight into your kiln firings even if you have to step away from your project.
- Preventative maintenance alerts, with relay, thermocouple, and element life reporting.
- Kiln error information and diagnostic features to keep you informed of any past, present, or future kiln component failures.
Introducing TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer
Additionally, as part of our dedication to kiln safety, SDS Industries is excited to announce the TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer. Available as a standalone device that plugs right into your kiln, or as configurable components for installation, the TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer adds precise temperature readings, remote monitoring, push notification alerts, and safety redundancy to any relay-controlled kiln or oven.
The TAP Monitor seamlessly integrates with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App to let you remotely monitor the status of your kiln from your smartphone, watch, or tablet – regardless of what controller your kiln uses. These features will enhance kiln safety for manual or automatic kilns and add safety redundancy and max temperature shutoff in case of relay failure.
Choose the Most Advanced, User-Friendly Automatic Kiln Controllers
For added kiln safety and ease-of-use, the TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries are the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use automatic kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Controller Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.
We invite you to explore our selection of automatic kiln controllers, 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: