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All About Kiln Relays

Guide for understanding the difference between different types of kiln relays

No matter what type of kiln or heat treat oven you have, choosing the right kiln relay is super important! Kiln relays play a fundamental role in regulating the temperature of the kiln, as well as ensuring kiln safety. Over the course of this article we’ll be explaining what a kiln relay is, how they work, as well as what type of kiln relay is right for your kiln or oven build.

We’ll also be exploring how TAP Controllers and safety limit controllers like TAP Monitor can help protect you from the consequences of kiln relay failure, so let’s get started!

What Is a Kiln Relay?

Kiln relays are a mechanism that receive signals from the kiln controller and then regulate the amount of electricity sent to the elements of the kiln. Kiln relays rapidly cycle on and off – or “close” and “open.”

When kiln relays cycle on, the circuit closes, and the elements receive electrical current. The kiln element’s electric resistance converts that current into heat, and the kiln gets hotter. When the kiln’s relays cycle off, or opens, it interrupts the current to the elements. This causes the kiln to naturally lose heat.

Kiln relays can open and close extremely fast – ranging from 50 milliseconds for mechanical relays to 20 nanoseconds for solid states relays. This speed, when combined when precise inputs from the kiln controller allows the kiln to execute kiln firing schedules with extreme precision.

Types of Kiln Relays

Not all kiln relays are created equal. They differ by the mechanism they use to open and close the circuit. This mechanism affects their performance, precision, and durability. Kiln relays also differ by their environmental friendliness. For instance, mercury relays are banned in several states and aren’t commonly used for modern kilns, since mercury is highly toxic. Below are explanations of the different types of relays.

Mechanical Relays

Mechanical relays use a physical switch to open and close the relay. That’s why you can hear them click! Mechanical relays are affordable. But since the switch is physical, mechanical relays are more prone to failure. If mechanical relays fail in the open position, your kiln will no longer heat up, which can be a major inconvenience. However, it’s when they fail in the closed position that you have major issues. This causes your kiln to heat up indefinitely – threatening your project and your kiln.

Additionally, since mechanical relays rely on a physical mechanism, they are significantly less precise than other options. And since they have a shorter lifespan, they have a higher environmental cost.

Mercury Relays

Mercury relays use gravity and displacement to open and close the relay. Mercury relays consist of a metal weight in a tube of mercury. Gravity causes the metal weight to fall, displacing the mercury until it closes the circuit. A coil at the top of the tube electromagnetically lifts the weight when it receives current, causing the mercury to recess and open the circuit.

Since mercury relays only use a single moving part, they are extremely reliable – significantly more so than mechanical relays. However, there are some issues with this mechanism. Firstly, it takes time for the displace and recede – so mercury relays have the same level of precision as mechanical relays. Secondly, mercury is highly toxic and exposure to mercury has significant health and environmental risks. These two factors have made mercury relays largely obsolete.

Solid State Relays (SSRs

Solid state relays use semiconductors, electronic parts, and LED or infrared sensors to turn the circuit on and off based on signals from the controller. They do not rely on contact switches or any other moving parts to open or close the circuit. This mechanism has several advantages over other types of kiln relays. First, the lack of moving parts means there is no contact erosion – so solid state relays are extremely reliable and will last pretty much forever, when appropriately rated for the application.

Additionally, the fact that solid state relays rely on electric signals, light, and sensors makes them extremely fast, offering a greater level of precision than any other type of kiln relay. Since solid state relays almost never have to be replaced or thrown away, they are far less taxing on the environment.

What Type of Relay Should You Choose for Your Kiln?

If the summaries above don’t make it obvious, we strongly recommend investing in a solid state relay for your kiln. While they are more expensive than mechanical relays, you’ll end up saving money in the long run by never having to worry about replacement costs. That’s not to mention the potential costs of relay failure, which you exponentially reduce the risk of facing by using an SSR.

Most new kilns have the option for solid-state relays – and your TAP Kiln Controller will be compatible with all three types of relays! If you’ve got an older kiln with mechanical or mercury relays, consider swapping them out for solid-state the next time they need replacement.

How the TAP Ecosystem Helps Protect You from Relay Failure

When we designed TAP, we included all of the quality of life features that we ourselves would want as artists. That included allowing the controller to track usage on kiln components and sending out preventative maintenance alerts, so that artists would be able to replace kiln elements, kiln relays, and thermocouples before they reach the end of their estimated lifespan. All you have to do is enter the life expectancy for your relay(s), elements, and thermocouples provided by your kiln manufacturer or the component’s product sheet!

The TAP Kiln Controller tracks kiln relay usage to provide preventative maintenance alerts to help users replace relays before kiln relay failure occurs.
The TAP Kiln Controller tracks kiln relay usage to provide preventative maintenance alerts to help users replace relays before kiln relay failure occurs.

Additionally, later this year, we’ll be releasing TAP Monitor – the most advanced digital pyrometer and limit controller ever created. TAP Monitor adds the convenience and peace of mind of precise, remote temperature monitoring to your smartphone or tablet. When purchased as a set of configurable components, TAP Monitor can also be wired to a redundant safety relay to act as a safety limit controller, making sure your kiln shuts off safely in case of relay failure.

Explore Kiln Control Solutions 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 TAP Kiln Control Mobile App. These features help you prevent and proactively address any potential failures in your kiln or oven build.

Additionally, our soon-to-be released TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer & Limit Controller can be added to any kiln or oven build, regardless of your current kiln control method, to provide safety redundancy and real-time remote kiln monitoring.

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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Understanding and Preventing Kiln Relay Failure

Learn all about kiln relays and how to prevent kiln relay failure.

Three words no artist wants to hear: kiln relay failure. At best, kiln relay failure can be an annoyance that disrupts your project mid-schedule. At worst, kiln relay failure can pose a threat to the safety of your household and your property. However, the good news is that with foresight, proper maintenance, and the right equipment, kiln relay failure can mostly be avoided.

Over the course of this article, we’ll be discussing:

  • How kiln relays work.
  • Why (and how) relays fail.
  • How to choose a kiln relay that minimizes the chance of failure.
  • How to easily track preventative maintenance to know when to replace relays.
  • Kiln safety equipment to invest in to mitigate damage in case of relay failure.

How Kiln Relays Work

To understand why kiln relays fail, first, it’s important to understand how they work. In simple terms, kiln relays are a switch. Based on input from the kiln controller, relays cycle on and off – closing and opening the circuit to the kiln’s element.

When a relay closes, electric current flows to the kiln’s elements, increasing kiln temperature. When a relay opens, no current flows to the element, and the kiln cools down. Relays open and close at variable rates, allowing the kiln to reach precise firing temperatures.

Types of Kiln Relays

Different types of kilns relays have different types of mechanisms that allow them to cycle on and off. In modern kilns the most common types of relays are mechanical relays and solid-state relays. However, some older kilns still use mercury relays – so we’ll be explaining all three mechanisms:

  • Mechanical Relays: Mechanical relays have the most moving parts. Mechanical relays use an electromagnetic switch that physically moves each time the relay cycles on and off. That’s why you can hear them click each time they cycle when the kiln is operational!
  • Mercury Relays: Mercury relays work through gravity and displacement. Mercury relays use a metal weight in a tube of mercury. Gravity causes the metal weight to fall, displacing the mercury until it closes the circuit. A coil at the top of the tube electromagnetically lifts the weight when it receives current, causing the mercury to recess and open the circuit.
  • Solid-State Relays (SSRs): Solid-state relays use semiconductors and electronic parts to turn the circuit on and off based on signals from the controller. They do not rely on any moving parts to open or close the circuit.

Why Relays Fails

Kiln relay failure largely comes down to failure of their switch mechanism. As you might expect, mechanical relays have the most moving parts and are subject to normal wear and tear. They will fail eventually, it’s just a matter of when.

Mercury relays only have a single moving part and aren’t subject to the same contact erosion in high current applications. They’re extremely reliable, lasting for millions of cycles.

Solid-state relays have no moving parts. As such, they are supremely reliable and aren’t subject to any wear and tear. Their only Achilles heel is heat. Solid-state relays must be appropriately cooled via heat sink to maintain proper performance and prevent melting.

Kiln relay failure can occur in one of two positions. A relay can get stuck open, in which case your kiln will fail to heat up. While this is inconvenient and can put your project on hold, it’s far preferable to when a relay gets stuck closed! When kiln relays get stuck in the closed position, the kiln heats up indefinitely, posing significant risk to your household and property.

However, there are safety precautions you can take to circumvent any potential damage, which we’ll be discussing later in the article.

Choosing the Right Type of Kiln Relay

As you can see from the descriptions above, mechanical relays are far more likely to result in kiln relay failure. Mercury relays, while reliable, use the highly toxic liquid metal, mercury, to perform switching. As such, they’re largely obsolete and are even outlawed in states such as California.

That means that, realistically, your best option to prevent kiln relay failure is to purchase a solid-state relay. Not only are SSRs superior in lifespan and environmental concerns, but they cycle on and off significantly faster than other types of relays, resulting in superior performance and precision.

Most new kilns have the option for solid-state relays. While TAP Kiln Controllers are compatible with all three types of relays, we strongly encourage our customers to invest in a solid-state relay. The upside far outweighs the cost. If you’ve got an older kiln with mechanical or mercury relays, consider swapping them out for solid-state the next time they need replacement!

Additionally, whether you’re shopping for mechanical relays or solid-state relays we suggest purchasing from reliable, reputable manufacturers.

Preventative Maintenance

In addition to selecting the right type of relay, preventative maintenance is key to preventing kiln relay failure – especially if you’re using a mechanical relay.

As far as preventative maintenance for solid-state relays, really the biggest consideration is making sure that they are rated properly for the application and that you install the relay correctly with a heat sink to prevent the relay from overheating. Beyond that, we encourage you to store your kiln inside to avoid exposing electrical components to the elements and pay attention to your controller’s error notifications (assuming you’re using an advanced controller such as TAP that provides real-time diagnostics, as well as detailed error and firing logs).

Mechanical relays require much more proactive preventative maintenance. Mechanical relays have a finite lifespan that’s impacted by how often you use your kiln and the types of kiln firing schedules you use. However, you can find an estimated life expectancy for the number of cycles your mechanical relay is rated for from your kiln manufacturer or the relay manufacturer’s product sheet.

With advanced controllers from temperature controller manufacturers like SDS Industries, you can input life expectancy for your relay(s), elements, and thermocouples. The controller will then track the usage of these components and send you preventative maintenance alerts. This helps you replace your kiln relay before it fails.

The TAP Kiln Controller tracks kiln relay usage to provide preventative maintenance alerts to help users replace relays before kiln relay failure occurs.
The TAP Kiln Controller tracks kiln relay usage to provide preventative maintenance alerts to help users replace relays before kiln relay failure occurs.

 

Kiln Safety Equipment

Investing in the right type of kiln relay and being diligent about preventative maintenance significantly reduces your chances of facing kiln relay failure. But there will always be a non-zero chance that your relay fails, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

We strongly encourage our customers to invest in kiln safety equipment that keeps you safe in case of kiln relay failure. This equipment includes:

  • A reliable fire extinguisher to keep nearby your kiln to mitigate any damage in the case that your relay gets stuck closed.
  • An advanced kiln controller that provides precise inputs to your kiln relay and monitors your kiln for discrepancies to provide you with real-time error alerts.
  • A kiln control mobile app that provides real-time temperature monitoring and push notification alerts and alarms to your smartphone, so that you can spot any warning signs in real-time and respond appropriately.
  • A safety limit controller (such as the soon-to-be released TAP Monitor!) that can be wired to a safety relay to provide max temp safety shutoff even if your primary kiln relay fails.

 

Explore Kiln Control Solutions 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 TAP Kiln Control Mobile App. These features help you prevent and proactively address any potential failures in your kiln or oven build.

Additionally, our soon-to-be released TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer & Limit Controller can be added to any kiln or oven build, regardless of your current kiln control method, to provide safety redundancy and real-time remote kiln monitoring.

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 programmable temperature controllers.

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How Safety Limit Controllers Help with Kiln Safety

Safety limit controllers enhance kiln safety by automatically shutting off your kiln if it exceeds a certain temperature.

Kilns get hot! When it comes to kiln safety, using a safety limit controller helps ensure that a kiln automatically shuts off if it exceeds a pre-defined temperature.

Safety Limit Controllers and Safety Redundancy

While advanced process controllers like TAP and TAP II have max temperature safety shutoff, you’re still entrusting the safety of yourself, your household, and your property to a single layer of safety measures.

With proper maintenance, high quality programmable kiln controllers, kiln relays, and thermocouples are extremely reliable. However, they do fail from time to time.

Watch SDS Industries’ President Scott Shannon explain the pros and cons of different types of relays.

Adding a safety limit controller (like TAP Monitor) to your kiln or oven build, adds a layer of safety redundancy. Wiring a safety limit controller to a redundant safety relay ensures that your kiln safely shuts off even if your primary controller or relay fails.

Benefits of Remote Temperature Monitoring

In addition to acting as a safety limit controller, TAP Monitor is also a pyrometric device that adds precise remote temperature monitoring to your kiln or oven build – even if you’re using a manual kiln or an automatic controller from a less advanced temperature controller manufacturer.

With the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, you can monitor kiln temperature, receive push notifications alerts and alarms, and view real-time firing graphs – even if you have to step away from your project.

This is not only extremely convenient, but it adds an additional layer of kiln safety, keeping you immediately informed of any discrepancies in your firing schedule.

Do I Need a Safety Limit Controller?

Safety limit controllers are much more common in industrial kiln and industrial control system (ICS) applications. Most at home and studio kiln and oven builds don’t include a safety limit controller. And this is usually fine most of the time (especially if you use solid state relays and your primary kiln controller includes max temp safety shutoff).

However, like most safety devices, when you need a safety limit controller, you really need one. A small investment in a safety limit controller potentially protects your property, your health, and will save you massive amounts of money in a worst-case scenario.

If you’re still using a manual kiln or an outdated automatic kiln controller (which includes most kiln controllers currently on the market), we strongly encourage you to invest in a safety limit controller that adds max temperature safety shutoff, precise pyrometric monitoring, and remote kiln monitoring.

Adding TAP Monitor Safety Limit Controller & Pyrometer to Your Kiln or Oven Build

SDS Industries, known for creating the most advanced, easy-to-use automatic kiln controllers, is releasing a safety limit controller and digital pyrometer. TAP Monitor, which is releasing in several months, is already available for pre-order.

TAP Monitor is available as a set of DIY components that can be wired directly to a safety relay (starting at $97.50) to act as a combination safety limit controller and digital pyrometer, or as a plug-and-play standalone remote pyrometer that includes a type K thermocouple and a 2.4” capacitive touchscreen (available for $265).

TAP Monitor is an advanced digital pyrometer that brings precise temperature measuring and remote monitoring to any kiln or heat treat oven.

Both configurations improve kiln safety, but they’re also an affordable way to modernize kiln builds that don’t include precise, remote temperature monitoring. TAP Monitor provides a host of benefits (regardless of the type of kiln control method you currently use):

  • Protect yourself and your family by wiring TAP Monitor to a safety relay to provide redundant safety shutoff.
  • Have peace of mind by knowing the exact temperature of your kiln, oven, or forge every step of the way (via TAP Kiln Control Mobile).
  • Save time and effort by knowing the state of your kiln no matter where you are.
  • Ensure more consistent outcomes and enjoy added convenience by upgrading your existing automatically or manually controlled kiln to include precise, real-time digital temperature readings.


Explore Kiln Control Solutions by SDS Industries

In addition to the TAP Monitor Safety Limit Controller, the TAP Ecosystem includes a variety of programmable kiln controllers that give artists complete control of their kilns. The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

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:

CTA for TAP Kiln Controller Shop Pages

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How to Easily Track Your Electric Kiln Firing Cost

Tracking electric kiln firing costs on a kiln firing cost calculator

Did you know that you can easily program your TAP Controller to track your electric kiln firing cost? And with the latest update to the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, we’ve made the kiln firing cost calculator function free for all users!

Why is this important?

There are several benefits to being able to accurately track your electric kiln firing cost. If you sell (or plan on selling) your work, knowing kiln costs for each firing schedule, along with materials and labor costs, allows you to accurately price your work. Additionally, knowing your electric kiln firing cost allows you to accurately track cost growth as utility rates rise.

But even if you don’t sell your work, the kiln firing cost calculator function can help you gain insight into whether your kiln is operating as effectively as it did when it was new, helping you stay ahead of possible kiln maintenance needs. Plus, with how easy it is to program cost settings on your TAP Controller, it’s just cool information to know!

How to Use the Kiln Firing Cost Calculator on Your TAP Controller

Setting up your TAP Controller to track your electric kiln firing cost is super easy. For the original TAP Controller, you can input cost settings right from your controller screen or via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App. For the TAP II Controller, as well as the other kiln controllers in the TAP Ecosystem, you will set up your kiln firing costs via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, so you can skip ahead to the next section for instructions!

Steps for Programming Kiln Cost Settings on the Controller UI

TAP Kiln Controllers have a kiln firing cost calculator for tracking your electric kiln firing cost.

  1. From the Home Screen, go to Menu > Settings > Cost.
  2. Enter your kiln’s power rating in watts in the field for ‘Kiln Power.’ If you’re unsure of your kiln’s power rating, you can usually find it on the kiln’s data plate or in your kiln’s user manual. If your kiln’s power rating is in kilowatts, just multiply that number by 1000 to convert the power rating into watts. So, for instance, if your kiln was rated for 2.16 kW, you’d multiply that by 1000, and enter 2160 in the field for ‘Kiln Power.’
  3. Enter your utility provider’s cost per kilowatt hour in the ‘Cost per kWh’ field. You can find this information on your latest electric bill or on the website for your electric utility provider. In the example below, we’ve highlighted the Cost Per kWh (so, for this example, you would enter $0.041 under ‘Cost per kWh): Once you’ve input this information, your TAP Controller will automatically calculate your electric kiln firing cost – so you can ditch the pencil, notebooks, timers, and calculators!

Example of Electric Service Details

How to Setup Electric Kiln Firing Cost Tracking on the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App

You can also program cost settings for the TAP or TAP II Controller (as well as our upcoming kiln temp controller options) on the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App – and track your electric kiln firing costs on the go!

  1. In the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, select your kiln from the Summary Screen.
  2. Press Settings on the bottom center of your screen.
  3. Scroll down to Cost. Here you will find the field to input ‘Cost per kWh’ and ‘Kiln Power’ (refer to Steps 2 & 3 from the previous section):

Tracking electric kiln firing costs on a kiln firing cost calculator

You can download the latest version of the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, which makes this feature free for all TAP users on the App Store (for iOS) or the Google Play Store (for Android).

As you know, electric kiln firing costs aren’t the only cost of owning (and maintaining a kiln). For additional information about the cost of kiln ownership – from purchase and installation to maintenance costs – check out our definitive guide on kiln costs!

Explore Programmable Digital Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries

When it comes to providing features that make life easier for artists, electric kiln firing cost tracking is just scratching the surface!

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable 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:

Download the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App for remote kiln control from your smartphone or tablet.

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How Much Do Kilns Cost? The True Costs of Owning a Kiln

Description of kiln costs - from purchase and shipping to installation, operation, and maintenance.

For most artists, purchasing a kiln is a pretty big investment. Newer artists, especially, will probably have a lot of questions about what they’re getting into! How much do kilns cost? What about installation and kiln maintenance? Are kilns safe? What type of kiln is right for me? What kind of controller should I use for my kiln?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! You can find our guides on kiln maintenance, kiln safety, types of kilns, and kiln control methods below. And by the end of this article, you’ll have a complete understanding of kiln costs!

Note: For the sake of this article, we’ll be primarily focusing on kiln costs for electric kilns, which are the most common kilns for the hobby kiln and studio kiln market. Gas kilns are typically more expensive, ranging from $3,000 on the extreme low-end to $30,000+ for a high-capacity gas kiln and have their own unique operating and installation costs.

Understanding Kiln Costs

When people think about kiln costs, a lot of the time they only think about the upfront cost of purchasing their kilns. While we’ll be covering purchase costs in depth, there are additional costs to consider. These include installation costs, kiln maintenance costs, material costs, as well as firing costs.

For the hobbyist, understanding these costs will help avoid unforeseen expenses. It will also help determine the most suitable type of kiln and possibly save some money! But for the professional artist, accurately tracking kilns costs can help make sure they’re pricing their wares correctly.

The Cost of Buying a Kiln

For most artists, purchasing a kiln is by far the most expensive part of kiln ownership. Kiln costs vary tremendously, ranging from around $700 for compact kilns to $20,000+ for large, higher powered, industrial grade kilns. There is also a robust used kiln market on Craigslist, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and other online markets, where pre-owned kilns range from $275 to $3,000+ dollars.

Factors that influence kiln costs include:

  • Size: Generally speaking, the bigger the kiln, the more expensive – both at the time of purchase and in terms of potential installation, maintenance, and power costs.
  • Power Rating: Larger kilns and hotter kilns typically require more power and are generally more expensive.
  • Maximum Temperature: Generally, kilns with a higher maximum temperature are more expensive than comparable kilns with lower maximum temperatures.
  • Materials Fired: Glass kilns, ceramic kilns, knife kilns, and metal clay kilns (for jewelry) have different price ranges (which we’ll be covering more in-depth below).
  • Temperature Controller Method: The type of kiln controller that comes included with your kiln will impact its price by up to several hundred dollars – but your controller will have a major impact on your kiln firing experience and the functionality of your kiln.
  • Shipping Costs: As a larger item, shipping costs for kilns can add a substantial amount to your purchase price. When comparing prices between kiln suppliers, check to see whether shipping costs are included with the purchase of your kiln.

Whew, that may seem like a lot of factors to keep in mind! Don’t worry, we’ll be covering each of these considerations more in-depth. To help narrow your focus when purchasing a new kiln, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will I be using my kiln? What types of kiln firing schedules will I need to be able to execute?
  • Based on the media and techniques I use, what kiln firing temperatures and element placement will I need for my projects?
  • How big does my kiln need to be? How much space do I have to install the kiln at my home or studio?

The more specifically you can answer those types of questions, the easier it will be to determine which features you need to shop for and the kiln costs you should budget for.

Kiln Size Price Ranges

When it comes to buying a kiln, how big does your kiln need to be? Well, that depends…how big are the projects you’ll be firing? If you only need your kiln for slumping glass or firing jewelry or other small objects, chances are you’ll be able to save a lot of money on upfront costs and installation by purchasing a compact kiln.

However, if you’re firing large ceramic pieces – or firing multiple projects at a time – you’ll probably need to spring for a larger kiln.

Below are the average and median prices for kilns based on size (kiln prices throughout this article are based on aggregate price data from Kiln Frog).*

  • Compact Kilns: Under 15”
    • Price Range: $924.00 – $3318.54
    • Average Price: $1594.83
    • Median Price: $1474.16
  • Medium Kilns: 13” – 18”
    • Price Range: $916.00 – $4623.86
    • Average Price: $2028.56
    • Median Price: $1921.81
  • Large Kilns: 17” – 24”
    • Price Range: $1558.00 – $6889.54
    • Average Price: $3240.21
    • Median Price: $3139.00
  • X-Large Kilns: Over 24”
    • Price Range: $2416.00 – $25328.55
    • Average Price: $6669.63
    • Median Price: $4582.80

As you can see, the size of the kiln makes a big difference in price!

*Price data in this article includes current promotions – prices may vary.

Kiln Costs Based on Power Rating

Another factor that can influence kiln costs – for purchase, installation, and your electric bill – is the power rating of your kiln. When it comes to power rating, there are three ratings you need to understand: voltage, amperage, and wattage.

Voltage is the electric potential of a circuit. Comparing electricity to plumbing, voltage could be considered the pressure in a pipe. In the U.S., kilns typically come in two different voltage configurations: 120V and 240V, which correspond with the electric grid. 120V kilns are typically less expensive and match the voltage of a standard residential wall outlet; however, kilns exceeding 15 amps will need to be installed on a dedicated circuit.

A 240V kiln, on the other hand, needs a special wall outlet (other large appliances, such as wall ovens, AC units, and dryers use 240V outlets). Chances are, you will need the help of an electrician to run a new outlet in order to install your kiln. According to HomeGuide, this will cost anywhere from $250 – $800.

Amperage is the units of electrical current in a circuit. Extending the plumbing analogy, current is similar to the capacity of a pipe: the wider the pipe, the more water that flows. Kilns range from 13 amps to 80 amps. 120V kilns typically only go up to 30 amps, while 240V kilns can range anywhere from 30 amps to 80. At 48 amps or higher, a kiln will have to be wired directly into your power supply – another additional expense!

Watts measure the rate of power flow, calculated by multiplying voltage by amperage. Smaller 120V kilns typically draw between 1500 and 1800 watts, while a large 240V kiln can draw up to 11000 watts. TAP Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries allow you to enter your kiln’s watt rating, as well as the cost per kilowatt hour from your electric bill to automatically calculate your cost per firing.

The kiln costs tracking feature on TAP Kiln Controllers allows artists to automatically track how much they spend per fire.
The TAP Kiln Controller by SDS Industries allows artists to easily track their cost per fire on their electric kiln.

Kiln Costs by Maximum Temperature

Different kilns are capable of reaching different maximum temperatures. Generally, the hotter the kiln, the higher the kiln costs! If you need to fire Cone 14 porcelain, expect to spend more money than if you only need to fire Cone 06 ceramics. Reviewing these firing schedules for glass, ceramic, and metal heat treat can help you figure out which temperatures you’ll need your kiln to be able to reach based on the media and techniques you use.

Kiln Costs by Materials Fired

Speaking of media, when shopping for a new kiln, you’ll find that there are different kilns designed specifically for glass, ceramics, metal heat treat (for objects such as blades and knives), and metal clay (for jewelry and small metal trinkets). How do the materials you fire impact kiln costs?

Kilns have different dimensions and maximum temperatures based on the materials they’re designed to fire. Generally, metal clay kilns will be smaller than glass kilns, which will be smaller than knife kilns. Ceramic kilns tend to be larger and cylindrical, since you can stack pottery during fire. You can expect the price of the kiln to scale accordingly.

Additionally, ceramic kilns and heat treat kilns will typically need to be capable of reaching higher temperatures than metal clay kilns or glass kilns.

Broadly speaking, metal clay kilns will be the least expensive, and ceramic kilns will be the most expensive. Glass kilns and metal heat treat ovens often fall somewhere in between.

Temperature Controller Costs

Finally, an extremely important consideration when buying a kiln is deciding which brand and model of kiln controller to purchase with your kiln. After all, the kiln controller will be your primary interface with your kiln and will largely determine your user experience. Your kiln control method will determine the accuracy of your kiln firing, as well as what you can program the kiln to do.

Upgrading to a fully featured touchscreen programmable digital kiln controller will add a few hundred dollars to your kiln costs compared to a rudimentary 3-key model. Is it worth it?

In our opinion, yes. Definitively. An advanced, easy-to-use kiln controller like the TAP Kiln Controller gives you the ability to:

  • Easily navigate your controller and manage your firing schedules with just a few finger presses.
  • Name, save, and edit unlimited firing schedules with an unlimited number of steps per schedule.
  • Easily find and select the right schedule with alpha-numeric, full text displays.
  • Integrate your controller with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App so that you can remotely monitor your kiln and create, modify, and execute firing schedules from your mobile device.
  • Enjoy peace-of-mind with push notification alerts and alarms to keep you informed of your firing status, notify you when it’s time for preventative maintenance, or let you know when unexpected conditions occur.

Additionally, SDS Industries is working on a lineup of more cost-accessible controller options that contain many of the advanced functions of TAP at a lower price point, with all kiln controller inputs performed via your smartphone.

Read our side-by-side kiln controller manufacturer comparison to compare the features of TAP against what you get with lower-priced controller options.

Additional Kiln Costs

In addition to kiln costs at point of purchase and installation, there are also longer-term costs to keep in mind.

We mentioned installation costs earlier. You should plan on budgeting up to $800 if you will need the help of an electrician in installing your kiln. Additionally, if you’re purchasing a ceramic kiln, you may need to buy and install a ventilation system which can run another $200 to upwards of $800.

For kiln maintenance, you will have to replace thermocouples, elements, and mechanical relays at regular intervals. Depending on how frequently you use your kiln and the temperatures you fire to, you should plan on budgeting at least $100 to $200 dollars every year or two to replace these components.

And, finally, you will have to budget for materials. Material costs can vary greatly per artist, but you should plan accordingly!

Conclusion

There you have it! Hopefully, this article has given you a full understanding of the true cost of owning a kiln. However, you should look at kiln costs as a long-term investment. If you take care of your kiln, it could last you for decades and give you countless hours of enjoyment and self-expression – so it’s hard to put a price tag on that! But it’s also important to know what you’re getting into and budget accordingly.

Explore Programmable Digital Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries

If you’re buying a new kiln, you’ll want to make sure it’s coming with the right controller. Ask your kiln supplier about TAP! The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable 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:

Shop the most advanced programmable digital kiln controllers for sale.

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Kiln Maintenance & How to Care for Your TAP Controller

Tips for kiln maintenance and for taking care of kiln controllers

Owning a kiln is a little bit like owning a car. With mindful operation and a little bit of routine maintenance, your kiln should last for decades! Proper kiln maintenance ensures your kiln remains safe and operational during that time.

The good news is that kiln maintenance is much simpler (and less expensive!) than maintaining your car. While a car has a gazillion different parts that will eventually need to be replaced, kilns have far fewer points of potential failure. And while it can be a good idea to occasionally enlist the help of an electrician or a kiln engineer (especially during installation), most kiln operators will be able to perform regular kiln maintenance by themselves!

Better yet, today’s programmable digital kiln controllers like TAP Controllers by SDS Industries include advanced diagnostics features and preventative maintenance alerts, so that you know when it’s time to replace kiln elements, thermocouples, and relays. That way, you’re able to maintain optimal performance without having to worry about your kiln conking out on you mid-project!

Routine Maintenance: Component Replacement

Just like with cars, there are certain kiln components that will wear down over time and will need to be replaced on a regular basis, so we’ll start with those first. These components include:

  • Thermocouples: Thermocouples – the probe that measures the temperature of your kiln – are regularly subjected to high temperatures. Over time, thermocouples become corroded and start crumbling at the tip and will no longer be able to accurately record temperature. You’ll need to replace your thermocouples on a regular basis – typically every 30 to 50 firings for Type K thermocouples.
  • Kiln Elements: Elements are the metal coils that line the inside of your kiln and heat up when they receive electric current. Over time, kiln elements become corroded and their resistance increases – meaning that they begin to become less efficient and require more electric current to heat your kiln. The lifespan of kiln elements can range anywhere from 1 to 5 years. Their lifespan depends largely on the type of kiln you’re using, the temperatures you regularly fire to, as well as firing frequency and duration.
  • Mechanical Kiln Relays: Kiln relays regulate the power to the elements of your kiln, allowing them to heat up or cool down. Mechanical relays, which come standard on most kilns, are subject to failure after around 200,000 cycles and will need to be replaced every 12-24 months. Alternatively, investing in mercury or solid-state relays can reduce kiln maintenance costs, since those relays last much, much longer. Mercury relays last around 5 million cycles and will only need to be replaced every 15-20 years. Finally, solid-state relays don’t have any moving parts and can last over 1000 years (TAP Kiln Controllers are compatible with all three relay types!).

Replacing these components is an inevitable part of kiln maintenance. TAP Kiln Controllers calculate health and life expectancy for each of these components based on user defined thresholds, letting you know when it’s time to replace each component to maintain optimal kiln performance.

Other kiln components that may require replacement include kiln bricks, kiln lids, electrical wires, and kiln controllers. However, there are steps you can take to monitor and prolong the lifespan for all of these components:

  • For kiln bricks, be careful when moving your kiln or when placing or removing objects from your kiln. Regularly visually inspect the interior of your kiln. Kiln bricks will need to be replaced when they’re no longer able to properly support kiln elements or when significant chunks of kiln bricks are missing affecting the thermal efficiency of your kiln.
  • For kiln lids, be mindful when opening and closing your kiln to prevent denting or damaging the lid. Do not lean on your kiln or use it as a shelf for storing objects.
  • Regularly inspect electrical wires for discoloration, brittleness, or corrosion. Immediately replace these components if necessary.
  • For kiln controllers, make sure they are properly installed and regularly keep the screen clean and free of debris. We’ll be going more in-depth on how to care for your TAP Controller further below!

TAP Kiln Controllers give users a detailed error log that helps them identify component failure. For a breakdown of error messages and troubleshooting steps, check out p. 12 of the TAP II Controller User Manual.

Maintenance tip for at home kilns

Kiln Maintenance: Installation

Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is definitely true when it comes to kiln maintenance. Proper installation will prevent a ton of potential problems later down the road. Below are a few principles for kiln installation that will prolong the life of your kiln:

  • Select a space with adequate clearance and proper surfaces. Heat is a common cause of kiln component failure (or worse!). When installing your kiln, make sure your kiln has at at least 18” of clearance from non-combustible surfaces and 36” from combustible surfaces. Make sure the kiln is installed on a level surface that’s non-combustible and able to withstand high temperatures.
  • Install your kiln in a dry area. Water and electricity don’t mix! Installing your kiln in a dry area prevents shorts and surges and protects your kiln from corrosion, which will significantly 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. Enlisting the help of a certified electrician during installation helps reduce the likelihood of kiln maintenance problems down the road.
  • 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 store your kiln outside. Since indoor kiln installation for ceramics and glazing requires proper ventilation, it might be tempting to keep your kiln outside. We strongly, strongly advise against that. Exposure to the elements will reduce the lifespan of your kiln and all of its components.

Kiln Maintenance Tips Before, During, and After Firing

While proper installation and regularly replacing necessary components can prevent a host of kiln maintenance issues down the line, there are also steps you can take before, during, and after firing to prolong the life of your kiln. Below is a list of tips for kiln care and maintenance!

  • Regularly clean your kiln. Debris, dust, and glazes in the interior of your kiln can reduce element efficiency, ultimately reducing their lifespan. Carefully dusting around the element grooves and regularly vacuuming your kiln’s interior helps prevent this. Just be careful not to damage the elements or the surrounding brick! If melted glaze gets on your kiln brick, make sure to gently scrape it off to avoid it absorbing into the kiln brick. You can also use kiln wash to minimize potential damage from dripping glaze (just make sure not to get it on the kiln’s elements!). Additionally, you should only clean your kiln when it is powered off to avoid causing electrostatic discharge if you accidentally hit the thermocouple and other mishaps.
  • Keep your lid closed between firings. Leaving your kiln’s lid open leaves it susceptible to dust, debris, or wildlife getting in (yikes!). Make sure to keep your lid closed when you’re not using the kiln.
  • Do not lean on your kiln. Leaning on your kiln can cause dents or stress fractures, reducing its efficiency.
  • Don’t use your kiln for storage. Storing items in your kiln can easily damage the bricks or elements of your kiln.
  • Be careful opening and closing your kiln. Be gentle opening and closing the lid of your kiln to avoid damaging the lid or the top-edge of your kiln.
  • Don’t open the kiln for prolonged periods when it’s still hot. While it may be necessary to occasionally open your kiln to monitor the status of your work during firing, prolonged exposure to abrupt changes in temperature can cause cracks and fractures in your kiln brick.
  • Regularly inspect kiln elements. Regularly visually inspect your kiln’s elements for debris buildup or corrosion. Occasionally, kiln elements may become dislodged from the grooves in the brickwork and may need to be repositioned. Additionally, you can use a multimeter to test their resistance. Once they exceed 10% of the recommended resistance in your kiln’s user manual, it’s time for them to be replaced.
  • Invest in a safety relay controller. The biggest threat to your kiln’s lifespan (as well as your safety and the welfare of your household and personal property) is too much temperature. Occasionally relays fail. If they fail in the open position, your kiln will keep heating up indefinitely. This is no bueno! Investing in a redundant safety relay controller like the TAP Monitor ensures that your kiln safely shuts off in case of relay failure.

Caring for Your TAP Controller

TAP Kiln Controllers are carefully manufactured from high-quality components and backed by an industry leading 3-year warranty. However, like any advanced electronic device, they are subject to failure, wear and tear, and their lifespan can be prolonged by proper care. Below are tips for caring for your TAP Controller:

  • Make sure your controller is properly installed. You can find tips for kiln controller installation for DIY builds here, but if you have any questions we encourage you to contact us.
  • Regularly clean your screen to keep it free from any dust or debris.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry or watch while using your TAP Controller, as these can result in scratches on the screen.
  • Again, we cannot stress this enough, do not store your kiln or your controller outdoors.
  • Regularly review diagnostic errors so that you can spot and troubleshoot potential errors with controller output.
  • Make sure your controller is updated to the latest software. If you’re connected to WiFi, updates will be downloaded automatically and you will be notified via pop-up. Simply follow the on-screen instructions. But you can find instructions for manually updating kiln controller software for your TAP Controller here.

Additionally, SDS Industries is always working to improve our kiln controllers and provide users with new features that improve their kiln firing experience. We’re currently working on an automated device monitoring software for TAP Controllers that monitors device performance and health. By monitoring various controller metrics, the software will be able to detect potential controller degradation so that we can be proactive and inform you if your controller needs repairs.

Maintenance tips and cleaning instructions for TAP Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries.

Tips for Cleaning Your TAP Controller

TAP Kiln Controllers use a resistive touchscreen for user inputs. As mentioned earlier, to maintain optimal performance, you should regularly clean your TAP Controller to ensure it’s free of dust, debris, smudges, and fingerprints. Below are a couple dos and don’ts for cleaning your TAP Controller:

  • Before cleaning the display, use a dry, lint-free microfiber cloth to gently wipe away any dust from the touchscreen.
  • Use distilled water to dampen the microfiber cloth to gently clean the touchscreen display.
  • Do not use the following cleaning agents: tap water, ammonia, acetone, ethyl alcohol, methyl chloride, or ethyl acid, as these can cause damage to your screen.

Explore Programmable Digital Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable 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:

Shop kiln controllers for electric kilns by SDS Industries.