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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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The Difference Between a Limit Controller and a Process Controller

Learn more about the difference between limit controllers and process controllers.

When it comes to kiln temperature controllers, there are two broad categories: process controllers and limit controllers. So, what’s the difference?

Process Controllers vs Limit Controllers: Function & Use Cases

If you use an at home kiln or a studio kiln, chances are you’re more familiar with a process controller. Process controllers, also known as programmable digital controllers, automatically adjust kiln temperature to execute kiln firing schedules with very little user involvement.

Limit controllers, on the other hand, are currently more commonly used with ICS control systems, industrial kilns, and manual kilns. Also known as high limit or safety limit controllers, limit controllers monitor kiln temperature and ensure that the kiln automatically shuts off if the kiln exceeds a specified temperature.

Process controllers execute process; limit controllers enforce limits. Process controllers are a primary kiln control method. Limit controllers, while not usually suitable to be the primary control method, are an important part of kiln safety and can protect you, your equipment, and your property in the case of relay or system failure.

The TAP II Kiln Controller is an example of a process controller that allows users to automatically execute full firing schedules.
The TAP II Kiln Controller is an example of a process controller that allows kiln operators to automatically execute full firing schedules.

 

If I Already Have a Process Controller Why Would I Need a Limit Controller?

If you’re reading this article and you already have a process controller, you might be asking: Why would I need a limit controller?

The answer? Safety.

Even though advanced kiln controllers, such as TAP and TAP II, provide max temperature safety shutoff in case of relay failure, redundancy is the key to safety. Safety limit controllers such as TAP Monitor add an additional layer of safety. When installed and wired to a redundant safety relay, TAP Monitor will automatically shut off your kiln if it exceeds a specified temperature – even if your primary relay fails.

Benefits of TAP Monitor Limit Controller

TAP Monitor is an advanced, user-friendly kiln limit controller and pyrometric device that can be paired with any manual or automatic kiln controller to provide safety shutoff and remote temperature monitoring.

Available as a plug-and-play standalone pyrometer limit controller or as a set of configurable components for DIY installs and oven builds, TAP Monitor gives ceramicists, potters, glass artists, and bladesmiths the ability to:

  • Wire TAP Monitor to a safety relay to provide redundant safety shutoff.
  • Precisely monitor the temperature of their kiln, oven, or forge via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
  • View digital pyrometric readouts from any manually controlled kiln, including remote readouts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile when TAP Monitor is connected to a local network.
  • Easily add precise, real-time digital temperature readings to their manual kiln or oven.
  • Pair TAP Monitor with their existing automatically or manually controlled kiln for remote monitoring.

The TAP Monitor is a limit controller that adds remote temperature monitoring and safety shutoff for kilns.

Explore Kiln Control Solutions by SDS Industries 

In addition to the TAP Monitor 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:

Shop programmable temperature controllers.

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How to Use a Kiln Temperature Monitor

Using a kiln temperature monitor lets you monitor kiln firing temperatures and adds kiln safety.

A kiln temperature monitor is a device that monitors kiln firing temperatures. Typically, when people refer to a kiln temperature monitor, they’re referring to a device specifically dedicated to temperature measurement, such as a pyrometer or a limit controller.

In the next section we’ll explain the difference between limit controllers, pyrometers, and process controllers – because all three devices technically monitor kiln temperature. Then, we’ll explain the benefits and use cases of a dedicated kiln temperature monitor.

Understanding the Difference Between Pyrometers, Limit Controllers, and Process Controllers

Wait, but doesn’t my programmable digital kiln controller already monitor my kiln firing temperatures? Yes, digital kiln controllers (such as TAP Controllers!) receive temperature inputs from the thermocouples and display your kiln’s temperature on the controller interface (or your smartphone with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App!).

However, digital kiln controllers are process controllers, meaning their primary role isn’t to monitor temperature but rather to adjust kiln firing temperatures according to the programmed firing schedule.

Pyrometers, on the other hand, are devices whose sole function is to monitor kiln temperature. And limit controllers, or high limit controllers or safety limiters, are pyrometers with additional control functions that allow users to pre-program their electric kiln to automatically shut off if the kiln exceeds a specified temperature.

What’s The Point of a Dedicated Kiln Temperature Monitor?

Okay, but if your primary process controller already lets you monitor kiln temperature, then what’s the point of a dedicated kiln temperature monitor? The answer: kiln safety.

More advanced kiln controllers, such as TAP, provide max temperature safety shutoff in case of relay failure. But even then you’re still relying on a single controller, a single relay, and a single thermocouple to ensure the safety of your kiln, yourself, and your property.

When it comes to safety, especially at high kiln firing temperatures, redundancy is key. A dedicated kiln temperature monitor adds an additional level of safety by acting as a safety redundancy device. When installed and wired to a redundant safety relay, TAP Monitor will automatically shut off your kiln if it exceeds a specified temperature – even if your primary relay fails.

TAP Monitor integrates with your kiln to provide remote kiln temperature monitoring to your smartphone.
TAP Monitor integrates with your kiln to provide remote kiln temperature monitoring to your smartphone – when installed with a redundant relay, TAP Monitor also provides additional kiln safety.

Introducing TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer Limit Controller

While previous kiln temperature monitors only added kiln safety shutoff or a temperature readout, TAP Monitor by SDS Industries adds a whole lot more than that!

TAP Monitor is an advanced, user-friendly kiln temperature monitor that gives kiln operators the ability to precisely monitor kiln firing temperatures – remotely! – regardless of their existing kiln control method.

Available as a plug-and-play standalone pyrometer limit controller or as a set of configurable components for DIY installs and oven builds, TAP Monitor gives ceramicists, potters, glass artists, and bladesmiths the ability to:

  • Precisely monitor the temperature of their kiln, oven, or forge via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
  • View digital pyrometric readouts from any manually controlled kiln, including remote readouts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile when TAP Monitor is connected to a local network.
  • Easily add precise, real-time digital temperature readings to their manual kiln or oven.
  • Pair TAP Monitor with their existing automatically controlled kiln for remote monitoring.
  • For added safety, use TAP Monitor as a standalone or safety relay controller.

Explore Kiln Control Solutions by SDS Industries

In addition to the TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer, the TAP Ecosystem includes a variety of programmable kiln controllers that give artists complete control of their kilns – without complicated controls or clumsy user interfaces. 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:

Shop TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer for kilns

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What Is a Pyrometer? Understanding Pyrometers for Kilns

What is a pyrometer? A pyrometer is a temperature monitoring device for high temperature applications.

What is a pyrometer? A pyrometer is a device that measures high temperatures for applications beyond the range of a mercury thermometer (673° F or 356° C). Pyrometers, also referred to as pyrometric devices, are used to monitor temperature for a wide variety of applications. From kilns, furnaces, heat treat ovens, and industrial processes, to measuring the surface temperatures of distant planets!

Contact vs Non-Contact Pyrometers

Pyrometers can be contact or non-contact. Contact pyrometers, such as pyrometers for kilns, use thermocouples that are in thermal contact with the object or atmosphere. Non-contact pyrometers, on the other hand, use optical systems to measure the radiation of a surface without the need for thermal contact.

Both types of pyrometers have their pros and cons. Contact pyrometers, also known as resistance pyrometers or thermocouple pyrometers, are subject to degradation from heat exposure and are limited by the range of the thermocouple. However, they are highly accurate and usually less expensive.

Non-contact pyrometers, also referred to as optical pyrometers, radiation pyrometers, or infrared pyrometers, have far greater range – both in terms of physical distance as well as maximum temperature. Non-contact pyrometers can measure temperatures exceeding 7232° F or 4000°C – nearly three times higher than most contact pyrometers. Non-contact pyrometers can also measure temperatures of moving objects or objects that cannot be touched. However, they are significantly more expensive and less accurate.

Pyrometers for Kilns

As you can probably imagine from the comparison above, contact pyrometers are generally more suitable for kiln temperature monitoring. Affordability and accuracy, as well as the temperature range of most kiln firing schedules, makes using a thermocouple pyrometer with your kiln a pretty obvious choice!

A Brief History of Pyrometers for Kilns

While the earliest known pyrometer dates back to the “Hindley Pyrometer” in 1732, the first pyrometer for kilns was invented by English potter Josiah Wedgwood in the 1780s. Josiah Wedgwood is an interesting figure in the history of pottery. He was a wildly successful potter, industrialist, and entrepreneur – a savvy marketeer, technological innovator, prominent abolitionist, and fashion tastemaker in 18th century England, possibly the closest thing pottery has had to a ‘rockstar.’

(An interesting aside, the fortune Wedgewood amassed selling his line of pottery to the aristocracy of England and the rest of Europe, including Queen Charlotte of England and Queen Catherine of Russia, helped fund the research of his grandson, Charles Darwin. Yes, that Charles Darwin. Wedgwood was quoted as saying, “Fashion is infinitely superior to merit,” although his pottery was widely considered to possess both due to his dedication to utilizing the latest advancements in technology).

Wedgwood’s pyrometer was an optical pyrometer that was used to visibly compare the color of the clay in the kiln to the color of clay fired at known temperatures (similar in principle to this firing chart!). Later he replaced this early pyrometric technology with using of shrinking clay rings or expanding metal bars to measure the temperature of his kilns.

In 1885, Dr. Herrmann Seger developed the pyrometric cone, another pyrometric device based around a similar principle, which remained the standard in pyrometry for at home kilns all the way up until the invention of digital kiln controllers and digital pyrometers in the 1980s. For industrial kilns and furnaces, the Siemens brothers developed a platinum thermometer that could measure temperatures up to 1832° F or 1000° C in the 1860s through the 1870s.

Alternatively, for higher temperatures, the disappearing filament pyrometer was invented by L. Holborn and F. Kurlbaum in 1901. This was another optical pyrometric device that worked by adjusting current through a filament until it matched the color (and thus temperature) of an incandescent object. Evolutions in disappearing filament and brightness pyrometers continued throughout the 20th century.

Modern Digital Pyrometers for Kilns

In the 1980s, the world became digital, and the modern thermocouple pyrometer was born. Digital pyrometers for kilns use thermocouples that attach to a temperature sensor to precisely monitor kiln temperature.

While digital kiln controllers can be used to monitor kiln temperature, a dedicated digital pyrometer adds additional capabilities. For instance, you can use a digital pyrometer to add digital temperature monitoring to a manual kiln or use it in addition to a programmable digital kiln controller to act as a safety redundancy device to provide automatic safety shutoff in case of relay failure.

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

The TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer Limit Controller

The latest evolution in digital pyrometers for kilns is the TAP Monitor, which is now available for preorder! The TAP Monitor is an advanced, user-friendly limit controller and digital pyrometer that gives kiln operators the ability to precisely monitor kiln temperature – remotely! – regardless of their existing kiln control method.

Available as a plug-and-play standalone pyrometer limit controller or as a set of configurable components for DIY installs and oven builds, TAP Monitor gives ceramicists, potters, glass artists, and bladesmiths the ability to:

  • Precisely monitor the temperature of their kiln, oven, or forge via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
  • View digital pyrometric readouts from any manually controlled kiln, including remote readouts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile when TAP Monitor is connected to a local network with internet access.
  • Easily add precise, real-time digital temperature readings to their manual kiln or oven.
  • Pair TAP Monitor with their existing automatically controlled kiln for remote monitoring.
  • For added safety, use TAP Monitor as a standalone and safety relay controller. 

Explore Kiln Control Solutions by SDS Industries

In addition to the TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer, the TAP Ecosystem includes a variety of programmable kiln controllers that give artists complete control of their kilns – without complicated controls or clumsy user interfaces. 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:

Shop TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer for kilns

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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.

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New Kiln Temp Controller Options! Introducing the TAP Monitor, TAP & Go, and TAP Micro

Blog header image for new kiln temp controller options

Exciting news! SDS Industries is gearing up to launch new additions to the TAP Kiln Control Ecosystem. As part of our commitment to innovative temperature control solutions, we have three new kiln temp controller products coming soon!

Overview of New TAP Kiln Temp Controller Options

TAP Monitor, TAP & Go, and TAP Micro are all designed to be controlled almost entirely through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App as opposed to an on-unit touchscreen. This allows us to offer these products at a significantly more accessible price point without sacrificing core functionality or ease-of-use.

Below is a quick overview of our three new kiln temp controller options:

  • TAP Monitor: TAP Monitor is a digital pyrometer that pairs with any relay-controlled kiln or oven to provide precise remote temperature monitoring and can be used to add redundancy to your existing controller’s safety shutoff.
  • TAP & Go: Our most simplified control option yet, the TAP & Go is a Single Setpoint controller, making it ideal for heat treat, knife-making, or for users who don’t need to execute complex firings.
  • TAP Micro: Enjoy the robust capabilities of TAP at a lower price point! TAP Micro offers a limited feature set and is controlled entirely through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, making it the perfect entry-level controller.

TAP Monitor, TAP & Go, and TAP Micro are all built on a modular platform, with add-on options like a 2.4” Capacitive Touchscreen, an Output Adapter, and an Input Power Adapter. These add-ons snap right onto the Controller Board, so you only pay for the functionality you need!

An isometric rendering of SDS Industries' new modular kiln temp controllers.

TAP Monitor: A Precise Digital Pyrometer and Safety Device

Available as a set of configurable components for DIY install, or as a plug-and-play standalone digital pyrometer, TAP Monitor is the most advanced digital pyrometer on the market today. TAP Monitor is a limit controller that adds precise temperature readings, remote monitoring, push notification alerts, and safety redundancy to any kiln or oven. The TAP Monitor allows you to:

  • Precisely monitor the temperature of your kiln, oven, or forge via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App or on an optional 2.4” touchscreen display.
  • View digital pyrometric readouts from any manually controlled kiln, including remote readouts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile when TAP Monitor is connected to your local network.
  • Easily add precise, real-time digital temperature readings to your manual kiln or oven.
  • Add remote monitoring to your existing automatically controlled kiln.
  • Use TAP Monitor as a limit controller and kiln safety device to add redundant max temperature shutoff (the configurable components can also interface with solid state relays or mechanical relays (with the output adapter) to add relay redundancy).

The TAP Monitor Standalone includes a TAP Monitor Pyrometer (with a 2.4” Capacitive Touchscreen), a USB Power Cable and a Type K Thermocouple, making it a plug-and-play solution. Available options for the DIY components include a 2.4” Capacitive Touchscreen, a 24VAC to 5VDC Power Adapter, and a Relay Output Adapter.

3D rendering of the TAP Monitor Limit Controller

Use-Cases for TAP Monitor

The TAP Monitor isn’t intended to replace your current kiln temp controller. However, you can pair TAP Monitor with any existing kiln controller option on any type of kiln to provide remote monitoring, safety redundancy, and additional peace of mind.

TAP & Go: A Straightforward Single Setpoint Kiln Temp Controller

Not every kiln operator needs to ability to create and execute complex firing schedules with multiple steps, setpoints, or ramp rates. TAP & Go is a simplified, single setpoint controller. You just enter the temperature you want the kiln or oven to heat to and let the controller do the work, making it ideal for heat treat, knife-making, or for users who don’t need to execute complex firings. With built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, TAP & Go can be used with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App whether a local internet connection is available or not.

TAP & Go gives kiln operators the ability to:

  • Heat their kiln to hold indefinitely at a single setpoint.
  • Remotely monitor the temperature of their kiln and abort firings through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
  • Enjoy complete remote monitoring and control of their kiln or oven with a premium subscription to the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.

Available options for TAP & Go include a 2.4” Capacitive Touchscreen, a 24VAC Power Input Adapter, and a 12VDC Relay Output Adapter.

Use-Cases for TAP & Go

TAP & Go has a straightforward feature set for users who need straightforward functionality from their kiln or heat treat oven controller. Since it’s incapable of multiple setpoints, hold times, or ramp rate, TAP & Go won’t be suitable for most users working with ceramics or glass. However, for users who are making blades, knives, or doing other heat treat processes, or for glassblowers and flameworkers who are using pick up ovens, the TAP & Go may be an extremely cost-effective kiln temp controller option!

 

TAP Micro: The Perfect Entry-Level Kiln Temp Controller

TAP Micro, available for preorder here, is a minimalist kiln temp controller that allows you to operate your kiln with a precise, easy-to-use user interface from your mobile device or tablet. TAP Micro allows you to use the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App to:

  • Manage temperature for single-zone kilns, ovens, or furnaces.
  • Create, edit, label, save, and execute an unlimited number of firing schedules and steps.
  • Quickly check the status of your kilns with easy-to-read indicators, simple graphs of your schedules and current firings, and push notifications.
  • Fully control and monitor your projects remotely, with the option for extra features like Remote Start via in-app purchases.

Available options for TAP Micro include a 2.4” Capacitive Touchscreen, a 24VAC Power Adapter, and a 12VDC Output Adapter.

Use-Cases for TAP Micro

It’s important to note that the TAP Micro is only intended for new kiln and oven builds. Due to its dimensions and wiring, TAP Micro isn’t intended as a drop-in replacement for your current automatic controller (to upgrade your existing automatic controller, check out TAP Standalone Kiln Temp Controllers and Conversion Kits!).

However, TAP Micro is the perfect solution for:

  • Accessing the simplicity, precision, and reliability of TAP at a significantly lower price point.
  • Adding remote control functionality to your kiln, oven, or furnace to enjoy all the benefits of software-based kiln controllers.
  • Confident DIYers, who don’t mind doing their own installs or making modifications to their kiln.

Additionally, upon release, TAP Micro will be available on new kiln and oven build from select distributors and manufacturers.

 

Choose TAP for Your Kiln Temp Controller Options

While we’re super excited for these new additions to our TAP Ecosystem of Products – and to help make the convenience of TAP more accessible for more users – these aren’t a replacement for our mainline, fully-featured TAP Kiln Controllers.

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries will remain the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use automatic kiln controllers on the market for multi-zone and single-zone kilns, respectively. 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 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:

CTA directing users to the TAP Kiln Controller Online Store

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Complete Guide to Kiln Safety for Your At Home Kiln

Header Image for Complete Guide to Kiln Safety for Your At Home Kiln

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.
    Diagnostics and kiln status on the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App
    The TAP Kiln Control Mobile App allows you to monitor the status of your kiln, control your kiln remotely, and review error reports.
  • 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.

The TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer will be releasing soon, but you can already preorder your standalone unit here or as a set of configurable components for DIY installs here.

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:

Shop the most advanced programmable digital kiln controllers for sale.