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Setpoint Controls: What is a Setpoint?

Editing setpoint temperatures of the TAP II Kiln Controllers

If you’re new to heat treatment or it’s your first time using a kiln controller, you may find yourself asking: What is a setpoint? Or, if you’re a little more familiar with the topic, you may be looking to find more information about different types of setpoint controls. Don’t worry! After reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of setpoint temperatures and setpoint controls.

Setpoint Definition: What is a Setpoint?

Before exploring different setpoint control options, it’s important to understand what a setpoint is first. Broadly speaking, in a control system, the setpoint is the measurable value you want the system to achieve.

For kilns or heat treat ovens, the setpoint is the desired temperature you want the kiln or oven to reach. In a firing schedule, there may be multiple setpoints for multiple steps. Or, for many heat treat processes involving metal, there may only be a single setpoint. Either way, making sure your kiln or oven reaches its setpoint temperature is crucial for achieving the desired effect!

Setpoint controls on the TAP II Kiln Controller
The TAP II Kiln Controller lets you easily edit setpoints for each step of your kiln firing schedule using intuitive touchscreen controls – the controller then automatically ensures the kiln automatically reaches the correct setpoint temperature(s).

 

Setpoint Controls: Making Sure Your Kiln Reaches the Right Setpoint Temperatures

For a kiln or heat treat oven, setpoint controls are executed through the kiln controller. If you’re still using a manual controller or a kiln sitter, you’ll have to manually adjust the temperature of the kiln to change the setpoint for each step. If you’re using an advanced programmable digital kiln controller, such as TAP or TAP II by SDS Industries, then you input different setpoints for each step when creating your schedule, and the controller executes each step automatically.

Additionally, setpoint controls can be multi-setpoint or single setpoint. Multi-setpoint controllers let you input multiple setpoint temperatures and hold times for multiple segments of a kiln firing temperature. Single setpoint controllers, such as SDS Industries’ soon-to-be-released TAP&Go lets you input a single setpoint temperature.

The TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller is designed specifically for heat treat artists and simple one-step firing schedules.
The TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller, designed specifically for heat treat artists and simple one-step firing schedules, lets you easily input a single setpoint temperature, and the controller takes care of the rest!

Learn more about different setpoint control methods at Kiln Controls: Exploring Different Kiln Control Methods.

The TAP Ecosystem: Simplifying Setpoint Controls

When we released the original TAP Controller in 2015, our goal was to create a kiln controller that could precisely execute setpoint controls – while making it super easy for artists to input, edit, and manage setpoints.

At the time, we revolutionized the kiln control industry by introducing precise touchscreen controls and intuitive, easy-to-use menus. A year later, we released TAP Kiln Control Mobile, which lets you fully control every aspect of your kiln firings – including editing your setpoint temperature – right from your smartphone!

TAP Kiln Control Mobile lets you remotely control setpoint temperatures from your smartphone or tablet.
TAP Kiln Control Mobile lets you conveniently manage your setpoint controls from your smartphone or tablet.

All of the setpoint controllers in the TAP Kiln Control Ecosystem are designed based on the principles of simplicity and precision – and all of the controllers include integration with TAP Kiln Control Mobile. The video below walks you through schedule management – including how to enter setpoints – for the TAP II Kiln Controller:

 

Explore Setpoint Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide artists the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use setpoint controls on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app, TAP Setpoint 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 programmable temperature controllers.

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Standalone Kiln Controllers: Wall Mount Kiln Controllers and Tabletop Kiln Controllers

TAP Standalone Wall Mount Kiln Controller allow you to upgrade from manual to automatic kiln controls.

For newer artists, figuring out what type of kiln controller you need for your kiln or oven build can be an intimidating prospect. Do you need a conversion kit? A standalone kiln controller? A tabletop kiln controller? Don’t worry, below is a simple cheat sheet for understanding kiln controller categories:

  • Digital Controllers: For new kilns or oven build or competent DIYers. Digital controllers include the controller, the faceplate, and a wiring harness pigtail.
  • Conversion Kits: For upgrading automatic kiln controllers that are already installed on your kiln or oven. Conversion kits include the controller, the conversion box, a wiring harness adapter, and mounting hardware to facilitate seamless installation.
  • Standalone Kiln Controllers: For easily upgrading manual kilns to automatic controllers. Standalone kiln controllers include the controller, standalone controller housing, a power cord, and a thermocouple for plug-and-play installation.

Configurations of Standalone Kiln Controllers

For easily upgrading a manual kiln, a standalone kiln controller is the go-to choice. With standalone kiln controllers you can completely transform your kiln firing experience – from having to constantly monitor and manually adjust the temperature of your kiln to automatically executing your firing schedules with a precise, easy-to-use touchscreen controller that offer features like remote kiln control and temperature monitoring.

SDS Industries offers TAP Standalone Controllers in two different configurations: wall mount kiln controllers and tabletop kiln controllers.

The Difference Between Wall Mount Kiln Controllers and Tabletop Kiln Controllers

From a feature and functionality standpoint, TAP Wall Mount Kiln Controllers and TAP Tabletop Kiln Controllers are exactly the same. In either configuration, you have the option to choose between a TAP or a TAP II, both of which give artists the most precise, easy-to-use kiln control experience available.

Tabletop kiln controllers make upgrading your manual kiln extremely easy.

TAP Standalone Controllers give artists the ability to:

  • Seamlessly upgrade their manual kiln to the most advanced digital kiln controller on the market.
  • Easily manage and execute your firing schedules with an intuitive touchscreen and logical menus that allow you to immediately begin programming and operating your kiln.
  • Enjoy the ability to create, save, edit, and name an unlimited number of firing schedules – each with an infinite number of custom steps – so that you never have to recreate a schedule again!
  • Find the schedule you need when you need it with full alpha-numeric text displays.
  • Save time and maximize peace of mind with remote kiln control and real-time monitoring through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app.
  • Ensure maximum consistency and stay fully informed with PID-driven precision, advanced diagnostics, error reports, graphical firing logs, push notification alerts, and more!

The only real difference is which setup fits your workspace or studio better.

Pros and Cons Wall Mount Kiln Controllers

For smaller workspaces, or ones where flat surface space is at a premium, a wall mount kiln controller allows for a compact, semi-permanent installation. With wall mount kiln controllers, there is minimal risk that the controller gets damaged by gravity or other environmental exposure. Additionally, it’s easy to mount the controller close to the kiln for clean installs in terms of having the wiring to the power outlet and to the thermocouple out of the way.

However, a wall mount kiln controller does require more work in terms of installation – and will require a surface that you can mount the controller to.

Wall mount kiln controllers allow for a clean, semi-permanent installation for your kiln controller upgrade.

Pros and Cons of Tabletop Kiln Controllers

While standalone kiln controllers are designed for easy installation, installing tabletop kiln controllers is as simple as it gets. All you need is a flat surface in proximity to the kiln to set down the controller! However, there is the risk that you accidentally knock over your controller, or the controller gets damaged by setting down another item on its tabletop.

Additionally, tabletop kiln controllers may require modifications to your workspace for a clean installation depending on where the tabletop is in relation to your kiln.

Explore TAP Standalone Kiln Controllers

Whether you’re looking for a wall mount kiln controller or a tabletop kiln controller, SDS Industries has got you covered! The TAP and TAP II Controllers are available as standalone kiln controllers in both configurations! With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app, TAP Standalone controllers make the perfect upgrade to your manual kiln or heat treat 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:

CTA for TAP Kiln Controller Shop Pages

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When to Use a Single Setpoint Controller

Single setpoint controllers are used for metal heat treat and executing simple kiln firing schedules.

When shopping for a kiln controller, it’s important to get a controller with the functionality you need. While advanced programmable digital kiln controllers have robust features to easily execute even the most complex firing schedules, some kiln operators don’t need to execute complex schedules with specific ramp rates for multiple steps. For these operators, a single setpoint controller might be a more affordable option.

Types of Artists a Single Setpoint Controller Won’t Work For

Before discussing the types of artists who should consider purchasing a single setpoint controller, it’s important to discuss the types of artists a single setpoint controller won’t work for. After all, buying a kiln controller that doesn’t include the functionality you need is a total waste of money!

Most Glass Artists

For most glass artists, a single setpoint controller won’t be a viable kiln control option. Kiln firing schedules for glass require the kiln to heat up to multiple setpoints at highly controlled ramp rates. If you heat up glass too fast or cool it down too quickly it can cause breaking or jeopardize its structural integrity.

While glassblowers can use a single setpoint controller to control their pick-up ovens, most glass kilns require advanced process controllers.

Most Ceramic Artists

Likewise, most ceramic artists will probably need to invest in a multi-setpoint kiln controller. Like with glass, most firing schedules for ceramic require multiple steps with specific ramp rates to avoid blowouts and preserve the structural integrity of the ceramic piece. It is worth noting that throughout most of kiln history, pottery was fired without the use of a multi-setpoint controller (or any controller at all!). But for most modern ceramic artists, an advanced multi-setpoint controller will be a better option.

However, if a ceramic artist uses a dedicated kiln for candling clay, a single setpoint can be a good control option for that application.

Artists Who Want Maximum Convenience

Additionally, a single setpoint controller does require more manual intervention. It’s up to the user to manually turn the kiln off or enter a new setpoint for an additional step. The soon-to-be released TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller allows user to abort firings from their smartphone via TAP Kiln Control Mobile. However, many artists appreciate the convenience of having their controller automatically terminate firings once the necessary hold time has been reached. For kiln operators who want the convenience of having their controller automatically manage the entire firing schedule, a multi-setpoint controller will be a better option.

Types of Artists Who Should Consider a Single Setpoint Controller

Now that we’ve covered the types of artists a single setpoint controller won’t be a good fit for, let’s discuss those who should consider a single setpoint controller. Afterall, it doesn’t make sense to pay for functionality you don’t need!

Heat Treat Artists

For heat treat artists, such as those who make blades, jewelry, or work with metal clays, most firing schedules only require a single setpoint. In heat treat, ramp rates only apply to the cooldown process. These largely occur outside of a kiln through quenching, exposing the metal to room temperature, or insulating the metal in blankets or sand.

Single setpoint kiln controllers can be the perfect solution for bladesmiths, such as Delight Valley Blades.

For these types of artists, a single setpoint controller is the perfect solution! Additionally, a single setpoint controller can be used for the following applications:

  • Storing material at a single, controlled temperature.
  • Heating material to ensure it stays dry.
  • Controlling the temperature of a greenhouse or hydroponic tank.
  • Candling clay prior to firing.
  • Brewing beer (although a multi-step controller can add significant convenience!).

The TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller by SDS Industries

If a single setpoint controller sounds like a good solution for your kiln control needs, we encourage you to check out the soon-to-be released TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller! Designed specifically for heat treat artists, knifemakers, or users who don’t need to execute complex firings, TAP&Go takes the precision and ease-of-use of TAP and simplifies it into the most advanced single setpoint controller on the market.

TAP&Go is an advanced single setpoint kiln controller by SDS Industries.

With TAP&Go, heat treats artists have the ability to:

  • Easily enter the temperature you want the kiln or oven to heat to – from the 2.4” touchscreen or the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app – and let the controller do the work.
  • Enjoy complete remote monitoring and control through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app with a premium subscription.
  • Use TAP&Go’s built-in WiFi and Bluetooth to automatically pair with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app.
  • Prevent eye strain with light and dark modes and large, full-text displays.

 

Explore Single Setpoint and Multi-Setpoint Controllers by SDS Industries

Whether you’re looking for a single setpoint or multi-setpoint controller, TAP has you covered! The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use multi-setpoint temperature 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.

The soon-to-be-released TAP&Go includes many of the benefits of TAP but streamlines everything into a single setpoint controller so that heat treat artists only have to pay for the functionality they need!

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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Setpoint Controllers: Single Setpoint vs Multi-Setpoint Controllers

Multi-setpoint controllers are capable of executing schedules with multiple steps, while single setpoint controllers can only automatically execute schedules with a single setpoint.

During a firing schedule, a setpoint is the pre-set firing temperature the kiln must reach in order to successfully complete each step. A setpoint controller measures the kiln’s temperature and cycles the relays to ensure the kiln reaches the desired temperature.

Setpoint controllers, also known as process controllers, are programmable digital devices that automatically execute firing schedules. All the user has to do is enter the desired setpoint(s), and the controller takes care of the rest!

What Is the Difference Between a Single Setpoint and a Multi-Setpoint Controller

When it comes to kiln firing schedules, there are varying degrees of complexity. For firing glass or ceramics, the kiln often has to reach multiple setpoints over multiple steps. However, most heat treat processes – such as those used for making knives, jewelry, or firing metal clay – only involve a single setpoint.

A multi-setpoint controller is capable of executing complex schedules with multiple setpoints. For instance, the TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries can accommodate schedules with an infinite number of steps! However, that level of robustness might be a little excessive for users who only work in heat treat, which is where single setpoint controllers come into play.

The TAP II is capable of executing schedules with an unlimited number of setpoints.
The TAP II Kiln Controller is capable of automatically executing schedules with an unlimited number of setpoints.

 

Single setpoint controllers are greatly simplified and only require the user to enter the single setpoint they need for each individual heat treat process.

Single Setpoint Heat Treat Processes

While a multi-setpoint controller is capable of executing schedules with a single setpoint, below are metal heat treat processes that only require a single setpoint:

  • Normalizing: The metal is heated to an extremely high temperature for a defined period of time and then air-cooled. Normalizing relieves internal stress and ensures uniformity, resulting in harder, stronger metals.
  • Hardening: The metal is heated until it forms an even solution and then allowed to cool to increase its hardness.
  • Case Hardening: Only the outside of the metal is hardened, creating a durable outer layer while ensuring the metal retains flexibility and doesn’t become brittle.
  • Quench Hardening: After heating, the metal is cooled rapidly by dipping it into an oil, polymer, or water, resulting in very hard, very brittle metal.
  • Tempering: After hardening, the metal is heated to a lower temperature to reduce excessive hardness and relieve internal stress. Tempering makes metals less brittle.
  • Annealing: The metal is heated beyond the upper critical temperature and then slowly cooled to soften it and increase its workability. Annealing increases ductility and toughness, while relieving stress, making the metal more resistant to fractures. While annealing can be completed with a single setpoint controller, it will be necessary to use sand or insulated blankets to make sure the metal doesn’t cool down too quickly outside of the oven. However, a multi-setpoint controller can be used to slowly anneal metal within the oven.

Introducing TAP&Go: The Most Easy-to-Use, Streamlined Single Setpoint Controller

In the past, single setpoint controllers were far less featured than their multi-setpoint counterparts. This forced heat treat artists to choose between advanced multi-setpoint controllers that required paying for functionality they didn’t need, or simplistic single setpoint controllers that lacked precision, ease-of-use, or required constant monitoring to know when the oven had reached the right setpoint.

SDS Industries has set out to change that with our soon-to-be released TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller! Designed specifically for heat treat artists, knifemakers, or users who don’t need to execute complex firings, TAP&Go takes the precision and ease-of-use of TAP and simplifies it into the most advanced single setpoint controller on the market.

The TAP&Go is a simplified single setpoint controller designed specifically for heat treat.
The TAP&Go is a simplified single setpoint controller designed specifically for heat treat.

 

With TAP&Go, heat treats artists have the ability to:

  • Easily enter the temperature you want the kiln or oven to heat to – from the 2.4” touchscreen or the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app – and let the controller do the work.
  • Enjoy complete remote monitoring and control through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app with a premium subscription.
  • Use TAP&Go’s built-in WiFi and Bluetooth to automatically pair with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app.
  • Prevent eye strain with light and dark modes and large, full-text displays.

Explore Single Setpoint and Multi-Setpoint Controllers by SDS Industries

Whether you’re looking for a single setpoint or multi-setpoint controller, TAP has you covered! The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use multi-setpoint temperature 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.

The soon-to-be-released TAP&Go takes the design principles of TAP but streamlines everything into a single setpoint controller so that heat treat artists only have to pay for the functionality they need!

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:

Explore our line of TAP Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers.

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Complete Guide to Kiln Firing Temperatures

A definitive guide for understanding kiln firing temperatures.

Whether you work in pottery, glass, or heat treat, kiln firing temperatures play a critical role in achieving your desired result. Reaching the correct kiln firing temperature during each stage of your firing schedule is the difference between successfully completing a project…or creating a total mess!

Why Are Kiln Firing Temperatures Important?

Changes in temperature affect the physical properties of a medium. Heat alters a medium’s molecular structure, potentially affecting its hardness, brittleness, malleability, color, water resistance, and more.

Every kiln firing and heat treat process involves exposing material to heat to transform its physical qualities to give it a desired set of characteristics. Whether that’s transforming green clay to bisque, tempering a blade, or casting glass to fit a mold!

Different materials undergo specific physical (and chemical) changes at specific temperatures – so kiln firing temperatures are super important and vary according to medium and technique.

Kiln Firing Schedules

However, kiln firing temperature isn’t the only factor affecting outcome. The relationship between changes in temperature over time is super important. That’s why kiln firing schedules define the following:

  • Step #: The order in which the different kiln firing temperatures occur.
  • Ramp Rate: The speed at which changes in temperature occur (measured in degrees per hour).
  • Setpoint: The desired temperature the kiln reaches during each step (measured in degrees).
  • Hold Time: The length of time (defined in days, hours, or minutes) the kiln stays at a specific kiln firing temperature before advancing to the next step.

Kiln firing schedules vary greatly in kiln firing temperatures, as well as complexity. For instance, normalizing steel for a handmade knife might only involve a single setpoint over a specific hold time. Whereas, bisque firing pottery might involve five different setpoints, each with a specific ramp rate.

In addition to increases in firing temperature, decreases in temperature are equally important. Often, heating up an object and then cooling it down too rapidly jeopardizes its structural integrity, leading to cracks and brittleness.

Kiln firing 1095 steel to 1600° F relieves internal stress and ensures uniformity, making it stronger and harder.
Normalizing 1095 steel to 1600° F relieves internal stress and ensures uniformity, making it stronger and harder.

 

Categorizing Kiln Firing Temperatures

There are multiple ways to categorize kiln firing temperatures – whether by temperature range, material, process, or cone temperature. Artists in different media generally have different ways of categorizing kiln temperature:

  • Heat Treat: By and large, heat treat artists categorize kiln firing temperatures according to process (hardening, normalizing, tempering, etc.) and material. There are very few “one-size-fits all,” standardized ranges or schedules – specificity is key.
  • Kilnformed Glass: Glass artists categorize temperature according to technique (slumping, casting, fusing, annealing, etc.) and glass “coefficient of expansion” (how fast glass expands based on changes in temperature). Glass thickness is equally important, but that has more to do with changes in hold times or ramp rates as opposed to temperature.
  • Pottery and Ceramics: For pottery and ceramics, kiln firing temperatures are still largely categorized based on cone firing temperatures and ranges – which we’ll be covering more in-depth below! Each ceramic material is rated for a cone that corresponds with a specific temperature, allowing for a more standardized scale.
For a full fuse kiln firing for 90 COE glass, the kiln must reach a setpoint of 1490° F.
For a full fuse kiln firing for 90 COE glass, the kiln must reach a setpoint of 1490° F.
 

 

 Understanding Cone Firing Temperatures

 

Unlike heat treat and glasswork, which require a greater level of specificity, potters deal in pre-defined temperature ranges – which correspond with pyrometric cones. Before the advent of modern programmable digital kiln controllers, kiln temperature control relied on manual kilns and the use of pyrometric cones and kiln sitters to measure when the proper kiln firing temperatures were reached.

Pyrometric cones melt at specified temperatures, providing a range for measuring (and categorizing) kiln firing temperatures. So, for instance Cone 06 for “low fire” clay softens and bends at 1832° F (1000° C), while Cone 14 for “high fire” porcelain softens and bends at 2552° F (1400° C).

Today, digital kiln controllers and digital pyrometers have largely made pyrometric cones obsolete. But cone numbers are still widely referenced for categorizing kiln firing temperatures. While cone firing charts are predominantly used in pottery, they are still sometimes referenced for heat treat and glasswork.

Click the button below for an in-depth cone temperature chart – which notes firing temperatures for each cone and describes the changes clay undergoes at each temperature:

 

Kiln Firing Temperature Ranges in Pottery

As you can see on the cone temperature chart, there are also temperature ranges that are used to categorize kiln firing temperatures for clay. The ranges below also correspond with three different categories of clay: earthenware, stoneware, and ceramics:

  • Low-Fire Clays: Cone 06 – Cone 1: Low-fire clays, also referred to as earthenware, are fired at temperatures ranging between 1828° F to 2079°F.
  • Mid-Fire Clays: Cone 4 – Cone 6: Mid-fire clays, which can be earthenware or stoneware, are fired at temperatures between 2142° F to 2232° F.
  • High-Fire Clays: Cone 10 – Cone 14: High fire clays, which can be used for stoneware or porcelain, are fired at temperatures between 2345° F to 2552° F.
Cone 04 clay, which is a common “low-fire” clay, fires at a kiln firing temperature of 1945° F.
Cone 04 clay, which is a common “low-fire” clay, fires at a kiln firing temperature of 1945° F.

For an in-depth explanation of the different types of clay, check out “Kiln Firing Chart for Pottery and Ceramics [Infographic].”

How to Ensure Your Kiln Reaches the Correct Kiln Firing Temperatures

Now that you understand the importance of kiln firing temperatures, how do you ensure your kiln reaches the correct temperature? That’s where kiln controllers come into play! There are three general phases when it comes to using a kiln controller to manage firing temperatures:

  • Input: First, the user has to enter what temperatures the kiln needs to reach, usually through creating a firing schedule or selecting a pre-set schedule.
  • Execution: Next, the temperature controller automatically executes the schedule, ensuring the kiln reaches the correct kiln firing temperatures over the correct timeframe.
  • Measurement: Throughout the execution phase, it’s important that either the controller itself (or an independent pyrometer) is able to precisely record kiln firing temperature based on input from the thermocouple.

Different kiln control methods handle these three phases more or less effectively. For instance, some temperature controllers are able to precisely execute schedules but are so difficult to use from a User Experience (UX) standpoint that it’s hard to know if you input the correct kiln firing temperatures to begin with! Others allow for too much variability in response times or temperature overshoot, meaning the kiln might not reach the precise temperatures you need during execution. And most kiln controllers require the user to be physically present at the kiln at all times to monitor its temperature.

The TAP Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries were designed to solve all these problems – with a touchscreen and intuitive menus to help artists input the correct kiln firing temperatures, as well as PID control algorithms to ensure maximum precision in the execution phase. Furthermore, all of the products in the TAP Ecosystem include integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app – allowing for artists to remotely control and monitor their projects from their smartphone or tablet!

Explore Temperature Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use temperature 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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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 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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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

Kiln maintenance helps prolong the lifespan of your kiln and its components.

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.