Some utility companies offer reduced electric rates at night. Photo by Nick Casberg.
Saving Electricity by Firing a Kiln at Night
Reader Response: Sketching firing schedules on graph paper
Recent Q&As: Vent holes in lids that have heating elements; Vice-Grips pliers; Liquid Kiln Coating
A Small Pointer: An advantage to foot rings on mugs and bowls in the dish washer
News: Maggie Sweeney Wins a Paragon Digital Firefly for Her School
SAVING ELECTRICITY BY FIRING A KILN AT NIGHT
At the NCECA pottery convention last month, a potter named Ken told me he pays a higher electric rate during the day to get onto his utility company’s “Free Nights” plan. Even though he pays more during the day, the night plan lowers his electric bill, because he fires his kilns at night.
Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., Ken’s electricity is “free.” He turns his kilns on at 10 p.m., and they finish firing at 7 a.m. So he pays for only one hour of electricity to fire his kilns.
This program is probably not available in your area. But it might become available later. This is because utility companies typically have excess electricity available at night. TXU in Texas reasons that by offering lower night-time rates, people will use less electricity during the day and reduce the strain on the power grid.
As all kiln manufacturers recommend, Ken monitors his kilns near the expected shut-off time.
“Firing Schedules,” the last Kiln Pointer, was illustrated with a firing schedule on graph paper. Maralyn Goheen wrote, “Being such a visual person, anything drawn out is easier for me to understand, especially as a beginning glass artist. I love this graph idea!”
The last Kiln Pointer included this question and answer:
Q. My top-loading kiln has elements in the lid and sidewalls. I want to add an Orton Vent Master to the kiln. Do I need to drill holes in the lid?
A. No. Air intake holes are not drilled in a kiln that has lid elements. The only holes needed are drilled in the firebrick bottom, where the vent cup pulls air from the kiln during firing.”
A follow-up question on lid vent holes:
Q. I am the proud owner of a Janus-27 dual-media kiln [with elements in the lid and sidewalls]. My kiln has three 1/4” holes drilled into the lid. Is this a problem when the kiln is set to the glass setting especially as I have a Orton Vent Master installed, or is it because the kiln is a dual-media type? I will mostly concentrate on glass to start with. Will the holes affect the temperature inside the kiln with the Vent Master running?
A. No, the three 1/4" holes in the lid will not affect the heat distribution. This is because the holes are drilled in the outer edges of the lid. The air is drawn into the firing chamber near the kiln walls, away from the shelves.
Regarding the vent holes in the Janus lids, Paragon drills the holes at the factory if the kiln is ordered with the vent. If it is not, and the vent is added after the kiln has left the factory, we do not recommend drilling the holes. The lid will still function properly without the holes. We drill them just to add extra air flow.
Q. What tools do you recommend for replacing elements?
A. Vice-grips locking pliers are useful in element repair. I see many of them in the kiln factory. Use Vice-grips pliers to hold the barrel element connector as you tighten the element screw with a nut driver.
The Vice-grips should have fairly sharp serrations in the jaws. Worn serrations will not hold the element connector properly, and it will spin unless gripped with very firm pressure.
Q. You mentioned using Paragon’s Liquid Kiln Coating on the lid of glass kilns. Can you use this on your shelves instead of the powdered kiln wash?
A. No, the Liquid Kiln Coating should not be applied to the shelves. The coating would peel off with the first firing. Instead, use High Fire Kiln Wash Liquid.
A SMALL POINTER
Craig Clark of Houston, Texas wrote, “Foot rings in the dishwasher let anyone in the house know for sure if a load of dishes has been run through the wash cycle. No muss, no fuss....no need to carefully look at surfaces. Just a quick glance at the up-turned feet on the top. If there is water in the foots, the dishes are clean. It there ain't, and the thing is full, put some soap in and run everything through.”
“Pottery gives you your alone time. You are in complete control. You are responsible for your own mistakes and also for your successes.” Mel Jacobson, potter (told to a young student at NCECA last month)
NEWS: MAGGIE SWEENEY WINS A PARAGON DIGITAL FIREFLY FOR HER SCHOOL
Maggie Sweeney, a senior at Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, Virginia, was awarded the Paragon Industries Test Kiln Award for her work in the 16th Annual National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition. Based on her ceramic work, her school will receive a top-of-the-line, Digital FireFly test kiln.
Sweeney’s work titled “Decay of Life” is a raku fired, wheel thrown and carved, white stoneware vessel. “Maggie has an instinctive understanding about clay,” said Trinity IB ceramics teacher Lee Hazelgrove. “She constantly tries to push the limit with process and her technical abilities (like the athletic competitor she is). It’s been a joy to watch her work evolve and become such a dynamic collection of vessels.”
“I love clay because there’s always something more in the clay than meets the eye,” said Sweeney. “It forces me to develop as a person, to face my own limitations and exceed them. It’s always a challenge.”
"Sweeney is all about pushing the limits," said Lee Hazelgrove. "She plans to attend Virginia Tech in the fall where she will major in math with a possible double major or minor in studio art."
"I like the fact that you never know what’s going to happen with the process, especially raku. You have to be optimistic and accepting of whatever happens, and that carries over into how you approach life,” said Maggie.
Paragon Industries is proud to recognize Maggie and her teacher, Lee Hazelgrove.
I have been reading “The Search for Churchill: A Historian’s Journey,” where Martin Gilbert writes about Winston Churchill’s love of painting. When Churchill faced his worst failure during World War One, he discovered art. By immersing himself in landscape painting, he found escape from his ordeal.
The joy of creative effort is within reach of anyone who owns a kiln. Your kiln is there any time you need it.
With best wishes,
Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. – Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd., Mesquite, Texas 75149-1122 Voice: 972-288-7557 & 800-876-4328 / Fax: 972-222-0646 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.paragonweb.com / www.facebook.com/paragonkilns
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