So I decided to list five aspects you should consider before embarking on your search. This information can become complicated, so I'm going to try and keep this as simple as possible. Keep in mind, if you're uncertain about how to determine any of your electrical configurations mentioned below, it's best to consult your service provider, a licensed electrician, or me!
First ask yourself which kiln size will meet your needs. Do you need something very tall? Or perhaps you need something wider than taller? Are you firing small items? Maybe all you need is a small 120 volt test kiln to meet your needs.
All too often I hear people purchase a kiln and learn that it doesn't match the power of their studio. Before you purchase your kiln, find out if your power supply is equipped with 208 or 240 volts of power. I hear customers often say, "I have 220 volts of power." which is a vague term. Kilns are wired specifically for either 208 or 240 volts, and so is your studio. If you're not sure how to find this out you can examine your breaker box, which usually contains the info.
Next you'll need to confirm what phase you have available in your space. Without getting too complicated, phase refers to the distribution of electric power. Kilns are manufactured to handle single phase or three phase. Just like your voltage, if you're not sure how to find out your phase, you can examine your breaker box, which usually contains the info.
* Changing your voltage or phase is no cheap task. Therefore, it's best to find out what voltage and phase you have, then seek a kiln that matches the correct electrical configuration.
Wire & Breaker Size:
Don't take your electrical work for granted. Every kiln needs a particular wire gauge (thickness) and breaker size necessary for the kiln's electrical demands. If your not sure which electrical configuration you need for your kiln, refer to Skutt's electrical requirement chart above for easy identification. If you don't have the correct wire and breaker size, you'll have to hire an electrician to install the correct sizes.
New or Used:
Depending on your financial situation, you may want a new or used kiln. An automatic (or digital) kiln is the most expensive, less common to find used, but easiest and most convenient to operate. Manual kilns come in plenitude, are cheaper, but require some skill (especially when firing bisque). The downside to purchasing a used kiln is that unless you know a lot about kilns, you won't know what condition your kiln is in. If you're looking for a used kiln, Craig's List is an excellent local resource.
* If you're purchasing a kiln to work with glass, your best bet is to acquire a digital kiln, as you'll need complete control of your firings (increase in temperature, hold, and rate of cooling).
Finding answers for the issues above will help narrow down your kiln choices. So just to recap and simplify this post, when purchasing a kiln first consider...
- Kiln Size
- Wire & Breaker Size
- New or Used
This is a lot of info, and for the beginner it can be overwhelming, but knowing this information ahead of time can save you a lot of time, energy, money, and aggravation in the future. You're better off figuring this out ahead of time, rather than spending your time and money, only to find out that you don't have the right kiln for your space.
Don't hesitate to contact me with questions. Good luck!