Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ventilation is Paramount

Ventilation is paramount. If you're setting up a kiln area, you should take some time to consider how your kilns will be ventilated, especially if you're doing ceramics. Generally, kiln ventilation for glass annealing isn't as necessary as ceramic kilns. For the ceramist, it's important you know that clay, glazes, and lusters will emit moisture and fumes such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and sulfur dioxide into your kiln room. So ask yourself, once emitted, where is it going to go? Because not only can it be harmful to you, but as you can see in the pictures above (all the brown and green crusty stuff), poorly ventilated kilns can result in corroded electrical work and exterior damage (image below).

Here are several solutions to ventilating your kilns provided by Skutt manufacturing. These are ranked in order of sophistication (from cheap to expensive):
• Natural ventilation from open doors and windows in the room.
• Room ventilation fans.
• Convection canopy collection hoods.
• Mechanical fan collection hoods.
• Mechanical downdraft vent systems.

Natural window ventilation, fans, and convection hoods are passive; the warm fumes enter your kiln room, rise, and hopefully, are diluted or escape. This requires very large volumes of fresh air and doesn't prevent electrical or exterior corrosion on the kiln.

Collection hoods with electric fans do a better job of removing fumes, but fumes still enter the room air before they are collected. There is usually still a significant odor and external hoods do not help internal kiln performance. Also they don't prevent electrical or exterior corrosion either.

Mechanical downdraft systems were developed to address all needs. It removes fumes directly from the firing chamber before they enter the room, posting a health hazard to you or the kiln. Little or no odor can be detected. Plus it increases temperature uniformity within the kiln, which results in more consistent firings.

Mechanical downdraft systems are the best solution to date for venting kilns, which is why it's become standard for kiln manufacturers to use them. Although it can be pricy (especially if you have multiple kilns), it's definitely the most effective way to ventilate. Listed below are three companies and their vent systems.
For more information about venting, I recommend reading Skutt's venting FAQs:
If you don't have money for a vent system make sure you know what to do with peepholes.

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