Have you ever wondered what it costs to operate a kiln? If you have, then keep reading.
In this article, we will look at the operating cost of a kiln, the factors that impact how much kilns cost to run and how you can calculate the costs of each firing.
Quick Answer – How Much Does it Cost to Run a Kiln?
On average, it will cost $18.00 per firing to operate a gas kiln. Electric kilns are slightly less expensive at an average cost of $15.00 per firing. You should also note that cabinet-style and Raku kilns are more costly to run than small three-chamber electric kilns.
Factors That Impact the Cost of Running a Kiln
The numbers above are considered to be the average costs in the United States as reported by The Potters Guild, but keep in mind that several factors can cause this to vary significantly under your particular circumstances. Here we have listed the five variables that can have the largest impact on kiln operating costs.
Cost of Electricity
The most significant factor impacting what it will cost you to run a kiln is energy costs. These can range from slightly over nine cents per kilowatt-hour in states like Nebraska and North Dakota to over 23 cents per kWh in places like California and New York. Naturally, if power is costing 2.5 times as much, running a kiln will be equally higher.
The rate in your local should be listed on your electric bill.
How Much Electricity Your Kiln Uses
Your kiln’s power consumption will largely depend on its size and design. large kilns suitable for professional ceramic studios can use 11kW or even more. Medium-sized kilns will most often fall in the 5 kW to 8 kW range. Most smaller kilns used by hobbyists will draw between 1.5 and 1.8 kilowatts.
While larger kilns are always nice to have, consider your needs carefully. The expense of heating empty space in the kiln will add up over time.
Duration of a Single Firing
Depending on the size style and type of material being fired, firing cycles can vary from as little as an hour to over 20 hours. Naturally, the details of the firing will greatly impact its costs. The number of ramp/hold cycles, annealing periods, and the total time of the firing will all impact power usage. Increased power usage will cause an exponential rise in cost.
Frequency of Firings
How often you use your kiln will also affect your operating costs. If you are firing all day every day it will obviously cost you more to operate than if you are only using your kiln once a week for a single session.
The shape, size, and number of pieces you fire can have a greater impact on what it costs you to run a kiln than most people realize. It makes sense that the more pieces you fire the more often you will be running your kiln. If you are working with media that requires a longer slower firing process you will also increase your power usage. Clearly, if you work with large pieces you are going to need a larger kiln that will use more power.
What many don’t consider is that the fuller a kiln is the more efficiently it will operate. Clay holds heat better than air. When heat isn’t being applied it radiates the heat back into the air. As your kiln cycles, it will maintain its temperature longer and with less variance the fuller it is. To minimize operating costs fire as many pieces of artwork as you can at one time.
How to Calculate the Cost of Firing a Kiln
Here’s one formula for calculating the cost of firing your kiln:
A = Amps
V = Volts
T= Time of the firing cycle x .75
C = Cost per kilowatt hr from your electric bill
A x V x T x C = Firing Cost X 1,000
For a more accurate estimate of how much it costs to run a particular program in your kiln, you can follow the steps below.
Step 1: Establish Your Electrical Costs
By law how much your provider charges per kilowatt-hour has to be listed on your electric bill. Look at your most recent power bill and look for a number that should be between .09 and .24 with a /kWh abbreviation next to it. Companies don’t always make it easy to see but it will be there somewhere.
Step 2: Determine the Wattage of the Kiln.
The wattage of your kiln is usually found on an aluminum plate located at the rear of the appliance close to the power cord. If you don’t see it there, you can calculate it by multiplying the voltage times the amp draw of the kiln. If you are shopping for a kiln you should be able to find the wattage of your prospective kiln in the product details.
When you have found the wattage of your kiln divide that number by 1000 to convert it into kilowatts. As an example, if the kiln is listed as 1,200 watts this would be 1.2 kilowatts.
Step 3: Determine the Actual Run Time
If you have a kiln with a digital controller it will likely give you the runtime of each cycle after the firing is completed. For older manual kilns you can simply track how much elapses from when you turn the kiln on till you shut it off.
If you are still looking at different kilns, You can estimate the expected firing cycle of your choice from start to finish.
Step 4: Establish Your Kiln’s Duty Cycle
A duty cycle is a time that a kilns heating coils are receiving power and working. Naturally, coils don’t use any power when they are not heating. Because of this we to determine how much time they are actually heating.
On older kilns, you can track this by listening for the relay to click turning the heating elements on and off. Most newer kilns, with electronic controllers, will display this for you after a firing cycle is completed.
To add to your possible confusion, many firing cycles include preheating, ramp-up or down cycles, and hold times when the heating elements may not be drawing full power.
If your kiln doesn’t display all this information for you and you don’t possess an engineering degree to calculate it all on your own. Here are some rough estimates you can apply:
- For firing programs that contain controlled ramp rates, hold times, and other temperature schemes, 50-60 percent of the total firing time.
- Bisque firings will normally have a duty cycle that is 50 percent of the total firing time.
- Preheating a kiln typically only involves a 15 percent duty cycle.
You can take the time of each function and multiply it by the percentage to calculate the total duty cycle time.
Step 5: Calculate Your Electrical Cost
Once you have all of these numbers together the process becomes simple. Start with the first number, your electrical cost per kWh, and multiply them moving down the list.
Electrical cost x Kiln wattage x Run time x Duty cycle percentage = total cost of operating your kiln for a particular program
How much does a kiln cost?
Kilns can range in price from just under $600 to whatever you may want to spend. For the beginner, $600 to just over $1,000 is a reasonable budget expectation.
Do kilns only run on electricity?
Kilns have been around for thousands of years. Long before electricity was discovered. They can be fired by coal, charcoal, wood, and a variety of gases in addition to electricity.
Can my house handle a kiln?
On standard household current (110-115 volts), you are going to be limited to a small, one cubic foot, kiln. For larger kilns, you will need to have to tap a 220 circuit like most stoves and clothes dryers use. Even then, it is best to have a qualified electrician check that the wiring can handle the heavy loads a kiln can generate.
What kiln should I buy as a beginner?
It is hard to make recommendations on kiln size. Pottery and ceramics can take so many shapes, forms, and sizes. Add to this, some beginners will work on one piece for days and others will make many simpler designs in a single day.
The general consensus among experts is that an 18″x18″ is ideal for the average beginner.