Troubleshooting Heating ElementsElements are a consumable part, and they do eventually wear out. The amount of power that they produce actually decreases a little bit each time you fire your kiln. Below is some basic troubleshooting you can do to determine if your elements need to be replaced.
Hopefully you find the information useful!
How do I check to see if all of my elements are working?There are a few different ways to check if an element is working, but we find paper testing the elements is the most accurate way to do it. Below outlines the procedures for most manual and computerized kilns. Regardless of which type you have, but sure to unplug the kiln and/or disconnect the circuit power before you insert and before you remove the papers.
With the circuit power off, place one small slip of paper on top of/in contact with each of the elements. Keep in mind that some elements do more that one lap of the kiln when deciding how many papers you need. The size of the paper doesn't matter, but it must touch the elements.
Manual Kilns:Engage the Kiln Sitter if applicable, and turn all the switches to high.
Computerized kilns:Enter and run a custom profile with the heating rate set to maximum (usually 9999/hr or FULL), and the target temperature 1000F. If the kiln is a multi zone type, setting the maximum rate should ensure that all of the elements are heating. You should not hear relays clicking after the test has started. If you do, the test may not work.
After 3 minutes turn the kiln off and unplug it and/or disconnect the circuit power. Inspect the papers to see if they all browned or burned. Be aware that the elements and possibly the kiln will be quite hot, so it would be advisable to allow sufficient time to allow the kiln to cool before proceeding. The amount of browning or burning may vary from one element to the next, but as long as there is some browning or burning marks on the paper, that element is considered to be functioning. If you have some unmarked papers, the associated elements are not functioning. If you want to be sure, you can retest just those elements.
All my elements are working, but I can't reach temperature. What next?If all of your elements are working, but you can't reach the temperatures or cones you used to be able to, there is a good chance the elements are worn out and need to be replaced. If this is the case, you will have likely noticed that the kiln has been taking longer and longer to reach this temperature/cone in previous firings with similar loads. If the kiln has just been moved from a different location where it had been functioning fine, you may have a different or lower supply voltage at this location which is the problem. This is something that an electrician can easily confirm for you. If you have just installed new elements, its possible that the new elements either do not match the old ones or they have not been wired the same as the were previously. We recommend you call your element supplier to help you assist in determining which it is.
Some of my papers did not burn, what next?If some of the papers did not burn, then the related elements are not heating. This doesn't necessarily mean that the elements are broken though. Next we'll confirm if its the element or another part causing the issue. Sometimes a visual inspection of the elements or element connection will reveal a break or other failure. If you don't find a break or failure, then you will need a multi meter to determine for sure if the element is broken or not. Again with the circuit power off, disconnect one of the feed wires going to one of the tails of the element in question and isolate the feed wire so it doesn't touch anything else. Next with your meter set to ohms on a setting of 200 ohms or similar (not 200K ohms), read off of both tails of the element on shiny sections of the element tails. If the element is broken somewhere, you will have an open reading the same as you would get when the meters probes are not touching anything. If you do have an open reading but you are not sure if you are using the meter correctly, test an element that you know is functioning for comparison - for the functioning element, you don't need to disconnect anything to test it. Most elements fall in the 4 to 40 ohm range. If you have properly confirmed that the element has an open reading, it is broken and needs to be replaced. You will be able to confirm the break when you remove the element from the kiln. Unless the element failure was premature or a fluke, we recommend that you replace the full set of elements to ensure optimal temperature uniformity and reliable function. If the element does register a resistance reading, then the problem lies with another part upstream of the element like a switch, relay or other part. Further troubleshooting of electrical parts usually requires live testing which should only be conducted by qualified people.
Tips:Some multi meters have more than one place that you can plug your test probes into. Consult the owners manual or have someone qualified to take the reading if you are not sure how to.