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  #1  
Old 2012-06-08, 11:25am
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Default Glasshive kiln elements out again

I have a glasshive two door kiln that I got about three years ago. I have had to replace the elements three times now. AND they just went out again today.

I was wondering if any of you with glass hive kilns have had to replace elements and if so how often?

I just can't take replacing them yet again.
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  #2  
Old 2012-06-08, 11:35am
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I have a "Small Guy" and no problems so far...I'd contact Pam and Mike and talk to them about it, they repaired my AIM kiln and been really good about answering my emails.
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  #3  
Old 2012-06-08, 12:31pm
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Pam and Mike are the best when it comes to helping, give them a call
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  #4  
Old 2012-06-08, 12:38pm
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I did, left a message, sent an email. Now to wait. I'm so depressed....not to mention I made two beads out of glass they don't make anymore...why oh why did I choose today to do that???
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  #5  
Old 2012-06-08, 12:45pm
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I might be looking at your power supply. Are you supplying enough power to it? If not, it has to work a lot harder to do what you ask of it. Also fluctuations in power can affect the kiln as well.
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  #6  
Old 2012-06-08, 1:18pm
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I had a dedicated plug put in just for the kiln. Nothing else plugged in there, just the kiln. As for power fluctuations, I would have no way of controlling what came from the plug, but would assume that everyone has the same issue coming out of the wall.
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  #7  
Old 2012-06-08, 2:02pm
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I've talked to Pam about the problem and it's interesting that the racks that we use inside of our kilns can degrade, even if they are stainless steel, and off gas onto the elements.

This next time I'm going to try using a shaved down kiln brick inside to rest my mandrels on to see if that extends the life. I'm willing to try anything at this point.
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  #8  
Old 2012-06-08, 2:07pm
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Have you thought about using kiln furniture instead? It's cheap. It's durable. It doesn't degrade.

Thats what I use.
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  #9  
Old 2012-06-08, 2:37pm
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Do you have a dedicated circuit, or just a dedicated plug?
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  #10  
Old 2012-06-08, 3:08pm
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$339.00 *cough, cough* Still, I had no idea such an animal existed and this is certainly on MY 'to get' list now. I've been having surge problems. Our electric service is crappy and has been for years. If it so much as drizzles we have a power outage. I think the investment is certainly valid for me. Now I just need to sell, hmmmm......., what can I sell?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Role View Post
Unfortunately, municipal power can vary greatly across the nation.

You may need a line conditioner to stabilize what the wall is feeding
your kiln.

If your line current/voltage is fluctuating is can be a big contributor
to your elements failing and a line conditioner will fix it.

How many amps does your kiln draw ?

Post the amperage and I will try to locate a decent line conditioner
for you and post it here.

Good luck.

ETA:
If your kiln plugs into a regular 15 Amp house outlet then
a line conditioner such as this should be suitable.

Surgex 15 Amp line conditioner

Not cheap but might save the hassle of replacing elements.
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  #11  
Old 2012-06-08, 3:12pm
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I've emailed Jan already, but I'll post the short version here in case someone else has similar problems.

The most common cause for something like this would be either a sticking relay or a malfunctioning thermocouple. Either the output relay in the controller itself, or the main power relay leading to the elements could be sticking and causing the elements to intermittently get hotter than they should. A bad thermocouple could do the same, and have the added problem of not giving an accurate temperature readout while it is happening.

These are the first things I would look at.

Brad
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  #12  
Old 2012-06-08, 3:31pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alb6094 View Post
$339.00 *cough, cough* Still, I had no idea such an animal existed and this is certainly on MY 'to get' list now. I've been having surge problems. Our electric service is crappy and has been for years. If it so much as drizzles we have a power outage. I think the investment is certainly valid for me. Now I just need to sell, hmmmm......., what can I sell?
If you've got power problems a much cheaper way out is one of these. Power the controller itself from it to protect the electronics and leave the main power to the elements alone. (This is assuming that you have a controller/kiln setup that uses a separate power input for the elements and controller. Unfortunately, many bead annealers are based on ceramic kiln control designs that make it difficult to separate the two.) A power surge big enough to take out your elements would likely have to be long enough and large enough that it would probably take out everything else in the neighborhood as well, and is pretty unlikely.

When it comes to power fluctuations, the temperature controller is definitely the weak link in the system. Protecting it will eliminate the vast majority of potential problems.

Brad
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  #13  
Old 2012-06-08, 3:33pm
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If you are using a regular 15 amp circuit, its not enough.
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Old 2012-06-08, 3:39pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simvet02 View Post
I have a glasshive two door kiln that I got about three years ago. I have had to replace the elements three times now. AND they just went out again today.

I was wondering if any of you with glass hive kilns have had to replace elements and if so how often?

I just can't take replacing them yet again.
I've been running my kiln 4 times a week for 10 years. Never had to replace the elements. Had one problem with a wiring fault early on that Sundance repaired for free. Since then, no problems. I hate to even say this for fear of jinxing myself.
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  #15  
Old 2012-06-08, 3:41pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tiggybubba View Post
If you are using a regular 15 amp circuit, its not enough.
What amp is considered ideal for a kiln?
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  #16  
Old 2012-06-08, 3:51pm
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I have one of the big 36" (I think) double door ones and have been with the same element for 5 years? A long time. Now I'm thinking that I might need to order me a back-up (which I should have already had anyway)

Sounds like something else going on to have gone through that many!
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Old 2012-06-08, 4:13pm
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To check the line voltage either use a DVM or DMM. A higher than normal line voltage will cause a higher than normal current which in turn could decrease the life expediency of an element.

Another possibility is to contact the power company and see if they have a recording volt meter that can be plugged into one of your 110 volt receptacles. This way you will know the values of the line voltage and see if it is within the 'normal' range.
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Old 2012-06-08, 4:27pm
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I wouldnt go lower than 20 amps
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  #19  
Old 2012-06-08, 4:33pm
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I think I would call the power company before paying that kind of money.

I spent over $500 to have the dedicated circuit and receptacle put in and yes, before you say it...that was a lot. Wish I had an electrician in the house...LOL
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Old 2012-06-08, 4:35pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tiggybubba View Post
If you are using a regular 15 amp circuit, its not enough.
That depends on how much the kiln requires. If the kiln only needs 13 amps you can put in on a 50 amp circuit and it will still only draw 13 amps. A dedicated circuit of the proper amperage is best. My SC3 works just fine on a 15 amp circuit, it however a dedicated circuit.
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Old 2012-06-09, 12:49pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Role View Post
LOL, that is a terrific idea if one wants to rewire their kiln.

The Surgex unit I linked to is professional grade, I have used
them on stage to line condition power for extremely expensive
amps and racks.

$339.00 might seem like a lot but it will do the proper job without
any need of tearing apart the kiln.
As I said in my post, the complexity (or simplicity) of doing this depends on the particular controller setup. I can (an do) plug my controller(s) directly into a UPS/line conditioner without needing to rewire anything. Many (most?) bead kiln controllers that are re-purposed from ceramic kilns are different, and this can't be done without a rewiring hassle. Like many things - including how much is the "ideal" amperage to run a kiln - it depends on the individual kiln and controller setup.

In the case of amperage, a circuit capacity of 15 - 20% above the maximum power draw of the kiln is generally a reasonable minimum, assuming it is a circuit that doesn't run anything else when the kiln is on. I have an itty-bitty (bead) annealer that works fine on a 15 amp circuit. One my larger ones requires a minimum of 35 amps. It all depends on the element resistance and power draw of the oven at full power.

As far as element life goes, I have a couple of ovens I built 20 years ago that were used almost daily for most of that time and are still running fine on their original nichrome elements. My bead oven is probably 50 years old and I doubt the elements have ever been replaced. I know they haven't in the 25 years I've owned it, although admittedly, it has been lightly used while I have had it. (It was used daily before that, usually for boro.) As Lori (and others) indicated, losing several sets of elements in 5 years is definitely not normal. In any case, I completely agree that having a spare set of elements on hand is always a good idea.

Brad

P.S. The part above regarding line conditioners shouldn't be interpreted as me believing that is what is causing Jan's element problems. I highly doubt it. There are too many more likely causes. It's mainly there for informational purposes to others with dirty/unreliable power.
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Last edited by glassmaker; 2012-06-09 at 1:14pm. Reason: Added P.S. and a little more info about amperage requirements.
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  #22  
Old 2012-06-09, 2:38pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glassmaker View Post
P.S. The part above regarding line conditioners shouldn't be interpreted as me believing that is what is causing Jan's element problems. I highly doubt it. There are too many more likely causes. It's mainly there for informational purposes to others with dirty/unreliable power.
I agree with Brad. Unless the kiln design is right on the ragged edge, which I dont believe these are, There are much more likely causes.
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Old 2012-06-09, 6:02pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Role View Post
\

Sticking relay or thermocouple as Brad suggests ?

Any time I have ever seen sticking relays and malfunctioning
thermocouples they come with messed up glass and she didn't
report that.

She never said she was having problems using the kiln only
that the elements were burning out.

Given that you propose there are "much more likely causes",
how about sharing some of them ?
I'm not going to waste my time arguing with you. Believe whatever you want.
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Old 2012-06-09, 8:45pm
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Quote:
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I'm not going to waste my time arguing with you. Believe whatever you want.
There ya go, Skippy, I got no irons in this fire so
I just deleted my posts and you have a terrific day.

To the OP, pardon my intrusion.
My 30 years of experience working with HVAC and LV/HVDC could
not possibly be of any help so I wish you the best of luck.
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  #25  
Old 2012-06-09, 10:41pm
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Hi Guys,

Thanks for being willing to help another glass worker with their kiln. All avenues are worth looking at.

Jan and I have spoken earlier this week. The new element is on the way and we are doing some "testing" to see what we can discover. The rest of the post covers much of the cross posing in the thread and may not be specific to her issue.

A Regular Guy kiln draws 13 amps at peak draw. The recommended amperage for a Regular Guy kiln breaker is 20 amps on its own circuit. A 15 amp will be pushed harder than it should.

There are very few kilns in our database with this kind of failure rate, which is why we call and interview about outside sources such as metals contamination and house wiring issues. I can count the kilns with this issue on one hand out of thousands in studios. I am not saying that Jan's problem is external for certain and am open to other options.

I never assume it to be an outside issue, and always look at all the parts as a whole. When we replace elements we take care to replace all the brick that is in contact with the element as well just to be certain that no remaing element bits can cause an issue with the next element.

Most of the kilns we have out there from 10 years ago are still running strong with an average of one element replacement, many not even one. We have a three year warranty whether your power is running properly or not, no questions asked about responsibility. If you do learn that there is a unidentifiable issue, it gives you lots of time to do research so when the elements are yours to buy, the issue can be fixed and behind you. (again, not saying that this is Jan's issue). And believe me, we don't like a kiln that needs more than an element in the 3 year period. The profit margin is not high, and each element is a cost we'd rather not incur.

A thermocouple error is unlikey as we use a large gauge wire, insulator block and a controller with error outputs. They are go no go type parts, working or broken, very rarely an in between.

In this case the relay appears to be working normally. No temp swings or over temps. It engages and disengages at the appropriate delay with the switch. The relays we use are chosen because of their failure in the off position rate. Solid state have a higher chance of failing in meltdown instead.

The Fuji controllers have not been discovered to have variable errors with the thermocouple. If the Fuji is going to have a problem it is the relay on the board (I have had a total of 3 on the books). I have gotten Fuji's back with the case completely melted around the board, but still running perfectly(not from our kilns, we do repair others as well), the face dropped off making it hard to read the display but otherwise totally functional. When a Fuji gives up it is usually the buttons that wear out or a power surge in a storm.

Our element supplier when discussing difficult cases refers to the element as the canary in a coal mine. He means that while it is the part that inevitably fails, it may be the symptom and not the problem. Metals exposed to heat oxidize and flow atoms of material that adheres to the elements causing them to be broken down faster. Salts, hydroxides, halogens and other external vapors can effect an elements life greatly. I'm no chemist, and I am slowly learning what these compounds are contained in. I also get skiddish when rare metal prices go nuts and check to be sure the element wire recipe is still testing the same.

One of my customers with a similar problem found that there was a problem with the whole house ground. It was not narrowed down until it had degraded to the point of getting shocked on the shower drain (they used the pipes for the ground strap).

Another found that they had a mouse fried on the wiring and had eaten enough of the wire to reduce the strands in the wire running the kiln causing it to not be getting enough power. Amazing the house did not have a fire.

A third ordered a 240v kiln being sure that the outlet the electrician had done what they had asked and provided it. It was a 110v wiring with 240v outlet.

It never hurts to have the power company come out and give a look at the system when problems are continuous with new parts. May not be the problem, but with it ruled out it is easier to find the really odd ones.

We use the same equipment we sell. We know our way around it from both the manufacturer and consumer points of view. We would not produce a product that we were not proud to use ourselves. The ragged edge is not on the map around here. We do see some pretty strange stuff though, so we check under all the rocks we can think of.

We will continue to work with Jan to find the solution to the problem long term.
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  #26  
Old 2012-06-10, 5:14am
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Hi everyone. Pam just summed up the main subject matter (Jan's concern's) as well as everyone elses suggestions quite well. Even though some posts were slightly off subject Pam still courteously commented on those briefly as well.

If you feel the urge to "debate" with another member regarding their knowledge let's please take those topics into a private message.

Peace

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Old 2012-06-10, 12:17pm
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I don't see why debate should be moved to PMs - as long as it is kept civil. Since when is debate not allowed on LE? That is definitely not in the new rules Corri posted.
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  #28  
Old 2012-06-11, 11:44am
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I didn't mention messed up glass but I had been working with Brad on that before the elements went out. I was having trouble with all striking glass staying the way I put it in the kiln. So, we lowered the garaging temp and annealing temp and lengthened the annealing time. I'm was still getting poop so my next thing was going to be to get a thermometer that I could check the actual temp with AND sit with it during a whole annealing cycle to make sure that the changes we made were there.

I will still do this when we get the new elements in.

I have to thank Pam, she is such a dream when there is a problem, she and Michale have never hesitated to work with me and quickly get new elements to me. I appreciate the customer service, so many place now day just don't want to be bothered.

Now I have a slightly off topic question. I've decided to try using some kiln brick as a mandrel rack. Can anyone suggest the best way to cut kiln brick without ruining it?

Thanks for all your suggestions. I'm still paying attention to all of it and taking notes. I appreciate all of your input.
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  #29  
Old 2012-06-11, 12:26pm
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PittsGlass PittsGlass is offline
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Jan, I really appreciate your patience and kindness while working through the problem. You make it very pleasant to work through.

Has there been any sagging of beads on the mandrel or beads that get "kiss marks"?

It sounded from our phone conversation that you were doing well with Raku in the beginning but have had problems recently. Is that correct?

I am anxious to get all the info together so we can find the source of it all and have you annealing happily for many years at a time. Any variables in how the glass is behaving will help me determine the issue. Don't be afraid to throw too much information at me, every tid bit may help me.
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Old 2012-06-11, 12:55pm
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You know, I never thought about it but I did have some beads that bowed, I just assumed that I put them in the kiln a wee bit too hot. I usually put them on the rack so that they are vertical. But because I have been noticing that even my silvered and striking murrini, which are encased, over striking, I was putting those beads horizontally with the murrini side down (which didn't help, they are still going too light).
Not sure what you mean by Kiss marks. None of my beads touch, I rarely make so many that I need to take them off the rack and lay them on the fiber blanket.

I would think that if the kiln was getting too hot all of the beads would have sagged in that run. But maybe it was more about the type of glass

So many things to consider and watch out for. Guess I will have to babysit the kiln after I get the elements in there to see if I can catch it doing something naughty...LOL
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