Here at The Ceramic Shop, we can answer all of your questions about venting your kiln. For example, we are often asked why kilns need to be vented – after all, aren’t they designed to trap heat? Below we have addressed some of the most common questions we receive about kiln venting.
Why should you vent your kiln?
You should vent your kiln for a few reasons. In the first place, pieces that you fire can give off potentially-toxic fumes, and kiln venting can keep that under control. If you have your kiln in your home or in a high-traffic area, such as a school or a much-used studio, this factor should certainly be a consideration. Although many ceramic materials don’t off-gas specifically toxic fumes, there are plenty of sneaky items that do – for example, certain glazes and finishing materials like lusters and decals can burn off materials that shouldn’t be inhaled. Additionally, the firing of some ceramic materials can result in an accumulation of carbon monoxide in the area immediately surrounding the kiln – and a vent can easily take care of that. Some kilns do get pretty hot, and venting can help to cut back on the heat that is poured into your space – while still maintaining quick and even firings!
Venting can improve your kiln’s heat uniformity
On that note, research carried out by Orton – yes, Orton, the makers of the ubiquitous ceramic cones – has shown that downdraft venting your electric kiln (that is, venting it from underneath and drawing out the hot air through holes drilled in the bottom of your kiln floor) can actually help to further even out the internal heat distribution within your kiln. This makes sense; after all, heat rises, so by adding a mechanism to the bottom of your kiln that sucks down hot air, the vent system causes just enough air movement to prevent a temperature differential between the cooler bottom and hotter top of your kiln.
Venting your kiln won’t extend your firing cycle
While a downdraft kiln vent (such as Skutt’s EnviroVent 2) does move hot air around inside of your kiln, it is important to note that such vents are designed to not move air too fast – venting your kiln shouldn’t, and won’t, result in longer firings or inefficient use of heat. We occasionally receive questions voicing just this concern. Here at The Ceramic Shop, we have most of our kilns vented with downdraft kiln vent systems, and a few vented with hooded systems that hang over the top of the kiln. We also abide by a fairly rigorous production firing schedule and we can attest that venting your kiln properly does not extend your firing times, nor does it cut down on your kiln efficiency! In fact, adding just that slight movement of air can actually aid in reducing extremely localized or ‘electric’ reduction.
Venting your kiln improves the firing atmosphere
How does localized reduction work, and what does it mean? And what, exactly, does it have to do with proper kiln venting? If you’ve ever pulled an object out of your freshly-cooled Cone 6 kiln and found that its firing has left a halo of oxide stain on your kiln shelf, you might be dealing with localized reduction. If you’ve ever used an iron oxide stain on a piece and gotten a much more intense result than expected, you might be dealing with localized reduction. Sometimes, this is a desired effect; other times, it is not. This can become a concern when that reduction happens in proximity of your kiln’s elements, though, and can have a cumulative effect over time. Venting your kiln, then, can also help you to avoid this potentially-unwanted effect, as it tends to move air within your kiln around just enough to prevent this effect.
Different types of kiln vents are available
Here at The Ceramic Shop, we understand that kilns can be set up in a very wide variety of spaces. Because of your studio’s unique needs, we are able to recommend and install vents that work with your equipment and space.
Downdraft kiln vents are installed underneath of your electric kiln, placed between the underside of your kiln’s base and the floor upon which it rests. A metal fixture creates a seal between your kiln and the tubing that guides the heat and fumes to an exterior location; this set-up looks very much like a dryer vent, actually. This type of vent, then, requires a route to the great outdoors, again very much like a dryer vent – so this means that in order for a downdraft vent to be a good choice for your studio, you do need to have a way to guide the venting out of a window or through a specially-created hole in a wall. The heat and fumes, in this case, are sucked out with a small motorized fan that you turn on with the flip of a switch each time you fire your kiln. Set-up is easy, and using the vent is even easier!
Vent hoods are broad metal hooded systems that are installed on the ceiling and hang directly over your kiln. These hoods have a motorized fan that sucks heat and fumes into tubing and out of the building. They are just as easy to work as downdraft vents, but they do take up a bit more room as they extend a few inches beyond the circumference of your kiln.
Kiln Vent Manuals/ Specification Sheets:
We get a lot of calls from artists who are preparing to set up their new kiln and vent system or simply lost their old manual. Here you will find links each kiln vent manual. To view a manual, click on the the kiln vent name below: