What's the worst thing that can happen from restarting after an Error Code?

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What's the worst thing that can happen from restarting after an Error Code?

Keep in mind that you run the risk of over-firing if you re-start while the kiln is very close to the final temperature. A pyrometric cone melts with the proper combination of time and temperature. Add more time and you don't need as high a temperature, go to a higher temperature and you don't need as much time. When an error code shuts down the kiln near your final temperature (within about 50 degrees) and you do not know exactly how long it has been cooling, or what temperature it reached before the error code appeared, you run the risk of having too much time in your time-temperature equation. The DynaTrol calculates this equation automatically after determining how many degrees per hour the kiln is climbing (time) and to what temperature it is climbing to (temperature). However, it cannot do this accurately after a high temperature re-start.

If you have cones in the kiln that you can see through the peepholes, then use these after you re-start and turn off the kiln manually when the target cone bends over.

If you do not have cones visible then you can gamble and estimate a final temperature based on how many degrees per hour the kiln has risen, including the time it was off.

For example, you come in and the control says tC 2, 2200 (degrees F) and everything seems fine in your slow glaze to cone 6 firing. But twenty-five minutes later you come back and see Err1.

The first thing you want to do is press #1 to clear the error code. Look for tC 2's temperature and write it down. It might be 2175. You have no cones in the kiln but you really need these pieces fired. Wait a few seconds until you see "IdLE, tC 2, 2175". Press Start to re-start the program and note the time on your watch. Note the 25 minutes the kiln was "holding" from the last time you saw it at 2200°F until this time, where it says 2175. It must have continued to climb somewhat, but because the Err1 will appear after 22.5 minutes of holding when the kiln is programmed to be climbing, it probably never got over 2210°F. So the kiln has held at an average of about 2195°F for about 25 minutes, instead of continuing on to 2232°F (cone 6) to finish the firing. The relationship between time and temperature allows you to estimate how much hold time to add to get the same amount of heat work as the kiln would have achieved by climbing to 2232°F. Assuming a 108°F per hour temperature rise, a good rule of thumb is to add about a 20 minute hold to the maximum temperature; this will allow you to lower the final temperature by about 20°F. An hour hold time would mean a final temperature of about 40°F lower. A two hour hold time would be about 60°F lower. (This same information and more about time and temperature is in the section on pyrometric cones) In this example, the kiln has already held at about 35 degrees lower than the final temperature for 25 minutes. It would need another 25 minutes of holding to give the ware the same amount of heat work that 2232°F (cone 6) would have.

In reality, however, an Err1 that close to the end of a firing probably means you need new elements. So restarting the kiln will probably not enable it to climb much higher in temperature. Keeping track of the time, let it run, and when it shows Err1 again just keep re-starting it until the firing finishes. Meanwhile call and order new elements.

Be very careful if you try this method. On loads that are very important always use cones you can see through the peepholes in case of a failure of some kind. If you have to use this method without the cones, remember that almost all your calculations are based on estimates and the results could be disastrous to your ware and/or the kiln if you are not accurate enough. The further away the temperature that the kiln is holding at is from the cone that the firing was trying to get to, the less accurate an estimated amount of time will be to achieve the amount of heat work necessary. If you can wait and re-fire from room temperature, you should. If you depend in any way on your kiln you should keep spare parts around for it. You could replace the elements easily yourself after the kiln cools and then re-load it and re-fire it to the proper cone without losing much time at all. Or consider that most glazes have an entire cone's temperature range that they can mature within. Weigh your options and decide.

In general though, Error Codes mostly appear after the kiln has been disassembled and set back up improperly, has had its power supply altered (like moving to a new studio with different voltage), or has had an element or a thermocouple burn out.

Additional Actions to Take

Use cone packs in all sections (top, center, bottom) of the kiln and keep records of what happens.

  1. Unplug kiln.
  2. Remove the Control Box.
  3. Using a 3/8" nut driver or ratchet wrench or adjustable wrench, remove the nuts that hold the element end onto the Element Terminal Bolt. Note that the terminal bolt head is held in place by an inset shape on the underside of the ceramic terminal block and it will not turn much.
  4. Untwist the element end from around the Element Terminal Bolt. Straighten it out as much as possible.
  5. In most cases the element can be lifted out of the holder at this point. Sometimes, if the element has really disintegrated, you need to remove it in pieces with needle nose pliers.
  6. If element is hard to get out of the holders (because of growth of the element) you can try heating up the kiln slightly so as to heat up the element slightly to just the point where element is slightly pliable–don't let it get red. This will soften the wire. Then turn off the kiln and disconnect all power to the kiln. Using heat protecting gloves and a pair of needle nose pliers pull out the softened element.
  7. From the inside of the kiln, using needle nose pliers, grab the element as close to where it goes through the brick wall to Terminal Block. Pull the element end through the hole. Be careful not to enlarge the hole in firebrick. The brick is soft and will not take much abrasion.
  8. Be sure to check for failure points for evidence of contamination on the element and the element holder. If the element holder is contaminated it will cause rapid failure of the new element. Replace contaminated holders with the new ones.
  9. Using your multimeter check the resistance of the new element.
  10. Install the twisted ends of the elements through the holes in the wall of the kiln. Element ends should be straight at this point.
  11. Pull them up tight up to the wall of the kiln by pulling from outside the kiln.
  12. Lay the element into the groove. Note that the unfired element is going to have some springiness to it before it is fired for the first time. You may need to use a screwdriver to press the element into the holder. YOU DO NOT NEED PINS.
  13. FOR KILNS WITH NON-CERAMIC TERMINAL BLOCK OR ON RETROFITTED KILNS WHERE YOU HAVE ADDED A CERAMIC TERMINAL BLOCK BUT STILL NEED BUSHINGS: Be sure to replace the insulators and spacers over the element tails.
  14. Consulting your picture or labeling, wrap the appropriate element tails around the appropriate element connection bolt, clockwise, one around and cut off the excess tail.
  15. Install the elements and hardware: Place the wires from the jumper cord or connecting wires onto the appropriate bolts and tighten with stainless steel nuts.
  16. A washer goes under the first element.
  17. Twist the first element end CLOCKWISE around the Terminal Bolt.
  18. The next element gets twisted around the Terminal Bolt on top of the first element.
  19. Another washer goes over the Terminal Bolt.
  20. Place a nut on top and tighten it.
  21. Put another washer on.
  22. Put on the Ring Terminal of the Power Lead Wire.
  23. Put another washer on.
  24. Put another nut on and tighten it. How much the nut can be tightened is dependent on how tight the element connection bolt is on the element connection board. A tight connection is very important, but if you tighten too much and twist the element on the bolt too far you could break the element, the bolt, or the insulator.
  25. Reattach the ground wires and the element box if the kiln has them. DO NOT FORGET TO ATTACH GROUND WIRES. IF EACH KILN SECTION IS NOT GROUNDED THIS CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS.
  26. Test the resistance at the jumper cord's plug head or at the other end of the connecting wires.
  27. Reattach the control box, turn on the kiln and make sure all the elements come on.

See this tutorial on how to use a multimeter.

See this video:

INTRODUCTION TO RESISTANCE

The most common cause of kiln slowdown, E-1 messages, and failure to reach temperature is element wear. As your elements age  they generally increase in electrical resistance. According to Ohm's Law, when resistance, measured in Ohms, increases, both Watts and Amperes will decrease, assuming Voltage remains constant. Since Amps and Watts are the measures of current and power respectively, they can be thought of as the amount of juice that your kiln has to generate heat. Obviously if you don't have enough power, your kiln will fire slowly and might not even reach the desired temperature.

INTERPRETING RESULTS

Using resistance, we can tell exactly how much power your kiln has lost over the course of your element's life. For example on an e23T that uses 240V, a brand new kiln section would read about 14.5 ohms. If you measured this same kiln section after several months of cone 6 firings let's say and the reading was 16.5 Ohms, you would know that this section of elements has lost approximately 14% of it's power (16.5/14.5=1.138, or close to a 14% increase). Again, an increase in resistance means decrease in power. A very general rule of thumb is that most people will typically begin to notice some slowdown once you've lost more than 10% of your power. It will certainly vary based on the kiln you have, your voltage, as the types of firing you do. People only doing low fire work will continue to get by on lower power than those needing to go to higher temperatures (cone 6+). As you can see, measuring your element Ohms is the best way to identify when elements need replacing.

Keep in mind that the ohms on the wiring diagram are per ELEMENT while your reading will be per SECTION. How you figure out the section ohms depends on whether the elements are wired in Parallel or Series. Most kilns are wired in Parallel except for JD230V and most 18" kilns like the e18T. For a parallel kiln you take the per element ohms listed and divide by the number of elements per section. Ex. e23T 240V 1 Phase is 28.9 Ω per element with two elements per ring = 14.5 Ω per section.   Ex. 2. JD2927 240V is 36.5 Ω per element w/ three elements per ring = 12.2 Ω per section. See this link for more info on Series vs. Parallel

Here we will show how to best measure your element resistance for two groups of L&L Kilns, into which most models fall.

EASY-FIRE, DURA-FIRE, EQUAD-PRO, LIBERTY-BELLE, DOLL, SCHOOL MASTER

In these series' of kilns a piggy-backed control panel covers up the element terminals.

  1. Turn the power to the kiln completely OFF and unplug it if possible. If it is direct wired, then you should at least turn off all power at the disconnect switch or circuit breaker.
  2. Open the outermost control panel by unscrewing it either from the element cover box in the case of Easy-Fire, eQuad Pro, School Master and Liberty Belle kilns or from the kiln body in the case of Doll kilns.
  3. Once you open up that control panel you will see the element power wire terminal strip. See the picture. It will have numbered wires coming from the element terminal blocks and wires connecting to the power relays. There are two wires per kiln section/ring, so numbers 1 & 2 are for the top section, 3 & 4 for the middle, and 5 & 6 for the bottom section on a three ring kiln.
  4. Set your multimeter to Ohms (Omega symbol Ω) and using your testing leads, place one in between the two tabs/terminals w/ #1 wires connected. There is a small circular divot that the lead fits into (see picture). Put the other lead on terminal #2 and make note of the reading. Repeat the process for 3 & 4 and then for 5 & 6. Remember that each pair of wires represents one section.
  5. Compare your readings to those on the wiring diagram in your instruction manual. Keep in mind that the ohms on the wiring diagram are per ELEMENT while your reading will be per SECTION. See above for more info on understanding the readings.

CHECKING RESISTANCE ON AN EASY-FIRE KILN

JUPITER, DAVINCI

In these series' of kilns, the control panel is separated from the kiln body and the element terminals are connected to the controls via external jumper cords or plugs.

  1. Turn the power to the kiln completely OFF and unplug it if possible. If it is direct wired, then you should at least turn off all power at the disconnect switch or circuit breaker.
  2. Unplug the first jumper cord from the control panel.
  3. Set your multimeter to Ohms (Omega symbol Ω) and using your testing leads, place one lead on each of the "hot" prongs. They will be the flat ones.
  4. Make note of the reading and move on to the next one.
  5. Compare your readings to those on the wiring diagram in your instruction manual. Keep in mind that the ohms on the wiring diagram are per ELEMENT while your reading will be per SECTION. See above for more info on understanding the readings.

See this tutorial on how to use a multimeter.