Kiln elements are the heart and soul of your kiln. They are the heating elements or wires that are designed to resist the passage of electricity. As electricity is driven down the wire, the opposition hinders this movement and consequently causes the wire to heat up. It works much like the common household electric toaster.
Kanthal is the metal alloy used in for the elements in most electric kilns. Some kilns have the Kanthal elements in the lid, while others have the elements located around the edge of the kiln body. Which ever way your particular kiln design is set up, these elements heat up and cool down basically the same. When they are located in the top of the kiln the glass is heated from the top, and if located on the side the glass is heated from the sides.
The lower the temperature the kiln is fired, the longer the elements will last and the higher the temperatures the kiln reaches the shorter time these elements will hold up. Eventually the elements simply fail due to the environment that it is exposed to and the heating and cooling cycles. If you start noticing that the kiln is taking longer to heat up, or doesn’t seem to reach a higher temperature it is an indication that they are beginning to fail.
If the elements won’t turn off or on, it could be a faulty relay. Broken elements, power to the elements or a faulty controller can also cause the elements not to warm up.
Heating elements can be replaced if you notice that they are wearing out or if the fail to fire. Contact the manufacturer of the particular kiln for purchasing replacement parts. Generally the replacement element will come with installation instructions.
Once replaced, the kiln elements need to be seasoned before any fusing project. This involves firing the kiln without any items inside. This seasoning will help the elements develop a protective oxidized coat from this firing. A protective coat will keep any foreign material from corroding the elements. Simply fire the kiln at a usually firing schedule and then allow it to cool completely.