

The Abernathy Kiln:

Construction: 9" Insulating Brick  
Cone 06  Cone 6  Cone 10 
6,00010,000 BTU/Cf/Hr 
8,00013,000 BTU/Cf/Hr 
10,00016,000 BTU/Cf/Hr 
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Ward burner estimates that at 16,000 BTU/Cf/Hr a kiln with 9" of insulating firebrick would fire to cone 10 in about 67 hours. This would mean a total consumption of between 96,000 and 112,000 BTU per cubic foot to fire a kiln to cone 10. We can assume that a slower firing would result in higher overall consumption. So this rate of consumption is the most efficient for a conventional kiln.
Size: Floor 66" x 48" Height to 2/3 of sprung arch = 53"
Total 167,904 square inches or 97 square feet
This kiln was built around 1955. It is located in a large cinderblock room with two large exhaust fans. Repeated firings of this kiln show that it consumes 8,400 cubic feet of natural gas in a cone 10 firing which normally takes 12 hours. These firings involve body reduction as well as glaze reduction producing the traditional copper reds, iron greens and yellows. This is roughly 8,400,000 BTU's, or 700,000 BTU's per hour. Ward's table indicates that a conventional kiln of this size would consume between 9,312,000 and 10,864,000 BTU's if it could be fired in a more efficient time of only 67 hours.
So the Potters' Guild kiln seems to be firing 10 to 20% more efficiently than an optimum firing of a conventional kiln. But the real efficiency of this kiln can be seen when you look at the BTU per cubic foot per hour consumption. Dividing 700,000 BTU's per hour by 97 cu. ft. results in 7,216 BTU/Cf/Hr. Looking at the table we see that this is 30% less than the suggested minimum figure for a cone 10 firing in a conventional kiln. This seems to indicate that faster firing might produce greater efficiencies.
Size: Floor 36" x 36", Height to 2/3 of sprung arch= 56"
Total 72,576 square inches or 42 square feet
This kiln was built in 1970. It is located in a small wooden garage near the front door. Over the door there is a large exhaust fan operating at 2,500 CFM. Repeated firings of this Kiln show that it consumes 2,800 cubic feet of natural gas in a cone 10 firing, or 2,800,000 BTU, which normally take 6 _ hours. This is a reduction firing from cone 01 up. A conventional kiln would require 16,000 BTU/Cf/Hr to fire in this time and would need 672,000 BTU's per hour or 4,368,000 total BTU's to complete the firing. The Remsen Kiln uses 430,769 BTU's per hour to achieve the same effect, a savings of roughly 30%. Looking at this in another way we can refer back to the chart and see that this kiln fires as quickly as a conventional kiln of the same volume but with only 2/3 of the gas normally required for a fast firing. (10,256 verses 16,000 BTU/Cf/Hr)
This kiln is the newest of the Abernathy kilns in Ann Arbor. It was built as a workshop project in 1999 for a total cost of around $6,000, including the furniture. It is an exact copy of the Remsen Kiln with some minor modifications. It has been fired 6 times to cone 6 using about 2,500 cu ft of gas in about 6 hours. All firings used heavy reduction. Data from this kiln is difficult to evaluate for a number of reasons.
First, the kiln is located outside in an exposed location and has only been fired in the winter months. Second, this kiln has a solid cast block door, not an insulating one. Still, it is in the low range of 9,469BTU/Cf/Hr, (Compared to Ward's 8,00013,000 estimates). Ward's estimate for total consumption of a 42 cu. ft. conventional kiln fired to cone 6 in 6 hours is 3,276,000 BTU's. Comparing this to the figures for Art Factory kiln shows only a 24% reduction in gas consumption. Improvements in the door's insulation, the warmer summer weather, and perhaps a wind baffle should improve its efficiency.
Although the Abernathy design is roughly 50 years old it is perfectly adaptable to the needs of today's ceramic studio. This design and burner system combined with fiber insulation would result in further significant fuel economy. The elimination of the chimney creates a situation where one has absolute control over the air and fuel input. Combined with today's digital technology this control would allow for infinite flexibility and improved efficiency in firing. This burner system could be retrofitted on to any sprung arch kiln, and would probably improve its efficiency and dependability.
I B Remsen, Ann Arbor, Mi.
March 28, 2001