Therser UK Blog

Choosing The Right Kiln Fuel For Your Next Kiln - The Go to Guide

Choosing the right kiln for your specific needs requires a comprehensive understanding of the different fuel options available—electric, natural gas, and hydrogen—and how each aligns with both commercial considerations and practical user concerns. This guide will delve into the pros and cons of each kiln type, considering operational costs, fuel accessibility, environmental impact, and performance characteristics. Whether you're an artist, a craftsman, or involved in industrial manufacturing, understanding these factors will help you make an informed decision.

Ultimate Guide Ebook Cover

Electric Kilns

Energy Efficiency: Electric kilns convert almost all the electrical energy they consume directly into heat, making them highly efficient from a thermodynamic standpoint. This efficiency means that for the energy input, the output in terms of heat is maximized with minimal loss. However, the broader environmental impact of using electric kilns cannot be overlooked. The source of the electricity—whether it's generated from renewable resources like wind, solar, and hydro, or from fossil fuels like coal or natural gas—plays a significant role in determining the kiln's overall carbon footprint. For instance, electricity generated from renewable sources leads to a lower environmental impact compared to electricity from non-renewable sources, which are associated with higher greenhouse gas emissions.

Temperature Control: One of the critical advantages of electric kilns is their ability to offer precise temperature control. This precision is essential for processes that require specific firing schedules, including ramp-up and cool-down rates, to achieve the desired chemical and physical transformations in materials. The consistency of temperature over time also ensures that results can be replicated batch after batch, which is crucial for both artistic and industrial applications. This level of control is facilitated by sophisticated digital controllers that can execute complex firing schedules.

Atmosphere: Electric kilns maintain a clean, oxidation atmosphere during the firing process. This atmosphere is conducive to achieving bright and vivid glaze colors, which are often desired in ceramics art and pottery. It also prevents the formation of soot and other combustion by-products that can occur in fuel-fired kilns, ensuring that delicate work is not contaminated. The oxidation environment is particularly beneficial for materials that are sensitive to reduction or other atmospheric conditions that might alter their color or properties.


Cost to Run: The operational cost of electric kilns is a significant consideration for users. It is directly influenced by local electricity rates, which can vary widely by region and time of use. In areas where electricity costs are high, particularly where it is generated from expensive or non-renewable sources, the cost of running an electric kiln can be a drawback. Users must consider these costs in the context of their overall operating budget and the price they can command for their finished products.

Installation and Fuel Access: Electric kilns offer ease of installation, which is a significant advantage. Unlike gas or hydrogen kilns, which may require special fuel delivery systems, venting, and safety measures, electric kilns only need a suitable electrical outlet. The requirement is primarily about having the correct voltage and amperage to power the kiln, which can typically be met with standard electrical installations. This ease of setup makes electric kilns attractive for small studios, educational settings, and hobbyists, in addition to industrial users.

Maintenance and Lifespan: Electric kilns generally require less maintenance compared to their fuel-fired counterparts. They have fewer mechanical components that could wear out or fail, such as burners and complex ventilation systems. This simplicity could translate to lower ongoing maintenance costs and potentially longer lifespans, provided the kiln is used within its operational specifications. The primary maintenance tasks for electric kilns involve periodically checking the condition of the heating elements and the integrity of the kiln's interior lining.

Environmental Considerations: The environmental impact of using an electric kiln is closely tied to the electricity generation mix in a given region. In areas where the grid is predominantly powered by renewable energy sources, electric kilns represent a more sustainable option, contributing less to greenhouse gas emissions and having a lower carbon footprint. Conversely, in regions reliant on fossil fuels for electricity generation, the use of electric kilns indirectly contributes to higher CO2 emissions. Users concerned about sustainability are increasingly looking at the source of their electricity and considering renewable energy options, such as solar panels, to power their kilns.



Natural Gas Kilns



Energy Efficiency: Natural gas kilns can exhibit lower energy efficiency compared to electric kilns, primarily due to the inherent nature of combustion processes. In these kilns, some of the heat generated by burning natural gas is inevitably lost through the flue or exhaust system. This loss represents an inefficiency because not all the energy content of the gas is used to heat the kiln's interior. However, technological advancements in kiln design, such as improved insulation, more efficient burners, and heat recovery systems, have significantly enhanced their efficiency. These improvements help in retaining more heat within the kiln, reducing the amount of natural gas required to achieve the desired temperatures.

Temperature Control: Achieving precise temperature control in natural gas kilns can be more challenging than in electric kilns. This difficulty arises from the variability in the combustion process and the external factors influencing gas flow and pressure. However, modern gas kilns equipped with sophisticated control systems can mitigate these issues, allowing for relatively precise temperature adjustments. Despite these advancements, maintaining a specific atmosphere or temperature profile can still be more labor-intensive and less predictable than with electric kilns.

Atmosphere: One of the significant advantages of natural gas kilns is their ability to create different atmospheric conditions—oxidation, neutral, and reduction atmospheres. This flexibility allows for a broader range of firing effects and glaze outcomes, making gas kilns particularly appealing for certain ceramic and glass processes. The ability to manipulate the kiln atmosphere provides artists and manufacturers with creative control over the final appearance of their products, enabling effects that are difficult or impossible to achieve in an electric kiln.


Cost to Run: The cost efficiency of natural gas kilns is a key advantage, especially in regions where natural gas is readily available and less expensive than electricity. On a per-unit energy basis, natural gas often offers lower operational costs, making it an attractive option for high-volume production or for users with continuous firing schedules. The economic benefits of using natural gas can be significant, contributing to lower overall production costs and higher profitability.

Installation and Fuel Access: The installation of a natural gas kiln involves considerations that are not applicable to electric kilns. Access to a natural gas supply is a prerequisite, which might not be available in all locations or could require substantial infrastructure modifications. Additionally, installing a gas kiln requires adherence to safety codes and regulations, which may involve obtaining permits and professional installation services. These factors can add to the initial setup cost and complexity but are essential for safe and efficient operation.

Maintenance and Lifespan: Natural gas kilns encompass more complex systems than their electric counterparts, including burners, gas lines, and exhaust systems. These components necessitate regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and safety. Tasks may include cleaning burners, inspecting gas connections for leaks, and ensuring the flue is clear. Despite the higher maintenance requirements, natural gas kilns are built to be durable and can have a long operational life with proper care and upkeep.

Environmental Considerations: While burning natural gas for kiln firing produces CO2 emissions, it is considered a cleaner option compared to other fossil fuels like coal. The combustion process of natural gas is more efficient and results in fewer by-products such as soot and other pollutants. However, the environmental impact of natural gas kilns is still a concern, particularly regarding greenhouse gas emissions. Advances in kiln technology and operational practices, such as optimizing firing schedules and improving kiln insulation, can help mitigate some of these environmental impacts.

Hydrogen Kilns

Untitled design (17)


Energy Efficiency: Hydrogen stands out for its potential as a clean fuel, primarily when burned, as it produces water vapor instead of carbon dioxide, making it an appealing option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The overall energy efficiency of hydrogen kilns, however, depends significantly on how the hydrogen is produced and the specific design of the kiln itself. If hydrogen is produced through electrolysis powered by renewable energy sources, the process can be considered highly sustainable. Yet, the efficiency of the kiln also hinges on how well it can contain and utilize the heat produced from hydrogen combustion, which can vary based on kiln design and insulation.

Temperature Control and Atmosphere: Hydrogen’s capability to achieve high temperatures and its clean burning characteristics are beneficial for kiln operations, particularly where specific atmospheric conditions are crucial. The ability to control the kiln atmosphere—ranging from oxidation to reduction—allows for versatility in processing a wide variety of materials. However, the technologies for precise atmosphere and temperature control in hydrogen kilns are still in development stages, posing challenges for widespread industrial application. These challenges include managing the flame characteristics of hydrogen, which burns differently than natural gas or propane.

Innovative and Emerging Technology: Hydrogen fuel represents a cutting-edge approach to kiln operations, aligning with global efforts to transition to cleaner energy sources. Its use in kilns is still relatively novel, but it holds the promise of zero-emission manufacturing, particularly if the hydrogen is sourced from water via electrolysis using electricity generated from renewable sources. This approach could revolutionize industries reliant on high-temperature processes, making them more sustainable and lessening their environmental impact.


Cost to Run: One of the primary challenges facing the adoption of hydrogen as a kiln fuel is its cost. Currently, hydrogen is generally more expensive than natural gas or electricity, primarily due to the costs associated with its production, storage, and transportation. These costs are expected to decrease as technology advances and the infrastructure for hydrogen production and distribution becomes more established. However, for the time being, the higher operational costs of hydrogen kilns may limit their adoption to applications where environmental sustainability is a paramount concern or where funding is available to offset the initial investment.

Installation and Fuel Access: The infrastructure for hydrogen fuel is less developed compared to that for electricity and natural gas, presenting challenges for widespread adoption in kiln operations. Accessing and storing hydrogen requires specialized equipment and stringent safety measures due to its high flammability and the need for it to be stored under pressure or at low temperatures. The installation of hydrogen kilns thus involves significant upfront investment in infrastructure and safety technologies, making it a more complex and costly option.

Maintenance and Lifespan: As hydrogen kilns represent an emerging technology, there's less historical data available on their maintenance requirements and expected lifespan compared to more established electric and natural gas kilns. The unique properties of hydrogen, including its reactivity and the materials compatibility of the kiln components, may introduce new maintenance challenges. However, these kilns also have the potential for long lifespans if designed with durability in mind and maintained according to best practices developed specifically for hydrogen applications.

Environmental Considerations: Hydrogen kilns offer the potential for significantly reduced environmental impact, especially when the hydrogen is produced from renewable sources. This method of kiln operation aligns with global goals for carbon reduction and sustainability. However, it's important to consider the entire lifecycle and production chain of hydrogen to assess its environmental benefits fully. If hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels without carbon capture technologies, the overall environmental advantages may be diminished. Nonetheless, as green hydrogen production becomes more efficient and widespread, hydrogen kilns could play a crucial role in creating a more sustainable industrial future.


Choosing between electric, natural gas, and hydrogen-fueled kilns involves balancing various factors, including cost, environmental impact, accessibility of fuel, and specific firing needs. Electric kilns are ideal for artists and small operations prioritizing ease of use and precise control. Natural gas kilns might be preferred in commercial settings where lower operational costs and the flexibility.


At Therser UK we offer all of these options, and can be tailored to your requirements.

For all enquires contact

Tel 01782 824453

Subscribe by email