Thumbs down on Paragon kilns

As I’ve discussed previously, Paragon kilns do not follow the National Electrical Code (NEC) on the plugs that are used on their kilns. For example, their Bluebird kiln draws 14 amps, Paragon states the kiln requires a 20 amp dedicated circuit, but, believe it or not, they use a standard 15 amp plug.

Here’s an e-mail conversation I had with Arnold Howard of Paragon:

I am writing to you today to bring to your attention an issue that concerns me as a person who is deeply interested in safety in the glassworking studio. Recently, on several of the glassworking forums, issues have come up relating to people continually blowing circuit breakers and fuses when running their kilns. Naturally, I began to do some research and found that a large number of kilns that are available in the US, provided by your company and others, do not meet the requirements of the US National Electrical Code, sections 210.21 and 210.23.

I am deeply concerned that your company is selling 120 volt kilns that draw 14 amps and are wired with a 5-15 plug (I’ll note for the record that a lot of your 240 volt kilns are also using the wrong plug). This violates NEC — the proper plug you should be using is the 5-20. I found many examples of not only wrong plugs on your kilns, but also incorrect circuit breaker recommendations — more than one of your kilns draw 20 amps, you have a 20 amp plug and recommend a 20 amp circuit breaker. NEC calls for a 80% derating on all plugs and circuit breakers under 210.21 and 210.23.

I quote from NEC 2008:

“210.23 Permissible Loads
(1) Cord-and-Plug-Connected Equipment Not Fastened in Place
The rating of any one cord-and-plug-connected utilization equipment not fastened in place shall not exceed 80 percent of the branch-circuit amperage rating.”

Of the approximately 46 kilns on your website, only 10 had the correct plugs and circuit breaker recommendations.

I certainly understand the desire to have a kiln that will plug into a 15 amp rated receptacle, however, in order to do that, the kiln can draw no more than 12 amps, not the 14 or more that you currently manufacture.

Here is his response:

Thanks very much for taking the time to research the circuit breaker issue and for writing to me. I will look into this further and get back to you. I hope you stay in touch.

Thank you,

With best wishes,

Arnold Howard

I answered him with:

 

 

No problem Arnold!Here’s an example of what I’m concerned about: http://www.paragonweb.com/BlueBird_XL.cfm

Your specs say the kiln draws 14 amps, but is using a 5-15 plug (should be 5-20). The circuit breaker info is correct at 20 amps, but the recommended wire size of 20 gauge is way off, should be 12 gauge.

Here’s another: http://www.paragonweb.com/F120.cfm

14 amp kiln, with a 5-15 plug, this time with a 15 amp breaker and 14 gauge circuit wiring. Should be 5-20 plug, 20 amp breaker and 12 gauge wire.

See what I mean?

His response:

Hi Mike,Thanks for finding the typos at the kiln pages. I really appreciate that. I have changed the specs to match our catalog.

Then, several hours later, he sent me this:

Hi Mike,Thanks for your concern about electrical safety regarding our kilns.

The National Electrical Code that you quoted applies to branch circuits with multiple outlets and not to dedicated circuits, which have a single outlet. This is how TUV, the testing agency we use, interprets the code.

 I welcome further discussion. Thanks again for finding the typos on our website.

The next day, I sent this back:

Arnold –First of all, there’s a problem with the assumption that a given kiln (especially the smaller kilns) is going to be the only device on a circuit. You and I both know this is often not the case, and nowhere in your literature do I see anything that states that the kiln must be supplied with power on a dedicated single outlet circuit.

Next, NEC 210.21(B)(1) “Single Receptacle on an individual branch circuit” states “A single receptacle installed on an individual branch circuit shall have an amperage rating not less than that of the branch circuit.” This means that, for example, on your BlueBird XL, where you state the requirement of a 20 amp circuit breaker, that the outlet MUST be a 5-20, since the code states “shall have an amperage rating not less than that of the branch circuit”, and therefore the plug must also be a 5-20. I believe that your testing company is incorrect in their interpretation of the code.

His response:

Hi Mike,Thanks for sending the quote from NEC. I will share that our chief engineer and the CEO to see what they think. I consider any email about safety to be high priority. I’ll get back to you.

I hope you have a great weekend.

A week and a half goes by…then he writes:

Hi Mike,

I hope you had a great weekend.

Because of your suggestions, we have changed the disclaimer on our website. It appears on all the kiln pages under the specifications:

“Disclaimer: The specifications above assume that the kiln will be plugged into a dedicated circuit. Local electric codes supersede our recommendations.

“The pricing and electrical specifications for the above products reflect their design for use in the United States. The International versions of most models with have variations in electrical specifications and price due to consumer safety requirements or electrical regulations.”

As you can see, we take customer feedback very seriously. I appreciate your time in sending me your suggestions.

Argghhh!! Nothing like avoiding the problem, eh? My response:

Actually, Arnold, the outcome I was expecting was that you would change the plugs on your equipment to reflect the requirements of the National Electrical Code. What your company has done is basically thumbing its nose at the NEC, and that’s just sad.

His final response, passing the buck:

Mike, UL or TUV gave the final approval of the electrical specs on most of our kilns.

Because of this refusal (failure?) to follow the National Electrical Code, I have placed Paragon Kilns on the Hall of Shame list.

 

 

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26 thoughts on “Thumbs down on Paragon kilns

  1. It sounds to me like they won’t do anything about it unless it costs them money, which will only happen if people are better informed about the safety characteristics of the products they are buying. Hopefully some people read your blog and decide to go with a manufacturer that complies with the NEC.

  2. before you list them in your data base, you should be sure you are correct. i just went to their website and downloaded the wiring diagram of the kiln you referenced, the bluebird. they have a 15 ohm element. at 120v, that kiln will only pull 8 amps. i did not look at their datasheets, possibly they list it as 14 amps to impress people with its power. but the truth is in the wiring diagram. i did not look at the wiring diagrams for all of their kilns, so maybe some are not correct, but the bluebird does not violate any codes.

  3. Mark, what I go by is what they state on their website as the amperage required to run the kiln. If they state 14 amps, then I am going to assume the kiln is actually drawing 14 amps. Nowhere in any of my discussions with Paragon did they state that the amperage was anything other than that stated on the website.

  4. I’ve been doing alot of research on various kilns because I’m looking to buy one. I think that Mark may have been looking at the diagram for the Bluebird kiln which IS only 8 amps, its basic and is only used for annealing. But I think Mike was talking originally about the Bluebird XL which is a combo annealer/fuser and is listed at 14 amps.

  5. The BlueBird wiring diagram indicates a 15 ohm element which would translate to 8 amps at 120v but the spec sheet says 13 amps. The power output is listed as 1500 watts which would indicate a current of 12.5 amps at 120v so it sounds like part of their problem is keeping the data consistent, I would tend to discount the wiring diagram from the equation though since all the other data is listed together on the same page.

    There is no wiring diagram that I can find for the BlueBird XL but the spec sheet says 1700 watts and 15 amps which is consistent, and they indicate that a 20 amp breaker should be used but the plug is a 5-15, it does look like they have updated the wire gauge to 12 since Mike originally posted.

  6. Yep. If you need to use 12 guage wire to power the kiln, you need a 20 amp plug on it as well.

    It is certainly a curious thing, but I think part of the reason is having to do with ease of assembly at the factory. You can get pre-made with cast-in 5-15 plugs but not 5-20 plugs. It is certainly less expensive to use 5-15 plugs…but why put your customers at risk for a fire by not following the code? I just don’t get it.

    A friend of mine who is very conversant with the NEC wrote me this:

    …One needs to understand that the code section’s objective is to prevent the conductors in the receptacle from being overheated, damaged or melting without tripping the circuit protection. That’s why the receptacle rating must not be less than that of the branch circuit and the wiring must also meet the same requirement, in this case not less than # 12 AWG…If it were me, I would certainly use conductors, plugs, receptacles and branch circuits conservatively rated for the application, as in using a 20 amp circuit and conductors for a kiln rated at 14 amps. But, I am not trying to make buck at this either and I don’t know what written instructions and disclaimers come with the equipment. Let’s face it: How many glass bead makers do you know that have a single receptacle 20 amp branch circuit handy in their average home? OK, now how many do you know that have a decent supply of 15 amp outlets all over the place? So, it is merely a marketing decision, perhaps not the best one for safety, but one that gets the product sold and into the hands of those who will use it. If a prospective customer knows that they will need to hire an electrician to run a new circuit they will likely look for solutions that don’t require that. Worse yet, they will simply swap out a receptacle and put the required one in a circuit not rated for it and cause real safety and fire hazard problems. I’ve seen that done.

  7. Wow, this explains why we keep blowing the fuse in the living room! I turn on the kiln and every single receptacle in the living goes out. Not all the time, just sometimes. Damn!

  8. I’ve replaced the Sentry controller 3 times now.
    First from poor design in positioning the controller below the door so that when condensation occurs, it drips onto the board.
    Second from poor manufacture…just stopped working.
    On third go round now…kiln overheated enough to melt cast iron grate and stainless steel flasks.

    They told me that that is impossible…

    I’ve seen others post about bugs in the controller but they continue to sell the kiln and make their customers replace parts.

  9. I cannot say I’m surprised at the answers you’ve received.
    The Paragon kiln I just bought is completely and totally defective.
    The inner ceramic shell is out of alignment with the metal case so vent hole cannot be plugged.
    That is the big problem. There are many others.
    I’ve gotten nothing but questions and more questions; no offer of resolution.
    I’ve asked for a refund from the distributor.
    Let us see how honorable they will prove to be.

  10. What an interesting discussion. Thank you for all the info. I’m in the market for a kiln for PMC and had decided on either a Paragon SC2 or an Evenheat Kingpin 88.

    This discussion leads me to do more research on the Evenheat kiln – but I’m having problems finding reviews on it.

  11. I bought the Kingpin 88 by Evenheat.
    It is fantastic! Excellent quality, good instructions, and it works very,very well.
    I have absolutely no complaints about this kiln.

  12. We’ve been firing a 9 year old SC-2 for PMC and enameling in a commercial studio setting. This means we fire at least 3 to 4 times a week. Sometimes, more than one firing in a day.
    That’s a lot of firings! With the newer base metal clays requiring charcoal media for firing, we are seeing some dark residue on the outside next to the vent hole. Otherwise, the exterior and the lining still look like new. Once in a while, I check the firing temperature with a portable thermocouple /pyrometer. Love how I can move it to other rooms so easily .
    No complaints from me. Love this kiln .

    Marilynne Lipshutz Studio 34 Creative Arts Center, Rochester, NY

  13. I have a paragon fusion 8 I have had this a year this month and have fired once a day for the past year.
    This has never let me down.I dont like the lid it has wobbled since I bought it but I think it is just amazing.
    I am now subbmitting my work to a local art gallery and xmas Fair both places have a high standard to allow you to sell your work.
    Without my trusty kiln this would not have been possible I am a self taught pensioner and how i wish i had started earlier
    Please dont Tar all paragon kilns with the same brush

    Pat silver surfer

    • Pat, the reason for the thumbs down is the way, as the article indicates, Paragon “rates” its kilns for wattage and required electrical service amperage. I’m happy the kiln is working for you, but that still does not obviate my comments regarding electrical issues on these kilns.

  14. I just found this discussion today and find it very interesting. I have been looking at the evenheat kingpin88 and the paragon sc3. I’m wondering if there is any current info regarding user reviews/comparisons/feedback on these 2 kilns. I’m leaning to the evenheat but wondering if the sc3 is worth considering. Thoughts?

    • After finally getting a refund on the paragon, I bought the Kingpin 88. This is a FANTASTIC kiln! Well made, works great for metal clay and enamel; probably glass, too.

      • I talked to someone at Cool Tools yesterday about kiln choices. She said I should not consider the kingpin88 or the sc2 or 3 because they were not brick kilns. Since I want to fire bronze/copper/silver, she said the molded fiber kiln would have to “work too hard” and would not fire as efficiently as a brick kiln such as the paragon E9A. I think she also mentioned that element replacement would be a factor as well. I have a paragon Express 1193 I use for ceramic processes. So I’m wondering if that kiln would suffice for copper/bronze/silver or would I be better off with a kiln dedicated to metal clay. I know the smaller kilns would fire a lot faster than the express so that is an advantage. I’m also wondering if there is a difference between the controllers…

      • There is a lot of controversy on brick vs fiber. When you break down costs, it actually costs more to heat a brick kiln, because the bricks absorb so much heat due to their mass. And they cool down very slowly. A fiber kiln on the other hand, heats up faster and also cools down faster — allowing the controller to actually control the temperature drop instead of following along in a brick kiln.

        I dispute the “work too hard” claim. It just isn’t true. I’ve put hour meters on both types of kilns, then run identical glass annealing cycles. The fiber kilns cost, on the average about $2.00 less (at least for my KwH charge from my electrical utility).

      • Thanks for the reply Mike. That being said, do you think I should have a kiln dedicated solely to metal clays? Do you think the xpress 1193 will work for me? I know the 1193 will be a much slower firing and I’m not sure if the controller is much different from the controller on the sc2 for instance.

  15. I too have had problems with paragon kilns & the company itself. I had bought a kiln (still dont know what it is) & they had labeled it wrong. It kept frying relays. After being neglected several times in trying to resolve the issue and being told by them that it wasnt their problem, even though they labeled & wired the kiln incorrectly, I went to another company that did help me the firsttry.
    I will never deal with them again-money hungry meisers!

  16. I need help, a friend had a paragon fusion 16 sentry xpress w/ a digital therm.
    16×16 square, 6. 1/2 ht
    Top loader, 60 hertz, 20 amps, 2400 watts
    The issue is, they were told it was a 120 & could be plugged right in to a standard house outlet.
    ( the cord is strange.. It’s like a 3 prong, but he left one is sideways!) they were told ‘ oh just get an adapter & you can start firing tonight….. Well they went to the electric store & there was no ‘adaptor’
    – there could be miscommunication somewhere… But they have a kiln & don’t even know it it works.
    – & if it needs to have a different out let, they would like to know. & be up to code.
    ( I know shame on them for purchasing a kiln without doing research.)
    – however, can anybody shed some light to get them up & running or a start?)

    ( I’d like to use their kiln too if it ever gets going & works.)
    *****can anybody help them ? ****

    • Hi Cricket, sorry this took so long, I didn’t get a message that you had posted.

      The cord end you describe is a 20 Amp 120 volt plug. The outlet that this plugs into also has to be rated at 20 amps, and wired as a single outlet direct to the electrical panel. Don’t change the cord end plug to a standard 15 amp plug! This is how fires get started!!!

      Do it the right way and have an electrician or someone knowledgeable about electricity install a dedicated outlet for the kiln.

  17. Cricket is right. I checked the Paragon web site for this kiln and they specify a 5-20P receptacle and even show a drawing of what it looks like. Not only does that have to be on a dedicated circuit but in my state it must also be a ground fault type, which is not a bad idea. I don’t think that Paragon has done anything misleading or not to code in this case.

  18. I would like to thank you so much for your post!!! I am looking into purchasing a kiln for my son since he is now into glass blowing… My husband and I own our own HVAC company and he is a brain when it comes to electrical. I am going to print this out to him to show him later. I can not believe this company basically past the buck and instead of making a small adjustment on their plugs they make it unsafe for people. I was really looking into this brand however I will no longer consider them at this point until I know they have made the corrections needed to be safe. It would have been refreshing to see a company take feedback such as your as you really did your homework and make the changes. However it just shows they are just another company out to make money and doesn’t give a crap about their consumers!!! Well I am sure I am not the first costumer they have lost over this issue. If they only knew how many people look products up now a day before they purchase an expensive item they would have made the correction right away. Again thank you for your research and posting this information!!!

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