Not Sure If I Should Burn Coal or Not.

Modern and vintage hand fired coal stove are similar to a wood stove and in some cases can burn either. They need to be regulated and fed by hand usually every 12 to 24 hours depending on your usage. They require no power to operate making them ideal for rural settings with long power outages.
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Joined: Sat. Feb. 10, 2007 11:23 pm

Post Sun. Feb. 11, 2007 12:14 am

I am new to this forum and just installed a used coal/wood boiler and plumbed it in to my natural gas boiler to try and ease my gas use. I have only used wood in it so far with limited sucess. I think it was made more for coal than wood. It is made by a company called Stelrad. I think they are British. it has a small firebox, at least for wood.(14" long 13" wide and 24" high). It has shaker grates and and ash pan.It also has a draft door on the bottom door that opens and closes automaticaly with a chain attached to a lever. I don't seem to be able to get enough heat out of it with wood and I would like to try coal but I need some information first since I know vwery little about burning coal.. I have a metalbestos 6 inch stainless double wall with insulation chimney. It is only used by the wood/coal boiler and is 30 feet high and in a wooden chase. The chase also houses my gas boiler chimney and my fireplace chimney so it is fairly big. If I burn a hard clean coal will it hurt my metalbestos chimney and if so how many years can I expect to get out of it before I would have to replace it? Is there any noticable smell or smoke to burning coal(as with wood) that neighbors might complain about? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

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Richard S.
Posts: 12712
Joined: Fri. Oct. 01, 2004 8:35 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite
Location: NEPA

Post Sun. Feb. 11, 2007 1:35 am

Ordlee wrote: Is there any noticable smell or smoke to burning coal(as with wood) that neighbors might complain about?
I'll leave the other questiones for someone else because I don't have specific answers but we've been burning anthracite for more than 25 years in the house we have now in a very tight community, most of the houses are about 15-20 feet away. They would be none the wiser except the ashes we put out once week. On rare occassions which I can can't on about two hands when the weather was just right I've smelled a faint sulfury smell, very calm humid days in the summer (our furncace supplies hot water in the summer). Other than that no they won't even know you're burning coal.

FYI this information pertains to anthracite coal, bituminous is another story but others have posted having good luck with that as well. I think a lot depends on the location where bituminous is concerned.
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Charlie Z
Posts: 205
Joined: Sat. Dec. 23, 2006 9:39 am
Stove/Furnace Make: Coalbrookdale
Stove/Furnace Model: Darby
Location: North Fork, NY

Post Sun. Feb. 11, 2007 7:40 am

It sounds like you have a 'solid' fuel boiler. Stelrad is a big producer in GB - nice radiators, in particular.

Most of the british solid fuel boilers are design compromised toward coal, but burn wood, too. The shaker grate, small box and under-grate intake would point toward yours fitting into their norm. Anthracite will perk up your boiler.

Your chimney configuration sounds good - you want a stainless liner and the heighth sounds good. I doubt anyone can tell you it's OK to burn over the web, though. If you have doubts, you'll want to have someone check it over.

Please post a picture: I can't find any on the web of Stelrads and it sounds like a nice unit. Most of the coal loonies here like seeing different designs.

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ktm rider
Posts: 321
Joined: Thu. Jan. 12, 2006 12:27 am
Stove/Furnace Make: AHS Multifuel
Stove/Furnace Model: CO 55 with oil backup
Location: Western Md.

Post Sun. Feb. 11, 2007 8:23 am

You obviously would get more heat from coal . The natural draft when burning coal works o.k. but to really get the maximum heat out of a load of coal you would need a combustion blower that "Shoots" air up into the coal fire from under the grates.
I have ran my coal boiler a few times with just the natural draft and it does work. Just doesn't seem to fire quite as well. This could be all due to boiler design also. Who knows. maybe yours will work great with just nartural draft.
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Posts: 49
Joined: Fri. Feb. 10, 2006 7:57 pm
Stove/Furnace Make: Stelrad 120k, Coal-o-Matic
Stove/Furnace Model: Glenwood Duplex Kitchen Range
Location: NW Connecticut

Post Sun. Feb. 11, 2007 12:02 pm

Someone else has a Stelrad :) I knew there were others out there. I have a Stelrad boiler in my basement that came with my house - I posted about it last year and there is a picture in that post as well.
Season Report

We moved in the house in the summer of 2004 after I got back from Iraq and I tested it that winter. I used it a fair amount last winter - mid December to March almost exclusively, and this year from late October until ???. I have used it almost entirely with nut coal and have gotten progressively better at it (in fact in the photo in the other post you can see a small fan in front of the boiler which I thought I needed to keep a hot burn going but I now know I don't need).

My setup is a 3 story masonry chimney and I have been using nut coal. This has worked really well for me.

I would definitely recommend coal in that boiler, I used wood last year at the end of the season and was pretty disappointed. The problems I had were:
1. The draft design almost forces air from the front loading door when the loading door was opened - which seems to be a bigger problem with wood than coal and ends up with a pretty smoky basement when loading / starting the wood fire.
2. The wood fire just couldn't be kept going for long enough. Unless I turned the thermostat all the way down there was no fire left in the am.
3. My house has a gravity hot water heating system - no circulators at all. The wood fire had a tendency to get very hot quickly and the gravity hot water just doesn't react that fast - it takes time to get going - which the coal is better at - more consistent and even. Some of this problem in my house stems from how the Stelrad is connected to the gas boiler / house system.
4. At 120,000 the total BTU output of the Stelrad is really not enough for my house when its really cold - its a large old house, some insulation, but lots of space. Last year I really tried to force the Stelrad to do all the heating and it can't. This year I have let the gas boiler take on some of the load and its working fine. I know that I am burning what I expect to burn and my test gauge that I'm not loosing too much heat up the chimney because I can still touch the single wall stovepipe coming out the back.

Anyhow - I have really enjoyed using the Stelrad this year and last - its almost like a hobby, but a hobby that saves money and for a cheap guy like me that's great. I do dream of owning a large stoker boiler - maybe next summer, 08, I will rebuild my garage and create a space for a nice boiler out there and a large bin.

I'd be happy to try and answer any other questions about the boiler.


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