Great Burn, No Heat, What Am I Doing Wrong?

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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Stove/Furnace Make: EFM
Stove/Furnace Model: Boiler
Location: Central Pa.

Post Fri. Jan. 11, 2008 1:14 am

There is an apartment over the garage and the apartment is insulated very well. 8" walls cellulose and 18" loose cellulose over the ceiling. But there is no noticible air leaks in the room and I can practically sit on the stove and be cold. I know the fire is hot because when I rake the ashes for only a few seconds my poker bends like butter and is glowing. But even the outside of the unit would be best described as warm.

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Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland
Location: Michigan

Post Fri. Jan. 11, 2008 10:04 am

You just have so much cold air around the stove that is too small, that the air is pulling all the heat off the stove body, and the magic heat is pulling the heat out of the flue gasses. I'd bet that if you put a probe thermometer in the flue below the magic heat it would be up in the 8-900* range or even higher.
Stand some foam board up against the concrete block walls, or stud the walls and insulate.

If you stand next to a concrete wall or a window, in a tee-shirt, you can feel your radiant heat being pulled away from your body to the cold surface. This is the way heat moves. You have this hot spot in your garage, but it is surrounded by cold surfaces. The heat is radiating to the cold surfaces faster than the stove can make extra BTUs.

If the stove is backed up to a concrete wall, try putting up a reflector on that wall. If the distance from stove to wall is 18-24" you may be able to use a piece of foam insulation with the shiny aluminum surface. Don't get it too close to the stove, the foam will get soft or melt. The reflective surface will help a lot to reflect the radiant heat back at you and the rest of the room. The wall area behind the stove is pretty much wasted usually anyway.

Hope this helps. Greg L
Burning Pea/Buckwheat through an antique stoker [semi retired SSboiler],
Running an Axeman-Anderson 260M boiler burning Pea, About 150-250#per day
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Hand Fed Coal Stove: DS Machine 1300 with hopper
Coal Size/Type: Blaschak Anthracite Nut
Other Heating: Oil hot water radiators (fuel oil); propane
Location: Central Maine

Post Fri. Jan. 11, 2008 1:56 pm

I believe you can get commercial crews to spray a foam insulation directly onto the concrete block walls. I have no idea what it costs, how ugly or good it looks, etc. But you need to keep the garage air from circulating against the concrete or the blocks remain a massive heat sink transferring your heat into the great outdoors. Putting foam and/or reflective sheets against the walls won't be as good, unless you also seal around the edges to stop air leakage between the insulation and the blocks.
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Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Keystoker Koker
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Vermont Casting Vigilant II 2310
Other Heating: #2 Oil Furnace
Location: Pequest River Valley, Warren Co NJ

Post Sun. Jan. 13, 2008 7:29 pm

Hi Samantha. I'm a newbee at the forum and am from NW NJ. I had issues with my Vigilant II model 2310 but worked them out. I'll try to speak to my six years working with this stove. If you have the old Vigilant with the hopper insert for coal burning, this might not apply. I've never opperated the old unit but knew two who did without much luck or heat like you are experiencing. The insert hopper would leak and therefore not heat with coal as expected.

You stated that it's in a fireplace. A good point made as to where the heat is going if there's a lot a of masonry absorbing the radiant heat. It might take a while to heat all that mass up before it returns the stored heat in radiant form. Are all four sides of the stove exposed to the room or is it tucked into the fireplace?

Check the inside for the three clean-out plates. Found one of the three clean out plates missing right after dealer installed it. I couldn't get heat out with this situation; stove top temps <350 F, but the fire did keep. If they aren't in place, the fire will be robbed of some air ... and heating ability too.The design of the stove is essentially a box within a box to rerout and thus transfer more heat when the internal damper is closed. Big difference in heating between the two positions. Fly ash builds in there but wouldn't expect to find much unless you've burned it a lot or shake the fire down with the internal damper closed (handle down/vertical). Only shake the grates with the handle horizontal allowing the fly ash to stay out of the stove and fall onto the smoke shelf. I remove the plates to gain access to the inner space and vacuum out once about mid (after ~2 tons) season and at the end.

The outside of the stove is the remaining design of the original wood burner design - the Vigilant II is internally redesigned eliminating the hopper insert for coal burning. There is a small pie pan casting on the left side of the stove that rotates to cover a ~ 1inch hole. It's for secondary air for wood burning and maybe bituminous burning which I have no experience with. Keep this closed when burning anthracite or you'll loose draft there and keep the fire from getting to its potential. Nice to know there's supposed to be a gasket for the cast internal damper ... never had one on mine and won't bother as all seems okay. Checking only stovetop vs. external pipe temperature, it runs at ~ 75% heat exchange. No problem at all keeping stovetop near 700F with the air inlet rod straight up.

I have never used a baro damper with either of my Vermont Casting stoves. That's not to say it wouldn't help, but the wife doesn't like the look. The little rod in the back is attached to a bimetallic coil that acts as a thermostat. It will close off the air slowly reducing the amount of air/draft that the fire receives in response to stove temperature. Essentially, if everything is sealed, it cuts the draft but never shuts it off. Works really well for me. I have confirmed this with a draft meter on my Defiant installation in a masonry chimney but not the Vigilant that has a better drafting straight SS chimney.

I initially tried several tons of both nut and pea from a Scranton mine. Even tried to mix the two. I've found that pea is best for me from same source. I've heated my 3,100 sq. ft. well insulated house with it for six years. 9 ft ceilings on the first floor, stove is in a 30 x 27 ft room w/9 ft ceiling. Happy family! Can heat with the Vigilant II when it's 10 F outside and hold mid sixties in the far end of the house some 50 feet and three rooms away from the stove. I keep the bedrooms cool, low 60s and like it! It's pushing the stove to do this so I don't try to maintain it when is this cold, letting the oil burner make up the difference when the nights are in the high teens. Nice to know it can be done without electricity and I could also fire up the wood fireplace if needed.

Sorry for the long post everyone! Hope Samantha can glean something from all of it.
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Stove/Furnace Make: Vermont Castings
Stove/Furnace Model: Vigilent

Post Mon. Jan. 14, 2008 8:21 am

Thank you all for your help and advise....I have had much better luck the past few days. :D Added the manual damper, purchased a thermometer and have been getting wonderful heat. Had to experiment with the damper to get the best setting, but I think that I have it licked. . Living room is perfect at 72-74 deg and bedrooms are at 60 as we keep the doors closed. I am so glad that we decided to go with coal The dust be dammed ! I have swiffer !

VIgIIPeaburner....I have run across exactly the difficulties you described ! Thank you all again ! Samantha

Posts: 5010
Joined: Mon. Apr. 16, 2007 9:34 pm
Hand Fed Coal Stove: DS Machine 1300 with hopper
Coal Size/Type: Blaschak Anthracite Nut
Other Heating: Oil hot water radiators (fuel oil); propane
Location: Central Maine

Post Mon. Jan. 14, 2008 11:01 am

Remember that the "best" manual damper setting may vary depending (mainly) on outside temperature, since the chimney will generally draw more on a colder day. You might also want to review a couple of sometimes-contentious threads on manual dampers in this forum. Here's one link:

Manual pipe dampers .. how, why, when
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