Please Help - but Drink a Beer and Don't Laugh

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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Post Sun. Nov. 09, 2008 8:49 pm

Hello, all:

A newbie here with one wacked-out rig you are going to laugh at, I promise. I was given a pretty nice looking antique coal-fired stove from the mid-1800s. Looking at it taking up space in my garage one day (and probably after too many beers) I thought to myself "hey, why not rig up one of those Amish greenhouse heaters". Long story short, I have baseboard heat in the upstairs of the garage, an "open" system with tank, and lines running through the firebox of this stove. No pump, no circulator, no electricity. Works pretty good.
Problem is I have no idea how to work this thing to get a HOT fire. I can get it stared, but I am a little cofused with all the instructions I have been reading. Can anyone tell me how to make a HOT fire? I can get a decent bed of coals going, then I add a small amount of coal at a time ( I am using Anthracite nut coal). Today I spread the coals around the box with a poker (OK, learned that was the WRONG thing to do). It seems like I can only get a softball-sized patch blazing hot while the rest of the box remains cool. Dumping more coal was the first dumb trick of the day. How is it that, accoring to the directions I read, you have to be so careful putting in small amounts at a time to ensure they start to burn, but once they do it seems like the directions tell you to go ahead and dump a lage amount in. I did that this afternoon and now I have 6" of coal that is only burning in the middle. I'm not getting that hot, all around the firebox fire I have been dreaming of. Any ideas? Thanks!

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Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Stokermatic coal furnace
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Rockwood Stoveworks Circulator
Baseburners & Antiques: Malleable/Monarch Range
Coal Size/Type: Soft coal: Lump and stoker (slack coal)
Location: Utah

Post Sun. Nov. 09, 2008 11:33 pm

For starters, make sure there's no air getting in above the coal, it should all come up through the coal bed.

Old stoves are not air tight. I took my cast iron stove apart and resealed the joints with furnace cement and it made a difference.

Keep reading in this section of the forum and it will help you avoid a lot of mistakes. :)
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Post Mon. Nov. 10, 2008 6:22 am

If you fill the stove up with coal & give I enough air & time, I'll guarantee you'll have a nice hot fire! ;)

Coal reacts very slowly so it may take hours for the whole coal bed to catch well. Be patient...If one section is burning, the fire will sporead to the whole coal bed, with time.
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Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 130 (pea)
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Reading piece o' junk in the barn (rice)
Coal Size/Type: Pea size, Superior, deep mined
Location: Orrington, Maine

Post Mon. Nov. 10, 2008 6:37 am

Can you post a picture or it? We love pics! I like the sound of the system. Very nice. What size pipes feed the baseboard?

I have zero experience with hand fed, but have read a bunch. If you had a manomometer part of the mystery could be solved. A nice tall appropriately sized chimney is important too. If you're exhausting into a 12" high chimney that's 18" square on the inside, you're not going to have much draft. Burning anthracite is all about three things: The shape of the firebox, it likes to be taller and skinniers as compared to wider & flatter. Where the air comes from, it all wants to come from under the coal, and how much draft, it likes air moving briskly.
Orrington, Maine

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Post Mon. Nov. 10, 2008 11:42 am

Hey, Everyone:

Thanks for all the info. I am geting better at it. Last night dumped 6"- 7" of coal onto the fire, then realized at 10:30 that maybe the way those housewives got the oven to 400 degrees was that they shut the damper down to let air circulate around the oven (no laughing, please). 20 minutes later the stove went from 150 to 225. The entire system was rockin and rollin by 3:30 a.m. when I came out to find the garage toasty and the upstairs a balmy 75 degrees. Dumb me got worried and cut the draft to almost nothing on the front and completely cut off the side draft. It was out by 6:30 a.m. I think I would have done better to leave the drafts open about 1/3 of the way on the front and side drafts, then shut the damper off completely - when I say completely I am pretty sure that "off" doesn't really mean off in these old coal stoves - it seems like it will still draft out smoke. I am going to check the theory today while I am around and can monitor it.
I'll post pics soon. It is really pretty neat, if I do say so myself. The Amish in my area use barrell stoves hooked to pec tubing run thoughout the greenhouse. I've seen them in action. As long as the hot water travels uphill to a point then can come downhill to the firebox (and enter it lower than the outlet), it works. I think what they are missing is that the return volume must be greater than the in-flow to circulate with maximum efficiency given that there is no pump/circulator. All done by physics. Also, you need places to bleed the system. The open tank does take care of most of the air pockets, but I have still found some small air pockets when I open the valve on the radiators. I am using 3/4" Type L copper, a salvaged baseboard heater (about 20' total in a 500 SQ. FT. room, and a slavaged 30 gallon tank open at the top. I am running 8.5 gallons in the entire system, minus the extra in the tank over the outlet vlave. I am running about 40% antifeeze and 60% water so I can go away for a week and not worry about it.
Thanks for the encouragement.

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Post Mon. Nov. 10, 2008 12:49 pm

yes, it';s called ThermoSyphon, solar and other types of heaters do the same thing, many of us do that with our hot water tanks to heat up domestic water. That's why if you look at the guts of a hot water tank, they take the hot water off the top, and force the cold into the bottom....
- Dave
Hyfire I & Keystoker 90K heating an 1890 Victorian
- Amsoil Authorized T1 Certified Dealer

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Post Sat. Nov. 15, 2008 10:50 am

have you gotten pictures yet? that sounds pretty interesting with the lines in the firebox, I wanna do the same thing with my hot water heater, but dunno if I should with my 119,000 BTU furnace. the woman thinks im nuts, but hey, save money where you can save money ya know!
coal, the future of america

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