Lots of Ash/Not Much Fire

MA_coal_fan
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Post Wed. Nov. 12, 2008 10:27 pm

Hi,

I was wondering if anyone can offer some suggestions on what I'm doing wrong with my stove. I get my Harman Mark II coal stove fired up, nice and hot, with lots of glowing coals. It goes great for about 2 days or so, then lots of ash starts to build up, to the point where the burning coals are getting smothered and dying. This morning, I noticed a good amount of ash mixed in with the burning coals. Some pieces were partially burned. I opened up the ash pan door, got some blue flames dancing over the orange coals, and then added some nut coal onto it. My stove seems to burn better with nut. I came back home tonight (I had been gone from my house for about 12 hours) and noticed the fire was about dead. I couldn't revive it. This has happened to me several times now.

Now when the coals are burning well, I shake the stove down until I see some orange coals drop into the ash pan. At that point I stop shaking down, and then add some more coal on top of the burning coals. Over time, I start seeing clinkers and ash building up. Is that a sign my stove is running too hot? I've been keeping it between 300-400 F. Am I adding too much coal at a time? I try to spread it evenly over a layer of hot coals. I tend to fill it toward the top of the firebox. I saw another thread about banking the coal and remembered a guy at work talking to me about that. Is that something I need to do, bank the coal to the side or back and have it tumble toward the center?

I want to get this right, so I'm not starting and restarting fires all winter long.

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LsFarm
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Post Wed. Nov. 12, 2008 10:35 pm

You may need to try a different source for your coal. It sounds like your coal has so much rough chunky ash that the grates can't chew it up so it will fall through the grates and into the ashpan.

You may try a more aggressive shaking of the grates. Can you look from underneath and see if the grate has red coal showing over the whole grate surface? you want to shake untill this is what you see.

Greg L.

MA_coal_fan
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Post Wed. Nov. 12, 2008 10:42 pm

I just bought 21 tons of this nut coal loose from PA. So I'm going to have to work with it. It burns great when I first add it onto the burning coals. Starts crackling and snapping right away. I've got some bags of pea coal left over from last winter. These don't seem to burn as well.

Do you mean, get down at eye-level with the ash pan and look up to see if there are burning coals across the grates?

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rockwood
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Post Wed. Nov. 12, 2008 10:52 pm

Yes that's what he meant. You bought 2 tons not 21 right? :shock:

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LsFarm
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Post Wed. Nov. 12, 2008 10:57 pm

Yes that is what I mean,, or you can look for an even reflected glow in the ash pan.. you want to grind up and get rid of the hard crusty ash.

Greg L.

MA_coal_fan
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Post Wed. Nov. 12, 2008 11:10 pm

No, I mean I really bought 21 tons. Direct from a PA coal mine.

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rockwood
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Post Wed. Nov. 12, 2008 11:22 pm

Wow, how long do you figure 21 tons will last?

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CoalHeat
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Post Thu. Nov. 13, 2008 6:26 am

Get a piece of still wire, bend it up on the end about 2", use it to poke up after the grates after you shake the stove. This will loosen up the ash. also you may have to go clinker fishing every few days. If you burn the stove too hot more clinkers will form.
It all comes down to the coal, it might just not be that good, unfortunately. I speak from experience, I started out with coal that was practically unburnable. Since you are in Ma, I'd get a few bags of Blaschak and try that to see if it burns differently.
It's always best to taste-test some coal before buying a large amount.
Where is the coal you have from?

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captcaper
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Post Thu. Nov. 13, 2008 7:54 am

I doubt if your coal is that bad. I find I have to shake,poke,shake,poke the coals,shake, poke,add coal,add coal etc It's a constant work out to keep the fire right.Also outside temps that change fast and all the time affect your fire. You get the point. Ash builds up everywhere fast. Once a month I'd break it down to retrieve and clear any clinkers formed by melted minerals,rock.

MA_coal_fan
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Post Thu. Nov. 13, 2008 9:44 am

To Wood/Cole,

I bought the loose coal from Superior Coal in PA. They came well recommended by members here in this forum.

As for the question about how long the coal will last; my guess? 7-8 years. Assuming I don't rip my coal stove out of my house and throw it through a window!

;)

ss_burns
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Post Thu. Nov. 13, 2008 10:05 am

I'm having the same problem w/ my Magnafire elite. just dies off every couple days.. got to dump the firebox and start over. I'm using nut coal I got from Reading Anthracite. Just seems like the ash takes over and smothers the fire out.

what's clinker fishing? (forgive me, this is my first coal stove)

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dutch
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Post Thu. Nov. 13, 2008 10:22 am

Ma,
are the 300-400 temps on the stovetop or stove pipe?
how many turns out is your ash pan door air control?
and i'm sure others will want to know, what is your chimney
setup? draft? baro damper etc?

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Dallas
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Post Thu. Nov. 13, 2008 10:33 am

Based on my experience, I'd say your ashes are getting compacted and essentially closing off the air from beneath, not allowing it to come up through the coal fire. Of course you want to shake the fire down regularly, but if you have rock and clinkers in your fire box, which can't get through the grates, they will accumulate on top of the grates, eventually taking up the whole fire box, as well as stifling the combustion air.

If you have a decent fire going, don't be afraid to poke down through the coals and loosen the whole bed. I don't know why some of the guys have such a problem with that and only want to "scratch" from underneath a little bit. Once you get it loosened and establish an airway through the coal, it should burn, barring other problems. If the large nonburnable pieces are accumulating, you'll have to remove them as they accumulate, to maintain your capacity for fresh coal.
Last edited by Dallas on Thu. Nov. 13, 2008 11:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

MA_coal_fan
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Post Thu. Nov. 13, 2008 10:36 am

Dutch,
The 300-400 temp is on the stovetop.
I open the air control on the ash pan door to about 1/4 inch.
My stove is in the basement of my ranch home. It's connected to one of the flues in my chimney. The other is for the oil boiler. I've got a baro damper on the stove pipe.

yep, ss_burns. This is my first serious venture into heating with a coal stove too. My father had one when I was a kid, but he never seemed to have much luck with it. When I've talked to him recently, he just talked about all the times it went out.

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coalvet
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Post Thu. Nov. 13, 2008 11:00 am

One sure sign of ash buildup is not shaking the stove enough. At the temps you're running your stove at least twice a day would be a minimum. Also rectangular shaped fireboxes usually will build up ash in the corners. My Crane has a round firebox so I don't have that issue.

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