Coal Heat

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Richard S.
Posts: 12734
Joined: Fri. Oct. 01, 2004 8:35 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite
Location: NEPA

Post Mon. Dec. 04, 2006 4:29 am

Berlin wrote:the yellowish bands are not always sulfur, but are often iron and other minerals.
Whatever it is it's quite a bit, I've seen ocassional pieces that would have a lot of discoloration but not through the whole load. Coal is hard to photograph to gwt an accurate representation, trust me I know. :P But I would agree that it's a problem with the setup.

Blueduck is about the first person I've ever heard say they prefer wood over coal....

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Posts: 4712
Joined: Wed. May. 17, 2006 8:12 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1981 EFM DF520
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Jotul 507 on standby
Coal Size/Type: Lehigh anthracite/rice coal
Location: Forest Hill MD

Post Mon. Dec. 04, 2006 8:52 am

What I like about coal and don't like about wood.

Blueduck said:
1- Once you start a Coal Fire you don't want it to go out.
It's easy to keep going but what a pain in the A$$
it is if it goes out.

Once I start my stoker, it doesn't go out until spring when I want it to go out. I grew up in a home with a hand fired furnace and we also never had a problem with it going oout. Takes alittle discipline to keep a schedule though with a hand fired unit. I'm too lazy now for a hand fired unit.

2- Ashes Ashes Ashes and more Ashes! Christ, I have
more ashes in 30 days than a season of burning wood.

Yes, that's a slight negative. but I prefer to think about all the back breaking work I didn't do to get my fuel ready. I burned wood for 20 years in wood boilers. Cutting, splitting, stacking, hauling again. Burn wood, get warm twice. My back will never be right because of it. Now I back my pickup to my basement window twice in one day and shovel 4 tons into the bin and I'm done.

3- During the Warm days and Cold nights when I come
home from work I can light a wood fire at will. With
Coal you don't want to do that, see
notes 1 and 2. When It gets cold all the time I can keep
a wood fire going 24/7.

During warm days when you are keeping you wood fire going, you are producing lots of creosote, no matter how dry your wood is. Low burn rate with wood equals creosote. Coal can idle for a week and not produce anything negative. That's why it is so perfect for a boiler. As far as lighting coal, it is really not that hard. there are long threads on this forum about lighting coal. It takes alittle patience and experience but it is really quite easy.

4- Stink! Coal smells bad, real bad. The flue temps are
a lot lower with Coal so it lingers around the yard and
comes back in the house depending on the wind. I have
a new chimney and the draft is .04 to .08 when the stove
is running at 150 to 250 F (net temp) I have a
Bacharach kit from my oil days. I'm getting 66% to 70%
combustion efficiency. I've even tried running the stove
at 250 to 300F (net)

It doesn't smell like roses but it's not that bad. When I'm outside, I occaisonlly get a litttle whiff of sulfur. Never a smell in the house though. With wood, I remember every time I opened the boiler door, an acrid smell would waft into the basement. From the picture of your coal, I think you got a bad batch. my coal is jet black always. Never any yellow or green stuff in it. That would look to be a big part of your problem.

5- When I come home from work the house stinks, not
real strong but stink It does. I never had that burning
good dry wood.

You've got a problem specific to your home, that's not the coals fault. Is there another adjacent chimney or flue that might be drawing flue gases down? Poorly sealing windows or doors allowing some flue gases back in?

6- If you are in a hurry trying to bring your coal fire back to
life and get a small poof back of smoke. Always have
Fans ready and take note of wind direction at all times
because it takes hours to get the stench out
of your home. Also if you are lighting off a fresh load of
coal you need to go slow because if you get the coal
volatiles burning to fast when you close the ash pan door
the fire will suck air in the secondary openings and flutter
the fire and you get fumes. (Harmon Mark I)

No need to be in a hurry if you are burning properly and tending to your fire on schedule. With a stoker though, that doesn't even apply. Load coal in the hopper and clean out ashes every so 3-5 days. No hurry.

7. If I had children... no way would I expose them to coal
smoke and fly ash.
Kind of like watching a parent let their kid bum a smoke.

I agree but you would not want to expose them to wood smoke and ash either. Coal ash is certainly more plentiful and it has some nasty properties. Like I said in item #1, ash is the one negative. A minor draw back for me though considering all the positives of coal use in my home.

If you or your graqndfather decide to sell your stoves, I'm interested. I need one for my shop/outbuilding.

Posts: 25
Joined: Wed. Nov. 01, 2006 10:48 pm

Post Mon. Dec. 04, 2006 4:43 pm

This is my first year with coal and have used wood as my only fuel source for the past 15 years, and have to say that the only drawback to coal that I see is having to buy it. I have a never had to buy wood, just take the trees down and prepare it for burning. It did take me the entire month of October to do it though, so whats a month of your life worth? The extra ashes I now dump in my driveway instead of the garden. I really don't miss all those trips outside to bring wood in the house either. Instead I only have about 15 minutes a day of shaking and refueling my 503 Hitzer. I kept my wood furnace, but really can't see going back to it unless the price of coal becomes too expensive.

Posts: 23
Joined: Sat. Oct. 21, 2006 9:54 am

Post Mon. Dec. 04, 2006 6:16 pm

Thanks for the input guys,
My house is drafty.... The worst part is the house is
L Shaped with a very tall roof so what happens is if the
fumes from the chimney fall to the ground and the wind
is just right the fumes get trapped in the L . There are large
open fields to the west and east of me. the L faces east.
and the chinmey is on the east side.
With a stack temp of 200F +/- 25F the heat is just
pouring out of the stove. Nice blue flames all the time.
After about 10 hours of burn the bed of coal drops around
3" when shaken down. Fire brick is 7" tall and I mound the
This weekend I'm going to go and get some of the other
coal that I was talking about using and see what happens
now that its cold out.
Thanks for all the input, I'll let you guys know what happens.

User avatar
Posts: 7384
Joined: Sun. Nov. 20, 2005 8:02 pm
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 Mon. Dec. 04, 2006 7:50 pm

Blue, you mentioned adding a section to the chimney. With your house's 'L' trapping chimney exhaust, raising the stack may help get more of it away from the house.

If I have the picture right, with the chimney on the east end of the house, and the "L' facing east, if you have a wind from the east, either NE or SE, your exhaust could be trapped in the 'L'. Unfortunately, when the wind is from the east, this preceedes a low pressure center for your area. When the air pressure is low, the air sinks, and is stagnant. I can see this from watching the exhaust from my chimney as well as haveing been taught this..

I would try to seal up the windows in the inside of the 'L' as much as possible. The 3M mylar window film works pretty good for me in my old house.
Also if you provide an outside air source to the base of the stove, you will eliminate a lot of the draft on the rest of the house, and reduce the infiltration into the house of the potentially smelly chimney exhaust. an outside air source can be as simple as a 2" diameter PVC pipe going outdoors.

I'm glad you are trying a different coal. I notice that the anthracite coal I have this year doesn't burn down to a fine powder like the coal I had last year. It's more of a crunchy crust. I have to work the shaker grate pretty hard to get the ash to drop into the pan. I think every mine and even different veins of coal in a single mine are different.

Take care, I'm sure you will work it out.

Greg L


Posts: 151
Joined: Wed. Mar. 01, 2006 7:23 pm
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Mark III
Coal Size/Type: Stove, Nut / Anthracite
Location: Farmington, New Hampshire

Post Sat. Dec. 09, 2006 10:37 am

I own a Mark III and have had excellent luck with mine. I have the same issues you have with a smell outside because I get wicked down drafts outside that sometimes forces exhaust into the driveway area but it does dissipate quickly. This batch of coal,(anthracite) has more of a sulfur smell than the last batch. But over all I have no problems burning it. I have experimented with pea, nut, and the next size up, I can't remember if it is range or stove, but anyways I found that pea is too small for my liking and I end up shaking too much down through the grates. I have a 200 year old farm house with the stove in the cellar and I keep the clean out door draft set at 2 to 3 turns depending on the temps outside. Good Luck.

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