Thinking About Getting Into Coal

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Joined: Sun. Nov. 03, 2013 9:21 pm

Post Sun. Nov. 03, 2013 10:19 pm

I'm in the process of trying to buy a house. Right now I don't even know if they've selected my bid out of 12 others on a REO but I'm already approved by the bank for the purchase price, not just pre-approved.

One thing that concerned me was that the house has propane heat through central air. There is no tank there currently but it has a 96% efficient furnace. It is 1700 sq ft including partially finished basement and first floor. Upstairs is 1000 sq ft with a fairly open floor plan, downstairs 700 sq ft also open. The living room, dining room, and kitchen are all open with a hallway to a bathroom and three bedrooms.

Although the insulation looks good and it has newer windows I still don't want to pay the propane man my lifeblood if I win the house.

I've looked at a few different scenarios, all involve keeping the current furnace just in case (buy a used 500 gallon tank and fill it half way).

Location: Eaton County, MI
Electricity - $0.084/kWh
Propane- >$2.00/gallon
wood pellets - $189 per 2000lb at Menards
coal - ??? I've seen some of you post in previous years topics $285-375

This puts to fuel comparison calculator per million BTU
Electricity- $24.62
If using HP @ 35 degrees-< $8.21 (Goodman listed at 333% efficiency at 35 degrees 46.9MBh, calculator can only go to 300%, efficiency and MBh goes up at higher temps)
Propane - $31.07
Wood Pellets - $16.36
Coal - $14.84-$19.53

Replacing air conditioner with heat pump after the worst of winter seems like a no brainer but I'm thinking to install one by the time I close and get moved in wont do much good. They're ~$1000 and I'm guessing $500 to install.

So then for main source of heat will it be wood pellets or coal with propane for backup/emergency?

I can't pick up tons of anything myself, it would have to be delivered because I only have a coupe and a small hatchback.

I have storage space in garage and basement for either. Coal I could also store in an outside shed, but wood pellets I would think can't due to moisture unless they're bagged. Most people use 2-3 tons of wood pellets a year so I'd imagine 2 tons of coal would be sufficient. It would be a chore to store 3 tons of wood pellets at a time.

If I went with coal I would go with a leisureline lil heater or independence.
I've seen them new for ~$2500. I would put it in my basement up against the furnace room wall and vent to chimney and output heat to central air. About the same deal for wood pellets just not sure which stove would be good. I like to be able to see the fire and don't want to go over $2500. A battery with inverter would provide backup power and a float charger to make sure it's not dead when I need it.

as I understand it coal will keep the house feeling much nicer. The biggest problem with coal is finding a supplier with consistent economical pricing. The second problem is what to do with the ashes? They've got heavy metals and other stuff in them so I don't want them on the property with well and septic system. Does Granger pick it up?

In the event there is no cheap coal, anyone recommend a pellet stove brand/model? I like the ability to be thermostat controlled if possible, must be able to hook up to central air, I'd like to be able to leave it unattended for 24 hours if I leave for a day.

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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 Mon. Nov. 04, 2013 3:46 am

JJ1989 wrote: Most people use 2-3 tons of wood pellets a year so I'd imagine 2 tons of coal would be sufficient. It would be a chore to store 3 tons of wood pellets at a time.
Anyone using only 2 or 3 tons of pellets in a house that size is only supplementing their heat, they might be doing 50%. With a house that size you might get by with 3 tons of coal if you have 2X6 walls. Otherwise you can plan on 4 or possibly 5.
They've got heavy metals and other stuff in them so I don't want them on the property with well and septic system. Does Granger pick it up?
I wouldn't get worked up over it, there is trace elements of heavy metals in the dirt in your back yard. It's going to be higher for coal but is it a concern? That's decision you'll need to make.

Here is a good topic on it: Ash Disposal?
"The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."

- Albert Einstein

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Posts: 219
Joined: Sat. Jan. 07, 2012 9:14 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: EFM DF520
Coal Size/Type: Anthra Rice
Other Heating: 3 Fireplaces
Location: Lanc Co PA

Post Mon. Nov. 04, 2013 9:58 am

Ill start off by saying ash disposal should be on your list of ideas to work out.
2-5 tons will still be a problem, but not as much as 10-12 tons for myself.
You should be able to toss away with your trash (if you buy bagged, you can used the empty's for cooled ash)
I do not have the dirt/stone driveway to dump or the yardage.
I luckily found someone to take it away for a fee.

Make sure to calculate or savings over time.
I spent a nice shiny penny for a new boiler, but for me (and most) it will only take less than 5 years for payback.
If a Heat Pump works in your favor with that little cost, that sounds good.
Electric in my area is double at 14 cents.

If you have the space/yardage you could also look into a TT load for savings.
I would do it (at least make it work somehow) but it wouldnt mean savings for me in SEPA

If wanting to offset elec/propane with coal, a hand fired may work.
If you find a way to get cheap coal, a stoker furnace could even work.

The options are there and as long as you get feedback and think it through,
the right thing will fall into your lap.

I just bought some tri fuel generators and a propane big buddy for emergency
along with a 100lb and five 20lb LP tanks. Backup, but for a reason.
I was buying LP for $2.50 gal and just found a supply for $1.50 gal, so makes it cheaper
even though I was fine with the other price....things just happen to happen.

Keep thinking and figure out what is best.
Others will chime in and help you out.

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Joined: Sun. Nov. 03, 2013 9:21 pm

Post Mon. Nov. 04, 2013 11:52 am

Ok so I've found a local supply of coal in the same city no less.

At $365 a skid it's second in cost only to a heat pump but I don't think the COP listed on the heat pump handout include running the de-icers on the fan coil and once it gets well below freezing it wont output enough BTUs anyway.

As I'm typing this I just found out from my realtor 20k over asking price didn't win the house but if I get something else rural and comparable you'll be hearing more from me shortly.

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Posts: 334
Joined: Mon. Feb. 21, 2011 8:35 am
Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Yukon-Eagle Klondike IV
Other Heating: Propane
Location: Escanaba, MI

Post Tue. Nov. 12, 2013 6:24 am

Smart idea thinking about getting into coal. When we bought our 2500sqft ranch house in the U.P. it came with propane heat. I wasn't going to become slave to propane, so I had a Yukon-Eagle Klondike IV hand-fired forced air furnace installed that burns both coal and wood. What I have found is that if you put propane at the top of the list, coal is about half as much in cost compared to propane, and wood is half as much again as compared to coal. So my set up is now coal(primary), wood(secondary), propane(tertiary). We're now beginning our third season with the coal/wood furnace and absolutely love it. The furnace and installation will pay for itself in about six years, so we're halfway there. I had a wood pellet stove insert at our previous home in Livingston County to supplement the natural gas furnace. Wood pellets are relatively convenient, but when it comes to cranking out BTUs for heat, there's just no comparison to coal. Plus, you have to keep the wood pellets out of the elements. Coal doesn't care much where you store it, inside or out. If you have a local dealer who will deliver for $365 a skid (60 x 40lb bags @ 2400lbs) that's a good price.

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