Add coal or stay with electric/propane for basement

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EricS
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Post by EricS » Fri. Dec. 01, 2023 6:02 pm

I recently purchased a house in Mountain Top, PA (NEPA). The basement is finished (at least 1,000 sq/ft) and has a high efficiency (90%) electric heat pump/propane furnace (Trane XE90), which is old (1997) and all ductwork solely for the basement, etc.. . I haven't turned the heat on in the basement, yet, and so far the temps range from between 50-60 (we have no furniture down there, yet, so we don't go down there much). The basement also has a supplemental propane fireplace, which I recently had cleaned and inspected (I believe vented). I don't have too much info on the unit but it seems to be located below the wood Madona fireplace on the first floor.

I'm considering installing a coal stove for the basement, but I do not know too much about it (actually, I know nothing about it). Looking for some insight from the experts on (1) whether I would see a cost saving with coal (compared to using electric/propane to heat the basement) and (2) recommendations on the type of system, manufacturer, models, etc..

The basement has been humid this summer (we moved into the house in June) as we are near Nuangola/Laurel lakes, and I've been running a humidfier, so I thought as an added benefit, a coal stove would really dry it out during the winter months in the basement. I've been in other people's houses with coal stoves (not sure what kind), and it was way too hot (i.e., seems they can't control the temp and it is in the 80s all the time and they even open windows). Trying to avoid that if possible (perhaps wrong size stove, not sure).

I don't have a backup generator, yet. I plan to look into options to provide power in the event of a power outage. Not sure if coal stoves need electricity.

I'm in my late 30s, so don't mind the work associated with coal fuel if there is a cost savings.

I own a 500g propane tank, and I purchased for $2 per gallon last month. My electric supplier rate for the year is .086 /kWh. and delivery rate is .05.

In any event, just looking for general insight/advice (i.e., stick with the electric/propane system that is installed, go with a coal stove, and if the latter, what kind, type, model, etc.). Thanks!
Last edited by Richard S. on Fri. Dec. 01, 2023 6:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Moved to Coal News & General Coal Discussions

 
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Richard S.
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Post by Richard S. » Fri. Dec. 01, 2023 6:31 pm

There is calculator here that can give you a rough cost comparison.

https://coalpail.com/fuel-comparison-calculator-home-heating

The first question is do you have a chimney, preferably clay lined.
I don't have a backup generator, yet. I plan to look into options to provide power in the event of a power outage. Not sure if coal stoves need electricity.
There is two main types of coal stoves. Hand feds and stokers.

Hand feds are as name implies, you manually load the coal and control it with manually adjusted air settings . Some hand feds use power for heat distribution fans but they don't require it to operate. If you lose power you just won't be able to move the heat around as well.

Stokers on the the other hand are thermostatically controlled and fully automatic. Put coal in the hopper and take the ashes out of the other end. These require power and if you lose power they will not operate. If you are familiar with pellet stoves it's almost the same thing but with coal.

 
EricS
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Post by EricS » Fri. Dec. 01, 2023 9:50 pm

Thanks for the link to the calculator!

I do have a chimney (not sure if clay lined), but I would not be using it because a gas fireplace is installed in in what I believe to be the bottom of the chimney and a wood fireplace on the 1st floor. I have a walkout basement, and in the corner where the doors are located, I believe I can go through the foundation wall fairly easily. Thanks, again.


 
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Post by lincolnmania » Fri. Dec. 01, 2023 10:27 pm

If I had to do it all over again I would skip the stove and install a boiler.
You can use a water to air heat exchanger in the forced air furnace plenum. The boiler will also heat your domestic water.
My boiler currently heats the house and the garage and the domestic water and it uses just a little more coal than the Reading coal stove was burning. With the stove in my house it was 62 up on the second floor and 80 in the basement and 65 in the kitchen. 65 is no good in the kitchen, I like spreadable butter lol

 
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Post by waytomany?s » Sat. Dec. 02, 2023 10:13 am

lincolnmania wrote:
Fri. Dec. 01, 2023 10:27 pm
If I had to do it all over again I would skip the stove and install a boiler.
You can use a water to air heat exchanger in the forced air furnace plenum. The boiler will also heat your domestic water.
My boiler currently heats the house and the garage and the domestic water and it uses just a little more coal than the Reading coal stove was burning. With the stove in my house it was 62 up on the second floor and 80 in the basement and 65 in the kitchen. 65 is no good in the kitchen, I like spreadable butter lol
What is it that Mtnbugy says? Frost forms at 75°?

 
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Post by Richard S. » Sat. Dec. 02, 2023 11:23 am

EricS wrote:
Fri. Dec. 01, 2023 9:50 pm
I do have a chimney (not sure if clay lined), but I would not be using it because a gas fireplace is installed in in what I believe to be the bottom of the chimney and a wood fireplace on the 1st floor.
You may have two flues, look at the top of the chimney and see if there is two flues exiting it. Typically you don't attach two heat sources to one flue. People do it all the time but you aren't supposed to, especially when one of them is wood. That can be a hazard if they are not separate. What can happen if you have a creosote chimney fire the gas fireplace can provide a source of air. There is also potential issues with gases backing up into one or the other.

If you have two flues one option you have is replacing the gas fireplace insert with a coal insert avoiding the cost of a new chimney. The coal insert is typically going to have much higher BTU output than the gas fireplace, it might be double or even triple. Hitzer makes some nice inserts, one is 80K BTU and the other is 100K.

Both have electric blowers on them to circulate heat into the room but not required for operation.

https://hitzer.com/our-products/stoves-furnaces


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If you are going to go through the expense of building a chimney your options are wide open and you may want to consider more than supplemental heating.. You can for example integrate into existing duct work heating both the basement and the rest of the house. The coal can provide a non stop source of heat and the propane can pick up the slack. One of the "problems" with coal is there is so many options.

The other thing you need to consider is where you are going to store the coal. You can get bulk delivery in Mountaintop and relative to the cost of bagged it's significant difference. Generally speaking for convenience delivery into a basement bin with the bin being right near your coal stove. You need a basement window a truck can get near or some other access so it can be chuted right into the bin. Ideally you want to try and isolate the bin to mitigate dust issues. If this is an older house it most certainly would of had coal in the past and you may already have a metal access door from the old coal bin or a access point that was blocked off.


 
EricS
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Post by EricS » Sun. Dec. 03, 2023 11:31 am

Thanks for the comments!

The house was built in 1989/1990 time frame, so relatively new. The entire basement is finished with the exception of a utility room that is filled with HVAC/water heater, etc (not accessible from the street or driveway). There is a window near the gas fireplace in the basement, which is right next to my driveway, so it may be an option to replace the gas fireplace with a coal insert and bring the coal delivery in through that window into a coal bin. There are two separate flues (it is a larger chimey). I would probably need to frame off the coal bin to separate it from the rest of the basement, otherwise, I suspect dust would get all over everything when I received a delivery.

Thanks, again, for the thoughts/ideas.

 
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Richard S.
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Post by Richard S. » Sun. Dec. 03, 2023 12:11 pm

EricS wrote:
Sun. Dec. 03, 2023 11:31 am
I would probably need to frame off the coal bin to separate it from the rest of the basement, otherwise, I suspect dust would get all over everything when I received a delivery.
The guy delivering the coal wants longer, not wider, relative to the window. Most people with stoves that size burn about 3 ton per year. You need about 40 cubic per ton, make it big enough for at least 4 ton or even 5.

The dust is not necessarily an issue during delivery because it's damp, keep that in mind because a small amount of water is to be expected on the floor. The dust becomes an issue from daily usage because it dries out. You can always use a garden sprayer to lightly dampen the coal you are going to use. The water has little effect on burning it, the only really issue is possible corrosion in hoppers.

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