Sulfur Smell in House

A Coal stoker furnace or stove controls most operations including automatically feeding the coal. They are quite similar to any conventional oil and gas units and easily operated for extended periods of time. They commonly use rice coal but may use larger sizes like buckwheat. They can be used as primary heat, supplementary heat or have a dual set up with your existing oil/gas furnace.
pconn171
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Stove/Furnace Make: Reading
Stove/Furnace Model: Susquehanna
Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Post Sun. Dec. 12, 2010 9:26 pm

I am running a reading furnace with 2 stokers. This is my 3rd season running it and for some reason this year, I've been smelling sulfur really strong throughout the house. I've done some reading on here and leaned towards the gaskets for a couple of reasons. The first being that when I smell it, I have been shutting down the one stoker and it goes away. I also felt that I was seeing some smoke coming from the hopper for time to time, but I'm not 100% sure of that just yet. It's a pain to run one stoker because I think that it not only runs less efficiently, but the coal doesn't feed properly and usually burns out by the time I get home from work. Today, I re-gasketed the door and the grate on the stoker that seems to be the problem (including the one that runs along the backside of the grate under the coal feel). The smell is still there though. I have CO detectors and they aren't going off, but they don't have a read-out either to know what the actual levels are. My grate had some wear along the back edge where the carpet slides across. Any Ideas on what to do about this. I know the draft will be one of the first things that people point to, but I'll say that my baro doesn't open much at all, unless it's windy or extremely cold out (i.e. no room to "open" up the draft anymore). My chimney is about 30-35 feet tall, masonry with a clay liner. I've never had this smell in the previous seasons, even when the temps were in the 50's and the smell definitely goes away when I'm running only one stoker. Let me know your thoughts...

Pat


Bity454
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Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Alaska 140 dual paddle
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Leisureline pioneer
Coal Size/Type: Rice
Other Heating: Good looking wife : )
Location: Newbury Ohio

Post Sun. Dec. 12, 2010 9:46 pm

If anything like the alaska 140 dual stoker when both stokers are going the draft needs to be greater to overcome both the combustion blowers forcing air into the furnace.

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CoalHeat
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Stoker Coal Boiler: 1959 EFM 350
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Magnafire Mark I
Baseburners & Antiques: Sears Signal Oak 15 & Andes Kitchen Range
Coal Size/Type: Rice and Chestnut
Other Heating: Fisher Fireplace Insert
Location: Stillwater, New Jersey

Post Sun. Dec. 12, 2010 10:18 pm

Do you have any horizontal runs of smoke pipe? Have you cleaned them out? Fly ash loves to build up in horizontal pipe.
Heating a circa 1832 farmhouse with a Harman Magnafire Mark I & a 1959 EFM 350 (heating DHW).
100% Oil Free!
"It's what we learn after we think we know it all that counts."

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jeromemsn
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Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Keystoker 90 dvc
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman elite fireplace insert
Location: Edwardsburg, Mi. 49112

Post Mon. Dec. 13, 2010 1:30 am

Check and replace the batteries on the Co2 monitors just to be safe.

Did you make sure all the holes are open on the grates and that they are all sealed properly? Some on here use a furnace cement to make sure the grate is sealed up tight.

Make sure that the fins on the fans are clean. Any build up on them will hurt there performance drastically.

Wet coal can cause a smell as it dries in the hopper.

Make sure all the connections in the pipe have at least 3 screws.

Did you clean out the chimney this year? Make sure there were no birds nest and such?
The warmest people I know burn Coal! ©

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Tim
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Location: Grampian, PA

Post Mon. Dec. 13, 2010 5:06 am

restricted Chimney I would check first.

pconn171
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Posts: 83
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Stove/Furnace Make: Reading
Stove/Furnace Model: Susquehanna
Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Post Mon. Dec. 13, 2010 7:30 am

I haven't checked the chimney itself, but there's absolutely no smell when just the right stoker is running. I also haven't seen any smoke from the right stoker in the hopper. I do have a horizontal run and I did clean it at the start of the season. It's probably due in the next month or so for another cleaning, but the smell has been there from the start. I just assumed it wsa poor draft at the beginning of the year because the outside temps weren't that high and I usually just ran one stoker at those times. I haven't tried to just run the left stoker though, but in previous seasons, it was my main one and the right was used when the temps got colder. I used gasket cement on everything.

Does everyone else see wear on the leading edge of their stoker grates? I was concerned that maybe the wear is causing the gasket to not seal up properly. I also want to add that the smell seems to be much weaker this morning when compared to last night, but I'll know for sure when I walk in the door from work tonight. One other observation was that I seemed to have more fines under the grate than normal. Originally I thought it might be becasuse of the grate wear at the leading edge, but after re-assembling the unit, the gap seems to be completely covered by the carpet.

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coalkirk
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Stoker Coal Boiler: 1981 EFM DF520
Coal Size/Type: anthracite/rice coal
Location: Forest Hill MD

Post Mon. Dec. 13, 2010 7:48 am

I would shut it down and find the problem. Sulfur smell is flue gases that should have gone up the chimney. It's nothing to fool with. Switch to your furnace until it's fixed. I would also start with the chimney and vent pipe. All sorts of crazy things can happen. Birds, leaves, racoons, fly ash all can restrict your chimney. If it wasn't doing it at the end of last season, I doubt it has anything to do with grate wear. I am assuming you do not have a manometer installed because you haven't mentioned a draft reading. Get one ASAP. Also regarding CO detectors, they are only reliable for 5 years and then should be replaced. They also don't go off until the parts per million is pretty high. Yanche has posted extensivly on their performance and you should search and read his posts. You have a dangerous situation.
You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. Winston Churchill

"I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me." —General George S. Patton

Burning rice coal in a 1981 EFM DF520, nut coal in a hand fired Jotul 507.

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CoalHeat
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Joined: Sat. Feb. 10, 2007 9:48 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1959 EFM 350
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Magnafire Mark I
Baseburners & Antiques: Sears Signal Oak 15 & Andes Kitchen Range
Coal Size/Type: Rice and Chestnut
Other Heating: Fisher Fireplace Insert
Location: Stillwater, New Jersey

Post Mon. Dec. 13, 2010 8:05 am

Heating a circa 1832 farmhouse with a Harman Magnafire Mark I & a 1959 EFM 350 (heating DHW).
100% Oil Free!
"It's what we learn after we think we know it all that counts."


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blrman07
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Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Bucket a Day
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Vigilant Casting 2310
Coal Size/Type: Pea/Nut/Wood in the VC and anything that will fit in the Bucket a Day. It's not fussy.
Location: Girardville Pa.

Post Mon. Dec. 13, 2010 9:25 am

I agree. Leave the stinky stoker off until you establish a good draft. The sulfur smell is flue gas. NOT GOOD.

Start by letting the stove go out and pull the flue piping. Check it and clean it good. Check the chimney with a flashlight and mirror to ensure it is not clogged.
Put it all back ensuring it's sealed and screwed together tight. If all is good there use a stick of smoky incense and move it around the stove looking for where smoke is getting pulled into the stove at a gap, seam, joint etc. Seal any points where smoke is getting sucked in where it's not supposed to be

Do the same thing along the length of the smokepipe to ensure everything there is tight. If it was ok last year and stinks this year, something else changed.
Rev. Larry
Ashland Pa.

1 John 1:9... If we sin and we confess that sin He is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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CoalHeat
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Joined: Sat. Feb. 10, 2007 9:48 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1959 EFM 350
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Magnafire Mark I
Baseburners & Antiques: Sears Signal Oak 15 & Andes Kitchen Range
Coal Size/Type: Rice and Chestnut
Other Heating: Fisher Fireplace Insert
Location: Stillwater, New Jersey

Post Mon. Dec. 13, 2010 9:33 am

First get a CO detector with a digital display before you restart the stoker.

Also buy or borrow a manometer, you need to measure the draft between the appliance outlet and the baro damper. Stokers should be set at -.04" WC with everything up to temperature and a full fire burning.
Heating a circa 1832 farmhouse with a Harman Magnafire Mark I & a 1959 EFM 350 (heating DHW).
100% Oil Free!
"It's what we learn after we think we know it all that counts."

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jeromemsn
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Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Keystoker 90 dvc
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Location: Edwardsburg, Mi. 49112

Post Mon. Dec. 13, 2010 10:42 am

coalkirk wrote:I would shut it down and find the problem. Sulfur smell is flue gases that should have gone up the chimney. It's nothing to fool with. Switch to your furnace until it's fixed. I would also start with the chimney and vent pipe. All sorts of crazy things can happen. Birds, leaves, racoons, fly ash all can restrict your chimney. If it wasn't doing it at the end of last season, I doubt it has anything to do with grate wear. I am assuming you do not have a manometer installed because you haven't mentioned a draft reading. Get one ASAP. Also regarding CO detectors, they are only reliable for 5 years and then should be replaced. They also don't go off until the parts per million is pretty high. Yanche has posted extensivly on their performance and you should search and read his posts. You have a dangerous situation.
I like this very much!
I was afraid to go this far after I went this far in another post and well anyway.
The warmest people I know burn Coal! ©

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coalkirk
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Stoker Coal Boiler: 1981 EFM DF520
Coal Size/Type: anthracite/rice coal
Location: Forest Hill MD

Post Mon. Dec. 13, 2010 11:11 am

I understand your reluctance but I'd rather err on the side of being called an alarmist rather than find out we lost a member and his family. I've been critisized in the past for it but I don't really care. Who knows what the background of anyone on this forum is relative to knowledge of combustion byproducts and their potential danger? Opinions are like a$$holes...everybody has one. Some people will offer an opinion whether or not they know what the hell they are talking about or not and when reading a forum, it's hard to tell which those are. By the way, I'm not referring to anyone who has posted on this thread.
CO is a very serious thing. Just last night, 2 people in my general area were killed and 8 taken to a hyperbaric chamber at a local hospital from CO. This was from natural gas combustion. Fortunatley for us coal burners, the flue gases stink and give you a very clear warning something is wrong. Ignoring it is foolish. It requires immediate action. In this case it sure sounds like a poor draft problem.
I was at my wifes cousins house last weekend. I talked into buying a VF3k boiler a couple years ago. The minute I waked in the door you could smell sulfur. I jumped all over him about it. He said it only happens sometimes. I pulled his ash pan out and lifted the metal gullitine hatch that leads to his flue from the boiler. Sitting right there was a dead bird in a pile of fly ash. Wasn't completely blocked by a longshot but it sure wasn't helping his draft. We removed it and vacuumed out the flyash. Still a sulfur odor from his hopper. I asked him when was the last time he cleaned the chimney and he said right before firing it this fall. He has a metal chimney mounted on the side of his home. I went outside and at the mounting point at the bottom there is a T with a cleanout cap on the bottom. Well the cap was loose and hanging open about 1/2". That was allowing enough air in to really cause his draft to drop. We secured the cap and presto, no more sulfur odor. I told him to get a manometer but he is "frugal."
You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. Winston Churchill

"I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me." —General George S. Patton

Burning rice coal in a 1981 EFM DF520, nut coal in a hand fired Jotul 507.

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coal berner
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Stoker Coal Boiler: 1986 Electric Furnace Man 520 DF
Stove/Furnace Make: Electric Furnace Man
Stove/Furnace Model: DF520
Location: Pottsville PA. Schuylkill County PA. The Hart Of Anthracite Coal Country.

Post Mon. Dec. 13, 2010 1:42 pm

First lets keep this in mind There is a big Difference between the two One will kill you and one will not .
you can have one present with out the other or both can be present . Small Amounts of Sulphur dioxide will not kill you
only in large amounts over a long period of time Carbon Monoxide will kill you.
Your Co detector will not go off with Sulphur dioxide. Only Carbon Monoxide present so having a Sulphur smell does not
mean you have Carbon Monoxide present. If it is then the detector will show / go off .

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline powered equipment; automobile exhaust from attached garages; and tobacco smoke. Incomplete oxidation during combustion in gas ranges and unvented gas or kerosene heaters may cause high concentrations of CO in indoor air. Worn or poorly adjusted and maintained combustion devices (e.g., boilers, furnaces) can be significant sources, or if the flue is improperly sized, blocked, disconnected, or is leaking. Auto, truck, or bus exhaust from attached garages, nearby roads, or parking areas can also be a source

Health Effects Associated with Carbon Monoxide

At low concentrations, fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea. Can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving home. Fatal at very high concentrations. Acute effects are due to the formation of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood, which inhibits oxygen intake. At moderate concentrations, angina, impaired vision, and reduced brain function may result. At higher concentrations, CO exposure can be fatal

Levels in Homes

Average levels in homes without gas stoves vary from 0.5 to 5 parts per million (ppm). Levels near properly adjusted gas stoves are often 5 to 15 ppm and those near poorly adjusted stoves may be 30 ppm or higher

Steps to Reduce Exposure to Carbon Monoxide

It is most important to be sure combustion equipment is maintained and properly adjusted. Vehicular use should be carefully managed adjacent to buildings and in vocational programs. Additional ventilation can be used as a temporary measure when high levels of CO are expected for short periods of time.

Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
•Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one.
•Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.
•Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves.
•Open flues when fireplaces are in use.
•Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all wood stoves fit tightly.
•Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
•Do not idle the car inside garage

Standards or Guidelines

The OSHA standard for workers is no more than 50 ppm for 1 hour of exposure. NIOSH recommends no more than 35 ppm for 1 hour. The U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards for CO (established in 1985) are 9 ppm for 8 hours and 35 ppm for 1 hour. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends levels not to exceed 15 ppm for 1 hour or 25 ppm for 8 hours

Sulphur dioxide

Sulphur is found naturally in coal. It is composed primarily of carbon and hydrogen along with small quantities of other elements, notably sulfur, therefore, burning the coal will result in deposition of these elements and compounds in the burner. so its highly likely that the sulphurous smell is indeed coming from your coal burner

It is probably not a problem, provided the storage area has some ventilation. What you are smelling is sulphur dioxide gas, formed from the decomposition of small amounts of pyrite in the coal. This is quite normal. The presence of pyrite varies significantly between coal derived from various sources, or even from within the same coal seam. Sulphur dioxide is toxic in large quantities, but if dilute or in a well ventilated area shouldn't be a problem

Lots of coal has some sulfur in them (true for some petroleum too). It should not be a health problem and it should not raise the chance of explosion either. But the smell is disgusting to most people and it will penetrate every thing you have, including you. You can make a point of buying cleaner coal if you are worried about it
J.C.

Heating house & water with a 1986 electric furnace man DF520 using buckwheat Anthracite coal

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coalkirk
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Stoker Coal Boiler: 1981 EFM DF520
Coal Size/Type: anthracite/rice coal
Location: Forest Hill MD

Post Mon. Dec. 13, 2010 3:38 pm

He said he has a strong sulfur smell throughout his home. The smell only comes from combustion, more specifically combustion gases. A strong odor of combustion gases throughout the home is never safe.
You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. Winston Churchill

"I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me." —General George S. Patton

Burning rice coal in a 1981 EFM DF520, nut coal in a hand fired Jotul 507.

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coal berner
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Posts: 3591
Joined: Tue. Jan. 09, 2007 12:44 am
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1986 Electric Furnace Man 520 DF
Stove/Furnace Make: Electric Furnace Man
Stove/Furnace Model: DF520
Location: Pottsville PA. Schuylkill County PA. The Hart Of Anthracite Coal Country.

Post Mon. Dec. 13, 2010 6:56 pm

coalkirk wrote:He said he has a strong sulfur smell throughout his home. The smell only comes from combustion, more specifically combustion gases. A strong odor of combustion gases throughout the home is never safe.
Not going to get in a pissing match with you But Like I said you can have sulphur smell in the house or outside
if the coal has a high sulphur content It does not mean that there is any CO coming out with it if there was the Co
detector would pick it up and would be reading or sounding off . Like ASH Content some coal is higher then others well the Sulphur in coal is the same some coal has high sulphur content and some coal does not. And when it is really high sulphur content you can smell it with out even burning it. It is in the coal and it sticks not as strong as when it burns but it still smells especially when it is wet in a big pile and starts to dry out when coal is like that it usually also has a very high ash content like 16% or higher and a very low BTU value per lb. I got some a several years ago up north and it stack just sitting in my front coal bin under the porch . Not the first time I had bad sticky coal seen it or should Say smelled it with other people over the years .

I would still watch the CO detector for CO but I would not worry about the sulphur smell
If it stick to much then I would go and get better coal and mix it in with what is left or shovel the crap out and start with
new good coal . Problem solved
J.C.

Heating house & water with a 1986 electric furnace man DF520 using buckwheat Anthracite coal


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