Ideas for Furnace Safety?

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farok
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Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Leisure Line Pioneer top vent
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Post Fri. Aug. 01, 2008 8:31 pm

I have been reading the forums on and off for about a year, and I have to say thanks for all the great discussion. I've learned a lot!

Last year was my first year burning coal. I have a Yukon Eagle multi-fuel furnace, and with the exception of when I was out for a week, I didn't burn any oil last season. Made a huge difference on my heating bill, and the house is much warmer! However, I ran into an interesting problem. One evening the power went out and my furnace overheated to the point where the air filter started to melt. Power then came back on, and eventually the furnace cooled down. The windows were open for about an hour airing the house out, and the smell still stuck around for about a week! Yuk - melted plastic. Anyway, I found that shutting all the drafts will help prevent overheating to an extent, though with this furnace the coal burns hot enough that regardless the blower for the forced hot air system needs to run eventually to keep the furnace cool.

I'm curious what people have as some suggestions to prevent something like this from happening again, or any other tips they would have. What I'm doing now is as follows, but I'm always looking to be safer with this! I burn heavy at night when I'm home and can catch a problem when it's hottest. When I leave for the day all the drafts are closed so as to slow the burn. I also set up an inverter and a battery bank that will power the blower motor in the event of a power failure. Don't worry - the batteries are nowhere near the furnace! I also keep sand around to smother an out-of-control fire.

If it helps, here is my heating routine. In the evening, I remove ashes, put in some match-light charcoal, and start the coal fire. Once going I add in enough to fill the firebox about 5-6 inches full (40-50 pounds) with nut coal, which is about as thick as it can get without coming out the door or covering up the pin for the shaker grate. After an hour or so it's all going nicely and I shut the drafts down most of the way. It surprisingly burns nicely for anywhere from about 12 to 20 hours depending on draft setting (I shake the grates usually once in the AM) and throws heat for several hours more, usually (I guess due to the firebrick). The house holds heat well enough that even on the cold days, when I get home from work the temp in the house is usually around 65, but never below 60. I then repeat the routine.

CapeCoaler
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Post Fri. Aug. 01, 2008 10:30 pm

You need to reload that stove with coal after 12 hours to avoid restarting the stove everyday!

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Adamiscold
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Post Sat. Aug. 02, 2008 7:30 am

Like cape said you need to save yourself a lot of extra work by just keeping the fire going for the whole season, no reason to have to play with your stove every day other then to shake the grates and empty the ashes. You already have a battery back up so that shouldn't be an issue any more.

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Devil505
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Post Sat. Aug. 02, 2008 7:54 am

Absolutely agreed about keeping it running for the whole winter. I would never go through the work if I had to relight my stove every day! You'll find that by doing this you'll spend maybe 15 minutes per day, tending your stove/furnace.


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DavidL
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Post Sun. Aug. 03, 2008 10:40 am

farok wrote:I have been reading the forums on and off for about a year, and I have to say thanks for all the great discussion. I've learned a lot!

Last year was my first year burning coal. I have a Yukon Eagle multi-fuel furnace, and with the exception of when I was out for a week, I didn't burn any oil last season. Made a huge difference on my heating bill, and the house is much warmer! However, I ran into an interesting problem. One evening the power went out and my furnace overheated to the point where the air filter started to melt. Power then came back on, and eventually the furnace cooled down. The windows were open for about an hour airing the house out, and the smell still stuck around for about a week! Yuk - melted plastic. Anyway, I found that shutting all the drafts will help prevent overheating to an extent, though with this furnace the coal burns hot enough that regardless the blower for the forced hot air system needs to run eventually to keep the furnace cool.

I'm curious what people have as some suggestions to prevent something like this from happening again, or any other tips they would have. What I'm doing now is as follows, but I'm always looking to be safer with this! I burn heavy at night when I'm home and can catch a problem when it's hottest. When I leave for the day all the drafts are closed so as to slow the burn. I also set up an inverter and a battery bank that will power the blower motor in the event of a power failure. Don't worry - the batteries are nowhere near the furnace! I also keep sand around to smother an out-of-control fire.

If it helps, here is my heating routine. In the evening, I remove ashes, put in some match-light charcoal, and start the coal fire. Once going I add in enough to fill the firebox about 5-6 inches full (40-50 pounds) with nut coal, which is about as thick as it can get without coming out the door or covering up the pin for the shaker grate. After an hour or so it's all going nicely and I shut the drafts down most of the way. It surprisingly burns nicely for anywhere from about 12 to 20 hours depending on draft setting (I shake the grates usually once in the AM) and throws heat for several hours more, usually (I guess due to the firebrick). The house holds heat well enough that even on the cold days, when I get home from work the temp in the house is usually around 65, but never below 60. I then repeat the routine.
If you don't mind me asking, how do you have the batteries setup? Are the batteries constantly being recharged and the furnace blower always drawing current from the batteries; like a car?

CapeCoaler
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Post Sun. Aug. 03, 2008 10:57 am

http://www.tripplite.com/EN/products/product-seri ... =314&CID=1
Use your own batteries. The run time is based on the storage capacity you have.

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LsFarm
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Post Sun. Aug. 03, 2008 11:29 am

I'm not sure this Yukon Eagle has a shaker grate. Not all of their models do, if not, then allowing the coal fire to burn out is the only way to actually clean the grate.. a wood grate is fixed and won't grind up or shake the ashes down into an ash pan... Wood ashes will fall through when they are fully burnt.

Greg L

.

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farok
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Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Leisure Line Pioneer top vent
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Location: Milford, NJ

Post Sun. Aug. 03, 2008 8:48 pm

Thanks for the responses so far!

I was going to post a separate post about how to best burn the coal, because while I don't mind the work, it seemed like a lot to deal with. What I've noticed is that if I'm adding coal every 12 hours, i.e. when the coal in there is burning hot, but close to the end of the burn, I have a real hard time getting the fresh coal to start. I experimented a bit and while I can always get some of the coal going, I never seem to be able to get it all going. A pocket goes out and that pocket will never relight, it seems. Is it possible I'm not getting enough oxygen in? What I did learn is to not poke the coal, as that will put it out very quickly, I suppose because nut coal is so large. BTW - the furnace does have shaker grates. When I shake, I typically shake until just a few small red specs start to fall. Should I shake more -- i.e. until larger coals that are still burning start to fall?

Back to the original question, I suppose that with proper maintenance of the motor and blower and all related parts, and with the inverter backup, there's nothing else to really do to be more careful with this setup?

Specifically to DavidL's question, CapeCoaler gave a good link. That's not specifically the inverter that I have, but the same premise. I have a bank of 4 large AGM batteries in parallel that will give a good 12 hours or so runtime on the motor should a major problem occur -- more than enough time to drop the fire if I had to. My inverter doesn't have a built-in charger, and so I have a separate charger that does a smart charge and maintains a top-off charge when the batteries are full to maximize battery life and performance. The way my setup is, the inverter just passes "shore" power, as it's called, when it exists. If I lose power, it switches right over to the batteries (which otherwise are sitting idle and ready).

Chris


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coaledsweat
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Post Mon. Aug. 04, 2008 8:31 am

You need to rev the fire up prior to shaking it. Get a thermometer for your stack and get the temp up about 100-150* higher than the idle temperature before you shake. Open the ash door and drawer, feed the fire plenty of air to get it burning hot for a few minutes to accomplish this. IIRC you have a long, narrow firebox in a V shape, you probably need to bank the coal when reloading it with a fresh charge. Just shaking it and refilling may be smothering it. Also check the grate for blockage by ash, clinkers, etc. These things can be picked out from below with an L shaped pick.

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Devil505
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Post Mon. Aug. 04, 2008 8:38 am

farok wrote:I have a real hard time getting the fresh coal to start. I experimented a bit and while I can always get some of the coal going, I never seem to be able to get it all going.
Sounds to me like you are trying to rush things. You can easily get a coal fire to run all winter without ever shutting down intentionally, with good coal. I suggest you read a few threads on shaking a fire down. Most of the time, if you just have patience & let the fire do the work, it's easy. If you try to rush things, you will almost always kill the fire.

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farok
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Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Leisure Line Pioneer top vent
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Post Mon. Aug. 04, 2008 4:26 pm

Thanks again for the insights. I'll do some searches for shaking a fire and see what I get. Thankfully my firebox is not V-shaped. It's a flat rectangle.

Chris

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