People Think I'm Crazy to Switch to Coal

This forum is for common products and questions such as chimney installations, CO detectors, coal bin designs and a variety of other general topics that do not fit into the other forums.
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Hand Fed Coal Stove: Glenwood Base Heater, Crawford Base Heater
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Location: High In The Poconos

Post Fri. Aug. 22, 2008 5:20 pm

scottf wrote:My father tells me Im crazy for wanting to burn coal. He says as a youth he had to load the old coal boiler and clean the ashes every day and it was a dirty dusty chore with lots of work. This was back in the 40's . I think it is very different now but he doesnt understand how. He also complains of having to deal with the clinkers. My question is do we still have to deal with clinkers with the coal we burn today. Will this be an issue in my hand fired antique stove?
Clinkers form when the coal is heated to extreme temperatures. Clinkers are formed from the other trace minerals that exist in the coal get hot enough to melt and fuse into a mass. I have had to deal with some pretty big ones while working on steam locomotives.

BUT, you don't have worry about them with an appliance that operates with a natural draft. It is highly unlikely that your fire bed will get that hot. I have never had a clinker in a stove with a natural draft. Stoves and furnaces with forced drafts run a greater chance of bumping the fire bed temperature up to the fusing point in the coal. Any reputable coal dealer will give you the specs for what they sell. This information contains the BTU's produced per pound, ash content, sulfur content and the fusion temperature at which clinkers will form.

And last of all AND MOST IMPORTANT--form your own opinions about coal and it's nature. You already bought one of the best stoves ever made so you are ahead of the game. Learn and experiment and enjoy your new found interest. Don't let any one else's bad opinion rain on your parade.

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Post Sat. Aug. 23, 2008 11:26 am

You can get clinkers with a hand fired but as others have said it is due to bad/poor technique on behalf of the operator.
Like when you get distracted and you have left the ash door open to perk up the fire!
I think some people mistake jams from non burnables and jams from clinkers.
With the Mark II I can work the grate and crush any clinker to the point that it will pass.
Not so with non burnables!
I am not an engineer, train or otherwise!
I stay at a Holiday Inn at least once a year!
Most of all I do have common sense and a practical application of logic.
Oh, add humor, on the dry side, along with a wee bit 'o sarcasm.

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Richard S.
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Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite
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Post Sat. Aug. 23, 2008 11:33 am

Could be the coal as well, some red ash has tendency to produce clinkers.
"The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."

- Albert Einstein

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Stove/Furnace Make: Harmon
Stove/Furnace Model: SF1500-A
Location: Amity Pa 15311

Post Fri. Aug. 29, 2008 5:39 pm


I could not be happier with my decision to switch anthracite... I had a wood furnance connected to the blower of my oil furnance contolled by a thermostat, I now have a Harman sf1500 central air furnance that was installed last Jan 2008 in replacement of the wood furnance. True the cost of coal is more than free wood. But also taking into consideration the cutting and dragging logs back to the woodpile...I count my freeded up time as worth something no longer do I have a month long project of getting and splitting wood (more time for fishing and early season archery)
My Harman is much more efficent in converting fire heat to house heat plus I only have to tend to it 2 or 3 times a day and no more getting up at night to put wood in and no wood mess. I use the coal ashes to fix holes in along side of the driveway.

I too heard the same stuff from people what a mess you must have. All them of think of bit. coal furnaces from 1950. I also hear isnt your house cold? (I am located south of Washington Pa and none of the "know it alls" have ever heard of anthracite coal) Well no it is not cold, the house is insulated and has semi- modern double windows during a cold snap in western pa last feb. when we had temps of around 10 degrees for serval days the house stayed at 71 degrees basement area even warmer. I burned about 60 to 65 pounds per day during this period.

I moved by wood furnance to my office basement a seperate small house... with best intentions of using here but I think I will purchase a hand feed stove for the office. Being born and rasied in Tamaqua Pa I am gald to see anthracite making a comeback in home heating. (price?)

The other that I like I can burn wood in the Harman when we get the couple of cold nights in early spring and fall although I do have add wood every 2 to 3 hrs depending on temp.

Love not having to buy heating oil!

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Other Heating: Oil fired Burnham boiler
Location: West-Central Mass

Post Fri. Aug. 29, 2008 8:20 pm

wsherrick wrote:I have had to deal with some pretty big ones while working on steam locomotives
Like this one?
Killerclinker .jpg
Found this about 20 years ago on the old Boston-Albany rail line.
The laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are
neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. ...Such laws make things worse
for the assaulted and better for the assailants, they serve rather to
encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with
greater confidence than an armed man."

- Thomas Jefferson, quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria in "On
Crimes and Punishment."

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Post Sat. Aug. 30, 2008 8:03 am

Just tell skeptics if they do the math they are crazy for not switching :roll:

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Post Sat. Aug. 30, 2008 8:24 am

That's the bottom line Tim, please excuse the pun. When I bought my boiler, I was looking at about a 4 year return on investment. now it's about 1 year. It's a no brainer.
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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Post Mon. Oct. 20, 2008 9:17 am

Anyone who says you are crazy to switch to coal obviously is mentally challenged or just plain narrow minded. The facts about coal are that it is certainly the least expensive way to heat, gives off more heat (per unit measure) than any other material and compared to wood or wood pellets is cleaner and less work. So who's crazy now ????

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Post Tue. Oct. 28, 2008 12:30 pm

I don't know about your area but I live in central new york and there are people here that didn't buy pellets in august and are still waiting for the truck to arrive.If I want coal I just go buy it for $220 a ton and bag it myself. I can't wait to see what they do pay in december for pellets if they can get them at all

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Post Tue. Oct. 28, 2008 2:28 pm

I have a pellet stove and I am low on pellets
So I mixed some pea coal in the hopper it burns fine

Please don't do this it may be dangerous!!!

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Stove/Furnace Model: Econo

Post Wed. Oct. 29, 2008 12:45 pm

Two years ago, I looked at all my options. Fuel oil prices were on the rise and our furnace was on the decline. Something had to be done.

My wife and I looked around at pellet stoves, wood stoves and furnace replacement. Frankly, we couldn't afford a new furnace and fuel oil for it and we really liked the idea of a stove in the corner of our main floor. We figured that we had a small house so either a wood stove or pellet stove would take enough of a strain off the furnace to keep it alive longer. After talking with a bunch of friends, I was pretty much sold on pellets. Wood was a lot of work and we're away from home for a good 10 hours a day. I didn't want to have to bank a fire, leave and pray it would still be there when we got back. Pellets seemed ideal.

Then I found this site. Not only was I able to get a coal stove for much less money, the initial math showed that I'd pay it off in 3 years if it could at least cut our fuel oil bill in half. Being on a budget, and still looking at the coal stove to be a supplemental heat source, I ended up purchasing a Leisure Line Econo with a Power Vent and Coaltrol. Heck -- the dealer even threw in 500lbs of bagged coal. After a week, we turned off our oil burning furnace and it's been off since.

Not only did the small stove heat our whole house, it did it for under $500 the first winter (2006-2007). Last winter (2007-2008), we started the stove later and shut it off earlier in the season. Not to mention the outside temps were higher. We burned 3000 lbs of coal for a total under $330. I can't complain. Let's just say that the $1500 stove paid itself back in the first year. Plus, we just put new windows in the upstairs of our house so I'm expecting even better performance.

So no -- coal may not be the popular thing. It may not be common. But it's definitely cheap and the prices haven't really changed over the last two years. The same cannot be said for pellets....
Binghamton Area, Upstate New York

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Post Fri. Oct. 31, 2008 8:49 am

When I bought my house, it came with a Harman stoker stove in the basement. A lot of people told me to take it out. My father, who had burned bit in his younger days - offered to pay for a furnace and its installation. Oil was still cheap at the time. I declined and ran the stove. After making the usual newbie mistakes - including one that was nearly fatal - I got the hang of it. My dad came over one cold Saturday to watch a football game. I showed him the stove and how it ran. He commented on the lack of smell, the lack of black dust, the low amount of ash and dirt floating around and coating everything, and the fact that it was so warm in the house.

He then plopped into a Laz-Y-Boy near the stove, propped up his feet, watched five minutes of the game, and promptly fell asleep. Five years later as he is lamenting the cost of natural gas in his home, I am burning merrily away. I think that the best way to argue with the naysayers is to let them see it and feel it.
The best weapon and tool one can ever possess is patience.

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Post Sat. Nov. 01, 2008 2:51 pm

Blackdiamonddoug wrote:I have a pellet stove and I am low on pellets
So I mixed some pea coal in the hopper it burns fine

Please don't do this it may be dangerous!!!
I have a pellet stove too and thought of mixing in coal. What percent was coal and how well did it work?


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Post Thu. Nov. 06, 2008 9:58 am

Switched to coal and with my first year savings (oil) bought a nice relaxing 3 person my house is warm and toasty, and what a sweet enjoyable time relaxing in my sauna paid for with dollars that would have gone to middle east terrorists.

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Post Thu. Nov. 06, 2008 8:37 pm

Hollyfield, your not crazy at all. There is a simple but satsisifying thing that goes with providing heat in the winter months for your family. Some choose to pay out the nose for fuel oil or gas of some type but the real provider is willing to invest a little time and effort in the persuit of keeping the wife and kids warm. Oh hell its just fun to play with the darn coal. My friend you are as crazy as the rest of us :D :D :D
If you can keep your head while those around you are losing theirs, you may have misjudged the situation.

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