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Plowpoint
10-04-2012, 09:28 AM
I was just curious if anyone else burns coal?

I actually prefer coal of all the fuels I can possibly use in my little pot bellied stove; wood, coal, corn or pellets.

Wood is handy because I have hundreds of acres of it, but it does not burn as hot, is kind of a pain because it burns best in this stove when it is cut up fairly small, has to be dry and kept dry, tends to put heat up the chimney and of course is a huge safety issue with its creosote build up.

Pellets are half the cost of coal, but produce about 1/4 of the heat. There is not a creosote issue, but it is a pain to buy so many bags for the same amount of heat.

Corn is just plain expensive for the amount of heat you get out of it.

So I always seem to revert back to coal. It burns hot, it burns forever, very little heat goes up the chimney, and there is no safety issue with having a chimney fire. It is also cheap to buy, can be stored in a snow-bank then burned right in your stove, and makes very little mess in the house compared to wood.

I got hooked on burning coal when an out-of-state neighbor had a coal-only stove in his weekend trailer home and it scared him with the heat it put out. He asked if I wanted it, so I dragged the stove home, installed it and a week later had the Ice Storm of 1998 hit. We were without power for 14 days so the stove kept us warm and fed during that two week stretch. I got used to burning coal (it takes a bit to get used to) and then replaced that stove when it got bad, with my pot bellied stove. I have tried various other stoves since then, but always revert back to burning coal in my little pot bellied stove.

In Maine burning coal is not very popular, but a few people do burn it and as such, you can still buy coal with relative ease. It is cheaper than wood still, which is surprising (2 cords of wood equals a ton of coal, and yet coal is $200 a ton, while wood is $175 a cord).

I was just curious if anyone else burns coal.

chrisser
10-04-2012, 12:06 PM
I've wondered about it.

Our place is in WV and presumably coal should be easy to obtain, but I've never seen it for sale.

It seems to have a lot of advantages, even if it wasn't your primary heat source.

Plus, unlike other fuels, it's probably less likely to be stolen since most people don't know what to do with it.

How's the smoke? We have neighbors up on a ridge above us. They haven't minded our small wood fires, but I think a coal fire might be a little odiferous.

The other advantage is the possibility of using it for metalworking - forging/casting/etc.

kfander
10-04-2012, 01:30 PM
Depending on conditions at the time, but if our oil boiler ever gives out in our house in Millinocket, we've decided to switch to either coal or wood. Right now, coal is not that expensive and I think you can walk away from it for longer at a time than you can wood. Our oil stove is very old and was, according to the oil people, discontinued when it was put installed many years ago, probably bought on sale. Whenever it needs servicing, they have trouble finding parts for it, so if it ever needs major repairs, we'll replace it instead, as oil is very expensive. Coal is a consideration, although wood has the advantage that we could get much of it from our property up north, although it's a three and a half hour drive from the house. On our northern property, the stove we'll be getting will burn either wood or coal. The property is in St. Agatha and there is a place right there in town that sells coal, so apparently others are using it there. I haven't yet looked into the availability of coal in Millinocket, although a friend of mine is burning it.

ktm rider
10-04-2012, 03:15 PM
I burn 95% coal and 5% wood. I have an AHS multi fuel boiler in my garage and it heats my home and garge great. I burn about 10 ton a yr. At $70 a ton you can't beat it. So, it cost me about $700 a yr. to heat my 3,500 sq ft. home that sits at 3,000ft and it is windy and cold as all get out. If I had to heat with gas or oil I would have to find a second job.

It does require a bit of work on your part but it saves a ton of money with little effort. I have to tend you fire once in the morning and once in the evening. I have to remove the ashes every other day. That is about all that is required.


There are differences in types of coal and i burn bitumious coal which is readily available in my area. It isn't as clean as anthracite coal but it is close, and it is much cheaper. Anthracite goes for about $220 a ton in my area.

Here is a good forum that will answer any question you want to ask about coal. http://nepacrossroads.com/

Plowpoint
10-05-2012, 05:43 AM
I burn anthracite coal and there is NO smoke. When people think of burning coal that is the first thing they think of, smoke pouring out of an old steam locomotive, but the truth is when burning anthracite coal, all you will have is a heat haze coming off the chimney.

My Grandmother, who used to live about 300 feet away from me (she has since passed on) once asked me when I was going to start a fire at my house. I was like, "I've been burning coal for a week."

I will say, there is a certain smell from burning coal. It is not unlike wood, where you get up on a cool morning and can tell from the smell that a neighbor has kindled a fire the night before. It is like that, but it has a distinct smell to it.

ktm rider
10-05-2012, 10:40 AM
The bit coal i burn is very high grade and high BTU content and also only throws heat vapors but, like you said, it smells a bit different than wood but burns way way hotter and longer.
My advice would be if you have access to coal and you don't take advantage of it, you are missing out. ;)

Plowpoint
10-08-2012, 10:41 PM
I agree.

I live in Maine so it gets a might cold here in the winter so I have 6 cords of wood ready to go, along with 400 gallons of propane too mind you as back up to my back-up, but I burn coal whenever I can. As some one told me, "This is Maine, you better have a big pile of firewood, or a big wad of cash come Fall". A lot of sound advice in that as people from away have unfortunately found out.

I agree 100% with you, if you can and do not burn coal, you are missing out. And yes, you burn "hard Coal" also called anthracite coal. It is the best coal there is. It is a bit high in sulfur, which is why power companies burn the low sulfur Powder River Basin coal, but with that poor stuff, you practically got to pour diesel fuel on it to get it to burn. At least that is what a guy told me when I visited the Wright Wyoming, Black Thunder Mine.

Txanne
10-09-2012, 02:37 AM
This is so totally interesting.

I have never even seen coal.

I didnt know there was a difference either.

Tks for the education.

My son in MN--burns propane heat now--they just converted from oil furnace.
Now that was smelly.

Txanne

Plowpoint
10-09-2012, 09:20 AM
I think your son is very wise.

I know this is about coal, but I burn just about everything here...coal, wood, pellets and yes propane. The only thing I do not burn is oil!

The reason why I say he is wise is, if you take the price of propane, which is less then the cost of oil per gallon, then divide that by the amount of btu's in propane/oil, you will see that the price is the same per BTU! BUT because oil has a burn efficiency of only 85% and propane has a burn efficiency of 95%, basically what you buy is cleaner. That means you will not spend as much money on annual cleanings and other maintenance. I have burned propane for 6 years in my boiler and it has never had a heating technician here to maintain it and that is something that would never fly with oil.

There are additional savings as well. Propane flames can be adjustable...they can burn from 5% right on up to 95%, something that oil burners can not do. They either fire, or they don't. That means if your home only needs a little heat, the propane flame can be adjusted to heat your house to that temperature, oil burners have to run full throttle until the desired heat is reached, then shut off. That causes a hot-cold effect that propane can do away with.

Add in the savings of not having to buy a tank, nor install a chimney, and propane savings quickly add up. On my boiler, I merely have a plastic pipe running outside as its chimney.

And here in Maine anyway, propane ultimately comes from eastern Canada. I would much rather give the good ole Canadians my money (and less of it) then those in the middle east!

Txanne
10-09-2012, 11:45 AM
Plow

He like alot of folks contract ahead at the good price and the guys come by and ck each month.
He really likes it better---nocold spots as you speak too.
The oil unit was located in the basement and the whole place smelled like a mechanics shop.

Hadnt ever seen on of those either(basement).

I have been seeing all the ads:Pro coal.

txanne

whitehairedidiot
10-09-2012, 11:47 AM
In the past, I've heated solely with wood. Then, another house, with only 1 wood pellet stove. Pellets, the last time I bought them, were $279/ton.

Coal is most interesting to me, as a fuel, though. Maybe it was that 10+ years in the boonies, in WV, but we burned wood, then. Coal never crossed our mind. Back in OH, as a kid, I remember my grandma & grandpa lived in a small house with a coal furnace. It was this huge black monster, that lived in the hand-dug basement. Maybe 6-8 ft wide and at least 6 ft tall. On the other side of the basement steps, was the coal bin (along with the root cellar behind a thick wall). A basement window in the coal bin had a chute; the coal truck would come by every so often, and slide the coal down into the basement. I'd get scolded a lot for picking up coal and getting dirty.

Sunrise & bedtime, Grandpa would shovel coal into the "monster" to bank up the fire & feed it... and I would run down from the unheated upstairs to warm my butt & feet on a 4 ft square air grate (it was a wooden grate) before eating my oatmeal. That was the only duct for the furnace in the whole house. (House wasn't large). There was a milk-house heater for the bathroom, to keep pipes from freezing.

On the same side of the basement, with the furnace was grandma's wringer-washer. I used to help her wring out sheets and carry the basket up & out to the clothesline.

What was I saying about coal? OH yeah... it seems that with the EPA being such a PITA about coal use in power generation, and about surface mining, that the retail market - home/small business users - might make a come-back... IF someone can rein in the EPA. It's surely an efficient fuel - and it doesn't have to be a dirty fuel. If they can put catalytic converters on pellet stoves, why not coal?

papa bear
10-09-2012, 05:11 PM
i have been thinking of coal since i don't live to far from direct sources.

could a person get a pickup load? how heavy would it be?

would i need a special stove to burn it?

i have been in areas where they stacked the coal like some stacked fire wood
some of these were private owners had their own mines on their property

ktm rider
10-09-2012, 05:53 PM
i have been thinking of coal since i don't live to far from direct sources.

could a person get a pickup load? how heavy would it be?

would i need a special stove to burn it?

i have been in areas where they stacked the coal like some stacked fire wood
some of these were private owners had their own mines on their property

you can usually just pul your pick up truck up to the mine (if they sell house coal) and they will load up your truck. It is sold by the ton and you can get a ton in a short bed full size easily. It is a lot lighter than something like gravel.

you do need a coal stove to burn soft coal. You need the air to come up UNDER the grate instead of over the grate like wood. There are also "stoker" coal stoves like work a lot like a pellet stove but with coal instead of pellets. But you have to burn Anthracite which is also called Hard coal in stoker stoves. But you can burn soft coal ( bituminous coal) or hard coal (anthracite coal ) in a normal coal stove. google Harman Mark II coal stoves

oldtimer
10-09-2012, 08:55 PM
We have burned coal when I can get it. In this country anthracite and bituminus coals are not available so you have to burn peat or lignite. Both do not burn terribly clean nor hot.

Years ago we could get hard coal when we still had railroads in every town, but now it's even difficult to get lignite.

Two years ago we burned coal as I didn't get much wood cut before the snow flew so I was able to get a couple ton of lignite. It burned very poor and we nearly froze to death.

I wouldn't burn corn if you paid me. My grandfather always said that corn was meant for feed, not fuel. He said in the 1920's corn was cheap and coal high. Lots of people burned corn instead of coal and then God sent us the dirty thirites so we had no crops.

I think of that so could not burn coal, especially when there are plenty of dead trees in the country.

Plowpoint
10-09-2012, 10:43 PM
Disclaimer Here: YOU REALLY SHOULD NOT BURN COAL IN A STOVE THAT IS NOT RATED FOR IT, that being said, I have such a coal burning fetish that I have burned it in every stove I ever had, and many said WOOD ONLY on them. Some burn it well, others burn it okay, but the ones that were specifically made for burning coal, always burned it the best.

I use a little (cheap) pot bellied stove now and that thing just loves coal. It can burn wood too, but for some reason it just burns coal better.

Either way, a coal stove today is not anything like the ones our grandparents had. They were big and inefficient. The ones today look really nice, have glass fronts, or are boilers that can go 7 days on a hopper full of coal.

For those that are considering coal, he is a quote from a guy that really says it all...

"I had it for a week and knew that this stove was for me. My house is a large drafty turn of the century home, so I had them bring and install a second Econo I. With one in the kitchen and another in the living room, I have thermostatically controlled heat throughout the house now. They run flawlessly and are clean and efficient. After burning wood for too many years which involved cutting, splitting, stacking, hauling and so on, just to get the house either too hot or waking up to cold mornings, these coal stoves keep the temperature even. Just add coal when needed and empty the ashes; that's it. The crew at (blank) were prompt and professional. They installed the stoves and had them running in no time. If you are tired of messing with wood, fed up with pellets and the high maintenance of the stoves or sick of sending your money to the middle east for over priced oil, get one of these stoves and sit back and enjoy the warmth. These are NOT the coal stoves of yesterday by a long shot. Totally automatic. I should have done this a long time ago but as the saying goes, 'Better late than never'."

Jon
10-25-2012, 10:22 PM
We heat our commercial duck houses with coal stoves. Amish contract producers. I love the heat they make and with the hopper 4 stoves can keep a 100 x 50 ft area over 90 degrees on just 30# each for over 8 hours. Define talk have to go with anthracite coal it burns cleaner than bituminous coal and has more btu/ pound. Chimney draft and damper settings are key to get the most out of the coal and make it burn almost to complete ash. We can get it by the semi load for roughly 220/ton. So 25 ton load makes 5500$ for alot of coal. That is enough to run one 50x400 duck barn and amish house for about a year and ahalf with an average winter! When I build my house a coal stove is definitely being installed

MotherCharlotte
10-26-2012, 01:15 PM
Wow. This might make me look dumb, but I had no idea you could even still buy coal for such purposes. Like Annie, I have never seen coal before, nor have I ever heard of anyone today using it before I read this thread. Thanks for the education, Plowpoint.

I have a question, though: If coal is so great and burns so well, why is it that pretty much all homes that used to have a coal furnace (such as my own 100 year old house) had them removed? Was it because they were using the "dirty" kind of coal that made black smoke? Or did coal become too expensive at some point?

chrisser
10-26-2012, 01:30 PM
Wow. This might make me look dumb, but I had no idea you could even still buy coal for such purposes. Like Annie, I have never seen coal before, nor have I ever heard of anyone today using it before I read this thread. Thanks for the education, Plowpoint.

I have a question, though: If coal is so great and burns so well, why is it that pretty much all homes that used to have a coal furnace (such as my own 100 year old house) had them removed? Was it because they were using the "dirty" kind of coal that made black smoke? Or did coal become too expensive at some point?

I could be wrong, but I believe a lot of it boils down to convenience.

Liquid/gas fuels are very easy to regulate. When you burn heating oil, natural gas or propane, nobody has to intervene other than keeping the tank full.

While there are/were some automated coal feeders, most coal furnaces required somebody to shovel the stuff and periodically tend the flame - much like a wood furnace. You couldn't leave the house for days at a time without worrying about the pipes freezing or coming home to an icebox (or both).

Electric heat is even easier unless you're making your own power.

Then there's the indoor/outdoor pollution aspect. Coal tends to make a lot of dust that gets tracked around the house and in the air. In many cases, homeowners were sharing their living space with their fuel, at least to a degree. The smoke is often acrid, especially when not tended properly or if the winds are unfavorable. I presume the chimneys need maintenance as with wood.

Compare that to something like natural gas which is cheap, clean burning, clean to use, no on site storage required, very little maintenance and the heat comes on whether you're home or not. You can understand why people switched, especially in urban areas with a natural gas infrastructure, which in a lot of places was already in place for lighting before electricity took off.

Plowpoint
10-26-2012, 11:10 PM
Chrisser has pretty much got it right...with natural gas, propane and oil, you can just set the thermostat and the built in controls do all the rest. With coal, there is a knack to it, and each type of stove, home and make and model is different, and there is a definite learning curve to burning coal.

The old stoves were also pretty inefficient....big behemoths that took up a lot of space and burned a lot of coal. When people think of coal, that is what they think of, big monsters that sat in their Grandparents old house. But they are not like that today. In fact for a lot of people, rather then buying pallet stoves, they would save more money if they put in coal stoves, with the same features and ease of use.

Coal availability differs too, but if you live in the snow belt, you can bet it can be bought pretty readily. Here in Maine we can buy coal at Walmart, just like in many places you can buy pellets at Walmart...

But where Chrisser was not quite right was the soot. When people think of coal, they think of that, but the coal you use for heating a home is not soft coal, but hard coal...called anthracite, and it is like hard black rocks. It does not track in the house at all and certainly far less messy then firewood.

Also there is no maintenance issues. You do need a proper draft, BUT coal has one great feature...it has no creosote so you can never have a chimney fire.

It all adds up to a pretty good heating source. Back in the 1990's some of these coal stove makers were making 5-6 stoves a year the market was so bad, but now that oil and gas has become so expensive, people are willing to be slightly inconvenienced in order to save money, and the coal stove manufactures cannot build them fast enough. Coal is making a come back, but not for me...I have been burning it since 1994.

Tod
10-27-2012, 06:03 AM
My sister and BIL used to burn coal and found the following:

The extra heat with which it burned shortened the life of the furnace.

Black soot began to slowly coat the inside of the house.

I'll add the following extra observation: When I was looking for a house to buy, I toured several that had had coal furnaces. Every single one of them had soot-coated walls throughout the house.

My sister and BIL have stopped burning coal and now use exclusively wood.

JarDude
10-27-2012, 12:54 PM
.I wouldn't burn corn if you paid me. My grandfather always said that corn was meant for feed, not fuel. He said in the 1920's corn was cheap and coal high. Lots of people burned corn instead of coal and then God sent us the dirty thirites so we had no crops.

LOL.:lol::D

Plowpoint
10-27-2012, 09:01 PM
This does not sound right to me, at least for those burning anthracite. I get a little dust off the coal, but I do not get any soot, and even the coal dust is no worse then what my late dog used to bring in for dust. I even asked many of my coal burning friends if they got soot in their houses, and these people have different models of stoves and burn a lot more tons of it then I do, and the consensus was the same...no soot.

When you were house-hunting, was it in Ohio as well? I am thinking that because Ohio has a lot of coal mines, but none being anthracite, the coal burning places you speak of, have always burned bituminous coal, also called soft coal, which is a lot different from anthracite coal. That stuff contains a lot of soot.


My sister and BIL used to burn coal and found the following:

The extra heat with which it burned shortened the life of the furnace.

Black soot began to slowly coat the inside of the house.

I'll add the following extra observation: When I was looking for a house to buy, I toured several that had had coal furnaces. Every single one of them had soot-coated walls throughout the house.

My sister and BIL have stopped burning coal and now use exclusively wood.

Plowpoint
10-27-2012, 09:04 PM
One bad thing about coal however that I did not mention, is that you get a lot more ash then you do from burning wood. In fact you get about 3 times as much ash, and this ash has no benefit on your gardens and other crops. It is not alkaline so it does not make your acidic soil less so by acting like a lime alternative.

It won't do any harm in your garden, and it may actually lighten the soil, but it has no real value either.

We spread the ash on our driveway to keep from slipping on the snow and ice, but this comes with a caveat as well...we are a shoeless house, meaning we take our shoes off at the door. If you do not do that, then you will track the coal into the house.

Tod
10-28-2012, 03:11 AM
Plowpoint: yes, in Ohio. I expect the coal was bituminous.

oldtimer
10-29-2012, 01:28 AM
Wow, plowpoint, what must it be like to live where you can get hard coal.

We don't live in the "snowbelt" apparently. We live in an area where the winters are alway below zero and there's nothing to stop the wind that blows down from the artic circle but a few barb wired fences.

Coal was the fuel that built this country. I had some dude came up here from Texas some years ago looking to relocate and buy one of our many abandoned farm places here but he wouldn't buy a place because we had no houses with fireplaces. This was coal stove country, not fireplace country.

Read Laura Ingalls Wilder, we had no trees so burning wood was out. You soon burned up the buffalo chips, those pioneering forefathers burned coal they had shipped in from back east.

In later years, we got coal from ND or Wyo. because the freight was less. This is true soft coal as it is Lignite. Lignite is extremely dirty and dusty. It is also not very good at giving off heat.

When I was a kid we used to get hard coal brought in from back east and buy it at the lumber yard. Folks with stoves usually burned anthracite from West. Va, but if you had a furnace, you burned lignite from Wyo. or ND.

Then we lost our railroads and that was the end of coal burning for most folks though there are some with large boilers who are still burning coal but they're burning lignite brought in from Wyo. becuase you have to buy your own coal and have it brought in by the semi load.

Yep, I wish we could get coal at Wally's. We can't get heating pellets there either.

Plowpoint
10-29-2012, 06:51 AM
We can get it, but it is expensive. Here you are going to pay $354 per ton, where as in other states that have access to rail cars of it, they are only paying $220 a ton. This is a hard pill to swallow for me because when I started burning it 20 years ago, it was a mere $150 per ton.

It's gone up for two reasons: in order for the Presidents green power agenda to be cost effective, they have had to make regulations on the alternatives to green power more expensive, and thus have made the regulations to mine coal a lot harder. And because #2 furnace oil and natural gas have increased, coal has gone up simply because it has kept pace with these other fuels on a cost per btu basis.

I worked for the railroad out in Wyoming a lot, working what is known as the Powder River Loop which is a team effort between Union Pacific and BNSF because there is no way a single railroad could move that much coal coming from that region. One Sunday I set up a coal mine tour with Black Thunder Mine in Wright, Wyoming and got a long tour of that operation. It was amazing, but like you say, the coal is not all that great. The guy told me that in order to get it to burn, "you gotta practically soak it in diesel fuel." Their mine price per ton was $10 and was shocked that I was paying $150 per ton retail for anthracite. We had a nice long talk over coal and so it was a great tour with lots of pictures of HUGE equipment.

Tod
10-29-2012, 03:40 PM
We can get it, but it is expensive. Here you are going to pay $354 per ton, where as in other states that have access to rail cars of it, they are only paying $220 a ton. This is a hard pill to swallow for me because when I started burning it 20 years ago, it was a mere $150 per ton.

Price is probably only going to go up up up, too. Probably be a good investment to buy a lifetime supply.

I wonder how coal would work in a rocket mass heater?

Bones
10-29-2012, 03:42 PM
Wish I could get it but tried to find a source in Western Tennessee and none close by

grumble
10-29-2012, 04:06 PM
"I wonder how coal would work in a rocket mass heater?"

Should work pretty well. It's the same idea as a coal-fired blacksmith's forge.

Plowpoint
10-29-2012, 10:05 PM
You know Tod I was wondering this myself.

This is a bit different thinking, but along the same lines...

Here in the house, my little Vogelzang Pot Bellied stove really cranks, as I type this I am in the farthest room in the house from it, and it is a cool 76 degrees. In the kitchen where the stove sits, it is so hot that our real salted butter has completely melted, the floor it sits on is so hot you can barely walk on it with bare feet, and I was honestly breaking a sweat just eating supper!

That is pretty warm.

So warm that I have to put a piece of tin up to keep the wall 3 feet away from getting too hot. As you know, coal radiates heat better then wood, so I was thinking, maybe if I placed rock behind my stove, and on that rock run pex tubing throughout. I would think the rock would get warm, and thus warm the water in the pex, and then I could run that to a pre-heater for my hot water heater.

I have all the parts to do it; pex, fittings and even a circulation pump, but have yet to try it.

I originally thought about fixing copper tubing to the tin shield that protects my wall, but the cost of copper pipe in the amount I would need would be prohibitive. But PEX is cheap, and if embedded in the rock surround, it would not melt, but still get warm enough to pre-heat my domestic water...maybe??? It just seems ike such a waste of waste heat.

Jon
10-29-2012, 10:37 PM
Plowpoint, that sounds like it should work to me. My only thought would be how far the water heater is from your stove. Woulnt want to get it nice and warm then through radiant loss be cooler as it enters the tank. Maybe making several courses or laps around the back of the stone to get the most heat in the water as possible before it heads to your tank?

oldtimer
10-30-2012, 04:28 AM
Time we pay for freight, our cost is about eighty bucks a ton for lignite out of Gillette, WY. You're right, you pretty near have to soak it in diesel to get it to burn.

In fact, the stoker coal that comes out of Wyoming is soaked with oil to help it burn but I burn lump and not stoker.

Wyo. coal supplies much of the electricity used in this country, when O is done, we won't be able to afford electricity. Green is in, ha ha.

We've wasted millions and millions on wind energy and it's not feasible.