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Hydro/Wind/Wood/Geothermal And other types of alternative energy

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Old 02-19-2013, 04:34 PM
CinnamonGirl Female CinnamonGirl is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2012
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Default Burning Coal in a Bakers Choice stove

I think i know the answer to this, but I'll pick your brains anyway.
I have a Bakers Choice wood cook stove that i bought a couple years ago. Due to the very cold winter this year I am running out of wood! So i bought the last 4 bags of coal at the farm store to stretch things a bit. The coal burns...reluctantly.
I looked on the internet and I think my husband needs to put a damper in the side the stove to draw under the grates for the coal to burn well.
Just wondering if anyone burns coal in their wood stove and how. This is new to me, but Bakers Choice advertises that they can burn either wood or coal. I end up with half and half just to keep heat going.
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Old 02-19-2013, 11:45 PM
oldtimer oldtimer is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: great plains
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To burn coal you have to have grates and the ability to pull a draft from under the coals. I assume surely your cookstove already has that.

It's about impossible to burn coal without some wood to start the fire. That being said, here's the best way to burn coal. I don't know if your coal is lump coal, actually charcoal, or briquettes.

First you must have kindling wood. Start a wood fire and let it burn down to a nice bed of hot coals. (Coal does not burn like wood it glows)

Once you have a bed of hot coals add your coal, break coal up so you have no pieces larger than about a hen's egg. Lay a layer of coal on top of your hot coals a couple inches thick. Keep your draft and damper open. After a bit, this coal will get to glowing and you will now have a nice bed of glowing hot coals from the coal. Now you can add your coal to the firebox. I find it works best to bank the coal up to one side of the firebox while leaving some glowing coals exposed on the other side.

We burn very poor quality coal in this country but if you smother a bed of hot coals with coal and totally cover it, the coal will gassify and can explode blowing your stovepipes off. Makes a heck of a mess. Corncobs will do the same thing, so that's why I always leave some hot coals exposed.

Now you can regulate your fire with the damper and the draft. You'll have to play that by ear depending on the coal and how hot you want the fire for what you're cooking.

What kind of coal exactly are you using? Hard coal burns better and hotter than the peat and lignite junk we get out here.

We had a group of Amish move in here. We have few trees so they bought a load of coal. They nearly froze to death as they had never burned coal before and thought they could toss a big chunk of lignite in the stove like you would toss in a chunk of wood.

Once they figured out you needed to establish the bed of coals and go from there with pieces that are none too big (Even on the second round, I don't put in anything bigger than a grapefruit) they then could at least keep from freezing but with the lignite they had to leave the draft wide open.

If you have to buy fuel anyway, I believe you'll find that pound for pound, wood is as good as coal and you may find it better to buy wood unless you've got a real good source of high quality low cost coal. A ton of good ash or oak is about as good as a ton of coal.
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Old 02-23-2013, 06:41 AM
Plowpoint Male Plowpoint is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Maine
Posts: 493

Burning coal for heat is probably the most under-rated types of domestic heat you can buy. Pound for pound, it is the cheapest form of heat available to the American people, yet as you have discovered, it has a learning curve to it. Once you have learned how to burn coal however, you will probably take your firewood and throw it out into the snow.

The issue with coal is; it burns totally unlike wood. Wood needs air over the fire, where as coal needs air under the fire, at least if you use anthracite also called hard coal. It is the most common coal available and comes from PA. To keep things simple, I am going to assume you use anthracite coal and not bituminous, or soft coal, which can be real tricky to burn.

Most stoves either burn coal really well, or burn wood really well, but it is impossible for a stove to do both. Coal needs a small, deep fire preferably round in size, where as firewood needs a big open box that is rectangular in size so it can burn in a shallow, big area. And it needs to draw air up from the bottom, if you put air over the top of the coal bed, the fire goes out. It also goes out if you poke, prod or stir the coals. Coal is nothing like wood, and that is where most people go wrong. They tend coal fires like wood fires and they put them out.

Also, do not be afraid to pour the coal to your stove. You need a deep bed of coal, and unlike wood, you do not get more heat from adding more coal; you regulate the temperature of the fire by controlling the air going into it. That is why the air must go underneath the bed of the coals, and the bigger the coal you buy (pea, nut, stove, etc) the longer the fire lasts, but the cooler the fire. And unlike wood, when you make changes to how much air the stove is getting, it takes a half hour or more for the coal fire to respond. Don't keep fusing with the damper, one small change makes a huge difference in a little while.

I suspect you are having a problem shaking down your stove, which is using the handle to shake your grates. You must shake the grates properly or the ash builds up, keeps air flow from going to your coal, and puts the fire out. While less likely, you may be shaking the fire down too much and putting your fire out. It takes awhile to learn what is just right, but never ever, poke or stir your ashes...that will kill your coal fire every time.

I have been burning coal for 20 years now, and despite having access to "free" firewood, I prefer to buy coal. With one ton of coal equaling two cords of firewood, it is cheap, hot, does not need to be tended as often as wood, burns super clean (no smoke), is no where near as messy as firewood, has no creosote so you cannot have a chimney fire, and comes from the good ole USA preserving jobs without costing a fortune to obtain.

As I said, coal is so underutilized for domestic heating that it is a travesty!
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