Coal facts

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Coal facts

Postby cowboy » Mon Jan 09, 2006 10:48 am

Since their seems to be enough insterest in this I thought I would post the some info I have found as to the productive and safe use of coal. As I am a beginner in this the info I have found so far in my research may be helpfull to others such as I.

Dennis I am sorry about sucking up the space to post this but I felt the safty issues in this should be posted rather than just linked. Billy


Coal fires are not as easy to start as wood fires and the ease of burning will vary with different types and makes of stoves. The burning of coal requires patience and a specific and regular procedure of loading, shaking, adjusting, etc. If you do not follow the right procedure the coal fire will go out. This can happen in a short period of time and once the extinction process has begun, it is almost impossible to reverse.
Starting a Coal Fire
Additional Tips on Starting
Raking and Shaking your Stove
Safety First

1. Use paper and dry kindling to start the fire.
2. Add small pieces of hardwood when fire is burning hot. Keep the draft control fully open till a hot fire is established.
3. When a decent bed of red wood embers is built up, start adding coal--small amounts at a time. Keep the draft control open!!
4. Continue adding small amounts of coal until there is a 1" to 2" bed of burning coal. Don't add too much coal at one time and allow sufficient time between each small loading for the coal in the stove to thoroughly ignite.
5. It is important at this point to fill the stove to the highest level possible. A deep bed of coal is critical for the proper function of all coal stoves. Since coal can be regulated better than wood, a deep bed does not mean that you can only run the stove hot - rather you can control the stove by setting the air control on your stove.
6. After all the coal has been ignited and is burning with a blue flame, then the draft control can be turned down. Serious damage can result if the stove is run wide open for extended periods of time. Make sure that the ashpan door is closed at all times.


1. You can use MATCHLIGHT CHARCOAL to light your coal stove -- also some brands of SOLID charcoal starter (royal oak,minute light) will do the job. This eliminates the mess of wood. Just spread the charcoal out until it barely covers the grate and put a small amount of coal on top don't cover the charcoal completely!! Light the charcoal and when the coal is burning with a blue flame add more coal as before. Never use liquid starters on a coal or woodstove.
2. Always make sure that your chimney is drafting upward before you start your stove. Some chimneys have a tendency to reverse while not in use. In most cases the following procedure will start the chimney :
Place a small piece of newspaper as far up in your stove or chimney as possible and light it. When it burns and gets pulled up the chimney-then light the coalfire.
3. Never poke or stir the coal fire when starting or at any other time. Coal fires like to be left alone and many former wood burners tend to fool around with their coal fires, thereby putting them out!!!
Shaking should be done at least twice a day and as many as sixtimes if the stove is being run at high outputs. Shake only with a hot stove. If the fire is very low and you must de-ash the grates follow the following procedure:
1. Open draft control and damper fully.
2. Shake or rake fire slightly to encourage air flow thru the fire.
3. Add more coal if needed.
When fire is burning well then shake thoroughly. Best results will occur if short choppy strokes are used rather than long even strokes.The amount of shaking or raking is critical. Too little or too much can extinguish a fire. The proper job has been done when red coals first start to drop through the grate. Always allow some ash to remain on the grate as this will extend their service life.
Ashes should never be allowed to accumulate in the ash pit.This can impede the flow of combustion air into the fire. Excess ash in the pan can cause the fire to go out and also cause severe damage to your grates.Inspect the replaceable parts of your stove (glass, gasketing,grates, etc.) often to determine if they need to be replaced. Glass can be cleaned (when cool). If the glass is extra dirty, MR. MUSCLE brand oven cleaner will do the job.Coal does not produce creosote, so chimney fires are not a concern. It does, however, produce a fly ash which can clog elbows or heat exchangers. Inspect any area of your stove where you suspect this may have happened and vacuum if needed.Since coal residue contains sulfur, the stovepipe and chimney systems tend to deteriorate much faster than when burning wood. Be sure to check the pipe at least once every six months to determine if it has corroded. Replace if it shows signs of rusting through or if it can be penetrated with the point of a pocket knife.

Use caution when loading your stove. Always open the door or hatch slowly so as to allow oxygen to enter and burn any combustible gases that are present. Failure to do this could result in"mini explosions" (sudden ignition of unburned gases). With the exception of the start-up period, an ash door should never be left open. Serious damage from overheating can result. Coal stoves should only be used with chimneys that provide a strong and constant draft.

If you have followed the advice given in this pamphlet and your manual, then you probably have it licked. If any problems persist, follow these steps:
1. Make sure you are using low ash high-quality coal. Low heat output, large ash accumulation and difficulty of overnight burning are signs of bum coal. Try buying a bag or two at a different yard.
2. Chimney problem--if you suspect that your draft is too strong then a barometric or manual damper should be installed. If your draft is too weak, try the following: Chimney may not be warm enough. Try a hotter fire. Seal all pipe joints and leaks in the chimney system. Check outside clean-out doors and fireplace sealing plates.---increase height of chimney ---line chimney with stainless steel pipe---install a Vacu -Stak (draft increasing cap)---make sure all heat exchangers and manifolds on your stove are clean--Fly ash accumulation in these areas can restrict your chimney.

How much space Do you need for a ton of anthracite coal?
There is no exact space, there are different factors that you have to take into account. The size of the coal and the coal itself being the major two. Smaller sizes such as Rice take up slightly more space than larger sizes such as Chestnut. The coal itself can also influence the amount of space you need, this is due to different densities. We reccomend having from thirty eight to forty cubic feet of usable space available for each ton.

Quick Reference Guide
Bin Size 8x4x4 8x8x4 5x4x8 6x6x4 8x8x6
Tons 3.2 6.4 4 3.6 9.6

Note: The above table uses the value of 40 cubic feet per ton. To calculate the how much you can fit in your bin measure the length, width and height. Multiply these amounts (LxWxH) then divide by forty.

What's the difference between a short ton and a long ton?
A short ton weighs 2000 pounds. It is the standard unit of measurement in the United States for weighing large masses. The long ton weighs 2240 pounds and is the standard unit of measurement in Great Britain for weighing large masses.

How does anthracite coal compare to other home heating fuels?
Anthracite coal is by far the least expensive fuel you can use to heat your home providing you live near the Eastern Pennsylvania area where it can be purchased for a reasonable price. Customers outside the Eastern Pennsylvania area will find that it is costly or unavailable. This is due to the transportation costs.

Home Heating Fuel Comparison Chart
Fuel Type BTU's Produced/Unit (Avg.) Units needed to produce 28,000,000 BTU's (Avg.)
Anthracite Coal 28,000,000/Ton 1 Ton
Fuel Oil (No.2) 140,000/Gallon 200 Gallons
Electricity 3,412/kWh 8,206 kWh's
Natural Gas 1,028,000/1,000 Cubic Ft. 27,000 Cubic Ft.
Propane 91,330/Gallon 306 Gallons
Wood (Air Dried) 20,000,000/Cord 1.4 Cords
Wood Pellets 16,500,000/Ton 1.7 Tons
Notes: The source for this chart was a U.S. Department of Energy web page which is no longer available. This chart is based on an efficiency rating of 100% which is far from realistic. For a more realistic cost calculation try the fuel calculator at Hearthnet.Com

What's the best choice to heat my home, a hand—fired stove or a stoker?
The biggest advantage of a hand-fired stove is that it needs no electricity to operate. This may be particularly important if you live where the electricity can go out for extended periods of time and your only other source of heat requires electricity. The disadvantage is that it needs attention every 12 to 24 hours.

The biggest advantage of a stoker is automation. You only need to fill the hopper and empty the ashes, how much depends on how fast it is running. It will produce the amount of heat you need automatically by setting the thermostat. Larger stoker furnaces used for heating entire homes can produce heat on demand just like any conventional oil, gas or electric heating unit. The disadvantage to a stoker is that it needs electricity to operate. Stokers use smaller sized coal, the most common being rice. Because of it’s small size it will burn only for a few hours without a forced draft.

If you wish to convert your home over to coal we reccomend a combination furnace which will burn coal and either oil or gas. With a furnace like this you will be able to enjoy the inexpensive cost of coal for most of the year and the convenience of gas or oil if you will be unable to attend to your furnace for an extended period of time. The addition of a small hand—fired stove will insure that you will have heat no matter what the circumstances.

What's wrong with putting one delivery of coal on top of another?
If possible never put one delivery of coal on top of the remains of another. This is particularly important if you are using Chestnut or Pea. There will always be some amount of fines in a load of coal; it is impossible to eliminate all of them. The fines tend to migrate to the bottom of the bin and will build up over time. After many years this build up can become quite a large amount making the coal in the bottom of the bin essentially useless unless it is screened by hand. If you have to put one delivery on top of another completely empty one side of your bin and alternate which side you empty for each delivery.

What's the difference between anthracite coal and other coals such as bituminous?
There are many different ranks of coal. Anthracite is the highest rank of all coals. It is a high carbon, low sulfur and high BTU coal. Anthracite is a "smokeless" fuel unlike some of the lower grades of coal. It burns cleaner, hotter and longer than any other coal. These properties make it ideal for home heating use.

The best analogy would be between a seasoned piece of hardwood and a piece of seasoned pine. Although the pine will produce a much hotter fire initially it also produces more smoke and will not last that long. A hardwood fire will produce more heat in the long run and last much longer.

I'm using chestnut coal and can't control the fire?
If you are using Chestnut coal and are having trouble controlling the fire try using range coal, which is a mixture of Chestnut and Pea. The Pea coal is a little smaller and acts like a damper slowing the burn rate of the Chestnut. Another way to slow down the burn rate is to put a small amount of ashes across the top of the fire.

How do I eliminate the dust?
The coal we deliver is washed twice except when the temperature drops below the freezing point. It is washed during the sizing process and a second time right before it's loaded into the truck. This second washing is not possible during the coldest days of the year due to freezing. Order your coal in the warmer months of the year. If you have a bin inside of your home you can eliminate some of the dust created during delivery by lightly dampening the coal, floor and walls inside the bin before delivery. Dampening the coal that you are about to use will also eliminate dust. Water will have no affect on how well it burns. A small garden insecticide sprayer is ideal for this.

Isn't burning coal dangerous because of the gas?
No, anytime you burn anything including gas, oil or wood the possibility of dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide accumulating in your home are possible. Proper maintenance and inspection of any heating unit is essential to maintain it's safety. Refer to your manufacturer's documentation or a qualified professional on how to properly maintain your heating unit. We recomend using a carbon monoxide detector regardless of what type of heat you use.
Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you. 1964 cub. Farmall 100 and 130.

"Those that say it can’t be done should not interrupt the ones who are doing it.”

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Postby Kodiak » Mon Jan 09, 2006 8:48 pm

Thanks for the info Billy, That's the way my Grandfather taught me to build and maintain a coal fire. There is a difference between a coal and wood fire.
Once I fire my small coal heater up in the shop I don't need to do much but add some coal about once during the day. (It is a small stove!)
I bought an old tractor all dusty and worn,
knew nothing about her just the year she was born
I washed her and greased her and painted her red
Now she lives happily right here in my shed.

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