coal for home heating : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Please any information would be helpful on burning coal in an indoor stove or fireplace insert re: approximate costs of coal, types of coal availability, pros and cons and is there a clean way of handling coal? Also names of manufacturers for coal stoves or combination wood & coal. All help appreciated. Thank You

-- patrick barrett (, January 02, 2001


For availability and cost of coal go to your local library and looking in the yellow pages for nearby large cities under coal.

On combination fuel stoves (both heating and cooking) see the Lehman's catalog or web site.

I know we have a coal-fired basement furnace when I was a kid, but don't remember many details except it was a dirty and labor consuming process.

You might also look into heating stoves which burn whole kernel corn. A lot cleaner and provides a lot less ashes.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, January 02, 2001.

Heard on Paul Harvey about the corn fueled approach. A farmer in Iowa heats his place for about 150 dollars worth of corn per season.His fire units were made of recycled scrap. Something that I am experimenting with is recycling cardboard and scrap paper. I noticed that when it is decomposed to a celluose mush with water and mixed with a protein bonding agent , after drying it does resemble a durolog. Havent had the time to test further. Countryside had info a couple of years ago on using paper rolls as fuel, could be along the same line.

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, January 02, 2001.

Coal pricing and availability is going to be regional, so like Ken said check the yellow pages.

Coal can be messy - more so than wood. I wouldn't want a coal stove in my living room. Basement preferred there! But I used to heat a 3 bedroom house with a pot bellied coal stove (It was an older stove I got used and had to replace the door gaskets. The name "Coal Chubby" sticks in my mind...) in the basement back when I lived in NJ. I loved it! I found it to be a lot less work than the wood stove it replaced. But it was a lot messier. A LOT messier. When I was home and let it burn hot, it kept the upstairs around 65 ~ 67 degrees. No fans or anything used, just left the inside door open to the basement, of course the floor between wasn't insulated either so that helped.

Once the stove was going and I had a good bed of coals, I would burn (2) 5 gallon buckets of coal during the weekdays, and 3 on the weekends when I was home more often. If I remember correctly, I used about a ton a winter. Storage was a 4 x 8 box with 3 walls 4 feet high and the 4th only 2 feet high (plywood on the inside of framework!), on the corner of the house under the deck. Delivery truck was able to back right up and chute it all in.

If you can put it in a basement, go for it. If it needs to be in a living area, I wouldn't do it. Hope this helps. And be aware that you'll need someplace to dump the ashes. They're not like wood ashes that you can dump into a garden bed and till under in the spring. I tried composting the ashes and using the resulting compost to fill in low spots in the lawn, but they didn't compost all that well, and even the crab grass had second thoughts about growing in those spots for a few years.

-- Eric in TN (, January 02, 2001.

Patrick, My hubby & I buy out households & we resale the items/ we bought out a household that/ they had burnt coal in the house ---- everything in that house was covered with a black film from them buring coal----most of the fabric furniture even smelled bad from the coal let alone being black from the burning of coal----so we gave away what anyone wanted & distroyed the rest. The wood furniture had to be cleaned & recleaned & cleaned again!!!! The dishes had to be soaked & soaked-the rest of the things all were coated/ it this awful black stuff----I wondered what both of those old folks lungs looked like!!!! It made me know I never wanted to burn coal in my house!!!!! Sonda in Ks.

-- Sonda (, January 02, 2001.

Sonda, you are just not watching the right infomercials on television. Why the cleaning products they "demonstrate" would have cleaned all of those items up post haste. Yeah, sure, you betcha! lol.

-- Notforprint (, January 02, 2001.

I seem to remember the coal ashes and clinkers were spread on the farm driveway. During winter it helped the snow melt faster and during the summer it would be ground up into the driveway gravel.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, January 02, 2001.

Coal prices are relatively cheap; but it is a pretty dirty fuel. You must have a furnace/stove that will handle coal. There are the hard, chunky ash that has to be shaken, plus it burns very hot...used to get our stove white hot!! I hated the way that the soot would just be everywhere outside...the snow would end up a nasty gray color...soot was on everything. Plus, most of the coal now is a high sulfur coal and stinky. But, it got us through a very cold winter one year.

-- jimR (, January 02, 2001.

Use coal if desperate.Otherwise stick with wood.Grew up in a coal furnace house,which explains why I was sickly,now that I know more about my allergies.

Coal dust is even worse for me than wood ash dust.And it makes a film over everything,like stated.About like living with a heavy smoker.If you have an outside furnace,I'd consider it as an option.

We did use the ashes on the lane,growing up,as Ken mentioned.

-- sharon wt (, January 02, 2001.

We have a half-a-boxcar of coal that Hubby cleaned up from an overturned boxcar, on it's way to the power plant. We use it in his blacksmith shop, but we have used it for heating. It burns hot and long, and I am glad to have it if the need arises. BUT---it stinks SOOO bad when it is burning, and you have that nasty clinker stuff to dispose of when you are done. You can't just dump it in your garden! Give me my wood stove.

-- Leann Banta (, January 02, 2001.

We have a Harmon coal stove. It can burn wood, but we use coal. We buy low ash/long burning cleaner coal from a local dealer, $140 a ton. My husband loves it. Not as much work as burning wood. We don't need to check on it as often, nor refill the stove as often as wood. You do have to shake it down a few times a day. We have a 2500 square foot house and it heats it fairly well, although we wear sweaters. We have cut holes for radiant heat vents in the first floor. Personally, I don't much like coal, as it does cause dust in the house. My oldest son can't shake down the stove or sift the coals (we do this to save the larger pieces that don't burn all the way the first time), because he coughs. So I am not completely happy with it, but what can you do once it's in there? We have attached a pipe to the inside of the stove to run to the hot water heater, and we have a constant supply of very hot water. We have this stove in the basement, and when the coal is delivered, they shoot it right into a basement window into the coal bin. Lots of dust comes in then, so we drape sheets all around to prevent it going all over the house. The dust is not really black, but gray. My husband wouldn't say the coal is dirty, we use a shovel to load it into the stove, so we really never get dirty from it. If you have more questions, feel free to email me. Mary

-- Mary Fraley (, January 02, 2001.

we have a wood burning stove in our living room and that is the only source of heat since I threw the switch on the electric heat. Unfortunately it doesnt hold a fire all night long. we go the the coal dealer once a year during really cold weather and get chunks of coal ranging in size from fist to head we then wrap them individually in news paper so we can handle them without getting dirty, and on cold nights we put one in the fire and use it to heat and hold a fire all night a fist size will go all night a head size will last up to twenty four hours. I would never do this on a continuing basis but during cold snaps its a good solution for us.

-- ronda (, January 03, 2001.

Granny's old farm house had a coal funace, not a stove, this thing was a furnace, huge and hot!!! They burned a very hard, clean anthracite type coal that isn't available in this country anymore, it's all been used up long ago in the steel mills that built this country, so I don't know how folks heat with coal without giving themselves the "black lung" like my other grandfather died of, being a coal miner most his life.

I wouldn't risk the health consequences unless it was that or freezing to death, and I certainly wouldn't expose any children lungs to it for sure! There are other alternatives with less health risks involved, like the outdoor wood fired boiler systems, much safer, and the dirt stays outside!

-- Annie Miller in SE OH (, January 03, 2001.

I prefer coal over firewood, it is cleaner, (if you handle it right) farmore BTUs per ton, low ash not dirt & bark. I bought a new coal stove some years ago when I lived in western NY and the coal came from PA. it was good anthracite and left no clinkers, just ash. One needs to hose the coal down to wash the coal dust away. coal takes some fiddling with until your use to it. You don't get creosote problems in the chimney either.

-- Hendo (, January 05, 2001.

I picked "clinkers" out of me knees until I was in my 30's from falling down in our cinder lined driveway as a child. I don't remember the old basement furnaces being all that dirty, but I don't think I would want the mess in my living area.

-- diane (, January 05, 2001.


Just noticed Lehman's carries a 32-page booklet on coal heat. $1 plus $2 shipping unless you by more than $10 worth of anything. You can get to Lehman's web site by clicking on their box at the top of the home page.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, January 07, 2001.

We have a Harman coal stoker.It burns rice coal. I pay $120 a ton delivered.It has a 100#hopper that I fill every two days.As long as you keep the hopper full the fire will never go out. Ashes drop into an internal ash bucket ,with a handle that I empty when I fill the hopper.This stove burns so efficient you can vent it with pvc plastic pipe.Mine uses 6" pipe as I replaced the woodburner with this stove. You can lay your hand on the pipe when it's burning on full at 85K btu's.Thermostat controled.Rice coal is delivered washed and very lightly oiled so no dust what so ever.We will never burn wood again as primary heat source.

-- larry spearman (, January 08, 2001.

I burn coal in my basement with a huge shenandoah heater. Forced hot air ducted through my house. I use bagged nut coal. I get absolutely no black dust whatsoever. It's very clean and very easy to do. You can buy coal packed wet in bags these days, no dust at all. Even when I shake it down, I only get very little ash and that's only because I overfill the coal stove sometimes.

Coal stoker stoves that burn rice coal are even better. You can load up the hopper and burn for several days without messing with it and control it from a thermostat. I wouldn't hestitate at all to put a stoker coal stove in my living room except that I already have a nice fireplace insert.

-- cal (, March 31, 2001.

I recently moved into a house in the mountains near Salt Lake City, which had been vacant for 40 years. Two of my neighbors heat their homes by burning coal in modern high-efficiency stoves located in their living rooms, and have gotten it down to a fine art so that their houses stay very clean. My own house features a large Montgomery Ward coal furnace in the basement, which was installed in 1946. I cleaned the furnace and the ductwork in the fall of 2000 and used the system very successfully throughout the winter. No moving parts. My system uses convection to distribute hot air to floor registers in various rooms. I only had to feed the furnace every 12 hours, and I often had to open windows in my poorly-insulated 1,200 square foot house to keep the inside temperature below 80 degrees. I used large lump coal, of the bituminous variety, at $80 per ton delivered. I used about 3,000 pounds per month. My neighbors, who use modern coal/wood stoves, burn much less coal than I do, but they have to use ceiling fans with reverse-pitch blades to distribute the hot air around the house, and they don't get as uniform a distribution of heat as I do. Their houses are much better insulated than mine, and they probably use about 1,000 pounds of bituminous coal per month. They burn wood in the fall and spring, then switch to coal in the winter. Coal burns best in cold weather, when chimney drafts are greater, and puts out much more heat per pound than wood. Coal does not produce any creosote, but bituminous coal produces soot which builds up in chimney flues and which should be brushed out two or three times a year. Brushing is easy, as the soot doesn't stick to the chimney walls the way creosote does, but it is a dirty process. As soon as you add fresh coal to a coal fire, you'll need to open the damper wide to get the new coal ignited. You should keep it wide open for at least 15 minutes. For the first half-hour or so after it is ignited, bituminous coal produces lots of black smoke and soot that goes into the chimney. After that, it burns very cleanly for many hours, producing no soot or visible smoke. You can close the damper way down after the smoking phase, to produce a nice glowing slow fire. Some of the soot from the initial smokey burn period deposits itself in the stovepipe and chimney flue, some of it falls into the cleanout box at the bottom of the chimney, and some of it flies out the top of the chimney and settles on the ground outside the house, making the snow (and the neighbor's dog, who romps through this black snow) quite dirty. My neighbors who use modern coal stoves don't seem to have an outdoor soot problem at all, though they get lots of soot buildup in the chimney. I have more of an outdoor soot problem and less chimney buildup than they do. I don't know why this is. Coal dust from coal handling is another problem. My coal activities are confined to the basement, and I vacuum the floor around the furnace and the coal bin once a day to keep things clean. I managed to avoid tracking any coal dust upstairs. My neighbors have to carry coal into their living rooms, which can be a bit of a hassle, but they seem to have figured out how to avoid dirtying up their homes. Wetting the raw coal with a mist of water from a spray bottle before you carry it into living areas seems to be very helpful in this regard. Also, you have to figure out how to set the various controls on your stove or furnace when you open the fueling door to add more coal to the fire. If the flue is unobstructed and the draft is good, you won't get smoke in the room when you do this. If things aren't right, some smoke will escape into the room when you add new fuel. I got a little smoke in the basement occasionally when I refueled, but I never got smoke, soot, or coal dust in the living areas. With a little practice, you can heat with coal without getting your house dirty. By the way, you will need to open a window or otherwise ensure that sufficient outside air can enter the room when you fuel your stove, and also while you have the damper wide open during the initial burn period. Even when the damper is mostly closed, make sure you have sufficient air coming in for combustion and to keep a draft going up the chimney. The opening into the house should be at least as large in surface area as all of the openings that let fresh air into the stove and chimney flue. In my basement, I have an 8-inch stovepipe going into a 10-inch chimney flue. At any given time, air can get into the furnace and/or chimney through any or all of three different adjustable openings. I also have an 8-inch diameter vent pipe coming into the basement from the outside to let in enough fresh air to keep the draft going. I keep this intake vent fully open at all times to ensure a good draft. Otherwise, smoke and/or carbon monoxide can accumulate in the house. Make sure you have a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector in the house (but not right next to the stove or furnace). Make sure that your outside air intake can't be blocked by snow.

Most coal mined in the U.S. is of the bituminous variety. Anthracite coal, which is available in some eastern states (particularly Pennsylvania), is much cleaner than bituminous coal, but also more expensive. It does not produce any smoke or soot, and produces more heat per pound than bituminous coal. It is also cleaner to handle. It is not readily available in the western U.S., unfortunately.

One or two companies still make central coal furnaces designed to go in the basement. These are equipped with modern forced-air circulation systems, air filters, high-efficiency heat exchangers, water-heating options, etc. One company is, I believe, called "Eagle Systems" or something like that, and is located in Minnesota. You might do a web search on this. If your furnace or stove has an automatic stoker, you can use "slack" coal, which is walnut-sized. If your system is hand-fired, lump coal (handled with gloves on) is probably better.

-- N. W. Clayton (, June 09, 2001.

i have a big, big old house,large basement,with door,steps to outside existing gas forst air furnace w\blower, west pa. location, gas bills one month,500.00 in january,,,,so for cheap money ,installed used oldtime 24" round coal furnace,fabricated a tin hood 5 foot dia.1 foot deep,above it. tapped in two 8" ducts, ran them to the existing cold return of gas unit,added 5.00 heat switch to kick on existing gas furnace blower.add coal,light up,gets hot,kicks blower,draws nice heat thru existing filter,and up hot out ducts,now 40.00 a month. then i got real tight,put a water storage tank next to the furnace, it preheats water before it gos to the gas water tank,now the gas watertank seldom kicks on nor does the gas furnace least in cold weather times. cost was all of 230 us

-- jim raimondi (, November 10, 2001.

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