mommag wrote:My husband and I just installed a Vigilant II coal stove and a Duratech chimney. After three days of starting and restarting a fire he is unable keep a fire going. The wood/kindling burn hot with no draft problems, but as he adds coal, the coals burn for a short time, then die out. He tried charcoal once, but had no luck. (Although, I think it was old matchlight and not the best). We had a Victory 700 stove years ago and never had problems starting it.
My husband is beginning to lose it. (Many beers have been drunk over this!) He has tried leaving the ash door open, which helps keep a low glow, but not a solid bed of burning coal. He removed the plate for Antracite burning. We are wondering if it could be that the chimney is not long enough to create a proper draft for coal. It is the double-wall Duratech 6 inch chimney and extends about 13.5 feet above the flue collar, straight up,through the roof (That was another fun day!) It has a cap. Should we extend it, or can anyone offer another possible cause/solution for this problem?
Thanks for any help!
First of all, what kind of grate are you using? You said you removed the plate for anthracite. What is that?? Second, try a bigger coal such as nut to get the fire going. Once it's going you can go to a smaller size if possible. Third, what size chimney did the literature with your stove tell you to use. Coal requires a good draft and 6" might be too small depending on your stove size. Forth, is he trying to get the coal going too soon? I start my fire with good old pine and have no trouble because I use lots of it. It burns real hot for a short time but will warm the chimney to draft and I lay my coal right on top of it before I even light the fire. Usually one shovel of it to start. You need to have a substantial layer of wood to get all corners of the fire box warm. You can try squirting the wood with charcoal lighter. This will actually burn off before the wood gets going real well and therfore allow you more kindling time. Also, make sure any over fire air dampers are closed. In other words have only an under fire air damper open. Leaving over fire air open will "short circuit" the air across the kindling fire. You want as much air as possible under the fire.
For draft sake you want at least a .2 over the fire. That's inches of water. Again, it depends on the unit. I can vary from installation though. A .2 will at least indicate that you in fact, have a draft. Don't pile the coal on too high at first. Build it up slowly until you have th size fire you require. One big thing that people tend to forget these days is that houses now are much more air tight than they ever were. You need to make sure that there's sufficient air entering the house so that the fire can draft. I can't tell you how many heating calls I've been in in the last 30 years where the only problem was the customer sealed up his boiler/furnace room and ruined the fire. Oil, wood, coal, pellets....it doesn't matter. But coal needs a good supply of replenishment air to maintain itself. In my cellar I have a "calibrated" air leak that allows air directly to the boiler. It cuts down on all window and door drafts and keeps the fire brisk.