Need Advice - Looking into coal

Need Advice - Looking into coal

PostBy: mjwood0 On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 11:00 am

Hello all! I'm new here and really am enjoying reading all the great information found here. I'm ready to switch my home over from oil to some other form of heat but have tons of questions! Hopefully, all the knowledge here will help my wife and I make an informed decision.

Currently, our home is set up with an Fuel Oil burning forced hot air furnace. It's close to 20 years old and starting to show its age. We have a three story house and the furnace is in the basement. Since the basement is unfinished, I really don't need to heat it (and there is no current ductwork to do so). I'm looking to supplement my heat using some form of stove on the first floor. It will be centrally located so hopefully it will do a good job keeping the important rooms warm (we can close the doors to the rest). It will also be next to the stairs, so hopefully, some of the heat will rise up to the third floor. Also, my house is quite small (around 1500 sq feet) but the third floor has angled ceilings. It's well insulated as well.

The problem is that for insurance purposes, I want to keep the oil burner functional (also if we go away for extended periods of time). Also, to get the stove centrally located, it's impossible to use a chimney and building one really isn't in the budget. This means that my options are a direct vent stoker or a pellet stove (gasp).

Pricing coal and pellets around here, it seems that a ton of pellets is the same price as a ton of coal. For this reason, coal seems better. Also, I'm not certain the price of pellets won't go up as oil prices rise. I feel that coal will be more stable. However, in talking to a local stove dealer whom has come highly recommended, I was told that pellets were cleaner, easier and the stoves seemed to have less problems. They sell Harman. They also said that the direct vent blowers for coal stoves weren't lasting as well as they had hoped. They have had several die in around 2 years. The pellet stove was also close to $1000 cheaper installed and they had a package that included 2 tons of pellets. Good deal.

But I'm really not sure that I want pellets. Coal seems so much more stable price wise and provides much more heat. I don't want to install this myself so I'm pricing things completely installed. It seems that if I want a good stove with direct vent, I'm talking close to $4000 installed. Is this insane?

Basically, I'm looking for some good advice as to what stoves to look at that may be less expensive but still serve to heat my house.

Thanks in advance for any help. If you don't feel comfortable posting prices or anything, feel free to PM me.

Mark
mjwood0
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Leisure Line
Stove/Furnace Model: Econo

PostBy: coaledsweat On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 11:24 am

You best bet is to locate a boiler in the basment and put a heat exchanger in your existing ductwork. The experts here are going to want more info on your house. Cellar access and amount of room for storage and delivery of coal etc.
Putting the heat source in the cellar will change the whole character of the home, it's nice having a toasty warm floor and it cuts down on drafts somewhat.
The pellets are great for the ladies but price and availability will drive you insane. Do you have any idea how much room they take up for the little heat they have. A friend of mine went pellet two years ago and spent the winter looking at it, he couldn't even get pellets. Last year he got plenty and now he has had enough of pellets.
You may want to go with a metal chimney instead of the power vent, they are as reliable as a bucket of rocks, power vents are not.
You may wind up spending $6,000 in the end and be very happy you did.
coaledsweat
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260M
Coal Size/Type: Pea

PostBy: mjwood0 On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 11:50 am

I think you have a valid point. But as of right now, we really don't have the budget to re-do the whole heating system. We really just want to supplement heat for the first and second floor.

I totally agree about the pellets. I don't want to go that way, but the idea of having to keep my house at 55* all winter is going to really upset my wife. I have to do something, but if a direct vent isn't reliable, pellets it will have to be.

Over the next 5 years, we will be finishing the basement. At that point, there's a good chance of getting rid of the furnace and adding either a full coal setup or another small stove to run down there. Insurance is also an issue as they said that I had to have "traditional" heat in my home or my rates would skyrocket.

What exactly are the problems with direct vent? Do they really need repairs ever couple years?

Thanks for the good info thus far. Still researching and any info is helpful.
mjwood0
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Leisure Line
Stove/Furnace Model: Econo


PostBy: coaledsweat On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 2:21 pm

Then you probably want a stove on the first floor. Try to find a good used one in your area and with an insulated metal chimney get away with about $2000-$2500. I think there are two in your area now on this board. Then you can save a ton of bucks for your stoker you'll want after your hooked on coal.
coaledsweat
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260M
Coal Size/Type: Pea

PostBy: Matthaus On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 2:59 pm

Welcome to the Forum, and to the wondeful world of burning coal. I also am new at this (bought my first stove in September, used).

As coaledsweat said there are many details that need to be considered for the installation, but a used coal stoker furnace may be the best bet. I just recently bought a working 160,000 btu Alaska unit on ebay for $800 (the unit also came with a 5" SWG power vent!). It has a 1500 cfm fan that can push quite a bit of heat. If you are handy at all or have a buddy in the heating business you could possibly hook up a coal unit to work in parallel with you oil unit.

As far as the power vent go they are less trouble free than a chimney but I have two running right now (one used and one new) and have had zero issues. Coal exhaust is highly corrosive and from what I can see the power vents need to be removed every season and overhauled for a cost of around $100. If you are not handy then the cost would be higher of course.

Just a couple thoughts for your consideration. :)
Matthaus
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Leisure Line WL110 Dual Fuel
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Leisure Line Lil' Heater (rental house)
Coal Size/Type: Rice and Buckwheat Anthracite

PostBy: BinghamtonNY On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 2:59 pm

Mark, this really is'nt an answer to your question, but here's my situation. I've got Oil forced air also but added a Magnum stoker in my basement. I have a second 6" inlet into my chimney so I have both devices hooked into it. Coal on the bottom and furnace on top. I keep my basement at about 72 and have the hot air duct ported up into my living room floor. Since my house is not well insulated it's not the end all but works well for me. My furnace does still run on occasion but not much. This last week it's been in the teens at night and I've heard it fire up. Basically the coal heat helps regulate the temp plus I have warm floors. I still use oil but not nearlly as much I as would. 300 gallons last year. Old owners 1100 gallons. I burn about 3 1/2 tons of coal.

I know plently of guys on this board who use the direct vent stoves and nobody really complains about them breaking down. Maybe a little noisey. I've even considered a small DV unit for my dining room/ kitchen area. To use when it gets really cold. Like today!!!! I'll always leave the furnace there for times when you go away etc.. Or fall and spring. Send me a PM and maybe I can help you with dealers around us. I'm in Vestal. -Ryan
BinghamtonNY
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman Magnum Stoker

PostBy: mjwood0 On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 5:50 pm

Hey Ryan, I'm in Greene! Neighbors almost!

I just checked out a few more options but found that the exhaust must be 4 feet away from any window. This may prove a deal breaker for me as most of my walls have windows on them. In fact, I'm not sure I can make this work at all. Sigh. So sick of buying oil and supporting that industry.

All of these are good ideas. If I can find someplace to vent this thing, i'll be good to go.

I'll let you all know after I take some measurements!
mjwood0
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Leisure Line
Stove/Furnace Model: Econo

PostBy: LsFarm On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 6:12 pm

Consider installing a class A chimney on an outside wall, raise it high enough to be effective. Subract the cost of buying and supporting an electric venting system.

Most Class A chimneys can be enclosed in a wood structure, and covered with siding of your choice to blend in with your house.

Or install a class A chimney inside the house, going up through closet space or corners. Either way, once the chimney is installed it is done, and won't cost anything more.

If you are at all handy, build your own masonry chimney. The masonry cinder-block for chimneys are pretty cheap, and the terracotta flue liner isn't that expensive either. I laid up my own masonry chimney, and while it was a bit of muscle work, I think it was well worth the effort. Go to a masonry supply or local lumber yard and price it out, It's cheaper than a SS Class A prefab chimney. The work is pretty simple, and if your area is like mine, there are plenty of masons looking for a quick weekend job.

THEN you will have a choice of what you want to install to burn coal.

Greg L

.
LsFarm
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland

PostBy: mjwood0 On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 6:20 pm

I would go that route. Unfortunately, where I would want to install the stove is right where my walkout basement side of the house is. Therefore, right out the side where I would vent would be a 12 foot drop. Just fine for the direct vent (save for the window problem) but not so good for the chimney.

Also, going up through the ceiling would go right through my den and then through the roof. Quite expensive according to one installer (> $800) just to run the pipe. This doens't include any drywall work or other issues which arise from cutting holes in my house.

I really want / need to do something, but it seems whenever I want to make improvements to my home the darn code gets in the way. (Can't install a bigger propane tank for my stove without moving it more than 20 feet from the house since there are windows / doors all over.) Oddly enough, the windows in question are NEVER opened. Would wall it up but it overlooks my 13 acres and is where we can watch deer, turkey and other beautiful wildlife.

I'll figure something out. Just try to stay positive and figure out my options.
mjwood0
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Leisure Line
Stove/Furnace Model: Econo

PostBy: LsFarm On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 6:48 pm

There is always a way, sometimes a bit more pricey than we would want. I started with a very inexpensive system, but soon had to upgrade to a bigger boiler.

BUT, I went from a winter-season Propane budget of ~$6000 and a 60* house to a coal budget of ~1100 and a 70* house. this is a no brainer!!

Yes I had to spend more than I thought, but it has paid itself back record time.

Keep at it, check out those out of work masons, 22' of freestanding masonry chimney is not that expensive. At least get a few quotes.

Stop by a few construction sites and talk directly to the workers, that's how you find the guys who want to work on Saturday and Sunday!!

Best of luck. Greg L
LsFarm
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland

PostBy: mjwood0 On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 6:54 pm

Thanks for all the ideas and kind words of encouragement. It can get dishartening when you buy a house and try to make it better only to find everything is more difficult than it should be or more expensive than it originally was quoted.

I hate to do it, but I can still go the pellet stove route if I absolutely have to. I just really don't want to. I just found out that I've used 184 gallons of fuel oil (heat / hot water) since last march or so. Not too bad. But really, I want to do this to get away from the dependency of fossil fuel and keep the house warmer than 55 degrees. Perhaps I'm too concerned with the environment, but I hate the idea of fossil fuel and the fact that we're going to run out at some point in the not too distant future.
mjwood0
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Leisure Line
Stove/Furnace Model: Econo

PostBy: Jerry & Karen On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 8:48 pm

Hi MJ,
There might be an easier way to skin that cat. We sell power vents and they work fine. What I don't like about a PV is that it uses elect. and runs 24/7. For your best bet, you should buy a lesser expensive PV (not stainless steel) and have a heating guy hook it up to your oil furnace. Then it would only run when your oil furnace kicks on. Then hook up your Leisure Line coal stoker to your existing chimney. You can buy our stoves to hook into your hot air system and blow the heat through out your house, using your existing system. We have a guy in Owego that sells our stoves and he could help you. Hollenbecks feed 607.687.2509.
Jerry
Leisure Line Stoves.
Jerry & Karen
 

PostBy: jpen1 On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 9:18 pm

Here's some perspective from a person switching from pellets to coal. Based on the size house you have I imagine you will burn 6 tons of pellets to keep your house at 70 for the winter, compared to 3 1/2 to 4 tons of coal. To put this in better perspective My next door neighbor has an identical house to mine and heats with an Alaska stoker. ,( they are mirror image houses built the same year. He burns around 2 tons of coal a year and I burn 4 tons of pellets and he keeps his house warmer than mine. If you burn pellets you must have an outside air connection to make a Harman pellet stove burn with any kind of efficency. Pellets require more maintanence, you will have to shut it down every 2 to 3 weeks to get the fly ash out of the pipe, and pellet vent pipe is a bear to work with. Pellets also carry several kinds of mold in them so if anyone in your house is allergic to mold they will truely suffer, ask my wife. In the area you can store 4 tons of pellets you could store at least 7 tons of coal. Unless you get a hopper extension you will never get a 24 hour burn out of a pellet stove vs. 2/3 days with coal. There are only 2 upsides to pellets less ash and they are easier to lite , but with practice coal can be just as easy to lite. After 5 years of pellets I am happy to get rid of the thing. As for reliability my pellet stove has had many more problems than my neighbors stoker which is twicw as old as my pellet stove. I have pu a new exhuast motor, auger motor , a new burn plate in it, and new gaskets every year. In comparison the neighbors Alaska stoker has only needed new door and window gaskets once.
jpen1
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Leisure Line
Stove/Furnace Model: 110 Boiler

PostBy: coaledsweat On: Thu Dec 07, 2006 10:34 pm

Leisure Line wrote:Hi MJ,
you should buy a lesser expensive PV (not stainless steel) and have a heating guy hook it up to your oil furnace. Then it would only run when your oil furnace kicks on. Then hook up your Leisure Line coal stoker to your existing chimney. You can buy our stoves to hook into your hot air system and blow the heat through out your house, using your existing system. We have a guy in Owego that sells our stoves and he could help you. Hollenbecks feed 607.687.2509.
Jerry
Leisure Line Stoves.


That makes a lot of sense.

I told you MJ, the place is crawling with geniuses.
coaledsweat
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260M
Coal Size/Type: Pea

heating with an automatic coal boiler

PostBy: mikeandgerry On: Fri Dec 08, 2006 12:27 am

MJ:

I went through the same thought path recently: I didn't want to support arab or venezuelan oil, needed to replace heating system, didn't have a chimney, etc. I bit the bullet. I will be spending big bucks to switch systems but I expect to save 1100 per year with coal vs. adding 400 per year to my budget with oil (I am replacing an obsolete electric thermal storage system).

I sell prefab chimneys through my business but I contracted for a mason to build a 21 foot block chimney for 2100. Oil boilers run 2000-2500 but I bought an axeman-anderson automatic coal stoker boiler that uses an auger to feed from the coal bin. It runs close to 6000 picking it up at the plant. It is an ASME approved central heating system. My insurance company said there should be no problem with that change.

I am running copper piping (yikes, $$$) to accomodate high boiler temperatures and using cast iron radiators to transfer heat (my house space was already allocated to electric thermal storage radiators so the radiators were a good choice for space as well as even heating). Since I had to get a new system anyway, the extra 5000 for the boiler and the copper will be amortized in 4.5 years. The rest will be amortized in 8 years with the savings. With the oil there would be no payback at all, just higher heating bills after a hefty investment.

I know someone with an axeman anderson coal stoker boiler and they
bouht it used having 20 years on it, have run it constantly for 11 years with direct domestic hot water production and heat a 3000 sq ft home ( with cathedral ceilings and r-11 insulation to 70*) with 6 tons of pea coal.
mikeandgerry
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman-Anderson Anthratube 130-M