I apologize for this lengthy discussion, but ever since coming to this site I have become enamored with the idea of burning coal. Also, I have been graduated from SIU since December and jobless (but searching) and I have needed an engineering problem to work on. My background is electronics and my father is a plumber and pipefitter. We have had many discussions about the following.
As you can see in the pictures, my grandmother’s house is heated using an ancient 60’s era gas boiler with series loop hot water heat system. Seeing the gas and electric bill under the new Illinois rate structure this month is making buying a new efficient boiler sensible. At one time my grandmother’s house was heated with some type of coal heat. The coal bin is still there, along with an enormous steel or iron tank. What could that large tank have been used for? As you can see in the pictures, there is a smaller tank that is connected to the domestic water from when the water was supplied by a cistern.
My plan will work in a few phases. I plan on changing over the boiler to a modern efficient hydropulse boiler unit. The second phase is changing over the radiators to under floor radiant heat using pex tubing with 7 individual zones. There have been 3 additions to the house and they use electric baseboard heat…unacceptable. The 6 zones will be the different areas of the house and the 7th will be the existing radiant loop, so heat can be dumped to in case of emergency or overheat condition. Eventually, the baseboard will be moved to the basement as the house is remodeled and reused there to heat it more effectively. I have abandoned the idea of using a boiler in the house. I hope to one day build a shop and heat it with radiant floor heat, so I am considering an outdoor boiler type as Mound City has. This would provide a better way to get the coal in rather than put it in the house in the coal bin, which will invariably be dirty, harder, and not worth the effort.
With my background in electronics, I have decided to control the entire system with Allen Bradley Micrologix PLCs. You can pick up 12 input 10 output 24v models on eBay for around $60. The zone control valves run on 24v and I have power supply readily available to me. I can integrate the thermostats, zone control, gas boiler control, circulation pumps, coal boiler controls (combustion air, damper, etc), low water, etc into a ladder logic program of my own design to fit my needs and change it as the system changes.
One a side note, by asking around I found that at one time my grandfather heated his shop with a Warm Mornings coal stove. I am trying to locate this stove (the property has been sold, but it may still be there) since not only would it be known to burn area coal well, but would have immense sentimental value. My father has expressed interest in replacing the wood burner in his shop with his father’s coal burner so that he can keep it heated more easily and for longer periods since our two labs like to sleep there.
I love the 60's design
An interior view
Coal bin filled with junk. Notice the knob and tube wiring above.
What could the large tank have been for? Also, has all the cistern pump stuff, but we have city water now.
Mysterious piping and holes on the side of the big tank.