What's Better: an Elec or Gravity Stoker or a Manual Stove

what's better: an elec or gravity stoker or a manual stove

PostBy: castiron On: Fri Apr 06, 2007 4:49 pm


I'm new to this forum. I was perusing the various coal stoves and wanted your thoughts on what's the better (pros/cons) type of coal stove: one with an electric feed hopper, a gravity feed hopper or a stove where you manually shovel coal into it? Thanks.

PostBy: LsFarm On: Fri Apr 06, 2007 5:39 pm

Welcome to the Forum!

The answer really depends on you, your life-style and schedule.

All three types of stoves work great. The hand feed need daily tending, usually every 12 hours or so. Depends on how cold it is.

The gravity hopper fed stoves can usually go 24 hours between tending.

An electric stoker can be from 24hours to several days between tending maninly based on the size of the coal hopper and the size of the ash pan.

An electric stoker type can usually be run at a lower output and be turned up with a few adjustments. Or with the new electronic controls, with a push of a button.

The adjustability of a stoker extends the coal-burning season a few weeks during warmer weather.

Tell us the size of the house, type of house, insulation, windows, current type of heat, location etc. We will be able to help you better.

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

PostBy: castiron On: Sat Apr 07, 2007 12:46 am

Thanks Greg,

1700 sq ft ranch (LR, DR, Kitchen, FR, 3 BR and 1.5 baths) with a wood burning insert in the 400 sq ft front living room/dining room and I'm thinking about a coal or wood stove in the 350 sq ft back family room and kitchen area. Both stoves (wood burning insert I have now and any second unit I get, coal or wood) would help heat the entire house. Would really need only a little extra heat from a coal stove so we're talking about a small unit.

House is well insulated and my typical Jan nat gas bill (with no stove running) is $95 ($75 for heat and $25 for hot water).

I don't want a large, bulky stove but I want at least 10 hr or so controlled burns and I don't mind tendng it somewhat. Was thinking about a gravity feed unit or hand-stoked unit so I'm not dependent on the power company. How do gravity and hand feed units control the output (is there an adjustable air damper) and what are the pros/cons of having these? How do you control the coal feed on a gravity unit?

Also, how do you rate coal stoves vs wood stoves?


PostBy: Richard S. On: Sat Apr 07, 2007 1:13 am

Stoker is definitely easier and will give you longer burn time, burn time is only limited by the size of the hopper and the size of the ash bin. Biggest drawback is no electricity and you have no heat.

I have many customers that use hand fired stoves in the rural areas specifically for that reason. Downside the them is of course they are a little more work.

Here's a cross section of what a hand fired Franco Belge looks like that is gravity fed, basically it has a hopper inside the stove. Most hand fired stoves do not have have a design like this and you just load all the coal into the firebox, not really an issue because you can easily control it which is one of the benefits of anthracite.

Richard S.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

PostBy: LsFarm On: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:42 am

Hello castiron You control the heat output of either the gravity hopper-fed or hand feed stove just like a wood stove, by controlling the air getting to the fire. The big difference is that you can slow down an anthracite coal fire without creating a bunch of creosote or smoke like from a slow wood fire.

You could probably get by with a Harman Mark I or a similar small hand fired stove. With your very!! [VERY!!] low heat bills, you need to find a used stove to make it economically reasonable. I'd keep an eye on Ebay, and your local papers for a used coal stove.

A coal stove is always going to have an ash pan, and a controlable air inlet to the underside of the firebox and grate. The grate will have a shaker device to agitate the ashes so they will fall into the ashpan. IF the stove has an air inlet for above the fire and grate, this air vent would work ONLY for burning wood. Many hand load stoves can burn both coal and wood. The quality of the firebox and shaker grate design will determine how good of a coal burner it is. Almost any steel can or box will burn wood reasonably well.

Wood is not as nice to burn as anthracite coal. Wood has dirt, bugs, bark, chips, spinters, and can be awkward to lug into the house. Coal can be bought in bags, or bulk and carried into the house in a 5-gallon bucket. Wood typically will require more frequent loading, and will create 'dangerous' creosote in your chimney. Creosote is 'dangerous' only if it is ignored, the chimney not cleaned etc. [you know this since you have a wood insert] Coal doesn't create any dangerous deposits in a chimney.

Once you burn coal, you will not want to burn wood again, unless you get clean, DRY, split wood, delivered to your door!!

I think I answered most of your questions. Where are you located?? Edit your profile with your location, if you are in eastern NY, or eastern Pa, northern MD, or NJ, you are close to the anthracite coal and it is almost a 'no-brainer' decision.

Happy Easter, Greg L.

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

PostBy: castiron On: Sat Apr 07, 2007 10:53 am

Greg, Admin...thanks

Hope I don't bore you folks but more info on how I currently heat is better than less info....so here goes.....

I live in the Dayton, OH area and currently have a new wood-burning insert (Jotul C450) and I really like it. I use very dry wood that I scrounge for myself (free wood :roll: ) and it burns nice and hot and clean. When I installed my system myself last month, I put in a 1-piece stainless steel liner (inside the 11" x 11" terra cotta flue tiles of the chimney) running from the stove connector to the chimney cap. I also insulated the liner (most people don't) with a full 1/2" thick blanket/wire mesh system. This gives me the full UL 2100F rating against multiple chimney fires. No way any fire could get through the liner, then the insulation and finally through my flue tiles and into my house.

That said, I have a back room that, while my Jotul will send heat there, it's really (as with any point source heating device) a distribution problem. I use my furnace fan to circ heat and it works fairly well but my eventual goal is to have another stove in this back room (about 300 sq ft). My house is medium-sized (1700 sq ft) and fairly well insulated (my Nov through March heat bills are about $400 total and hot water another $120) but I'd like to be able to get away from nat gas as much as possible for heat. My Jotul helps but now I'm looking at the possibilities for another stove for this back room....a small wood or coal burning stove.

Wood is nice because I get it free but I do have to tend it a bit...not too much because I just burn it from about 5PM when I get home until about midnight. When I go to bed, the Jotul has boosted the front room temp to about 76F and the back room to 72F. I leave the Jotul with large chunks of glowing wood but I don't restoke and get a full fire going because I don't need the heat. With outside temps at say 30F, my 72F house falls about 1deg F per hour and I wake up to a 64F or so home...not too bad, then I set the furnace to hold at 64 and go to work. So I really don't need all that much more heat at night but the second stove would allow me to boost the back room to a higher temp more quickly and with both stoves burning and the circ fan on, more heat would reach the bedrooms than it does now. Also, this small second stove (if coal) could be used to somewhat maintain the house temp when I'm not there and when I'm not burning wood.

Finally, for wife considerations, whatever goes there CANNOT be ugly (it's gotta be good looking to go in the back room) and it can't be a monstrosity. Also, it must put out, say, at least 8 hrs of heat before reloading. Correct me if I'm wrong, but does this kind of negate the auto-feed hoppers and maybe the gravity feed ones too because of looks and size and if so, what kind of burn can I get out of the manual feed ones and what kind of coal consumptions do you go through in these manual feed ones?


Re: what's better: an elec or gravity stoker or a manual sto

PostBy: oliver power On: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:04 am

castiron wrote:Hello,

I'm new to this forum. I was perusing the various coal stoves and wanted your thoughts on what's the better (pros/cons) type of coal stove: one with an electric feed hopper, a gravity feed hopper or a stove where you manually shovel coal into it? Thanks.
I questioned your post title at first. I assume you're asking opinions on stoker ( which uses electric for feed and air) , and natural draft (which does not depend on electric). Stokers are nice. But should the electric go out , your heat also goes out. Now for natural draft stoves. Gravity fed hopper stoves , as well as hand fed with shovel stoves , both need to maintain a bed of coals in the fire box. The difference is; one maintains the bed of coals by shoveling the coal directly on to the fire. And the other maintains the bed of coal by shoveling the coal into a hopper , which is inside the stove , just above the burning bed of coals. The coal in the hopper sets on top of the burning bed of coals. As the bed of coal burns into ashes , the coal in hopper replaces it. During the heating season , both should be tended every 12 hours as a rule. If you're a wood burner , you'll love coal. As they say , there's a learning curve to burning coal. Most wood burning people have a hard time keeping a coal stove going , and the fire will go out. Once the fire is out , the wood burner has a hard time getting it going again. That's because the wood burning person treats the coal fire the same as the wood fire. The wood fire tending has a wide varience. You can maintain a wood fire even if you don't really know what your doing. The more a person knows about maintaining a wood fire , the better the fire. When it comes to coal , the stove wants to be tended when and how IT wants to be tended , not the way a wood burner wants to tend it. The wood burner always wants to be messing with the fire. And the coal fire doesn't like being messed with. Once you learn the curve of burning coal , you'll realize it is nothing more than a high tech wood stove. You'll also realize how little a wood burning person knows about maintaining a fire , no matter how good they think they are. Years ago , I bought a vermont casting coal stove(my 1st coal stove) off a wood burning person who just couldn't keep the coal fire going. They went back to wood. I'll never forget her slogan; "Anyone Can Fake a Wood Fire". Most every coal burner you talk to will know about that learning curve , including myself. I grew up with wood heat , and thought I knew what I was doing. Yes , I was able to get the coal fire going ok. But , to maintain it around the clock was a different story. Others can go into more detail on your stove question.
oliver power
Stoker Coal Boiler: KEYSTOKER Kaa-2
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93 & 30-95, Vigilant (pre-Vigilant-II), D.S. 1600 Circulator
Baseburners & Antiques: MANY (Mostly when burning wood)

PostBy: castiron On: Sat Apr 07, 2007 3:29 pm


so, does my wish to have a small, good looking stove for use in a livingroom mean I'm probably looking at a hand feed stove since auto feed and hopper feeds are too large? So what models should I be looking at?

Also, if it's a hand feed:

1) How long will one "feeding" last at lower BTU/hr ratings (i.e., how often will I be reloading it)?
2) How much coal will it require per day on average?
3) When you reload it, do you just "shovel" the coal on top of the already burning coal or around the outer edge?

PostBy: bksaun On: Sat Apr 07, 2007 4:14 pm

Check out the Hitzer 30-95,it is hopper fed and not a very large stove at all. Comes in different colors too. My Alaska dealer had a green one going in his shop,I wanted one, but am awy from home over 24 hours at a time.

Stoker Coal Boiler: Hybrid, Gentleman Janitor GJ-6RSU/ EFM 700
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 503
Coal Size/Type: Pea Stoker/Bit, Pea or Nut Anthracite
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer/ EFM-Gentleman Janitor
Stove/Furnace Model: 503 Insert/ 700/GJ-62

PostBy: coal berner On: Sat Apr 07, 2007 4:48 pm

Hello castiron go to http://www.alaskastove.com and http://www.hitzer.com http://www.leisurelinestoves.com http://www.harmanstoves.com all the info will be there as for size a gravity hopper will be at the top inside of stove you will not see it all you do pull up on the top of stove and put your coal in a gravity will be around the same size as a handfeed give or take a few inches handfeed stoves will burn 12+ hrs. it depends on temp outside and how munch air you are giving it myself I can get anywhere from 17 hrs to 24 hrs when temps or in the teens when it warmer I will get 24hrs to 35hrs on one load is about 75 to 85lbs of coal as for how much coal you will burn that depends on what size the stove you get some will hold 45lbs up 120lbs there is a few on ebay go check them out to the nice thing with a gravity feed hopper you can get a few days with out filling it you still have shake the ashes once or twice a day well good luck on you endeaver hope this helps. P.S. when you put on fresh coal fill it up all the way to the top of firerbricks on handfeed stove and keep ash door open intill it caches the new coal then shut door never walk away with door open you will over heat the stove and damage it.
coal berner
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1986 Electric Furnace Man 520 DF
Stove/Furnace Make: Electric Furnace Man
Stove/Furnace Model: DF520

what's better: an elec or gravity stoker or a manual stove

PostBy: timberman On: Sat Apr 07, 2007 5:54 pm

The Leisureline stoves with the Coal-trol Digital controls are hard to beat. IMO Just set it, add a little coal once a day and enjoy the heat. You've got a wood stove for backup if the power goes out so may as well go electric stoker.