Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: Rob R. On: Wed May 18, 2011 11:40 am

I am starting this thread to spin off the discussion in the LL forum about the Anthraking. The idea is to discuss the pro's and con's of stoves vs. central heat, and furnaces vs. boilers.

Things like up front cost, cost to run, comfort, lifespan, whatever...are all fair game. It would be especially useful if people that have switched from one type of appliance to another could share their experiences. Hopefully people that are thinking of buying their first piece of coal-burning equipment will find this useful.
Rob R.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: EFM DF520
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93
Coal Size/Type: Lehigh Rice
Other Heating: Dad's 1953 EFM Highboy

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: whistlenut On: Wed May 18, 2011 12:27 pm

....and please tell the truth about repair parts availability, costs, and life cycle of components. :taz: :alone: :stretcher: :eek2:
whistlenut
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: AA130's,260's, AHS130&260's,EFM900,GJ&VanWert
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Franks Boiler,Itasca415,NYer130,Van Wert
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Yellow Flame
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Alaska-4,Keystoker-2,
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Alaska,Gibraltor,Keystone,Vc Vigilant 2
Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Van Wert, NYer's, Ford,Jensen.
Coal Size/Type: Rice,Buck,Pea,Nut&Stove
Other Heating: Oil HWBB

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: DOUG On: Wed May 18, 2011 1:13 pm

Well, alot of factors need to be weighed to make the correct decision.

Example, the layout of the house, such as where you want to locate the solid fuel appliance or the only place you can put the solid fuel appliance, the purpose needed or wanted to achieve, such as primary heating, secondary heating, or back up heating, how much money you want to spend or save, how much time you want to dedicate to operating the solid fuel appliance, the solid fuel planned on using, wood, anthracite coal, bituminous coal, or all, when available, the individuals budget, operating the solid fuel appliance with or without electricity, etc.

I believe that each case is individual and needs to be well planned and thought out because there isn't a one size fits all solution to this question.

Once these factors have been weighed, then can one only begin to shop for the correct solid fuel appliance. There are many good and different possibilities and combinations of possibilities that can be used for each application.

The first step should be making the decision as to what one wants as the end result, then doing reseach on the appliance or combination of appliances that will do what it is that they want to achieve.

Sometimes finances, or the lack of finances, gets in the way of making the correct decision. I've wasted a lot of time and money purchasing and installing solid fuel appliances in my home by trusting the words of a good salesman, only to be disappointed.

This NEPA forum has been the best resource for solid fuel appliance research and I only wish that it was around before I spent my hard earned money. I would have had a much better set up and a less expensive investment than the trial and error method which most that don't know any better end up going.

So, Thank you Mayor and all of the great NEPA members!
DOUG
 
Stove/Furnace Make: CHUBBY, D.S.MACHINE BOILER
Stove/Furnace Model: CLAYTON 1600


Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: coalnewbie On: Wed May 18, 2011 4:11 pm

Now this is getting to the heart of the issue simple decision charting. Most of us here have some sort of coal heating system but to the newbie with nothing we could use our expertise to derive a decision tree chart. First, we need to agree on a decision chart software - how about https://www.lucidchart.com. Some assumptions have to be made like say some non coal heating system is in place and we are changing/upgrading/expanding. Once we have agreed, on this a decision tree analysis can be constructed. First step, we are making the decision to change to coal and the pluses and minuses of that vis a vis other fuels. People in Miami might be motivated differently than Maine.Then moving onto a simple open fire coal fire - drivers and motivators. Any other ideas and is it worth it? This could distill a lot of our expertise into one simple chart for the novice and what a resource for all of us.
coalnewbie
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: LL AnthraKing 180K, Pocono110K,KStokr 90K, DVC
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93,
Baseburners & Antiques: Invader 2 Wings Best, Glenwood #8 + Herald 116x
Coal Size/Type: Rice, Chestnut
Other Heating: Heating Oil CH, Toyotomi OM 22

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: DOUG On: Wed May 18, 2011 5:52 pm

Now that is a good idea! Maybe if the Mayor could put something like this together, like he did the fuel comparison caculator, it would definitely help a lot of people make the correct decision or at the least, guide them in the proper direction.

Good idea coalnewbie! I wonder what our other seasoned veteren member's thoughts on a decision chart are? I like the idea. :idea: :) ;)
DOUG
 
Stove/Furnace Make: CHUBBY, D.S.MACHINE BOILER
Stove/Furnace Model: CLAYTON 1600

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: wsherrick On: Wed May 18, 2011 6:29 pm

It might be nice to start out with basic definitions of what is what. What is a Furnace? What is a freestanding stove? Boiler, Steam and Hydronic systems ect. It seems that sometimes in describing things we are not clear as to what we are talking about exactly. A hand fired hot air furnace is different than a hand fired free standing stove. What are those differences, for example?
wsherrick
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Glenwood Base Heater, Crawford Base Heater
Baseburners & Antiques: Crawford Base Heater, Glenwood, Stanley Argand
Coal Size/Type: Chestnut, Stove Size

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: franco b On: Thu May 19, 2011 3:31 pm

Without a doubt a central heating system is the way to go for the most even heat distribution. It also gets any mess and any dust away from the principle living area. A stoker makes tending easier. They also require electricity and their complexity makes for a higher probability of break down.

A central heating stoker is probably the most practical way to go, aside from expense. The problem is that most of our decisions are based on emotion rather than what is practical. A square house is the most practical form for maximum space yet there are very few square houses.

For me a stove is a lot more than a means to supply heat. I want to see the fire and the stove, so that means it goes in the living area, and it needs a certain amount of style that I find pleasing. I like the simplicity and reliability of a hand fired stove, and the feeling of getting back to basics, free of the power company. I like being more in control; more independent, as well as finding a certain fascination for a good fire.

Many on this forum also own many stoves which leads me to suspect their motivation in owning more than one, is just not what is practical.
franco b
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: V ermont Castings 2310, Franco Belge 262
Baseburners & Antiques: Glenwood Modern Oak 114
Coal Size/Type: nut and pea

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: Rob R. On: Thu May 19, 2011 4:34 pm

This NEPA forum has been the best resource for solid fuel appliance research and I only wish that it was around before I spent my hard earned money. I would have had a much better set up and a less expensive investment than the trial and error method which most that don't know any better end up going.


I also wish I had discovered this forum sooner and taken a few members up on their offers to let me visit and check out their coal-fired heating system. Here is my story about how and why I ended up with the heating system that I have now. Like many people, I started with out with a hand-fed stove...because that's what I could afford at the time (it was free). It did what it was supposed to do...it heated the area the stove was in (basement), but my house was not setup to allow for natural heat circulation. I still had to burn a considerable amount of fuel oil to heat the 1st floor on cold days, and the second floor anytime we had guests. It was nice having warm floors and it did take a bite out of the oil bill, but it didn't do what I wanted...which was to heat the entire house without fuel oil. After two winters with stoves (first with freebie, second with Hitzer), I made up my mind that it was time to take advantage of all the cast iron radiation in the house and get a coal boiler. I found one for a great price, but we got hit with some unexpected bills and I missed out on the boiler. As luck would have it, my wife and I ended up buying a different house that already had a wood/coal combination boiler installed. I thought I had it made...a coal-fired hydronic system already hooked up and functional. Wood was out of the question since I don't have a cheap supply and the boiler ate it like my dog eats popcorn (as fast as you can throw it)...so I went into the winter with a big pile of nut coal and high hopes. The hand-fed boiler did take care of the heat distribution problem, but I quickly discovered it needed a big dump zone to prevent overheating on warm days. As the weather got colder, I started waking up to the oil boiler running because the hand-fed was not keeping up after an overnight burn. I adjusted my shake and reload schedule to make it through the night, but when the weather got really nasty the firebox would get massive clinkers that had to be broken up. By March I had enough and just let the oil boiler take over. While all of this was going on, my dad was getting tired of heating only half of their house with his Hitzer stove. We talked it over, and decided that the best solution for each of us was to install a stoker boiler. The main reasons were as follows.

1. Central heating already installed. Like Doug said, how the house is setup plays a big role in what you chose. In our case, both houses were not setup to be heated easily via a free-standing stove, and each house already had a multi-zone hydronic system installed.

2. We did not want to burn fuel oil unless it was by choice. With dad’s Hitzer stove running, he was still burning fuel oil for a radiant slab in the breezeway, and the second floor. I was burning fuel oil during the fall when it was too warm to run the hand-fed boiler, in the morning when the fire had burned out, and again in the spring when it was too warm. (In total I burned 1000 gallons!) The only way for us to eliminate fuel oil consumption was with a real central heating appliance.

3. We wanted to produce a lot of domestic hot water. Dad’s existing oil boiler and indirect hot water heater were marginally sized for his home, and had a hard time producing enough hot water for back-to-back showers (and occasionally a soaker tub). He was ready to step it up and get something that would make a lot of domestic hot water. I was in the same boat, and also wanted to heat my pool during the summer.

The only coal burning appliance that could do all the things I listed above was a stoker boiler. Some people think they are too expensive…well, that depends. Refurbished units are about half the cost of new (or less)…and should last for decades without major problems. In my case, by being able to burn coal year-round and not burn fuel oil in the fall/spring, I save more money than if I was only supplementing the heat load with a radiant stove or a hand-fed boiler. According to my calculations, if I had just bit the bullet four years ago and bought a stoker boiler, I would be money ahead compared to the route I took with a freebie stove, a $1100 radiant stove, and the hand-fed boiler that came with the house I live in currently.

My dad and I chose EFM boilers because of their reputation for being efficient, durable, and quiet. I’m sure a Keystoker, AHS, AA, Van Wert, etc would also do a fine job.

About the only disadvantages I can think of are that the stokers require electricity to operate, and you rely on moving parts to product & distribute the heat. I have found the stoker mechanism and circulator pumps to be very reliable, and I deal with the electric part by having a generator on standby. We have a well, so the generator allows us to keep the heat/water/lights on. If I decide that we need more heating redundancy, maybe I will start looking for a budget-priced free-standing stove. ;)
Rob R.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: EFM DF520
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93
Coal Size/Type: Lehigh Rice
Other Heating: Dad's 1953 EFM Highboy

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: EarthWindandFire On: Wed Jul 06, 2011 10:39 am

This is an excellent thread and I wanted to resurrect the discussion if possible.

During the next few weeks I will spend some time to develop an Excel spreadsheet that could be useful to those looking at coal as a heating source and aid in the decision as to which coal heating appliance would work best for them.

If anyone has any input or ideas, please post your thoughts or experiences.
EarthWindandFire
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Leisure Line Lil' Heater.
Other Heating: Oil Furnace and Kerosene Heaters.

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: Rob R. On: Wed Jul 06, 2011 11:02 am

Hi Mark, a good way to kickoff the discussion is to figure out what you need/want from a coal system, and what your budget is. Please tell us about the house (size, layout), any currently installed heating systems, current fuel consumption, and anything else you think is relevant.
Rob R.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: EFM DF520
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93
Coal Size/Type: Lehigh Rice
Other Heating: Dad's 1953 EFM Highboy

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: AA130FIREMAN On: Thu Jul 07, 2011 2:03 am

If I can add my thought here, the stoker boiler is like a leatherman tool, it can do it all. Want hot air, use a hydronic fancoil, domestic hot water, ice melting for sidewalks, pool/hot tub heater, outbuildings or the family pet's doghouse , all from the convience of one central unit (if sized accordingly). And the ability to regulate the temperature over a stove(with a push of a button).
AA130FIREMAN
 
Stove/Furnace Make: axeman anderson
Stove/Furnace Model: 130 anthratube

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: steamup On: Thu Jul 07, 2011 8:14 am

This is not a black and white subject. While it can be approached from an engineering point of view, ie evaluating heating load, physical constrants, chimeny options, code issues, existing conditions, economics, etc, the personal factor must also be considered. A stoker boiler simply does not look good in your living room. ( some men may disagree with this but I bet their wives differ). Stoves have appeal and provide a different type of comfort level.

Lots to consider.

A spread sheet that rates different categories on a scale of 1-5 may be good in that the higher scores can lead to the better options for any specific situation. What is good for one person may be impossible for the next.
steamup
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman-Anderson AA-130, Keystoker K-6
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: HS Tarm 502 Wood/Coal/Oil
Coal Size/Type: pea, buck, rice

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: coalnewbie On: Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:17 pm

Water takes the path of least resistance and will equalize pressure drops on parallel paths. I am therorizing that the water pressure drop through the oil boiler when the coal boiler pump is running is sufficient enough to open the flow check valve on the supply side circulator and cause some parallel flow to the house.

Why throttle the discharge of the supply side circulator to the house? If this to lower water flow, then the circulator is too big. If the the coal boiler circulator is the same size as the house circulator, then it is way too big.

Pressure drop is the square of flow is system equations. Lower the flow and you lower the pressure drop alot. Even though the pipe and oil boiler is a small pressure drop, at a great enough flow, the pressure drop will be enough to force water past the flow control valve to the house.

As is stated before, test this theory by throttling the coal boiler pump and see if the ghost flow goes away.


Are you sure this hydronics stuff is worth it? Terrible day yesterday and so I finished it off by pouring a pint or two of my summer XXX self brewed winter warmer. The basement is 65F and nice so I decided to setup up my second AnthraKing. Admittedly, I had to buy some 14", 10" down to 8" ducts on line but once at 8" they become el cheapo Lowes specials. My local is too lazy to clear away the winter stuff and is perhaps the worst run Lowes in the country although I will discuss that one.

After two pints of XXX the world is a great place again and I am Tarzan (the bobcat had moved it into the level floor beforehand). So I moved the stove into place and set it all up from scratch, except drilling a hole for the powervent. Finished at 10:30PM, one more beer to congratulate myself and off to bed. I felt terrible about missing the Kenyans speech but I will get over it. Can anybody send me the text version - on the other hand don't bother - let me guess it's all GBs fault. I just don't get this hydronics stuff but after three pints of XXX I don't understand very much at all.. Being dumb saves so much money.
coalnewbie
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: LL AnthraKing 180K, Pocono110K,KStokr 90K, DVC
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93,
Baseburners & Antiques: Invader 2 Wings Best, Glenwood #8 + Herald 116x
Coal Size/Type: Rice, Chestnut
Other Heating: Heating Oil CH, Toyotomi OM 22

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: steamup On: Tue Jul 26, 2011 2:36 pm

Air (since we are not compressing it for heating), steam and water are all fluids, just with different properties. Application is the key. Whether piping a boiler or furnace in parallel, problems can be encountered with controlling the fluid if not done with proper sizing and design. 6", 8", 10", 12", 14" ducts vs 1/2", 3/4", 1", 1-1/4", 1-1/2" pipes we are only dealing with fluid properties. Same engineering concepts apply, quanity and units change.

Air is equally adept to failure. I once saw an entire house return air system piped with a 6" duct although there was a supply duct to every room. It should not take an engineer to figure out that there is a problem but too many people skip high school physics. However, the home owner saved lots of money on the installation and didn't like the price of the fix.

There are pros and cons to every type of system. Physical limitations, economics and personal preference will steer each to their own best solution.

Air heating no doubt can be the simplest and cheapest. However, I can run a 3/4" pipe through a 8" floor joist with little structural concern. Try that with your 8" duct.
steamup
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman-Anderson AA-130, Keystoker K-6
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: HS Tarm 502 Wood/Coal/Oil
Coal Size/Type: pea, buck, rice

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: EarthWindandFire On: Tue Jul 26, 2011 3:49 pm

The supply ducts in my house were done very well. However, I have a large return trunk but only one side has a vent which is in my living room. The vent for the other side of the trunk was never hooked up or was covered over. But, regardless, I have no return vents from the second floor.

I have considered using the existing supply ducts and use them instead as return ducts when I remove the existing oil furnace and install a stoker furnace.

Is plastic square duct work code compliant here in the United States? I see that its readily available in England.
Last edited by EarthWindandFire on Tue Jul 26, 2011 4:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
EarthWindandFire
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Leisure Line Lil' Heater.
Other Heating: Oil Furnace and Kerosene Heaters.