Pros and Cons of Bit Coal

Pros and Cons of Bit Coal

PostBy: slefoll7 On: Sat. Oct. 22, 2011 7:49 am

I am new to the forum and to coal burning too. I have an outdoor wood/coal burning furnace, large capacity. I have talked with some guys from down in the Maryland area with the same furnace who burn Bit coal that they pick up themselves locally. What are the downsides of burning bit coal versus anthracite? Any and all wisdom on bit versus anthracite, and on burning bit coal generally (what to look out for, how not to get bad coal, etc...) would help me.

I am in far northern Vermont, and I am trying to get a load delivered up here via tri-axle. Any suggestions or references for a hauler would be very welcome.
Stove/Furnace Make: ACME
Stove/Furnace Model: 5000

Re: Pros and Cons of Bit Coal

PostBy: lsayre On: Sat. Oct. 22, 2011 8:06 am

Forum member Berlin is the guy with all the knowledge of bituminous coal burning. All I have been able to assess from hanging out on this forum is that stoves listed as combination wood/coal stoves require bit coal and highly dedicated anthracite only stoves are required for anthracite. Something about anthracite only burning with air supplied from below, vs. wood and bit coal burning with air supplied from above. It sounds like you are asking the right question, as it sounds as if your stove would require bit.
Stoker Coal Boiler: AHS S130 Coal Gun
Coal Size/Type: Blaschak Anthracite Pea
Other Heating: Resistance Boiler (13.5 KW)

Re: Pros and Cons of Bit Coal

PostBy: swihart_art On: Sat. Oct. 22, 2011 11:01 am

From my years of experience with bit coal in a wood / coal insert. Bit coal is cheaper by the ton ($60 a ton) but noticibly softer.

It burns with a yellow flame as opposed to the nice blue flame you see at the top of the page. (anthracite) Bit burns yellow because of the impurities in it like sulfur which REALLY stinks (ROTTEN EGG SMELL :sick: ) and I've also noticed alot more "clinkers" (lumps of fused ??????? who knows what that cloggs grates and is wasted weight) with the cheaper grade coal and Bit also has WAY less BTU's and shorter burn as opposed to Anth. Burning bit inside will make you understand how much it can stink if you have a leaky gasket in dead of winter or have to load every 6 hours.

We switched the insert out for a LL Pocono stoker with coal-trol and will never look back. It takes rice anth. and we get it bagged by Blaschak (Santa Claus coal as the kids say) by the ton delivered ($320 for 2400 lbs in western PA)

If you try the Bit coal you may or may not be happy as well as your neighbors who will notice the difference in the type of coal you burn by the smell in the neighborhood. Anthracite burns hotter, longer, cleaner by far with less problems (bridging can also be a problem) and destroys the myth that coal is a dirty fuel source that is messy and stinks.

Times are hard and there is a huge gap in price so if you need to save the money, it's possible to use the Bit coal but the difference is night and day which pretty much explains the difference in price. BTW you can get it from the breakers locally and save a bunch if you have one near you. We don't. :cry:
Hope this helps,
Stove/Furnace Make: Leisure Line
Stove/Furnace Model: Pioneer LE

Re: Pros and Cons of Bit Coal

PostBy: Berlin On: Sat. Oct. 22, 2011 3:28 pm

A good bit coal will have higher BTU's (more heat) and less ash than anthracite. A good bit coal won't produce clinkers or coke. Bit coal will burn with yellow flames from the hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide flames are bright blue, hence the high carbon anthracite producing blue flames. Bit coal will produce soot, but no sticky flammable creosote in the boiler or flue.

Bit coal burned in a hand-fired stove will produce some smoke and smell outside depending on the coal, but in an outdoor boiler the smell is different enough from what people are used to that you should not use it if you have close neighbors. As far as smoke, it won't produce any greater volume of smoke than a load of wood loaded into an outdoor boiler. You will want to use larger sizes of coal, stay away from the small stoker sizes if you are going to be hand-firing.

Bit coal is an excellent option for your boiler if you don't have close neighbors and would like to enjoy long burn times and low cost. I would recommend eastern KY lump coal for your boiler, it's a little more $$ than other bit coals, but burns LOOONG slow, and has very high BTU (often over 14,000btu/lb) and low ash (usually less than 7%) It also tends to produce less smoke and smell than other bit coals.

If you wanted to burn less expensive stoker bit coal, I would recommend purchasing a stoker unit and inserting it into your boiler - you'll get a lot more efficiency, virtually no smoke or smell and you'll be burning the least expensive sizes of bit coal. There are also complete outdoor stoker boiler units that auger coal in and ash out making your life as easy as possible. An option might be to sell your current boiler and replace it with one of these.

For coal and trucking I'd reccomend calling:
Thompson bros. mining: 330-549-3979 (ask for Dan Thompson, he burns his own coal in an outdoor boiler)
Valier Coal yard: 814-938-5171 (Ask for mark, if he's busy, ask when/how you can get in contact with him)
Central Fuel Co.: 330-339-5049
Penn Keystone: 814-244-3140 (penn keystone as well as other brokers can get you KY lump coal and arrange trucking)
Check the coal sources page for mark's "KY coal contacts list" and start calling
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Will-Burt Combustioneer 77B
Coal Size/Type: Ohio BITUMINOUS pea stoker coal

Re: Pros and Cons of Bit Coal

PostBy: steamup On: Mon. Oct. 24, 2011 9:44 am


I have a friend with an outdoor wood/coal furnace. He has tried bit and will not burn it do to the smell. He is in a valley and the smoke hangs in. He has no problem with Anthracite.

Get a small quanity if possible for some test burns before committing to a TT load of the stuff.

Check you local and state regulations too. If you don't have close neighbors, you are probably all right. In New York, new hand fired Bit installations are no longer permited.
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: Pros and Cons of Bit Coal

PostBy: slefoll7 On: Tue. Oct. 25, 2011 6:03 am

Thank you all for the information.


I have been looking at a strain of Bit from a mine near Frostburg, MD that a guy I know uses - he says that it only has a very slight smell when you are first lighting it, that everyone on his street uses it , etc... . But, maybe he doesn't notice the smell because it is constant. The local people up here in VT would not appreciate it if there was a constant low grade stink around here, and neither would I for that matter. My neighbors are all about 600 yards or more away, but the little tiny town hall is about 200 yards.

Does even the best Bit coal give off some sulphur smell?


Stove/Furnace Make: ACME
Stove/Furnace Model: 5000

Re: Pros and Cons of Bit Coal

PostBy: Berlin On: Tue. Oct. 25, 2011 10:35 am

scott, I think that burning bit in an outdoor boiler will produce enough smell that people that close may notice. I think that if you wanted to burn bit (and I would stay away from most maryland coal) sticking a nice underfeed stoker into your firebox would be the ideal solution - you would burn much less coal, you would burn the least expensive sizes of coal (stoker) and you will have virtually NO smoke or smell. with the fuel wasted by smouldering in a large firebox (even with bit coal's relatively low price) the stoker unit would pay for itself within a few years at most. Excellent Bit stoker can be had for as little as $70/ton in pennsylvania.

**Broken Link(s) Removed**
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Will-Burt Combustioneer 77B
Coal Size/Type: Ohio BITUMINOUS pea stoker coal

Re: Pros and Cons of Bit Coal

PostBy: Short Bus On: Tue. Oct. 25, 2011 11:48 pm

I have an underfeed stoker similar to the one recomended by Berlin, never smokes or stinks.
When I burned this sub-bituminous coal by hand, I could fill the valley with white stinking smoke.
Short Bus
Stoker Coal Boiler: Kewanee boiler with Anchor stoker
Coal Size/Type: Chestnut / Sub-bituminous C
Other Heating: Propane wall furnace back up only

Re: Pros and Cons of Bit Coal

PostBy: LsFarm On: Fri. Nov. 04, 2011 10:54 am

By the time you pay the trucking fees for getting the coal from MD, you will have paid a portion of the extra price of Anthracite coal.

If you were in western or central southern Pa, then a load of Bit coal makes sense, but to haul a load all the way to northern Vermont, I'd spend a little bit less on the trucking and pay the difference for Anthracite coal..

I've burnt both, and unless you have an underfeed stoker boiler or furnace, like a Prill, EFM, Combustioneer, VanWert, etc, I'd stick with anthracite.

Bit coal in the right appliance is a good deal, but your trucking distances negate most of the price savings.

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

Re: Pros and Cons of Bit Coal

PostBy: dave brode On: Fri. Nov. 25, 2011 1:43 am

Although not as good as Kentucky, I admit, there is some very good coal here in Western Maryland, esp the George's creek seams. That said, still, any coal from Western Maryland is going to be pretty "dirty". Some dirtier than others. When tending/re-loading a hand fired appliance, you will get gray/black smoke and considerable smell. Sometimes, even smoke with a green hue. The "big vein" is fairly low ash, but much of it is gone. There are many high ash seams being mined here, although BTU is decent on most of those too.

As noted, an underfed stoker will greatly reduce smoke, and can increase the BTU output of your unit. Although, with a stoker, you would still use more than if you hand fire. The forced air feeding the fire tends to blow much heat up the flue. With bit, you need much more draft than you do with anthracite, due to the much greater amount of junk in the bit.

Here's a thread on coal in the Frostburg area [my home town]

coal history in my area

dave brode
Stoker Coal Boiler: Keystoker KAA-2
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: used to have a 5 section Red Square
Coal Size/Type: rice anthracite