Really temperamental stove/draft !!

Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: Dallas On: Mon Nov 12, 2007 1:34 pm

Hi all,
This is a long and ongoing saga.

In 1997 I built an addition on to my 125 year old farm house. Included in this addition, is a firebrick lined fireplace on the main floor, and an additional flue to the basement level. The fireplace flue and basement flue are in the same outside masonry structure, but both are separated from each other by clay flue liners and additional masonry. The fireplace has 12"x12" flue and the basement has 8"x8" flue.

OK, the construction is done, with the exception of finishing the basement room. ... no rush on that. It's fall, "let's have a fire in the fireplace". The fire lights easily, great draft, ... burning along nice. I smell smoke! Look in the basement and it's filling up with smoke. Jamb some fiberglass insulation into the thimble. .. and eventually flue. OK.

Finally, I get around to finishing the basement. My cousin had formerly been in the stove business, so there were a few stoves/burners to select from. I selected an enamel one with open front, kind of like a free standing fireplace. Well, it kind of burned (wood ... I know this is the Anthracite forum). But when the fire died down or you left it go out, the downdraft was strong enough to blow your hat off. ?? Took that stove back and got an airtight unit. While this was better, it still was very marginal due to the poor or part time draft (wood ... I know this is the Anthracite forum).

Every fall, I try some new approach to this draft/burning problem. That's why I'm here now.

As it turned out, the latter stove was a Russo coal stove. Well, I wasn't able to burn wood satisfactorily, so I thought, I might as well give coal a try. Well, the coal seemed like it might be the final answer. It seemed to burn pretty good .... the first time! The next time,it probably took three hours of paper, kindling, etc. to get it to catch. (While I haven't burned coal in 30 years or so, the first 30 or so years were different.) As time went on, I started using charcoal to get it going, which turned out to be a lot easier. It just didn't have the right draft! Keep in mind, the fireplace, directly above, has great draft.

I've had quite few people look at this installation or I've explained it to them, and nobody has come up with a cause or cure. I asked one sweep about a liner, ... he didn't feel it would help. He was on the top of the chimney, blocked off the fireplace flue, we opened doors and windows ...???? No change.

I've tried an additional length of stove pipe on the top of the chimney .. no noticeable change. However, opening the window in the basement room would allow the draft to reverse in about 30 seconds. I tried a vent in the adjacent basement window... it had to be about 4 square feet to work. Note: in the adjacent basement is the hot air oil furnace.

Also, through the course of things, I replaced all of the old double hung windows.
Laying in bed one morning, with the window open, I noticed the curtain instantly sucked in, when the furnace burner started. ???!! This surprised me, as it was so quick and I would have thought the house to be loose enough, that the combustion air would have come from elsewhere. So, I call my HVAC (I don't even know what that means) guy. We look over the furnace and he says the heat exchanger must have a crack ... he'll be back with a smoke bomb. Well, the smoke bomb didn't show anything. However! ... running the blower, forced air out of the combustion chamber hole.!! So, I get a new furnace and "yes" the old one did have a crack. While we were installing the new furnace, I incorporated a combustion air source blower (Field Controls CAS-3). I figured if the house was "that tight", it would be a good thing for the furnace, and also, figuring it would help the coal stove in the adjacent room.

Right after the furnace installation, I started on a kitchen remodel, which turned out to include everything else on the whole first floor of the original house! One of the facets of this remodel, included laying plywood underlayment over the original floor, which was a single layer of tongue and groove pine (loose and drafty). Hardwood was installed over the plywood underlayment. Plus, all of the first floor walls are now insulated.

Now, we're up to FALL 2007, time to see what's going on with the burner. I'm figuring, maybe sealing the floor will have made a difference, maybe insulation, maybe ???. I start a fire with a small amount of kindling, which burned along good. Added some coal, which caught easily and things progressed fine. A day or two later, after it had been burning pretty good, while it wasn't totally burned out,it was waning, I had quite a job getting it back to life. Tonight, the same thing. The whole stove was full of red coals, I shook it down a bit and added a thin layer of fresh coal .... hmmm ... It's not doing much!

The stove has a barometric damper, but no pipe draft. Back in "the good old days" we had pipe drafts, but no barometric. ??

So, I'm playing with this thing (you can tell I'm starting to get irritated, can't you?) and no matter what I do, I'm losing ground. I've got the CAS-3 running in the adjacent room, I tried opening the window, I took the baffle out of the stove, I closed the bottom draft part way, I opened the draft all the way, I opened the ash door and I opened the top door. Now!!, opening the top door, seemed to allow the flames to appear and dance around a little bit. Close the top door and the flames would disappear. The flapper on the baro would indicate a bit of air flow at that level. But, what it really seemed like, was there was pressure on the top of the fire, as well as pressure under the fire. I say this, because there didn't seem to be any air flow through the coals until I opened the top door and the flames would appear (weakly!). It has been sitting down there for 3 hours with a few red coals, fresh coal lightly over the top and doing nothing!
I just went down and put the hairdryer in front of the draft ... it didn't do much good. Maybe the coal is junk! Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that the outside temp is around 40 degrees. If it were colder, it would act a little better ... I think.

So, last night before going to bed, I checked. It had perked up a little bit. (we're looking at a 6" diameter area of live (?) coals). I put a little coal on it, closed the draft to where I would usually leave it and went to bed. This morning, it was a little warm in the basement, the pipe was only "warm" to the touch, but there were some red coals ... down under. The thing, had laid there all night in a coma! (I've decided "coma" is the perfect word for this fire.) I know it's not generating enough heat to create any huge updraft. The barometric pressure remains fairly high, even though it's a bit overcast outside.

As I'm waiting for the forum to get updated and come to life (which I know, will happen faster than the coal stove), I turned on the CAS-3 to see if it would breathe any life into my coals. After about an hour, I looked, and they were going into a deeper coma! Too much air? It almost seems like there is stagnant air in the chimney, which can't be overcome with the hot gases or the positive pressure from the CAS-3. And the fire bed is located right between these two pressures.

After the long coma, the patient has died of Asphyxiation.

OK, the forum has been updated and come to life, so I'll let this fly.

Glad to meet you all, Tom
Thanks for any help you might come up with.
Dallas
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Modified Russo C-35
Other Heating: Oil Hot Air
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo
Stove/Furnace Model: Modified C-35

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: LsFarm On: Tue Nov 13, 2007 6:34 am

Hello Tom, you are on the right track I think, you have a very tight house, and with a low burning coal fire are not creating enough heat to get a good draft.
When you open a window, is this in the room where the stove is?? You should be able to get plenty of draft with a window open and a hot fire going in the stove, This is what you had for a few days right? Untill you let the coal burn down too far.

It is very difficult to resurect a dieing coal fire, the coals may be glowing red, but they aren't hot enough to light other coal on fire. If there is a lot of ash, the coals won't get enough air and if the coal is in the dieing stage, they aren't going to revive with more air anyway.

So I'd try to establish an outside air source for your stove, like you did for your oil furnace. The stove needs to have fresh ourside air supplied to near it's vents. Then it won't have to pull a vacuum on the house like the oil furnace was.

Try again, but don't let the fire go so long that the coal is burnt out. With a hand load stove, the fire needs adding to and a shake of the grates every 12 hours or so.

Welcome to the forum, I hope this helps.

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

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: Dallas On: Tue Nov 13, 2007 9:13 am

Hi Greg,

To answer your question, "yes, the window I open is in the same room".

"It is very difficult to resurect a dieing coal fire, the coals may be glowing red, but they aren't hot enough to light other coal on fire."

Yes, I think this is a big part of the problem, I was having the other day. I went out and purchased another bag of Quick Light charcoal and with about a dozen briquettes, had the think roaring in about an hour. Plus, last year when I started burning coal in the stove, I didn't have the time to "learn the stove", as I was in the middle of construction.

The stove is probably over sized for the room, however I have a blower on the stove and an "air conditioning" thermostat in the room, which turns on the furnace hot air blower, when the room gets hot enough.

The whole stove burning thing has progressed from a negative situation to a "sometimes marginal" situation. Another item, which I had added was a Lyemance chimney damper. This allows me to shut off the chimney, when not burning ... I guess it helps.

Here is the stove yesterday, after the charcoal treatment. I had dampened it down a bit earlier.

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Last edited by Richard S. on Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Dallas
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Modified Russo C-35
Other Heating: Oil Hot Air
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo
Stove/Furnace Model: Modified C-35

Visit Hitzer Stoves

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: Dallas On: Tue Nov 13, 2007 2:44 pm

As mentioned earlier, the stoves I grew up with all had manual pipe drafts. As I recall, these were the critical item, when it came to heat. (of course the ashes had to be emptied and there had to be coal on the fire.) I can remember, when the steam came up, father saying "go down and close the pipe draft". Or if it cooled off, "go down and open the pipe draft. Sometime after that, a motorized damper control was installed, which was controlled by a thermostat.

I've been controlling the burn, totally with the lower slide draft. But I was thinking, when I want to dampen it down, and I close the lower slide draft, that cuts the air, but the "fire heat" goes up the chimney. Therefore the fire cools, probably sometimes, to the point that it won't support combustion. Or, if I open the lower slide draft, it may further cool the coal, if it is already cooled too low. Kinda like blowing on a candle to put it out or gently blowing on an ember to get it going.

So, anyhow, I installed a pipe draft this morning. Now, I have to relearn that!
Dallas
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Modified Russo C-35
Other Heating: Oil Hot Air
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo
Stove/Furnace Model: Modified C-35

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: Dallas On: Tue Nov 13, 2007 7:52 pm

:up: It appears that the addition of the pipe draft has been a huge improvement.
The first thing I noticed, was that the blue flames continued to dance on top of the coal. Even though the pipe draft was fairly well closed, the fire stayed hot and seemed to have more heat available. (Duh! ... it's not going up the chimney!) Because of this, I lowered the thermostat on the blower, which I had at a fairly high level, because it seemed like it lowered the stove temperature too much for the fire to burn properly.

I found it to be quite comfortable for a nap! :)
Dallas
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Modified Russo C-35
Other Heating: Oil Hot Air
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo
Stove/Furnace Model: Modified C-35

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: Wood'nCoal On: Tue Nov 13, 2007 9:41 pm

Hi Dallas,

I began burning coal this time last year. I went through a learning curve with the help of this forum and every one on it.

I had the same problems you are having. I heated with wood for years, the switch to coal as the main heat source was interesting.

I had the same problem as you are having. There were two reasons why: 1) I had too much draft-resolved by adding a barometric damper and 2) Strip mine coal that was high in impurities-I thought coal was coal, I learned otherwise.

I wish you continued sucess with your coal burner.
Wood'nCoal
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1959 EFM 350
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Magnafire Mark I
Coal Size/Type: Rice and Chestnut
Other Heating: Fisher Fireplace Insert

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: Dallas On: Wed Nov 14, 2007 9:00 pm

Wood'nCoal wrote:I thought coal was coal, I learned otherwise.
I wish you continued sucess with your coal burner.


Even back in the good ole days, right out of the mines, some coal was good and some wasn't worth hauling home.

Thanks for your wish of success.

The stove has burned like a charm all day. The atmospheric pressure has been low all day and I would normally have expected the fire to go out or once again "be in a coma". I'm really amazed at the difference the pipe damper has made.
Dallas
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Modified Russo C-35
Other Heating: Oil Hot Air
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo
Stove/Furnace Model: Modified C-35

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: Wood'nCoal On: Thu Nov 15, 2007 8:41 pm

We have coyotes and bears 'round here.
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Visitors in the Black Walnut 15 feet from the house-last spring.
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Last edited by Wood'nCoal on Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Wood'nCoal
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1959 EFM 350
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Magnafire Mark I
Coal Size/Type: Rice and Chestnut
Other Heating: Fisher Fireplace Insert

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: tstove On: Thu Nov 15, 2007 9:58 pm

Hey dallas,I have a stove just like the one you have.If you can get your draft problem dealt with that stove can belt out some serious heat.Just have to experiment for a while with your settings.You should be able to get 12 hour or more burns no problem.Good luck. BTW are your flues to close together where they exit the chimney?
tstove
 
Stove/Furnace Make: russo,gibralter
Stove/Furnace Model: c-55,cfi

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: Dallas On: Thu Nov 15, 2007 11:42 pm

The flues are probably 6 -8 inches apart, at the top of the chimney.

Today, the thing was a PITA. The outdoor temperatures were fairly high, and the atmospheric pressure was low, so it idled all night. This morning, it looked like a bunch of unburned coal on top (red underneath). I shook it down, added some fresh coal and draft and it went into another coma!

Russo's recommendations are to burn nut, however I've been burning pea. I think, when it's sitting, it must kind of melt together or something. There was no draft through the coal, which I didn't realize. After, I shook it down real good, broke it up with the poker, etc., it started to draft and burn. I wonder if nut is the answer? ... still "learning the stove"!

I've burned nut and thought the nut shook down a bit more difficultly than the pea. But, maybe at that point, it wasn't burning up completely.
Dallas
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Modified Russo C-35
Other Heating: Oil Hot Air
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo
Stove/Furnace Model: Modified C-35

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: Dallas On: Thu Nov 15, 2007 11:52 pm

Wood'nCoal wrote:We have coyotes and bears 'round here.

W'nC, I have the coyotes and bears, as well. I've never seen the coyotes, but have heard 'em. This summer, while sitting on the deck, a BIG bear walked across the front yard. Got the camera, but he had gone behind some trees on the other side of the house.
Dallas
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Modified Russo C-35
Other Heating: Oil Hot Air
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo
Stove/Furnace Model: Modified C-35

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: tstove On: Fri Nov 16, 2007 12:23 am

Pea coal is too small,clogs the grates when shaking.You have to burn nut or stove size,get some more air up through your bed.Try poking up through the grates to get cloged grates opened up.I use a a small rod to poke up from underneath.Try to get it reved up before you shake it. good luck
tstove
 
Stove/Furnace Make: russo,gibralter
Stove/Furnace Model: c-55,cfi

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: Dallas On: Fri Nov 16, 2007 12:41 am

I'd say, the grates are a little bit too fine on the Russo's. I've seen stoves, which would dump the whole load into the ash pan, if you weren't careful.
Dallas
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Modified Russo C-35
Other Heating: Oil Hot Air
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo
Stove/Furnace Model: Modified C-35

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: Wood'nCoal On: Fri Nov 16, 2007 9:36 am

The chimney that services the oil furnace and water heater is also the chimney for my fireplace with the wood burning insert. From timt to time I have gotten a downdraft into the cellar with smoke from the wood stove flue, so events like this can happen, depending on weather conditions.

I'm more inclined to say the coal your using has a lot of impurities in it, coal is the biggest factor that can effect stove performance.
Wood'nCoal
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1959 EFM 350
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Magnafire Mark I
Coal Size/Type: Rice and Chestnut
Other Heating: Fisher Fireplace Insert

Re: Really temperamental stove/draft !!

PostBy: Dallas On: Fri Nov 16, 2007 9:51 am

In my opinion, it is pretty nasty looking coal. Being in "coal country", you'd think we'd have some real good coal, however I believe most of the coal sold around here is brought in from elsewhere.
Dallas
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Modified Russo C-35
Other Heating: Oil Hot Air
Stove/Furnace Make: Russo
Stove/Furnace Model: Modified C-35

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