Grab your favorite beverage, cuz this is a long one.
It was really something to see your site's living history. I have some friends in Nesquehoning and know how proud they are to from mining families. I must say, you folks up North are really incredible when it comes to knowledge and survival with anthracite......
After reading the FAQ's in your VERY helpful coaldelivery.com site....I have a some additional questions and highly political comments. If you can answer them or point me in the right direction, I'd be grateful.
Of side interest to me, you mentioned combination furnaces, particularly natural gas/coal, if I'm not mistaken. Would you happen to know of any manufacturers? My Net searches only turned up wood/oil combo's. I'm not sure a gas/coal combo is the way I'd like to go, but learning more before making a decision would be a big help.
I'm in a small, uninsulated 50's bi-level Ranch, equipped with an original natural gas, 2 zone hydronic system (basement and living floor setup) here in Allentown. The chimney is a masonry exterior one, with a vent/hood class A type vent installed through the basement wall, into the base of the chimney. You probably can picture it better than I can describe. I'm also using gas year-round in an efficient, small sized heater for the house water.
Although I have a really super natural gas furnace boiler (a Bryant) that has lasted ALL THESE YEARS; yes, that's right, an original 1950's model that's still crankin' without a fuss (maybe 3 breakdowns in it's entire life).....Still, I'm pretty sick and tired of paying through the nose with a rather insulant NG supplier like UGI.
Also, thanks to Dick Chaney's secret Energy Commission meetings a few years back; the (multiple) surprise rate increases and UGI's sky-high payment plan demands (while I freeze in the winter to keep the costs "low") it's enough to make me want to grab a shot gun. Instead, I'm reachin' for a computer to end the nonsense.
The consequent Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission's easing of laws that enabled these creeps to kill you by shutting the poor off from life saving heat in the winter.... as they used to back in the "old days."
Uh Hum, and we call these people the politicians with "family values and the moral majority?" HA!.
So I think it's time to rethink things and go for something more affordable, like good old Pennsylvania Anthracite in the future. Those politicians can stick their greedy political lobbys up their wazoo. I'd rather deal with an industry that's not as tightly regulated the same as big oil and natural gas.
What regulations I do see (and likely you know all too well and BY FAR better than I) seem to favor bituminous and the supporting "scrubber" industries (yet more greedy, kick-backing lobbies). Gee, what a coincidence? The anthracite mining co's are now being hit with stiff fines to limit an already limited production, over safety and environmental issues (despite the problem's existance for over 200 years?) No wonder this state's majority is Democratic. I'm sure you could/would have a lot more and better to say than I ever could on this subject.
Anyway, I'm thinking to convert to coal (if I can ever afford to). My house is pretty small and still mostly uninsulated. I'm not even sure I'm going to stay at this place much longer for a number of reasons (like the lousy employment opportunities here), but while I'm here I figure it's better to investigate my options in order to be able to afford the cost of future winter heating needs.
I don't see a big return in following the usual oil and gas hike excuses by investing in full insulation for this home.....I'd rather eliminate the majority of additional costs and switch to anthracite....figuring the costs of modifying would be less expensive overall....and after a few years, the money saved in this venture would provide enough financing to insulate as I see fit then, if I decide to stay.
Along with the first question, as far as coal furnaces are concerned, I'm wondering what's your recommendation for a hydronic system? I'd like to ultimately heat not only the home heating water, but also the utility water for showering and laundry. Keeping in mind I've seen a few sites on the Web, any advice you can provide or general information to steer me somewhere would be really helpful.
I've never personally operated a stove or stoker. After reading a bit about each, (and despite EFM being practically right down the road) it looks like a Keystoker might be my solution for ease of use. I'm just wondering how removal of ash is eliminated with such a system (surely at some point you have to physically take it outside?!) and if burning pea or rice will produce that great, nice and chunky anti-skid I've grown an addiction to over many winters? My friends in Carbon County used to say only the older, less efficient stoves produced the good anti-skid, is that true?
Lastly, I know this was long (sorry) and I've asked a lot of questions which could be answered many different ways. So if you can provide some guidelines not already covered in your FAQ's, I'd appreciate it. I would feel a lot better knowing the basics from someone, such as yourself, who's seen/heard it ALL.
Thanks for your time too!