Not sure coal is for me.

Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: IOERROR On: Thu Jul 19, 2012 12:39 pm

Well I just purchased a bi-level house that is electric heat on the upper level and has a coal stoker with an auto feeder for the lower level. How the family room and one bedroom are on the lower level so I need to heat it for sure.

A little background, I've NEVER had a coal furnaces or any other find of manual heat system before. It's either been electric or gas, a set it and forget it system. Now I'm not a lazy person but I am the type of person who would rather pay more for something if I am going to enjoy it more. I have 4 boys and a wife so my life is pretty active with all the sports the boys play so that is a factor.

I guess my question is, how much work is it owning a coal furnace? The house has two coal bins, one about 4x12x4 at the end of the driveway (about 25 feet from the house) and a smaller one 5x3x4 right out side the downstairs door. I look at these bins and imagine them full at the beginning of the winter and empty at the end and think that seems like a lot of work moving all that coal into the house and the ash out.

I don't have any information on the furnace right now but will update this later when I get it but if I had to describe it I would say it's about 3.5 to 4 feet tall. 2 feet wide and about 3 feet deep. It has some find of timing box on the floor next to it, I'm guessing for a fan/blower and a autofeeder (was told that by the realtor) on the back.

Few more questions.
So if I fill up the autofeeder how long will that last (approximately)? Will I be filling that thing daily?
What do I do with the ash?
What do you do when you go on vacation? I'm going to Florida for 7 days in October.
What concerns should I have with the boys around this. It sits in the family room so I imagine I would have to find a way to keep the boys away from it. The youngest is 7.

Thanks in advance for any help or advise. I know it might sound like I'm anti-coal but I'm not I just really have no clue about it.
IOERROR
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Keystoker?
Stove/Furnace Model: 90 or 120?

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: Rob R. On: Thu Jul 19, 2012 1:12 pm

IOERROR wrote:So if I fill up the autofeeder how long will that last (approximately)? Will I be filling that thing daily?


That depends on how much coal the hopper holds and how much heat the house requires...but most folks tend their stokers every 1-2 days in cold weather.

IOERROR wrote:What do I do with the ash?


Some areas in coal country will pick up your ashes free of charge, others may have a place to dump them at the transfer station. Lots of people just dump the ashes in the woods, in a low spot, on the driveway, etc...I have a pile out behind my shop that makes great fill.

IOERROR wrote:What do you do when you go on vacation? I'm going to Florida for 7 days in October.


Is the stove the only source of heat on the first level? If so, I would consider adding some electric baseboards on the first level for a backup.

IOERROR wrote:What concerns should I have with the boys around this. It sits in the family room so I imagine I would have to find a way to keep the boys away from it. The youngest is 7.


They make gates/guards that you can setup in front of the stove, but it sounds like your boys are old enough to "bypass" something like that if they really wanted to. Here is an example: http://www.northlineexpress.com/firepla ... 66502.html You are going to have to explain the burn hazard of electric heating elements in the baseboards as well.

Where do you live? Do you know how much coal the previous owners used?
Rob R.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: EFM DF520
Coal Size/Type: Rice/buck
Other Heating: Dad's 1953 EFM Highboy

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: Dennis On: Thu Jul 19, 2012 1:16 pm

well first things first,welcome you have come to the spot with all the answers you need,I might not have all of them,but everyone here will help answer.

The previous homeowner must of thought they needed a coal stoker,and I can certianly say they saved money on electric bills.
Of course there is work with loading coal and unloading ash, it's your decision to see if it's worth saving"lots of money" on your electric bills,maybe by 50%?
Your boys are young and i'm sure they would think it's fun hauling buckets around,they need to earn there allounce some how
keeping young kids away from the heater,well they learn quick after they get burnt (kids will be kids)
ashes can be messey and dusty, but being carefull things will stay clean and diaposal ask your trash removal co. or neighbors
start reading and use the "search button" top right corner and pictures of your set-up will help your new friends here to get you burning coal SAFELY and effecently

:!: :!: YOU NEED CO DETECTORS BEFORE YOU START USING YOUR COAL STOVE :idea: :idea:
Dennis
 
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: AHS/WOC55-multi-fuel/wood,oil,coal
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite/stove size

Visit Lehigh Anthracite

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: coaledsweat On: Thu Jul 19, 2012 2:28 pm

IOERROR wrote:coal stoker with an auto feeder for the lower level.

I guess my question is, how much work is it owning a coal furnace?
Few more questions.
So if I fill up the autofeeder how long will that last (approximately)? Will I be filling that thing daily?
What do I do with the ash?
What do you do when you go on vacation? I'm going to Florida for 7 days in October.
What concerns should I have with the boys around this. It sits in the family room so I imagine I would have to find a way to keep the boys away from it. The youngest is 7.

We really need to know more about the appliance to answer these questions properly, brand and size would be helpful.
Don't worry about the boys, they'll figure it out in a hurry.
coaledsweat
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260M
Coal Size/Type: Pea

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: Richard S. On: Thu Jul 19, 2012 2:50 pm

At the very least give it a try for one season, if you're going to do that consider finding someone to deliver now. The number one important safety factor is to understand that coal creates fly ash, this will settle on any horizontal surfaces linside the flue pipe and the bottom of your chimney. It's absolutely essential to make sure this has been cleaned out before starting the unit. How often you need to do this depends on a lot of things and it might be once a month or in my case I could go a couple of years if I wanted too.

One thing I will note is that electric heat is 3X the cost and since your stoker is on the lower level much of the heat will make it's way into the second floor. Those electric baseboards are mostly likely being used as supplementary heat especially if there is any type of way to circulate the heat upstairs. Look at this way, that coal stoker is going to pay for half your trip to Florida. ;) As far as that goes since it's October I wouldn't be concerned about it, just turn it off for that week. A lot of people don;t even stat their stoker until the later part of October anyway.


one about 4x12x4 at the end of the driveway (about 25 feet from the house) and a smaller one 5x3x4 right out side the downstairs door


That's enough space for approximately 6 ton of coal. On average you could easily heat a 2000 sq. ft. home with that much coal. Typically a house that size is going to use 4 to 5 tons.
Richard S.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: swededoc On: Thu Jul 19, 2012 6:13 pm

As was mentioned, you have nothing to lose by trying it for a season--although that's where your highest learning curve is going to be. But you'll be amazed at how well coal heats. See if there's a sticker on the unit from a local heating service company. If so, they would not only be familiar with how to run the unit in general, but they might have service records for your unit.

As for the boys, I have four as well and they've all played / are still playing pretty much every sport in season, and there's definitely a lot to gain by playing sports. But the thing that stuck with me was when my 22 year old who just go married commented on how he was made to work at a young age and how I didn't allow computer games in the house to turn them into calcified nerds but gave them chores instead. He was very thankful for it, and graduated with honors in engineering at an esteemed local university, got internships part way through and then several job offers before graduation. There's a connection. Don't underestimate the value of teaching your boys to work hard, work manually and have responsibilities. Wherever their individual talents and future work lie, hard, manual work will do them a lot of good. The 20 year old is also now beginning to show similar tendencies toward initiative and diligence. Those traits are nearing extinction in our youth. It's your call, but how can you argue with putting those boys to work and saving half your heating cost at the same time?
swededoc
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Quaker
Stove/Furnace Model: #6 Baseheater

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: rberq On: Thu Jul 19, 2012 8:42 pm

Can you talk to the previous owner? I bet he would be delighted to educate you.

As coaledsweat said, post some detailed pictures, info from the nameplate if available, and you will be amazed what folks on this forum can tell you.
rberq
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: DS Machine 1300
Coal Size/Type: Nut -- Kimmel/Blaschak/Reading
Other Heating: Oil hot water radiators, propane

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: homecomfort On: Thu Jul 19, 2012 9:09 pm

Burning anthracite coal is nice as a supplemental, keep part of the house or 1 room very warm in the coldest part of winter. sort of entertaining if free time is available, a feeling of some self sufficiency, and you will save on utility bill. I would hate to have to depend on it for all of my heating, there are better ways to keep your house warm.
homecomfort
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Franco-Belge,+ Penn Stove
Stove/Furnace Model: Normandie, + Chubby

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: Uglysquirrel On: Thu Jul 19, 2012 9:14 pm

IOERROR wrote:Well I just purchased a bi-level house that is electric heat on the upper level and has a coal stoker with an auto feeder for the lower level. How the family room and one bedroom are on the lower level so I need to heat it for sure.

A little background, I've NEVER had a coal furnaces or any other find of manual heat system before. It's either been electric or gas, a set it and forget it system. Now I'm not a lazy person but I am the type of person who would rather pay more for something if I am going to enjoy it more. I have 4 boys and a wife so my life is pretty active with all the sports the boys play so that is a factor.

I guess my question is, how much work is it owning a coal furnace? The house has two coal bins, one about 4x12x4 at the end of the driveway (about 25 feet from the house) and a smaller one 5x3x4 right out side the downstairs door. I look at these bins and imagine them full at the beginning of the winter and empty at the end and think that seems like a lot of work moving all that coal into the house and the ash out.

I don't have any information on the furnace right now but will update this later when I get it but if I had to describe it I would say it's about 3.5 to 4 feet tall. 2 feet wide and about 3 feet deep. It has some find of timing box on the floor next to it, I'm guessing for a fan/blower and a autofeeder (was told that by the realtor) on the back.

Few more questions.
So if I fill up the autofeeder how long will that last (approximately)? Will I be filling that thing daily?
What do I do with the ash?
What do you do when you go on vacation? I'm going to Florida for 7 days in October.
What concerns should I have with the boys around this. It sits in the family room so I imagine I would have to find a way to keep the boys away from it. The youngest is 7.

Thanks in advance for any help or advise. I know it might sound like I'm anti-coal but I'm not I just really have no clue about it.



Sounds like money for heat is not a issue. Some reality: don't forget the firebox and pipe cleanings every so often and checking the draft with a manometer, also having a couple good CO Detectors around, plus the ash that should'nt go into a garden...and that ash needs to be handled pretty carefully or your wife will readily note a thin film on your new 60" LCD TV. And that coal in the bins? Likely not washed, so shovel carefully or you'll get a small coal plume in the air. Then you and your wife will start worrying about the kid's breathing it in.

Me, just like a lot of us, have developed a system to deal with these issues in a very excellent way, however, if you don't have a little inkling for this sort of stuff, sell it to someone who does. It will likely be safer operating with someone else. Your safety in mind.
Uglysquirrel
 
Stove/Furnace Model: Pocono

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: Richard S. On: Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:54 am

homecomfort wrote:Burning anthracite coal is nice as a supplemental, keep part of the house or 1 room very warm in the coldest part of winter. sort of entertaining if free time is available, a feeling of some self sufficiency, and you will save on utility bill. I would hate to have to depend on it for all of my heating, there are better ways to keep your house warm.



Why not? I know in some places outside of the NEPA area natural gas is becoming very competitive with coal where it's available from the street but come back here in 4 or 5 years when the natural gas prices are spiking again because it's being used to produce a lot of electric and heat so many more homes.

I think what most people find that buy a stoker for "supplemental" heat is that it becomes their primary heat. Even a small 90K stoker can provide most of your heating needs in an average size house as long as you can move that heat around which isn't exactly rocket science. I've been heating solely with coal for almost 30 years with the same boiler in two different 2 houses. It's stoking away right now for domestic hot water, there is probably minimal savings just for the domestic hot water but the intention is to keep it in top shape. About the only real major issue I can think of as to why someone might not want it as their main source of heat is is they are frequently gone for long stretches. I know with my boiler even if it were the coldest part of the year I could probably get 3 if not 4 days out of it if the temperature was set down to 50.

Let's look at this way, the average person might spend 10 minutes work each day keeping their stoker running and they will have to do that for 180 days a year. That's 30 hours per year or 600 hours in 20 years. For arguments sake we'll say they save $2K each year if we were comparing it to the electric in this case so that's $40K savings in 20 years.

40,000 / 600 = $66 an hour , id your time worth $66 an hour? Even if the savings were halved it's still $33 an hour........
Richard S.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: whistlenut On: Fri Jul 20, 2012 10:12 am

As you can see, the forum members are here to advise and support. I also recommend you try burning coal for this winter. There is NO setup cost, no equipment to buy.
(lots of money to save... and the mere mention of electric heat makes most of us shutter and get wobbly knees!!!!!)
Over 42 years of 24/7/365 for me, so the guys who say "it's OK for a secondary heating source" obviously haven't mastered the process.

We know you are a bright guy simply because you found the forum and asked some questions. Now, if you could go snap a few pics and find a manufacturers plate with the specifics, that would be excellent!!
We look forward to helping find the info you need and support you requested......and the experience and cost here are unbelievable.....what else in this world is "Free"? :idea: :!: :)

PS: If you post a general area that you live, it would be easy to find a forum member who would be glad to show you their setup if you asked nicely......
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: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: titleist1 On: Fri Jul 20, 2012 10:31 am

homecomfort wrote:Burning anthracite coal is nice as a supplemental, keep part of the house or 1 room very warm in the coldest part of winter. sort of entertaining if free time is available, a feeling of some self sufficiency, and you will save on utility bill. I would hate to have to depend on it for all of my heating, there are better ways to keep your house warm.


This is very subjective, depends on the size &type of stove/stoker you have, the size & layout of the house for heat distribution, insulation level in the house, etc etc. I am guessing your statement is your personal situation and not meant as a generalization for coal as a heat source.

My layout, house size, stoker size & location aren't anywhere close to optimal, but I can still heat the house to a very comfortable 72* (or higher :D ) with 100% coal if I choose to. Re-filling the hopper and exchanging ash pans once per day is my usual routine so that I don't forget, but may need to go to twice per day during the coldest snaps around here. The only reason I don't go 100% coal heat is if I go away from home for days at a time or during the shoulder months when I don't feel like re-lighting multiple times during a warm spell. During those times I'll let the propane furnace get some exercise, but not so much that I can't go three years between propane deliveries even though we also use it for hot water, dryer and cooking.

It does take a level of effort above turning a thermostat when heating with coal and that is not for everyone. I can tell you that it is much less effort than burning wood! The amount of effort depends on the stove/stoker and how much up front work you do to make daily chores easier. If it was me and I had never burned coal before but had a stove sitting there waiting to be used, I would have to at least try it out, but I like tooyls and experimenting. Then I could decide if I wanted to burn full time part time or not at all, get a bigger/different unit or take it out and sell it. One benefit of moving all that coal is you can save on the health club membership dues. But since you have kids that may not apply to you since you are probably running around already.

As other have mentioned, safety is the most important thing if you do try it out. Make sure all pipes are cleaned, all gaskets tight, all CO detectors have fresh batteries.
titleist1
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Harman Mag Stoker (old style) one in basement, one in workshop
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Mark III on standby for long power outages
Coal Size/Type: Rice/Anthracite; Nut/Anthracite

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: Pacowy On: Fri Jul 20, 2012 2:02 pm

A few thoughts I'd like to add:

1. Coal heat not only can save a lot of $, but also tends to produce a better "quality" of heat - i.e., it maintains a fire all of the time, so the heat in the house is more constant, and much less susceptible to the cycling that typically accompanies conventional systems.

2. I agree with all of the cautions about CO detectors, but don't want the OP to get the idea that it's uniquely a coal issue. It's my understanding that NG is the biggest CO threat because all of its combustion byproducts are basically odorless. By comparison, it's harder for the exhaust from other fossil fuels to "sneak up" on you because they have distinctive smells. If the alternative is 100% electric heat, use of any fossil fuel introduces CO issues that should be addressed carefully.

3. In 2 houses, with 2 different stoker boiler set-ups, we have run 24/7/365 on coal for all heat and DHW needs. In the off-season we go about 3 weeks without having to look at or touch anything related to coal, ash, etc. In the middle of winter it's more like 2-3 days.

4. A coil boiler with a DHW coil can be a formidable DHW machine. We had 6 kids in the house, and have tried various methods of making DHW. In our experience, a meaty coal boiler with a DHW coil comes in first; all other methods are tied for a distant second.

Mike
Pacowy
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: H.B. Smith 350 Mills boiler/EFM 85R stoker
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/anthracite

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: Uglysquirrel On: Fri Jul 20, 2012 7:58 pm

One other thought about coal beyond money and warmth. Long Term Supply.

Many of us have several, and I mean several, years worth of coal that does not decay in our barns or harbor Mr. Termite (last time I looked) or Mr. Mouse.

Top that logic with a backup hand fed and you have heat without electricity long term. May not heat the entire house though a couple rooms will feel mighty good.

Your wife will look at you as your Hero.

Viagra!
Uglysquirrel
 
Stove/Furnace Model: Pocono

Re: Not sure coal is for me.

PostBy: 2001Sierra On: Fri Jul 20, 2012 9:12 pm

Many of us have several, and I mean several, years worth of coal that does not decay in our barns or harbor Mr. Termite (last time I looked) or Mr. Mouse.
Uglysquirrel is giving out our secrets! What now? Better return than my 401K :x
2001Sierra
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Keystoker 90 Chimney vent
Coal Size/Type: Rice
Other Heating: Buderus Oil Boiler 3115-34
Stove/Furnace Model: Keystoker 90 Chimney Vent

Visit Lehigh Anthracite