Lighting coal

Lighting coal

PostBy: MDNation On: Mon Sep 19, 2005 4:13 pm

Hello! I have a very small soapstone (antique) stove. Brand name is HANDOL (if I am reading it right). The firebox is so small (6 inches x 6 inches x about 12 inches tall) that I have figured it is fueled by anthracite coal. HOWEVER, no matter how hot I get the base fire (using wood) I can't get the coal to ignite. I am using pieces about golfball size or smaller (the bag has a mixture of sizes). After hours of very hot firing - when I empty the firebox I see all the coal I attempted to ignite is still intact w/ almost no burning. SO - QUESTIONS: Am I lighting the coal incorrectly? Is there some other kind of coal that would be less difficult to light (and burn) than what I am using? Is the firebox too small for coal? What gives here??? Many thanks for any help you can provide.
MDNation
 

Re: Lighting coal

PostBy: Richard S. On: Tue Sep 20, 2005 5:35 am

MDNation wrote:Hello! I have a very small soapstone (antique) stove. Brand name is HANDOL (if I am reading it right). The firebox is so small (6 inches x 6 inches x about 12 inches tall)


I don't know if it is, sounds like it because of the dimensions but be aware if it's not designed for burning anthracite doing so can possible destroy the grates or other internal parts.

HOWEVER, no matter how hot I get the base fire (using wood) I can't get the coal to ignite.


How much wood are you using to light it and How much coal are you putting on the wood after you light the wood fire? You should have a decent red hot wood fire going before adding the coal with a good 4 inch layer of wood coals. Add about 4-5 inches of coal and let it burn, make sure you have the bottom draft fully open and the top draft closed (if there is one). You should hear the caol begin to crackle almost immediately. Once the coal really starts to burn you'll see Blue wisps of flame begin to penetrate through the layer. Once you see that blue it's lit. This can take a while, 20 to 30 minutes....even longer be patient. Once it gets to this point fill the fire box let it burn for a little more and turn the damper down otherwise the coal will continue to accelerate the burning to the point where you could cause damage to the unit. I've had people that have melted internal parts.

I am using pieces about golfball size or smaller (the bag has a mixture of sizes).


That's would be the correct size approx. There's only two basic sizes for hand fired stove, Chestnut and Pea. Both work well, the pea is little more controllable because it is smaller and has less air going through it, the chestnut provides a hotter fire but a faster burning fire.


After hours of very hot firing - when I empty the firebox I see all the coal I attempted to ignite is still intact w/ almost no burning.


Is it actually burning when you do this? If so then I don't see what the problem is. Burning coal is not like burning wood, it will last a very long time. If you have a 12 inch deep box you could burn that for about 12 hours +, even more if you turn it way down. Don't mess with it either, just let it burn. Most people usually shake the grates and add coal twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night.



Am I lighting the coal incorrectly?


Again be patient, sounds like your getting it going but don't understand how it works.

Is there some other kind of coal that would be less difficult to light (and burn) than what I am using?


Yes but generally some of the best coal can be hard to light, the best analogy I can give is the difference between an oak fire and a pine fire. If you've done any camping you'll know what I mean. Dry pine will burn almost immediately, if it's reall dry you can alomost light it with a match but it burns quickly, oak on the other hand takes a while to get going but will burn for hours and provide a very intense heat once it is burning. The same is true for good anthracite, it may take a while to get it up and running but once it stand back. :wink:

This does bring up another possibility that the product you have is sub standard. If you continue to experience difficulties try a different brand.
Richard S.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

Re: Lighting coal

PostBy: Richard S. On: Wed Sep 21, 2005 4:26 am

NEPAForum Admin wrote: , make sure you have the bottom draft fully open and the top draft closed (if there is one).


Just wanted to make a clarification on this, if there's a top draft on the stove above the firebox it should be closed. Any dampers above the firebox that would prevent the exhaust from escaping out the chimney should be fully open when trying to light the stove.
Richard S.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite


Re: Lighting coal

PostBy: MDNation On: Wed Sep 21, 2005 10:15 am

Hello! Thank you for answering. I don't quite know how to use your forum so forgive me in advance for this cumbersome response. let me answer some of your questions...

I have a very small soapstone (antique) stove. Brand name is HANDOL (if I am reading it right). The firebox is so small (6 inches x 6 inches x about 12 inches tall) [/quote]

I don't know if it is, sounds like it because of the dimensions but be aware if it's not designed for burning anthracite doing so can possible destroy the grates or other internal parts.

Now this is an interesting problem. How can I find out if it is designed for burning coal??? Like I said, the stove is old but VERY sturdy and about 2 inches thick soapstone. The small grates are heavy cast (I think) iron. I could send you photos???

HOWEVER, no matter how hot I get the base fire (using wood) I can't get the coal to ignite.


How much wood are you using to light it and How much coal are you putting on the wood after you light the wood fire? You should have a decent red hot wood fire going before adding the coal with a good 4 inch layer of wood coals.
ANSWER: Usually I have let the wood fire get good and hot. Lots of flames and (I think) a significant layer of wood coals. HOWEVER, I would then add a few coals so as to NOT extinguish the wood fire. Then more wood, then, after a bit, a few more bits of coal.

Add about 4-5 inches of coal and let it burn,
COMMENT: Problem is... it never burns!

make sure you have the bottom draft fully open and the top draft closed (if there is one). You should hear the caol begin to crackle almost immediately.
ANSWER: I do let the bottom draft open, top closed (get a great draw! Lots of heat!) however I NEVER HAVE heard the coal "crackle". I wish I did!

Once the coal really starts to burn you'll see Blue wisps of flame begin to penetrate through the layer. Once you see that blue it's lit. This can take a while, 20 to 30 minutes....even longer be patient.
ANSWER: I've never seen blue wisps of flame, unfortunately. And I've kept at the fire (adding wood, then adding a bit of coal, adding wood, etc) for over an hour.

Once it gets to this point fill the fire box let it burn for a little more and turn the damper down otherwise the coal will continue to accelerate the burning to the point where you could cause damage to the unit. I've had people that have melted internal parts.

ANSWER: whoa! The little stove has many spots to open/close air vents, so this will be do-able. (If I were ever to get the coal going!)

I am using pieces about golfball size or smaller (the bag has a mixture of sizes).


That's would be the correct size approx. There's only two basic sizes for hand fired stove, Chestnut and Pea. Both work well, the pea is little more controllable because it is smaller and has less air going through it, the chestnut provides a hotter fire but a faster burning fire.


After hours of very hot firing - when I empty the firebox I see all the coal I attempted to ignite is still intact w/ almost no burning.


Is it actually burning when you do this?
ANSWER: No - there might be some ash on it but I think that's from the wood. Otherwise, all the lumps are pretty much as I put them in - and this would be after hours in the stove! I have tried re-using them, but still it doesn't seem like they ever "catch."

If so then I don't see what the problem is. Burning coal is not like burning wood, it will last a very long time. If you have a 12 inch deep box you could burn that for about 12 hours +, even more if you turn it way down. Don't mess with it either, just let it burn. Most people usually shake the grates and add coal twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night.

ANSWER: Like I said, I have never laid a whole layer of coal on top of the wood because the coal has had (in the past) a tendency to put out my wood fire!!!


Am I lighting the coal incorrectly?


Again be patient, sounds like your getting it going but don't understand how it works.

ANSWER: Oh yes - that would be correct!!

Is there some other kind of coal that would be less difficult to light (and burn) than what I am using?


Yes but generally some of the best coal can be hard to light, the best analogy I can give is the difference between an oak fire and a pine fire. If you've done any camping you'll know what I mean. Dry pine will burn almost immediately, if it's reall dry you can alomost light it with a match but it burns quickly, oak on the other hand takes a while to get going but will burn for hours and provide a very intense heat once it is burning. The same is true for good anthracite, it may take a while to get it up and running but once it stand back. :wink:

ANSWER: Yes, that makes sense, about the oak and pine. (Maybe I have the "mesquite" of coal???

This does bring up another possibility that the product you have is sub standard. If you continue to experience difficulties try a different brand.[/quote]

ANSWER: The coal I am using is: "Blaschak Anthracite, low sulpher heating" Do you know this brand? It was actually really hard too find any coal out here (I'm in Western Massachusetts. I called around to about ten places, getting referrals from one to the other before I found someone who sells it.)

Again, many thanks for any info you can provide. My main goal now should be to find out if this is in fact a coal stove! I wouldn't want to burn down my house! (ps: the little stove is just a fun thing to heat my screened porch. it isn't actually in the house, but it does vent through my indoor fireplace chimney. I had a fireplace guy put a 2nd hole from the back side of the chimney when I built on the porch - if that makes sense. The draw is really excellent so this isn't a problem.)

Many thanks again!
MDNation
 

Re: Lighting coal

PostBy: Richard S. On: Wed Sep 21, 2005 10:22 pm

MDNation wrote: The coal I am using is: "Blaschak Anthracite, low sulpher heating" Do you know this brand?!


I have no personal experience with their product but they have a good reputation.

If your putting the coal on the fire and it's putting the wood out it sounds as if your not getting the wood going enough or using enough wood, try getting a real good fire going and add the coal, you need a good base of wood coals, besides that I don't know waht to tell you.

As far as your brand of stove I'm not familiar with it so I don't know. Perhaps someone else is.

BTW if you want to post a picture you can do so, see the bottom where it says add attachment. There 's directions here for adding a image.

http://nepacrossroads.com/viewtopic.php?t=130
Richard S.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

PostBy: laynlow200 On: Wed Dec 14, 2005 11:09 am

don't mean to bump and old thread, but I had the same problem trying to start mine and than I got oak wood to start it and it worked perfectly.
laynlow200
 

Starting a Coal Fire

PostBy: LFarm On: Wed Dec 14, 2005 11:42 am

One thing that hasn't been asked or mentioned: does the cumbustion air for your stove enter the firebox from UNDER the grate?? If not, then it is not designed for coal. Coal must have a strong airflow from underneath through the grate to burn.

If your stove has the combustion air coming in through the door or above the main fire level then it will burn wood, which will burn well with air from above and sides and not from underneath.

If your stove has numerous sources to add air to the firebox, minimize the air above the fire, and maximize the air to the underside of the grate.
Try this: get your wood fire going, let it burn HOT untill you have only a fairly level bed of coals. Then add about a 2" layer of coal over the entire surface of the wood coals, you want to have the entire area covered.

This will force the heat and air from the wood coals to go through the layer of coal you just added. Leave the draft open for the maximum air-flow from under the fire and grate. Give it 20 minutes or so. The layer of Coal you added should be burning with enthusiasm. Then you can add several more inches of coal.

Just let the coals burn untill there is no more heat. You should have burnt up most of the coal. Coal fires don't like to be disturbed, don't shake the grate [if you can] untill the fire has burnt down.


Hope this Helps. Greg L
LFarm
 

PostBy: Richard S. On: Wed Dec 14, 2005 6:32 pm

laynlow200 wrote:don't mean to bump and old thread, but I had the same problem trying to start mine and than I got oak wood to start it and it worked perfectly.


I always start the fire with wood... a 4 inch piece of 2x4 split up is usually all I need. Our furnace differs than most though, the coal feeds from the bottom of a large fiirepot, shpaed like a base. It pushes up and out.
Richard S.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

PostBy: laynlow200 On: Fri Dec 16, 2005 9:19 am

NEPAForum Admin wrote:
laynlow200 wrote:don't mean to bump and old thread, but I had the same problem trying to start mine and than I got oak wood to start it and it worked perfectly.


I always start the fire with wood... a 4 inch piece of 2x4 split up is usually all I need. Our furnace differs than most though, the coal feeds from the bottom of a large fiirepot, shpaed like a base. It pushes up and out.


let be be more specific. I ment to say i had a problem starting my coal when I used pine wood. I switched to a hardwood (oak) and it started my coal up no problem. the pine wouldn't get hot enough to start it.
laynlow200
 

PostBy: Richard S. On: Fri Dec 16, 2005 9:34 am

I've had no trouble with pine, the key is too make sure you don't rush it. The pine easily lights, once it begins to burn sufficiently I immediately begin adding coal while the stoker is running. Small shovel about every 30 or 40 seconds. I can have 20 pounds ripping in about 5-10 minutes. So much so that I usually have to turn it off so it doesn't overheat. The only time I would be starting it would during the warmer weather so it easily overheats. BTW, I'm using a stoker, you're probably not going top get a hand fired unit going very well with such a small quantity of wood.

I'm not saying oak is not better but in my case it's not . Since it doesn't readily ligh it's possible to get a [piece that might not light. Due to the way my furnace is set up there's good chance that piece will get jammed and break something, it has happened before. We have a Van Wert, there's a moving part that goes around the cicumference of the firebox (bowl in my case) to knock the ash accummulated around the edges into ash pan.
Richard S.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite