Struggling with Bituminous Again

Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: Matt328 On: Thu Nov 14, 2013 11:23 pm

I thought I had things pretty well under control, but I just had to extinguish my fire because there was so much smoke building up in the house. Over the last few days, I've been able to open the firebox door less and less before the smoke came rolling out. This afternoon shortly after I fired it, I smelled smoke upstairs in the house. When I went to check things out, there was smoke billowing out of the baro. This was even with the draft control flap completely closed, and the ash pan door closed and the vent on it closed. Opening the firebox door just resulted in smoke billowing out there too, so I had no choice but to open up a bunch of windows, and shovel most of the actual fire out of the firebox into a bucket of cold water, leaving the remaining clinkers to burn themselves out pretty quickly.

I feel like this has been building up over the last couple weeks as my draft seemed to keep getting weaker and weaker. I would open up the heat exchanger and vacuum out large amounts of ash and the hangy-stringy formations and that seemed to help a little, but still didn't get things back where I think they should be. Also last night and today I noticed the baro wasn't flapping at all like it usually does, it was just closed. Last March or so, I had a chimney sweep come and clean out my chimney and flue pipe. I do have a chimney cap, but they didn't actually get up on the roof and clean it out. It's one of the types that is cylindrical with a flat top and about 6-8 inches of a screen/mesh looking material around the sides, and I suspect it is at least partially clogged since I have personally cleaned out the heat exchanger, firebox and flue pipe myself.

I have read that with bituminous you need to let air get to the top of the fire as well as the bottom. I hadn't realized this and had been keeping the top vent completely closed. Lately that hasn't been an option for me since even cracking the vent the slightest bit, I would get smoke coming out instead of going up the chimney. I also wasn't aware that you should bank the fire and actually plow the red coals over to one side, then fill the other side with coal to keep the flames and temperature up to help burn off the soot. I had just been shaking the ash down, then poking up the solid mass that would congeal and piling more coal right on top in the center.

So my two problems, one, I suspect my chimney cap has been clogged due to my negligent bituminous burning. Does this sound plausible given the symptoms I'm seeing, or is there something else at fault? It has been getting into the 40s here during the day, is that too warm to be burning coal? Secondly, can changing the way I fire it cut down on the smoke and soot problems? I'm really struggling with this, but want to make it work as I can't really afford to heat with oil, or make some kind of change at this exact moment.
Matt328
 
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Van Wert Simplex Multitherm
Coal Size/Type: Large Bituminous
Other Heating: Mendota Propane Stove
Stove/Furnace Make: Van Wert
Stove/Furnace Model: Simplex Multitherm

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: Rob R. On: Thu Nov 14, 2013 11:27 pm

Your stovepipe is probably clogged with soot, and probably the chimney cap as well. I would clean the pipes, remove the chimney cap, open that over-fire air vent, and try it again.
Rob R.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: EFM DF520
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93
Other Heating: Dad's 1953 EFM Highboy

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: Matt328 On: Thu Nov 14, 2013 11:44 pm

What is the purpose of chimney caps? The first thing I thought when I saw it was 'how do you get any draft?' I know it had to be there for the home inspection when we bought the house, but do they actually do anything, or is it just some racket to sell chimney caps?

Is something like this:
http://www.chimneydirect.com/c10007/c10279/25-Foot-Poly-Brush-Kits-for-Metal-Flues-Brush-5-12-Inches-p11924.html?gclid=CN74n9vu5boCFYNxOgod_jgARQ
designed to make the bend to go up the chimney from below? My chimney is on the outside of the house, and doesn't have an exterior clean out, I know, I didn't own the house when it was built, my only option is to go in through the same hole the flue pipe is attached to. I realize once I'm up on the roof removing the chimney cap I could just go down from the top to clean it, but honestly my wife will probably only stomach me getting up on the roof once to remove the cap, and even that's going to take some doing.
Matt328
 
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Van Wert Simplex Multitherm
Coal Size/Type: Large Bituminous
Other Heating: Mendota Propane Stove
Stove/Furnace Make: Van Wert
Stove/Furnace Model: Simplex Multitherm


Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: Berlin On: Fri Nov 15, 2013 12:01 am

The cap absolutely needs to be removed. burning hand-fired bituminous coal, a cap is the WORST thing you can do. Once the draft starts to suffer because of the clogged cap (and because you've been not banking the fire and not giving it secondary air), the chimney AND the connecting pipe will get FAR more buildup than it should and those two things are likely clogged up as well.

Be sure you're using large lumps of coal (softball/baseball size). If your coal is melting into one huge hard mass - even at the end of the burn cycle, you might be burning too high of a coke button coal; look for a better "free-burning" coal. It's also ideal to at least have an 8" chimney and 8" connecting pipe.
Berlin
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Will-Burt Combustioneer 77B
Coal Size/Type: Ohio BITUMINOUS pea stoker coal

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: grumpy On: Fri Nov 15, 2013 12:01 am

What is the purpose of chimney caps? The first thing I thought when I saw it was 'how do you get any draft?' I know it had to be there for the home inspection when we bought the house, but do they actually do anything, or is it just some racket to sell chimney caps?



Well they do a good job of collecting soot , clogging off the draft,, and a good fire hazard me thinks. Take it off, there is no good side to having it.
grumpy
 

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: Lightning On: Fri Nov 15, 2013 7:21 am

Chimney caps have a purpose. They keep rain out of the chimney and stop animals from building nests in your chimney in the summer. I agree it's probably clogged and should be removed for bit burning. :D
Lightning
 
Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Clayton 1537G
Coal Size/Type: Nut Size / White Ash

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: oros35 On: Fri Nov 15, 2013 11:00 am

When I first tried Bit I did the same thing, clogged up the chimney. I had a wire screen cap that was plugged solid.

I took some shears to the cap and opened up the wire screen, made it so the holes are about 3 times as wide and have had good luck there. It still acts as a rain cap and will keep large animals out.
oros35
 
Baseburners & Antiques: 1912 Smith & Anthony Hub Heater #215
Stove/Furnace Make: Smith & Anthony Co.
Stove/Furnace Model: #215 Hub Heater

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: Matt328 On: Sat Nov 16, 2013 9:20 pm

Well I wont be able to get up on my roof and remove this cap until tomorrow. My chimney happens to be on the side of the house with all 3 floors above ground level so I'd need about 30ft of ladder. This is sounding pretty promising though, hopefully I can get this sorted out once and for all. The weather has been mild, in the 50s during the day but we're already missing the heat of a coal fire.
Matt328
 
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Van Wert Simplex Multitherm
Coal Size/Type: Large Bituminous
Other Heating: Mendota Propane Stove
Stove/Furnace Make: Van Wert
Stove/Furnace Model: Simplex Multitherm

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: franco b On: Sat Nov 16, 2013 11:21 pm

Just be safe whatever you do. If you start to feel nervous about the height, stop. Get a roofer or someone used to working with height.
franco b
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: V ermont Castings 2310, Franco Belge 262
Baseburners & Antiques: Glenwood Modern Oak 114
Coal Size/Type: nut and pea

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: Freddy On: Sun Nov 17, 2013 6:33 am

I see you are in PA.. Why do you choose to burn Bit? Anthracite is much much cleaner.... it doesn't make smoke or clog chimneys with stingy soot.

On the other hand.... if you are determined to burn Bit... hang in there. The only thing I know about it is that the learning curve is steep.
Freddy
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 130 (pea)
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Reading piece o' junk in the barn (rice)
Coal Size/Type: Pea size, Superior, deep mined

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: blrman07 On: Sun Nov 17, 2013 9:09 am

A quick search shows that you have at least three coal suppliers within about a 25 mile radius. Make your life a whole lot easier. Switch to anthracite or hard coal and get to where you can burn that really good. Then try the bit coal if you must. I do believe you have a multifuel unit and as we constantly say a multi fuel unit won't burn anything effeciently but burns a lot of stuff effectively when you learn to do it. Suggest you get some anthracite from one of the suppliers in your area and give it a try. Bit is cheaper but as your finding out it has a learning curve for even experienced burners.

Rev. Larry
blrman07
 
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Bucket a Day
Hand Fed Coal Stove: installing a VC 2310
Coal Size/Type: Pea/Nut/Wood in the VC and anything that will fit in the Bucket a Day. It's not fussy.

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: Willis On: Sun Nov 17, 2013 11:12 pm

Stop trying to steal our bit coal burners Freddy and Larry! :P
Willis
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Combustioneer 24 FA w/ Will-Burt s-30
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Combustioneer 77, Stokermatic
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Warm Morning 520,521
Coal Size/Type: Washed stoker- Bituminous

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: LDPosse On: Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:45 am

Nothing wrong with bit in a hand fired if you do it right. I got the stringy soot from burning high vol bit with too little overfire air, and using coal that was sized too small. The best bit I've used for hand firing was out of MD (cobra mining), its from the georges creek field, little inch seam. It's a very hard bit, doesn't crumble too much when handled. Very little smoke, and it doesn't need to be poked and prodded to keep it going. If you can get it in volume, you get lots of heat for $80 per ton. Not really worth it if you have to run down there and buy it 1 or 2 tons at a time though.

Most of the other low and medium vol bit coals I've tried have too high of a coke button, it swells and melts together, which is kind of a pain in a hand fired stove.

High vol bit, such as Valier's, is best burned when you have an ample heating load, otherwise you will be sending a good bit of heat i.e. smoke going up the stack. For coal such as this, you definitely want the large baseball, softball, and even larger pieces. It's much easier to control, especially in an appliance primarily designed for anthracite.

FYI, the coal in my avatar is Valier's "oversize".
LDPosse
 
Stove/Furnace Make: DS Machine, Warm Morning
Stove/Furnace Model: DS1500, Heatrola

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: blrman07 On: Mon Nov 18, 2013 6:21 am

I tired burning bit about a year ago. It can be done but I found out quickly you have got to follow the bit rules. They are not very many but they appear to be absolute. I was able to do it in a FB handfed and found you MUST have a fair amount of overfire air. You have to watch your coal coking quality. Wrong coke button for your particular stove and your gonna get smoked and lose your fire. If you don't watch and control the air your going to soot up and then it's a messy mess. It takes vigilance but it can be done for half the price of anthracite. Not trying to steal any bit burners but if your gonna burn bit, get a stove or boiler made for it. If I am going to try to burn wood, I will get equipment designed for it.

Same goes with any type of fuel gas, fluid, or solid. Get the equipment make for that type of fuel for a good experience.

Rev. Larry
blrman07
 
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Bucket a Day
Hand Fed Coal Stove: installing a VC 2310
Coal Size/Type: Pea/Nut/Wood in the VC and anything that will fit in the Bucket a Day. It's not fussy.

Re: Struggling with Bituminous Again

PostBy: Matt328 On: Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:54 pm

I was able to remove the chimney cap pretty easily. My roof isn't very steep, and has oversized overhangs, so it wasn't sketchy climbing up there at all. There was about an inch of soot buildup inside the chimney that I was able to sweep out. My chimney does have and 8" liner. I went downstairs then and took off the flue and cleaned that all out as well as the heat exchanger and the firebox. So I feel like I have a clean slate for a starting point now. I'm going to wait until tomorrow morning to start a fire so I can monitor it though out the day rather than just dumping a bunch of coal in and going to bed.

My question now is what is the best way to start a fire using bituminous? Normally, I will use one piece of paper and really really dry wood. I will get the wood burning nice and hot and fire it with wood a few times to get a good fire established, then start adding coal. I leave the bottom ashpan door wide open until it gets really cranking.
Matt328
 
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Van Wert Simplex Multitherm
Coal Size/Type: Large Bituminous
Other Heating: Mendota Propane Stove
Stove/Furnace Make: Van Wert
Stove/Furnace Model: Simplex Multitherm