This is my first post. I posted this originally in another thread but decided it needed its own. I recently bought a ton of bit coal form central Illinois. The mine site is about 15 miles from my house. I've been heating with a Tennessee Outdoor Furnace for the past 12 months using wood. However, those familiar with central Illinois, wood is not an abundant commodity. Don't get me wrong, I can get wood, but to purchase a cord in central Illinois of anything decent you are looking at around $300 a cord. My house is rather old and rather large, so I burn about 15 cords a year. Processing that much wood with my busy schedule is difficult to say the least if I process my own and hunting down wood has become a second job. So, I did some research and my boiler is rated to burn coal, albeit it has the standard grate. The air flow is all from underneath, which I understand is not the best for burning bit coal. So, Friday I went and bought my ton just to play around with it and see what happened. At $70 a ton, I wasn't really dropping a load of money for my experiment. Friday afternoon, I threw in a small bag of match light charcoal in the bag, mounded the coal on top and lit it. Presto, in about an hour, seems like everything was going well.
The grate that is in my boiler is not attached, so I simply place my ash rake under the grate and use it as a lever to "shake" the grate up and down, letting all of the ash fall through to the bottom. Now, on Saturday, the boiler was doing a pretty good job of keeping the house warm, but I never got the water temp much above 135. Outside temp was around 30.
I woke up on Sunday and the outside temp had dropped to around zero over night. My house had dropped to around 55 degrees and wasn't keeping up with the 65 I had set the house temp to. I went out to check the boiler and it had plenty of coal in it, but it had mounded over and wasn't flaming, just glowing. So, what the heck, I just kept adding coal. I still wasn't seeing any real rise in water temp above 120 degrees. Later on in the day, discouraged and feeling my experiment was a failure, I opened the door and was like screw it, I'm going to mash that big lump of coal in the middle of my firebox and see what happens. So, I bash the heck out of that big mound of melted together coal and low and behold, flames shoot up and I've got nice glowing hot coals exposed. So every few hours, I'd go out there, pile on some coal, bash it up, and my boiler temp started to steadily rise.
So, I suppose I'm looking for some ideas and advice. Should I keep up my routine of bashing the lump (stoking I guess you could say) with the bit coal? When I first started researching this, seems everyone was saying don't do this. Does that just apply to anthracite? Also, the coal I have access to is smaller in size. Should I try to find a supplier of "stove" coal? Also, should I try and modify my current set up with shaker grates? And what about firebox size? My current firebox is 36" by 40" and I've got around 300 gallons of water in the water jacket. I think I remember someone somewhere saying that maybe filling in all that excess space with firebrick might make my burn more efficient.
Thanks in advance.