Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: TriciaR On: Wed May 28, 2008 4:25 pm

I know nothing - well almost nothing - about coal. My neighbor put in a small coal stove in his living room and a power vent through the wall and is saving tons on his fuel bill. He has a HUGE house (4500 square feet or so) but the stove was one of the cheaper smaller ones.

We need to replace our oil burning furnace - forced hot air. Since oil is heading up, up, up with no end in sight and propane is not much better (country so no natural gas option) we were thinking wood or coal furnace. Obviously I think you will all prefer coal since you are here and I think I might prefer it too, having seen price gouging on wood pellets when a shortage comes up.

So what do I need to know?
Can I install a coal furnace in my basement using my existing ductwork?
Can it be controlled via a thermostat up in the main area of the house?
Are there hoppers big enough to fill only once a week or so?
How often do I need to clean out the ashes?
Do they require electricity to burn? If the power is out can I still burn it?
How much area does a winter's worth of coal take up? Could I stack it on 2-3 pallets in the corner of my basement? or is it much larger than that?
Should I leave my oil burner there as a backup or just take it out?
I have a 1400 square foot ranch style home with excellent insulation - how many BTU's should I consider living in upstate NY with temps dropping below zero at times?

Sorry for so many questions but this is all new to me and I want to get something done before next winter. I can't afford to heat with oil another winter.
TriciaR
 

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: stoker-man On: Wed May 28, 2008 4:48 pm

The efm Model AF150 will fit with your existing ductwork. All your other controls will still work. You can build a bin and fill once or twice a year. Ashes are emptied daily in the coldest part of the winter. It does require electricity to operate; it's not handfired. If you use bagged coal, we don't recommend it, but many use a 55 gallon drum. There is no sense to keep the existing furnace, but don't junk it, just set it to the side for now. Only a heat loss calculation can determine your btu needs. It should be the same as the current rating of your existing oil unit.

If you desire a hand-fired wood/coal unit, I know where there is a used efm furnace model for sale. They are very hard to find. I have the boiler model and I wouldn't give it up for anything.
stoker-man
 
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: 1981 efm wcb-24 in use 365 days a year
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite/Chestnut
Other Heating: Hearthstone wood stove

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: Freddy On: Wed May 28, 2008 4:54 pm

I'll start it off by asking some questions. Other will chime in I'm sure.

How much oil do you use a year?
What do you have for a chimney? Mason? Tiled lined? About how tall? Inside house or outside on a wall?
How do you heat your domestic hot water? (DHW)
Are you looking to do this as inexpensive as possible, or do you have the wherewithall to invest in a Cadilac system? Maybe even convert the house to hot water baseboard?
Might you have space to build a bin in the cellar and have bulk coal fill it through a window? (10 feet by 10 feet)
How much headroom do you have in the cellar?

To answer a couple of the questions,
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

Visit Lehigh Anthracite

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: Devil505 On: Wed May 28, 2008 4:55 pm

I heat my 2200SF raised ranch with just a Harman TLC2000 hand fired in my basement family room on about 2 tons of coal in SE Massachusetts. If you can get the stove heated air up into your living spaces you may not need more than just a stove. Ypou could use you old oil furnace for backup. A new Harman TLC2000 will cost you less than $1500.00. (you will need a chimney though)
Devil505
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: TLC-2000

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: TriciaR On: Wed May 28, 2008 5:16 pm

Freddy wrote:I'll start it off by asking some questions. Other will chime in I'm sure.

How much oil do you use a year? About 600 gallons I'd guess? They filled it 4 times this past winter and it was about 1/2 full each time - based on cost I'm guessing no less than 600 gallons
What do you have for a chimney? Mason? Tiled lined? About how tall? Inside house or outside on a wall?It goes up through the center of the house, appears to be a metal pipe? But it must be lined somehow - the house is only 15 years old so built under modern building codes
How do you heat your domestic hot water? (DHW)Electric water heater
Are you looking to do this as inexpensive as possible, or do you have the wherewithall to invest in a Cadilac system? Maybe even convert the house to hot water baseboard?Not wanting to cheap out but not looking to convert to a boiler either - want to stick with forced hot air if we can and run it from a programmable thermostat on the main floor
Might you have space to build a bin in the cellar and have bulk coal fill it through a window? (10 feet by 10 feet)Sure - basement is full length of house, unfinished, in addition to furnace and oil tank we also have laundry, exercise area, pool table and TV area - it's one big open room with concrete block walls
How much headroom do you have in the cellar? about 7-8 foot except where the duct work runs down the center of the room, then it's more like 6.5 feet

To answer a couple of the questions,
TriciaR
 

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: TriciaR On: Wed May 28, 2008 5:18 pm

Devil5052 wrote:I heat my 2200SF raised ranch with just a Harman TLC2000 hand fired in my basement family room on about 2 tons of coal in SE Massachusetts. If you can get the stove heated air up into your living spaces you may not need more than just a stove. Ypou could use you old oil furnace for backup. A new Harman TLC2000 will cost you less than $1500.00. (you will need a chimney though)


Sounds nice and cheap! :) I would like it to blow the heat through the house though - parents heat with wood and in order to keep the upstairs decently warm their basement is like a sauna. I want my house to be fairly uniformly heated if at all possible.
TriciaR
 

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: Devil505 On: Wed May 28, 2008 6:17 pm

TriciaR wrote:Sounds nice and cheap! I would like it to blow the heat through the house though - parents heat with wood and in order to keep the upstairs decently warm their basement is like a sauna. I want my house to be fairly uniformly heated if at all possible.


I have a thermometer in every room of my house (just ask my wife :D ) & am able to keep all rooms within a few degrees, even the basement. You have to be willing to cut a few vent holes in the first floor rooms & get a little creative but I kept the house a nice cozy 70* last winter. In the warmer weather you may even have to adjust the "Windowstats" in the basement but temp was pretty uniform throughout the house. You'll find coal much easier to control than wood in terms of keeping the house uniform. (Coal stoves can run pretty cool for a long time with no problem as long as your draft is good)
Devil505
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: TLC-2000

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: LsFarm On: Wed May 28, 2008 7:34 pm

Hello TriciaR,, Welcome to the forum. I would recommend the following: Keep your existing oil furnace, use it as a backup heater for when you go away for a vacation, or a long weekend.
Install a boiler, use a water to air heat exchanger that installs in the furnaces' ductwork. This transfers the boiler's heat into the ductwork,, this way the house thermostats stil control the heat in the house,, You can stay very simple with the thermostatic controls, or get really 'exotic'.. but you can still control the heat with a thermostat, and use the ductwork to distribute the heat..

Then hook the boiler into you DHW, domestic hot water,, your hot water is roughly 25-30% of your yearly heating bill,, so why not use the virtually free heat from the coal boiler, since it's hot anyway?? Save your electric hot water for the summer.

Hot air is the poorest conductor of heat,, water is nearly the best.. A boiler will save and store the heat overruns when the thermostat is satified, and the ductwork fan shuts off, but the coal fire is still burning strong,, it takes several minutes for the fire to die down,, and this excess heat cannot be stored in forced air furnace.. this is where the boiler is great,, it can store the heat in the water,, letting it get hotter, and then giving the heat off into the house instead of up the chimney between heat demands. Add this feature to the abilty to give virtually free DHW all winter long., and I think that a boiler is the only way to go, even with forced-hot-air ductwork for heat distribution.

The above system is very common, and works very well, there are quite a few forum members with just such a system.. Hopefully they will show some photos and have a vew comments on their systems.

Greg L.
LsFarm
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: Freddy On: Wed May 28, 2008 7:43 pm

Greg gives excellant advice. It would be far cheaper than converting to all baseboard heat, but gives you the benifits of a boiler. Your electric bill will take a huge dive if you get your DHW off the coal.

Bottom line, if you live near coal, it can be 1/4 the price of oil, if you live in Maine as I do, coal can be half or 1/3 the price of oil. That's of oil is $3.50 a gallon. I heard just today that one oil dealer is asking $4.89 for prepay oil!!!
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: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: coalkirk On: Wed May 28, 2008 7:53 pm

I've got to agree with Greg. Devils system works well but he has a bi-level I think. The layout and floor plan of a bi-level really lends itself to good air circulation throughout the home that a rancher will not have. I don't think you said what part of the world you are in, but if your neighbor is burning coal, it must be available. The boiler is the way to go with the water to air heat exchanger. I've used this system to heat my home for 4 years now. Nice and even heat, no saunas! Virtually free hot water in winter for laundry, dishwasher, showers etc. You came to the right place to get info. i'd urge you to read through the boiler threads. My Harman boiler gets filled (250 lbs) about twice a week and the ashes emptied the same.
coalkirk
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Harman VF3000
Coal Size/Type: antrhcite/rice coal

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: Devil505 On: Wed May 28, 2008 8:11 pm

coalkirk wrote:Devils system works well but he has a bi-level I think. The layout and floor plan of a bi-level really lends itself to good air circulation throughout the home that a rancher will not have.


Quite right about my home's open air circulation. In Mass. we call it a "split-entry ranch" which has an open stairway from the basement which is only about four feet below grade. The open stairway acts as a natural duct to channel the warm air up into the main floor with the help of a few vents I have cut into the first floor to aid air circulation. I think a ranch could be adapted also if you could get enough warm air up to the main floor, or you could simply locate the stove on the first floor. I think she said she only needed to heat about 1400 SF
Devil505
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: TLC-2000

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: rberq On: Wed May 28, 2008 8:22 pm

Greg has outlined the ideal solution so I'll keep my mouth shut on that. You asked about coal storage. Yes, you should very likely be able to store a winter's worth on three pallets in your cellar. A typical pallet delivered is 2.2 tons. With a "very well insulated" 1400 sf house, I will bet 4 tons more or less will get you through the winter and provide your domestic hot water.

Just roughly, if you burn 600 gallons per year, that's 84 million BTU input (before efficiency losses). Anthracite is, what, 24 to 26 million BTU per ton? also before efficiency losses. So without figuring it right down to the pound, that cross-foots nicely with my 4 ton guestimate above.

It sounds like you have an insulated metal chimney. I have been told that some types of metal chimney are not suitable for coal due to coal's sulfur/acidity, but I don't know if that's correct or not. At any rate, if you keep your oil system for backup (which I agree is a great idea), I think you would have to power-vent the coal boiler because they could not both run legally on the same flue.
rberq
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: DS Machine 1300
Coal Size/Type: Nut -- Kimmel/Blaschak/Reading
Other Heating: Oil hot water radiators, propane

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: TriciaR On: Wed May 28, 2008 9:03 pm

Freddy wrote:Greg gives excellant advice. It would be far cheaper than converting to all baseboard heat, but gives you the benifits of a boiler. Your electric bill will take a huge dive if you get your DHW off the coal.

Bottom line, if you live near coal, it can be 1/4 the price of oil, if you live in Maine as I do, coal can be half or 1/3 the price of oil. That's of oil is $3.50 a gallon. I heard just today that one oil dealer is asking $4.89 for prepay oil!!!


I live in upstate NY - near Albany - there is a coal heating dealer that sells Alaska stoves in the next town over and one that sells Legacy stoves about 30 miles away. I believe coal is rather inexpensive here.

My husband is going to do some research this weekend and visit the coal stove dealers with a list of questions I will now have thanks to you people - about boilers and heat exchangers and hooking up my water heater! So would I just bypass my hot water tank in the winter? Or would it still go through the tank but be preheated by the boiler?
TriciaR
 

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: TriciaR On: Wed May 28, 2008 9:15 pm

LsFarm wrote:Hello TriciaR,, Welcome to the forum. I would recommend the following: Keep your existing oil furnace, use it as a backup heater for when you go away for a vacation, or a long weekend. When I say we need to replace the oil furnace it's not just because oil is too expensive, the furnace is corroding and is becoming unsafe - it has an awful lot of aluminum tape on the firebox because of rusting. We were going to replace it with another oil burner but that seems like a real waste of money with the price of oil heading higher all the time. So not sure keeping it in is going to be feasible - will the corrosion stop if we aren't using it? We never leave the house unattended - even when on vacation my dad comes up 2X a day to feed the animals so filling the hopper won't be an issue. I do wonder if having only a coal furnace would affect resale value though?


Install a boiler, use a water to air heat exchanger that installs in the furnaces' ductwork. This transfers the boiler's heat into the ductwork,, this way the house thermostats stil control the heat in the house,, You can stay very simple with the thermostatic controls, or get really 'exotic'.. but you can still control the heat with a thermostat, and use the ductwork to distribute the heat..

Then hook the boiler into you DHW, domestic hot water,, your hot water is roughly 25-30% of your yearly heating bill,, so why not use the virtually free heat from the coal boiler, since it's hot anyway?? Save your electric hot water for the summer. Just curious how much water does a boiler pull from a well? Is it mostly a reservoir and how much water is lost due to evaporation as steam? I have a well that produces approx 2 gallons per minute for about 2 hours before the reservoir is emptied. I try to conserve water and have never pumped the well dry yet but I worry.

Hot air is the poorest conductor of heat,, water is nearly the best.. A boiler will save and store the heat overruns when the thermostat is satisfied, and the ductwork fan shuts off, but the coal fire is still burning strong,, it takes several minutes for the fire to die down,, and this excess heat cannot be stored in forced air furnace.. this is where the boiler is great,, it can store the heat in the water,, letting it get hotter, and then giving the heat off into the house instead of up the chimney between heat demands. Add this feature to the abilty to give virtually free DHW all winter long., and I think that a boiler is the only way to go, even with forced-hot-air ductwork for heat distribution. This type system sounds perfect actually - will have hubby ask about these systems specifically when he goes out looking for info on Saturday (I'm out of town or I'd go with him).

The above system is very common, and works very well, there are quite a few forum members with just such a system.. Hopefully they will show some photos and have a vew comments on their systems.

Greg L.
TriciaR
 

Re: Considering the switch from Oil to Coal

PostBy: coal berner On: Wed May 28, 2008 9:16 pm

rberq wrote:Greg has outlined the ideal solution so I'll keep my mouth shut on that. You asked about coal storage. Yes, you should very likely be able to store a winter's worth on three pallets in your cellar. A typical pallet delivered is 2.2 tons. With a "very well insulated" 1400 sf house, I will bet 4 tons more or less will get you through the winter and provide your domestic hot water.

Just roughly, if you burn 600 gallons per year, that's 84 million BTU input (before efficiency losses). Anthracite is, what, 24 to 26 million BTU per ton? also before efficiency losses. So without figuring it right down to the pound, that cross-foots nicely with my 4 ton guestimate above.

It sounds like you have an insulated metal chimney. I have been told that some types of metal chimney are not suitable for coal due to coal's sulfur/acidity, but I don't know if that's correct or not. At any rate, if you keep your oil system for backup (which I agree is a great idea), I think you would have to power-vent the coal boiler because they could not both run legally on the same flue.

Good Qaulity Anthracite will be 13.000 to 13.600 BTU's Per lb Lower Qaulity will be 12.000 to 12.900 BTU's Per lb
so it will run 24.000 bTU's Per ton To 27.000 btu's Per ton so you Number's are right on with BTU's Per lb Another good
Point about Anthracite coal is it is the Second Cleanest Burning fossil fuel you can burn Next to N.G.
coal berner
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1986 Electric Furnace Man 520 DF
Stove/Furnace Make: Electric Furnace Man
Stove/Furnace Model: DF520

Visit Lehigh Anthracite