This is a long story, so bear with me.
I first decided it was time to hook up my wood/coal boiler when I found out that my pre-buy price for Propane was going to cost $5500 for this season. This is at $1.59 /gal. Regular no-contract price right now is $2.79/gal. My house alone burns 600-900 gallons of propane per month with the thermostats set at 60*.
So I got busy, installed the heat exchangers, buried the insulated pipes, brought the little boiler in from the barn to the new outdoor 'boiler-room' and hooked it up.
I soon found out that it was way too small, and quite ineffecient. I tried Coal to extend my burn times and that is how I found this site. I was trying to learn about coal, and burning coal properly.
I designed and fabricated a new boiler [with help] and installed the new MUCH larger, more effecient boiler in January. I am now able to burn either wood or coal long enough to get through the day or all night. With much lower stack temperatures.
The long and steep learning curve about coal came to this: My 'reclaimed' coal that I found here is very poor quality Bituminous, I paid only $15 a ton, but have to sift out the chunks from the fines, and this results in about a 50% waste. Ths coal smokes very bad, creates a very nasty soot, and the amount of rock, clinker and ash remaining is amazing, so I will not be purchasing any of this 'reclaimed' coal next year.
I found a source for bagged Anthracite coal with the help of a fellow forum member [Thanks Dave!] and gave it a try. WOW, What a difference, burns clean, hot, virtually ash and clinker free. But it is costly by the bag.
So this summer I will make at least one maybe two 'pilgrimages' to PA for bulk anthracite coal. I expect to burn around 8-10 ton to heat my house and shop next year.
Even at $200 a ton, the cost to heat my buildings to a comfortable 70* is about a third of the cost of using propane. So if I buy $2000 of coal I will be happy if it is enough for the winter.
It has been a very educational year here in Michigan!! I have burn only around $400 propane in the house, but the shop has still consumed about $800, and the apartment $600. Next year the shop will be coal heated from the same boiler as the house.
So the heat bill is about $1800 instead of $5500 this year. Not counting the new installed hardware.
Greg L [LsFarm]