Why don't more NEPA residents use anthracite?

PostBy: davemich On: Sat Feb 11, 2006 7:34 am

Not to hi-jack the thread but I would think everyone in NEPA would know about anthracite and its use as a heating resource. Stove mfgs don't advertise in the area at all?? Newspaper articles don't comment on anthracite and its use to heat homes at all?? With the natural resource in your backyards, I would think everyone would know about anthracite and a high percentage of homes would be using it to heat their homes.
davemich
 

PostBy: Richard S. On: Sat Feb 11, 2006 10:44 am

Well Dave that's a good question and one I think deserves it's own thread.

Probably the biggest factor is cheap oil and later gas and what was supposed to be cheap electric. There's many reasons really, anthracite production in NEPA topped out in the 20's if my memory serves me correctly. After that it had a steady decline into the 50's and 60's. After that in the Wyoming Valley there was two significant occurrences that put the final nails in the coffin....

In 1959 they had the Knox Mine Disaster, they mined under the Susquehanna river and got a little too close. The river caved the mine in and it flooded the mine. Trouble is that all those mines were interconnected so they all got flooded that were below the water table. They were pumping water out of those mines prior to that but trying to keep up with what was essentially a tidal wave of water was fruitless. If you Google Knox Mine Disaster you can find a lot more info. Here's a pic:

Image


At that point many homes had already started to use other sources of fuel anyway. It was not much more expensive and obviously a lot more convenient. Another thing to point out is coal fired furnaces are not cheap, generally they are 1/3 more than a oil or gas counterpart.

In 1972 Hurricane Agnes hit the Wyoming Valley which flooded many thousands of home if not hundreds of thousands of homes. Most got grants and replaced with either oil or electric heat if they had coal at that point. I believe the nuclear power plant in Berwick was started at that time which was supposed to provide dirt cheap electric which never materialized. Then in the 80's and 90's you had cheap natural gas....

At some point in time there was always an alternative source of fuel that although not cheaper than coal was nearly as cheap... people like convenience so they opted for the easy heat. Kind of hard to blame them considering it wasn't significantly more. Even recently as 3 or 4 years ago oil was nearly as competitive as coal as far as price so why burn coal when you can just turn the dial....

There are a lot of people that use it and have used it for many years, most are in the rural areas. The gas for them was not an option since they couldn't get on a line, oil is more expensive because of delivery costs, additionally many used hand -fired stoves. In many of the very rural areas if the electricity goes out it can be out for days...

The amount using it will probably change now, you're not going to see cheap energy prices like you have in the past.... Unfortunately one of the biggest problems facing anthracite production in the Wyoming Valley is a source. As I mentioned previously all the mines are flooded, on top of that a vast majority of the coal is located below houses, towns etc. It's a fairly built up area with most of the land used for other purposes. This brings to mind a funny story my uncle had told me, he said you could hear them working in the mines while sitting in a girlfriend's living room. That is not going to happen today.

As far as the newspapers they do run a few articles now and then, more recently. Many consumers are switching to coal. Shortly after Katrina hit and the s*** hit the fan there was a tremendous surge in coal sales. I was delivering coal to customers that did not even have anything to burn it in, some didn't even get there stoves installed until a month ago...

Anyhow that's the short version. :wink:
Richard S.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

PostBy: Jerry & Karen On: Sat Feb 11, 2006 5:09 pm

Dave,
This year a spent a small fortune on adv. Also with Web page, a ranking company and design work another big investment. Then you have color brochures, more $. County fairs, state fairs, local malls, radio , tv, newspaper and the list goes on and on, and I'm just one small company. If the people in Pa. don't know about coal, it's not because of the lack of getting the word out.
Jerry LLS
Jerry & Karen
 


PostBy: Cap On: Sat Feb 11, 2006 7:15 pm

I know folks who grew up in Landsford,PA Carbon Co. They could always here miners underneath of thier home. It was a common occurance in Landsford.

It seems as if you see more advertising for wood stoves than do you see for coal stoves here in PA. In my opinion, nobody recognizes coal as a fuel source when planning a heating system in thier homes. Could you imagine a new builder trying to sell $300K home with a coal furance along side of a modern electric AC unit?
Cap
 
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Harman SF 250, domestic hot water loop, heat accumulator

PostBy: wenchris On: Sat Feb 11, 2006 9:02 pm

To be honest with you if the word gets out the price goes up. Wish I would have done this years ago. The guy's at work look at me like I'm nuts, burning coal. I listen to them moan about their heating bills. No one wants to do any work, its easier just to turn up the thermostat and pay. They also thought I was nuts when I brought a 1984 Mercedes Benz Diesel and converted it to run on WVO (waste vegitable oil) from resturants. Ten thousand miles on grease, FREE-O. Use this car for my commute. Keep the Dodge Ram for running around town. I do not tell to many people, if the word gets out then I'll be paying for the grease. So as far as I'm concerned the less people that know the better for us that do know.
Jimmy
wenchris
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: Magnum stoker with water coil

PostBy: bjs1779 On: Sat Feb 11, 2006 10:39 pm

[quote]So as far as I'm concerned the less people that know the better for us that do know. [/qoute]
I always had the feeling that you guys were hording it all for yourselves!
bjs1779
 

PostBy: sparky On: Sun Feb 12, 2006 2:15 am

I think that this is a very interesting topic. Come to think of it I never see any advertisement for coal or any coal related products. Maybe it's because I'm on the fringe of the coal region. I personally don't know anybody else who burns coal and have never seen a new house with coal as the heat source. Whenever I tell people that I use coal they look at me like I'm from the moon.
Do you think maybe one reason for the non popularity is that the supply chain can seem a bit unstable at times? The various rumors worry me sometimes.
In rual PA wood is king and is looked at as endless and almost free. Around here the price for coal trucking starts to get your attentention also.
sparky
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: SF2500 Handfired furnace

PostBy: Richard S. On: Sun Feb 12, 2006 8:18 am

sparky wrote:Come to think of it I never see any advertisement for coal or any coal related products.


I spend a small fortune on advertiing as well, particualarly in the rurla areas. Trouble is there is only three puplications I can think of that reach many homes in the rural areas that I want to target. They are all from the same company and cover a vast majority of NEPA, it's a mailer and I suspect that many consumers simply throw it in the can. Besdies that there really isn't anything else, the newspapers are all too small or non-existent. I do a lot of yellow pages but the prices for that are outrageous even for a small inline ad. TV is out of the question because a couple of 30 second ads are going to give you little return, simply not enough consumers to see it.

There's also the "loyalty" factor. Once a consumer gets a reliable source for coal where they are getting a good product and good service they rarely shop around or consider someone else, even if the price is cheaper. There's also the economic factor where customers shop simply for price which usually results in getting a sub-standard product or worse getting ripped off. 1 in 3 new customers that I deliver coal to in a specific region were receiving a substanial amount less than what they were supposed to be getting... kinda hard to compete with crooks.

In rual PA wood is king and is looked at as endless and almost free. Around here the price for coal trucking starts to get your attentention also.


It may be king but as I have mentioned elsewhere just about every customer I have taken coal to that had previously burned wood would never go back. If you purchase it it's about the same, the wood may be slightly cheaper but it's a lot more hassle. If I was going to burn wood the only thing I would consider would be one of those outside stoves where you can burn anything including live wood that has not been split.

As for the price of trucking the coal there's two factors, volume and time. A coal truck carries a lot less tonnage than the same sized dump truck. I don't have exact weights but on my large one I'd have to guess there's an additional 3 to 4 tons of lift instead of product. As far as time I can for example make 5 deliveries to the immediate Tunkhannock area in a day if all goes well and be home by 5 or so. If i wanted to make runs to Towanda that's cut to 2 trips, I could do 3 but wouldn't be home until very late.
Richard S.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

PostBy: LsFarm On: Sun Feb 12, 2006 8:25 am

One big problem with burning coal: the need to babysit the stove, boiler or furnace. You can't take off for a four day work-related trip and leave the house untended.

In today's world we have gotten used to being very mobile and not thinking about the house heating system needing attention for weeks or months, just pay the bill for fuel, and forget it.

Only in areas where the electricity is unreliable do people concern themselves with leaving their home for days or weeks.

Coal is a great supplimental heat but unless you never travel, but if you do travel, your home has to have a more 'conventional' backup heat source.

Even stoker systems are limited by the hopper size and ash pan size and need tending every few days. There are systems that are good for close to a week, but they are rare.

I'm lucky to have a caretaker for the farm who tends my boiler when I'm working and gone from home fro 4-5 days at a time.

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

PostBy: sparky On: Sun Feb 12, 2006 10:40 am

Coalman - Great point about the "loyalty" factor. I am loyal to a fault and wish at times that I wasn't. I see your dilemma about trying to advertise the various ways you do. Congratulations for your creativity with coming up with this forum :idea: . You have really hit a homerun with it.
I too could not put up with the long list of full time wood burning issues.

Lsfarm - I agree, we coal burners have to be the stick-around home type. The hand fired people can only get away for 12 hours +/- max. I'm suprised at the number of stoker people here who can get away for a couple days.

To stay on topic, It's interesting to here the coalman talking about making deliveries to people who weren't even set up for coal yet. Maybe we are on the verge of a coal use surge.
sparky
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: SF2500 Handfired furnace

PostBy: Richard S. On: Sun Feb 12, 2006 10:58 am

LsFarm wrote:One big problem with burning coal: the need to babysit the stove, boiler or furnace. You can't take off for a four day work-related trip and leave the house untended.


That's a good point too, i'd also imagine many consumers could be under the impression that all caol fire heaters require constant attention like the hand fired units do...

Ours will go quite some time without attention but we have a 55 gallon drum+ avaialble at any time directly on a worm, approximately 1/3 of a ton. If you take the tub out of the furnace to make more room for ashes it can go for about 3-4 days in about 10 degree weather. Spring it can go for about a week and a half and in the summer for weeks....

They do make coal/oil combo units. Much more expensive though and from my understanding they are not very efficient using oil. I've also seen adapters on some for gas... If you purchased a large furnace like mine and set it up properly you could get many weeks out of it even in the winter.

I have a customer who did just that. He had the space and money so this isn't an option for everyone... He had a 12 foot basement so he built a hopper with about a 10 ton capacity. All the coal goes right onto the worm, he also has a shut off for the coal for maintenance on the worm. The furnace is simialr to ours, the base is bottomless and is meant to sit directly on the ground. He built it up on addional cinder block base giving him an extra 2 or 3 feet. That furnace can probably go for 3 weeks in o degree weather. His only limiting factor is the amount of ashes he can hold. If he added some kind of automated auger for the ashes he could run it for months....

That's a little over the top but if you had a very large home or commercial building it would be ideal.
Last edited by Richard S. on Sun Feb 12, 2006 12:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Richard S.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

PostBy: Richard S. On: Sun Feb 12, 2006 11:11 am

sparky wrote: Congratulations for your creativity with coming up with this forum :idea: . You have really hit a homerun with it.


Well the forum spawned off the website which has been around around since 2001. I had a smaller forum originally there but it never got used, this one here just recently took off in the fall... I'll be moving it back to my original site sometime in the very near future. .


To stay on topic, It's interesting to here the coalman talking about making deliveries to people who weren't even set up for coal yet. Maybe we are on the verge of a coal use surge.


Well I'm sure Leisure Line can attest that in the fall there was a huge surge. Many that wanted stoves and furnaces couldn't get them because they simply were all gone. I'm assuming they figured they had better get the fuel because that was next. There's more coal available now than there was in September if that tells you anything. They were just being smart.
Richard S.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite

PostBy: sparky On: Fri Feb 17, 2006 9:11 pm

Heard something on a local radio talkshow from Binghamton yeserday morning that ties in with this topic.

Someone emailed a question to the expert plumbing & heating guest. The listener wanted an opinion on using coal as a primary heating source. The expert strongly discouraged it. He said that that in this day and age that going to to coal would be a big step backward and that he recommends taking advantage of todays' energy efficient technology oil and gas units.

I could tell by his reaction to the question that it kinda caught him off guard and that he hasn't looked into coal or kept up with it.
sparky
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: SF2500 Handfired furnace

PostBy: davemich On: Fri Feb 17, 2006 9:29 pm

Thats a good thing...more coal for us!!
davemich
 

PostBy: Richard S. On: Fri Feb 17, 2006 10:22 pm

Wish I heard him say that as I would have been right on the phone.... :) Coal is not for everyone, it does require a little work and can be a little dirty, especially if you have the unit right in your living room. Both of those can be minimized. That's the trade-off for heat at a significantly reduced price than what it would it cost for gas or oil.
Richard S.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite