Coal vs Wood Pellets

PostBy: europachris On: Sat Dec 09, 2006 9:50 pm

Berlin wrote:btw, if you clogged your chimney that fast and had soot all over the house i think your particular setup at that time may have needed some serious modification to burn coal without making a mess, it IS possible and very easy to do.

Agreed! It was a wood-only version Woodchuck furnace. Forced draft blower and non-adjustable secondary air. I believe the only difference, however, for the wood/coal version was the rocker grates. Ours only had the stationary wood grates. My father made up a little tool to poke up through the grates from the ash pan area to knock down the ashes. But, the design of the firebox was definitely set up for wood, as the secondary air came in around the door frame and wasn't well preheated, nor directed to where it can do the most good burning the volatiles.

That is why I think that U.K. Yorkshire stove would burn the high vol. bituminous well due to the air inlet and refractory lined secondary burn chamber. I'd love to import one and give it a try.

Last edited by europachris on Fri Mar 31, 2017 11:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: quote box
Stove/Furnace Make: EFM 350/Iron Fireman
Stove/Furnace Model: Custom bituminous burner

General Comments

PostBy: drujinin On: Sun Dec 10, 2006 9:20 am

I grew up out there in the Allegany NY area. Small oilfields and neighborhood blacksmiths. Everybody burned Gas or Oil but the switch to wood, then pellets or Coal is coming on stronger as prices escalate.
Old wisdom of dump it here or there, just remember that coal carries trace elements and minerals in the ash that you don't want near gardens or where it could be tracked in the house.
There is a new wood pellet factory going in up near Buffalo as evidenced by the fact that alot of over grown softwood Tree Farms in Allegany County are being harvested and sent up there. Hardwood pellets actually have less BTU content than Softwood pellets which makes them a better source because softwoods grow faster and are more renewable.
Coal sales being up is a boon to those small family owned mines the same as the family owned oil fields in PA, NY and OHIO. Coal is easier to obtain cost and time wise verses wood as the resurgence is spurred by lack of cost-of-living increases and rising fuel prices.
Also buy the BEST stove that you can! Wood, Coal or whatever! If you ever drove through the OLD steel towns as a kid you'd well remember the dirt, soot and smell! The WORLD is a cleaner place and we NEED to do our part or the Coal Burners will be regulated out of existance. A wood boiler in a residential area is a bad deal for the neighbors, remember that this can happen to your Old or Cheap coal burner also.
Case in point is go buy a Gallon of Gasoline.
Just my 2 cents on everything......
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hearth-Mate Series 2480
Coal Size/Type: Nut

Re: Coal vs Wood Pellets

PostBy: coalcracker On: Mon Jan 24, 2011 7:55 pm

AlanK wrote:I hear a lot of moaning and groaning about wood pellets being in short supply. I am looking for a stove as suppllemental heat and started with rice coal- then wood pellets - and now back to rice. Is there really going to be a shortage or cost increase in the price of good wood pellets. Hear now they may bring them in from China. The BTU value of coal is known but what about the supply in Western PA.

this is an old topic but worth reviving.

pellet stoves are not as cost efficient and do not heat as well as coal, no where near

I grew up as a kid from age 5 onward, watching my grandmother hand stoke a large hot air coal furnace in her cellar, along with a combination coal/gas cook stove in her kitchen. The house had no insulation at all, and was a "plank house" typical of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton/Hazleton coal miners' homes of the late-1800's and early 1900's. That house was always so warm that you had to take all your coats and sweaters off ASAP when you entered in the winter.

so by the time I was a teenager I already knew the deal with coal, how cheaply it would heat a home, and how well it would heat. Much to my surprise almost no one except for in my own area, knows this heritage- and outside our area coal heat seems to be like alchemy or a lost art.

heating with coal is very basic and easy- and it's way better than wood pellets. It's also a lot less work than wood, and coal fires don't go out like wood. In NEPA we have a large supply of hard anthracite so we have it made when it comes to heating.

When I bought my home in 1994 it had an auxiliary hand stoked coal stove, in addition to electric baseboard. I replaced that stove with a Harmon Mark I and it works excellent. It heats my entire 2 story 1200 sq. ft. home warm as toast with heat to spare. Above 30 degrees F outside, I'm opening windows to let heat out. It's around 5 degrees outside right now, and it was -6 this morning, but I was warm as toast in this house.

I burn about 2.5 tons of coal/year at $165/ton so do the math- I heat my home from November 1 to around March 15 each year on about $400 worth of coal. It burns approx. 1 bucket a day, 40 lb. bucket, so a ton of coal lasts me 7 weeks. The heating season it typically about 19 weeks. Some years I had it into April or May very dampened off for cold mornings but I don't do that anymore. After March 15 I usually shut off the stove and let it burn out.

It is not difficult to start a coal fire. Get a roaring wood fire going first as usual, then cover it to the top with coal. Leave the draft wide open until the coal catches. Then dampen it off. My chimney is 20 feet high from stove to cap outside, so the draft it quite strong. Full open on the damper is 6.5 turns. I never have to open it more than 3/4 turn from closed, for constant steady burn with the more stubborn to burn coal (coal with a lot of slate in it) Right now the damper is only opened 5/8 turn from closed and it heating the entire house.

Do the math- 40 lbs. coal/day at $165/ton, means I heat my home for only $3.30/day, or around $100/month.

By comparison, I have friends/family who spend $450/month for natural gas heat, or $500-$1000/month for oil. Even those heating with propane tank systems are spending $400-$600/month.

And wood is not such a deal anymore. A cord of wood delivered now costs $150/cord and only lasts around 3 weeks. I have a family member who burns 8 cords/year to heat his home. Even if you cut all the wood yourself, if you add up what you spend in gas in your truck and chain saws, new chains, bar oil, mixing oil, splitter gas, then your time- heating with wood is costing more than heating with coal. What's your time worth ?

With coal, you have it delivered, bring in a bucket from the bin, shovel it in twice a day, rake down the stove twice a day, take the ashes out every 3rd day- that's it.

Start your coal fire to stay lit- don't burn it "as needed"- start it, and keep it going. You'll see a huge cost savings.

The only downside is, you must have a place to throw the ashes outside, and it creates a lot of dust in the home. Dust your home well each spring with you shut the stove off.

President Jimmy Carter gave a speech back in the 1970's stating the USA must transition back to coal. Everyone ridiculed him for that- but he was right- the free market is transitioning us back to coal, whether we like it or not, because we can only supply 1/4 of our oil needs as a country- the rest is imported and expensive. Learn how to burn coal now. They are starting to sell coal boilers again for homes, I may even buy one and heat my hot water with it as well.

electric, gas, oil, pellet, propane, wood will only continue to get more and more expensive, as the fuel used to gather it drives the mfg. costs up- coal is the only way to fly- and soon we'll see people moving to where the coal is, to get a cheaper supply of the energy. We'll see people moving back to NEPA like years ago. This area will boom for it's coal and gas reserves.

History will repeat itself, the easy cheap oil era is over.
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Standard sealed hot water boiler, hand fed
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Mark I Magnafire
Baseburners & Antiques: Lehigh Oak 18, Washington potbelly, Sears Roebuck parlor cabinet, PIttston 6 lid cook stove, vintage combo gas/coal cook stove 4 lid
Coal Size/Type: nut
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman
Stove/Furnace Model: Mark I Magnafire

Re: Coal vs Wood Pellets

PostBy: CoalHeat On: Mon Jan 24, 2011 8:10 pm

Very well said, welcome to the forum.
A cord of wood delivered now costs $150/cord

It's $180 to $200 a cord here. When the prices hit $175 I bought my Harman, burned 6 to 8 cords a year plus I had to keep oil in the tank to supplement the stoves when the fires had gone out.
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1959 EFM 350
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Magnafire Mark I
Baseburners & Antiques: Sears Signal Oak 15 & Andes Kitchen Range
Coal Size/Type: Rice and Chestnut
Other Heating: Fisher Fireplace Insert

Re: Coal vs Wood Pellets

PostBy: lowfog01 On: Mon Jan 24, 2011 8:14 pm

I love your post! I am so excited to be able to burn coal for my residential heating needs. I'm thrilled to be a part of reviving an almost lost art. I am teaching my children and their friends this art and know that when they "have to pay the bills" I will have given them an irreplaceable gift. I only started burning coal 5 years ago - found the forum a year later - but already I see an increase in the amount of interest I'm generating among my friends and neighbors in heating with coal. Hopefully, someone will take the leap soon and actually buy a coal applaince and go for it. :D Lisa
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Mark II & Mark I
Coal Size/Type: nut/pea

Re: Coal vs Wood Pellets

PostBy: I'm On Fire On: Mon Jan 24, 2011 10:34 pm

Wood'nCoal wrote:Very well said, welcome to the forum.
A cord of wood delivered now costs $150/cord

It's $180 to $200 a cord here. When the prices hit $175 I bought my Harman, burned 6 to 8 cords a year plus I had to keep oil in the tank to supplement the stoves when the fires had gone out.

Last winter I filled my oil tank up three times and went through 4 "face" cords of wood.

I spent $1700 in oil and $800 in wood for the season.

That's three fill ups at approximately $565 for 150+ gallons and $200 a cord.

I was technically paying $190 a cord because my buddy was delivering my wood but I always tossed him an extra $10 for beer.

Then, I bought my log splitter and he quoted me $700 for 7 cords in 15' logs that I was going to have to cut, split stack. That was June of 2010, before I bought the Chubby. I didn't buy the logs, sold my log splitter for $900 and used some of the money to buy the Chubby and buy two tons of coal.

This season so far?

I've spent $640 for two tons of coal, got a third for free from American when I traded the Chubby to them. And I spent $105 for 90 gallons of diesel as a backup.

Last season to heat my house I spent approximately $2500 to heat my house.

This season so far I've spent approximately $745.

That's an approximate savings of $1755.

I said approximate because I haven't included the cost of the DS-1600, just the fuel used to heat the house. But even so, if I add the cost of the 1600 ($1711) I'm still $44 ahead of where I was last season. I've still spent less in fuel to heat my house. That's just unheard of in this day and age.

Once I get the air leaks and insulation straightened in my house, I'll probably never need another delivery of oil ever. If it weren't for this site and the people on it, I'd still be giving my money to Opec.
I'm On Fire
Hand Fed Coal Stove: DS Machines DS-1600 Hot Air Circulator

Re: Coal vs Wood Pellets

PostBy: grizzly2 On: Thu Feb 24, 2011 7:51 am

In addition to the money saved, I like coal heat from a wood stove because I like the radiant heat I feel in the living room. Also it is a LOT LESS work than heating with wood, even if you buy wood cut, split and delivered. A lot less mess in the house too. I am soooo glad I switched to coal from wood.
Cheap, easy, clean and comfortable. What more can I say :)
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 30 - 95
Coal Size/Type: pea and nut/ anthracite
Other Heating: Jotul #3 wood stove in garage. Oil backup in house. Electric backup in house.

Re: Coal vs Wood Pellets

PostBy: Bootstrap On: Fri Feb 03, 2012 3:15 pm

grizzly2 wrote:In addition to the money saved, I like coal heat from a wood stove because I like the radiant heat I feel in the living room. Also it is a LOT LESS work than heating with wood, even if you buy wood cut, split and delivered. A lot less mess in the house too. I am soooo glad I switched to coal from wood.
Cheap, easy, clean and comfortable. What more can I say :)

Thats my reason for switching as well...
Stove/Furnace Make: Hitzer
Stove/Furnace Model: 30-95

Re: Coal vs Wood Pellets

PostBy: revtim On: Thu Aug 21, 2014 7:36 pm

And don't forget this huge advantage of coal over wood pellets. As you know.. wood comes from trees and as any environmental wacko will tell you, trees are living beings with feelings. Coal has no feelings... so, why cut down a beautiful tree, traumatizing all the surrounding trees just to chop and press it into little pellets and burn it (Oh the humanity of it) when you could be burning coal... which has no feelings and is a little too dirty to make a good plaything... in fact it's not really good for anything else.. unless you have a LOT of time and want to put it under a LOT of pressure in hopes of making a diamond out of some of it.
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: reading
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: keystoker
Coal Size/Type: rice
Other Heating: FALP