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.