Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: mudnut On: Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:18 am

Hey gang, ok so I've got a hand fired furnace burning nut and killing a hair over 2 bags a day, my firebox will hold 3 bags of coal so I have to drop a bag in before I leave in the morning and another at night before I go to bed. Way lower pain factor than burning wood which I do in that furnace from time to time but still somewhat of a PITA shaking, poking and loading twice a day.

I found a used Alaska double burner for right around 2 thousand, looks to be in pretty good shape and I know that it would more than heat my house. Thinking that the ease of operation would be worth the money alone but I understand that stokers are much more efficient than hand fired units.

I'll need to measure to make sure that I can get it to fit where the Brunco is now. I guess my question is how much more efficient are stokers? Am I looking at roughly half the coal use or is it not that much. I understand that with both burners going I would use twice as much as one and I think the 1 burner would be sufficient for the majority of our days and nights this season until we dip into the single digits that is. Also what's a good price on a used Alaska furnace? Thinking that what he's asking should be about right as I remember these going for more than twice that new.

Thanks in advance

Mud
mudnut
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Brunco
Stove/Furnace Model: Brunco 150

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: whistlenut On: Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:37 am

If you think jumping from wood to a hand fed coal unit was a quantum leap, just wait until you go "girly-man" as the gorilla hand fed boys call it. It is much easier, however you need electricity to make it happen......
A dual fuel Alaska could be fairly priced at 2K UNLESS it needs a a blower motor 240+/-, or stoker motors, 120 each +/-, or has a rusted out hopper or needs stoker parts.

If all those are fine, and you have seen it, then it would be fine to go with.

Remember there are others out there also, so look carefully before you commit.

I'd go check it out, however. ' Eyes wide shut' is NOT a good shopping tip!! :idea: :roll: :idea: :shock:
Last edited by whistlenut on Wed Jan 09, 2013 11:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
whistlenut
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: AA130's,260's, AHS130&260's,EFM900,GJ&VanWert
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Franks Boiler,Itasca415,NYer130,Van Wert
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Yellow Flame
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Alaska-4,Keystoker-2,
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Alaska,Gibraltor,Keystone,Vc Vigilant 2
Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Van Wert, NYer's, Ford,Jensen.
Coal Size/Type: Rice,Buck,Pea,Nut&Stove
Other Heating: Oil HWBB

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: mdrelyea On: Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:34 pm

My father has the dual burner Alaska. This one right? He's happy with it and it works well. It's a great piece of equipment. I have the auger version and love it. His only regret is that he didn't get the auger version. I never have ANY unburnt coal due to the burn pot design. He always has some unburnt coal in his ash even when we both get the coal from the same supplier. Plus I have the flexibility to be able to burn wood pellets if I wanted to. He's not able to do that.

Just make sure that when you're only using one burner it's the back one. You don't want to have to reach over the fire to get to that second one so that you can light it. Ouch!
mdrelyea
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Alaska 140 Auger
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Russo #2
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Rice/Nut

Visit Lehigh Anthracite

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: CoaLen On: Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:36 pm

mudnut,
I'm running a Keystoker Koker which is a single stoker furnace rated at 160,000 btu. I've got it in the basement of an 1800 sq ft ranch and have my thermostat set at 73 deg (happy wife=happy life). I'm averaging 60# a day. Keystoker claims 88-90% efficiency. So I figure maybe 80-85%. I don't know how that relates to the Alaska 140. I haven't been very concerned about the efficiency rating. I just know it keeps my house warm and I save money burning coal. :clap:
My uneducated guess is that you'll use less coal with the stoker compared to your hand fed, but not a lot less. You will appreciate the stoker feed over the hand feeding you're doing now.
Good luck with your decision.
CoaLen
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Keystoker Koker
Coal Size/Type: rice

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: Rigar On: Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:51 pm

Mudnut
.. we purchased a Keystoker a 150 furnace this fall
I pounded the sales rep with questions as to why the dual feed type stokers were any better or worse then the single feed( my thought was if 1 went bad you always have the other to get you by)
I was told that to burners are double the maintenance...
I still have no idea if this is a valid point... as I went with the single burner Keystoker
... as far as burning half as much coal... not sure
... but 1 thing I can tell you... I cannot imagine that a hand fed ( especially a furnace) could idle as low as a s stoker unit
mine is rated at 20 thous to 150 thous BTU...
on warmer days... when it is in "pilot mode"... the air handler (blower) never comes on
in fact.. my plenum is cool to the touch.
but make no mistake... when it gets cold out... it is up to the task!
1 burner or 2... I cannot imagine a more controllable way to burn coal... not to mention efficient... just my 2 cents
Rigar
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Keystoker A 150
Coal Size/Type: anthracite rice
Stove/Furnace Make: Keystoker
Stove/Furnace Model: A 150 warm air furnace

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: titleist1 On: Wed Jan 09, 2013 5:46 pm

I switched from a hand fed to a stoker before last year. I think I am actually burning more coal with the stoker because it is easier to maintain tolerable temps in the house during the shoulder months and warm spells like this week.

I just keep it running in the marginally warm days rather than letting it burn out and re-lighting like i did with the hand fed. Or instead of burning wood on the cool evenings and letting it die out over night like i did with the hand fed, I just let the stoker idle.

Hard to tell what the difference would be between them but even if it is an extra 1/2 ton per year, the convenience is still worth it to me.

So don't be surprised if after you make the switch you end up burning at least as much as you did with the hand fed.

(I still have the hand fed in a corner of the basement and a stash of nut in case we get an extended power outage in the winter so I am ready to make a hasty retreat from girlie-man territory if necessary!)
titleist1
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Harman Mag Stoker (old style) one in basement, one in workshop
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Mark III on standby for long power outages
Coal Size/Type: Rice/Anthracite; Nut/Anthracite

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: WNY On: Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:27 pm

Its hard to quantify the Coal Usage (there's some good threads on here on Coal usage). every heating situation is different, the nice part is with the stoker, it can run a day or two without tending depending on how its burning and how much demand there is in the house for heat.

i can run 10-60#/day in my HyFire I 2 burner (140K) unit depending on the outside temps. I've only been running just 1 burner so far this year.
WNY
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Keystoker 90K, Leisure Line Hyfire I
Coal Size/Type: Rice
Stove/Furnace Make: Keystoker, LL & CoalTrol
Stove/Furnace Model: 90K, Hyfire I, VF3000 Soon

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: mudnut On: Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:58 pm

mdrelyea wrote:My father has the dual burner Alaska. This one right? He's happy with it and it works well. It's a great piece of equipment. I have the auger version and love it. His only regret is that he didn't get the auger version. I never have ANY unburnt coal due to the burn pot design. He always has some unburnt coal in his ash even when we both get the coal from the same supplier. Plus I have the flexibility to be able to burn wood pellets if I wanted to. He's not able to do that.

Just make sure that when you're only using one burner it's the back one. You don't want to have to reach over the fire to get to that second one so that you can light it. Ouch!


yup, that's the exact furnace, it's actually in pretty good shape and while the auger would be nice as a pellet backup I'm also fine with the double burner coal only option. Just not sure if I have room for it, my Brunco is only a hair over 24 inches wide (not including the relay and junction box on the side). The Alaskan is wider than that with the hopper but not sure how much, will have to investigate.

I would expect coal savings but even if I end up burning the same amount the fact that I'm not belly down on the floor every night poking up between the shaker grates to loosen the ash that just won't come though by shaking is reason enough for me to take a good hard look at the stoker.

My Brunco is a forced air unit so I have to have electricity for it to heat the house anyway so no trade off there. I do like the idea of having a back up burner in case one fails and the option of cranking up both of them if the weather turns colder than usual. My current burner doesn't idle very well, at least not as well as a stoker and even if I let a stoker go out it's got to be easier to fire up than the beast that I have now.
mudnut
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Brunco
Stove/Furnace Model: Brunco 150

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: mdrelyea On: Wed Jan 09, 2013 11:12 pm

mudnut wrote:Just not sure if I have room for it, my Brunco is only a hair over 24 inches wide (not including the relay and junction box on the side). The Alaskan is wider than that with the hopper but not sure how much, will have to investigate.


According to their website, it's 37" wide. That doesn't include the stack pipe coming out of the other side though. I just measured mine at a full 44" wide when you include the hopper and the stack - and that doesn't include the clearances to the wall(s)
mdrelyea
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Alaska 140 Auger
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Russo #2
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Rice/Nut

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: mudnut On: Thu Jan 10, 2013 11:21 pm

I can get a little closer to the walls, the wall next to my existing furnace is poured concrete about 5 inches thick, even with the stove pipe sitting against the wall (which I wouldn't do) I won't have the room that I need for the Alaska. I have an old oiled fired boiler at the other end of the basement, still works but at $3+ per gallon I won't burn oil. I can pull that boiler out of there, cut some of the piping back and fit the Alaska where that sits. I'd rather have a coal fired boiler though, This house only has forced air vents in some of the rooms and my bedroom is the one room upstairs with forced air, every room has at least 1 radiator though. The cost difference is keeping me from making that jump. Unless I can find a good used coal boiler I may be screwed, not sure I can drop the kind of $$ for a new one.

If I went with a boiler I would just keep my old hand fired furnace in place as a back up...
mudnut
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Brunco
Stove/Furnace Model: Brunco 150

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: Pacowy On: Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:43 am

mdrelyea wrote: I never have ANY unburnt coal due to the burn pot design. He always has some unburnt coal in his ash even when we both get the coal from the same supplier.


For underfeed stokers the original manuals I've seen (EFM, Van Wert) say you should expect 10+% unburned coal. Less than that may be a sign that you're using too much air. Intuitively everybody wants to squeeze the last btu out of the coal, but if that is accompanied by cooling air being blown into the combustion chamber through dead ash, it works against the production of usable heat. My vote would be to make sure the ash ring is right and be prepared to see at least a small amount of unburned coal. I'm not sure how that amount of unburned coal compares to the unburned coal produced by hand-firing.

Mike
Pacowy
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: H.B. Smith 350 Mills boiler/EFM 85R stoker
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/anthracite

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: mdrelyea On: Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:43 pm

Pacowy wrote:For underfeed stokers the original manuals I've seen (EFM, Van Wert) say you should expect 10+% unburned coal. Less than that may be a sign that you're using too much air. Intuitively everybody wants to squeeze the last btu out of the coal, but if that is accompanied by cooling air being blown into the combustion chamber through dead ash, it works against the production of usable heat. My vote would be to make sure the ash ring is right and be prepared to see at least a small amount of unburned coal.

There are no adjustments on the ash ring or combustion blower that I'm aware of. The manual certainly doesn't mention any. The only 'setting' I have is a switch on the combustion blower for high or low speed. The manual says that low speed is for when burning pellets.
My understanding is that the older underfeds have combustion blowers that cycle on and off. Mine is on all the time.
mdrelyea
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Alaska 140 Auger
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Russo #2
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Rice/Nut

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: Lightning On: Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:30 am

Down the road at some point I'll probably want a stoker. For now, I really enjoy feeding her by hand :) Its nice to have other fuel options too, since if I had to, I could burn bit or wood also...
Lightning
 
Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Clayton 1537G
Coal Size/Type: Nut/Stove Size Mix

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: Pacowy On: Sun Jan 13, 2013 12:50 pm

mdrelyea wrote:There are no adjustments on the ash ring or combustion blower that I'm aware of. The manual certainly doesn't mention any. The only 'setting' I have is a switch on the combustion blower for high or low speed. The manual says that low speed is for when burning pellets.
My understanding is that the older underfeds have combustion blowers that cycle on and off. Mine is on all the time.


The adjustment would be the feed rate knob on the Auto Heat box. When you have what Alaska calls a "full fire" (hot coals approaching but not going over the edge of the ring) you should expect to have 10+% unburned coal. If you have a wider ash ring you may have a lower unburned percentage, but the unit is producing less usable heat from the amount of coal you're burning because unneeded cooling air is being introduced through the dead ash.

Mike
Pacowy
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: H.B. Smith 350 Mills boiler/EFM 85R stoker
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/anthracite

Re: Handfired or stoker furnace, should I switch

PostBy: mudnut On: Sun Jan 13, 2013 9:53 pm

Lightning wrote:Down the road at some point I'll probably want a stoker. For now, I really enjoy feeding her by hand :) Its nice to have other fuel options too, since if I had to, I could burn bit or wood also...



Hey there neighbor, yeah the option of burning wood does come in handy especially with weather like we've been having, It was nearly 60 today and the sun melted most the snow in our yard.

The more I look at this the more I'm convinced that what I really need is a coal fired boiler to replace the oil unit that I Have now. I can use the Brunco for backup heat and can either burn nut or wood. I refuse to burn oil (I'd do nat gas and a coal combo but we don't have gas here yet.) I've got all of these radiators, I might as well put them to use and I think the taco pumps are relatively new. Now I just have to time finding the right priced boiler with having the money to buy it.
mudnut
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Brunco
Stove/Furnace Model: Brunco 150

Visit Lehigh Anthracite