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Thread: Heating with coal, the truth?

  1. #1
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    Default Heating with coal, the truth?

    What are the pros and cons with heating with coal. I'm in the "planing" stage of my cabin/home somewhere in between Willow and Sheep Creek. (Most Likely in the Caswell area, I wouldnt rule out Point Mac, but that bridge is scary for wanting to be in the sticks...) I have narrowed it down to a outdoor boiler fired by coal or wood. wood has to be cut, hauled and stacked, and per btu i *think* coal is cheaper. I grew up heating by wood, and to be honest when I'm 60, I dont want to have to deal with wood... Then theres the coal dust, haveing to have some way to store it, (at least cord wood looks nice...) and paying a bit more then most since i'd have to have it trucked in to basically the mid point of the train system. If I understand it, If i buy a Coal boiler and dont like it i can burn wood, but not the other way around? One bump might be the auto stoker option for coal, I could in therory load it up and forget it for X amount of days, for a vacation in Feb that would be nice.



    Long range plans include the heating responsibility of a 1750 ft Log cabin (8" D log), a 300 square ft Suana / bath house, 300 ft guest cabin (might just be dry with a wood stove) and a 1600-2400 sqft shop. This is a 7 year plan for me, One me and my wife are committed to make happen. IE, Cabin completed ready to live in 2-3 year... then sauna, then shop... so on.

    Father in law drops 350-400 in jan and dec in fuel oil heating a ~1000sqft cabin/garage (caswell) with a toyo oilmizer running infloor heat, and that set a 50* to keep things from freezing during the weekand the rest comes from a wood stove. Thats just crazy...


    Sorry if thats rambeling...

    Pro and cons of each? why did you chose what you choose?

  2. #2
    Supporting Member bullbuster's Avatar
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    While I can't answer directly to your questions, I do have an extra 2 cents worth of comment. I burn coal a lot at my cabin. I pick up beach coal and supplement the wood fire. A nice chunk stays hot all night and makes for easy stoking.

    The one thing I notice is the smell. While working outside if the plume comes at me, I get tired of the smell. Not nice like wood smoke.
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  3. #3
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    Ditto about the smell. I can't shovel my drive or split firewood if the neighbor's wind is blowing my way. It feels like poison, worse than smoldering trash. Either way you go, check your prevailing wind/breeze for boiler placement. Caswell doesn't have strong, scent-removing winds, just steady air movement
    I sure like the idea of coal though.

  4. #4
    Member Dirtofak's Avatar
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    I don't know much about coal, but you might start a thread about using 8" D logs for a 1700 sq ft cabin. R values etc.

    Personally, I don't put much value in 8" logs when it comes to saving fuel. Everyone that I know that had them use wood to heat and has twice the stove that their 480 sq ft cabin needs.
    I don't mean to sound bitter, cold, or cruel, but I am, so that's how it comes out.
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  5. #5
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    This my first winter of using coal at my 630 sq. ft. cabin. Coal is freighted in 9 miles, packaged in 50 pound bags, purchased from a Palmer supplier.
    The stove will burn wood or coal. I use coal thinking there is not enough wood available on 5 acres to sustain continuous wood removal (and then a clear cut), and I have burned wood in another location for 20 years as my primary heat source. Time to try something new.(to me)
    Coal in the cabin is dusty, burns VERY hot, long and once set the air intake does not need to be readjusted (on my Morso1410)...just add more coal and shake out the ash...of which there will be plenty. The coal ash does have a heavy metal content but does not need special disposal and has a 'sharper' edge than wood ash. It is suppose to be better for traction than kitty litter.
    The smoke does smell ugly....but that blows away.
    You must keep it off the ground and well covered to prevent the lumps from absorbing too much moisture. I store mine on covered pallets in a separate building.
    So far I am happy with coal burning for heat.
    I like having a limited amount of wood to split.

    ps when it is zero degrees out the stove burns 50 pounds every 24 hours to keep the building at shirt sleeve temps

  6. #6
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    What about auto stokers? any experience with them?

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    Member fshgde's Avatar
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    I know of several auto stokers in fairbanks area all have a dry storage area for coal one even heats bin coal is in to keep it working smoothly the high moisture content can cause freezing together into lumps that cant make it through feeder. I burned lump coal in a indoor forced air furnace.
    We foud coal burned best after drying in shop for about 3 weeks I built a couple of bins and rotated through it so i was burning dryest coal this also helped with starting and smell . I tried not to stink out the neighbors by burning hot and if it was a day smoke was sinking to the ground I would switch to wood.

  8. #8
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    Coal is a different smell, but not so bad as some make it seem. Certainly not worse than smoldering garbage! I'm heating 3500 sqft with coal, and use about one ton in the last month. It seems to require a little more attention than wood, but I dont have to cut or split, either.

  9. #9
    Member Music Man's Avatar
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    Just be careful when you open the door. Coal gas is highly flammable and will trim all your facial hair real fast. I grew up in a house heated with coal and you learn real quick to stand to the side when you open the door to shovel in more coal and to not smother the fire with to much new coal.
    When seconds count, the cops are just minutes away.
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  10. #10
    Member Bsj425's Avatar
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    If you are going to have to have coal truck in anyways have you though about a wood pellet stove? You can buy pellets by the 40 pound bag by the pallet or by the ton up here in Fairbanks. You dont have much if any ash to deal with no crazy smells and the hopper loads it as you need it all you have to do it set the thermostat and keep the hopper full.

  11. #11
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    I grew up in anthracite country in North Eastern PA, my parents built their modest ranch in the 1950's and up until 3 years ago heated with coal. There were 6 kids and 2 adults in that home and every day one of us had to go down to the cellar to check the hopper and empty the ashes. In the summer two coal trucks would come with the 10-12 tons of pea coal we used in our EFM automatic stoker. We would sit out and watch as they attached the shoots and filled up the concrete block room in the basement right to the rafters. We never ran out of hot water no matter how many showers we took, but Mom sure would get pissed if one of us forgot to fill the hopper and the furnace went out. The smell of sulfur is a great memory for me and man was that coal cheap. When my father died two years ago my Mom finally had enough of the work and switched to gas. The amazing thing is that we listed that 50+ year old coal stoker on Craigs List and it sold in a day, price $1500, and they did the work of removing it from the cellar! Man when anyone talks about heating with coal it sure does bring back a lot of memories. That furnace is still made by EFM Co. in Emaus PA.

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