Coal Burning Stoves

Antique Coal Stove in KitchenCoal burning stoves are probably one of the more overlooked heating alternatives for your home. We produced this article to unveil the mysteries of the coal stove. We aim to tell how efficient they can be compared to other popular heating methods for the home. Since they are not so popular, they may be a bit misunderstood.

Types of Coal Stoves

It is no secret that coal has lost some popularity over the years, but the conditions are becoming better for a possible coal comeback. There are many different types of coal stoves, so we will cover the basics here.

Hand fired coal stoves: These are manually light stoves that will need the ash shaken down ever 6 to eight hours to keep the fire burning, so they need tending to at least every six to eight hours. They can be stoked to burn longer, but the ash still needs shaken down regularly. These types are normally firebrick or refractory lined and have a cast iron shaker grate.

Stoker coal stoves: A stoker unit is more of an automatic coal burner. It requires less tending and has an automatic stoker that feeds coal to the fire at a rate set by the user. These types of stoves are designed to run continuously as long as the user keeps the coal hopper full and empties the ash tray regularly.

Lighting a Coal Stove

For those of you that are new to coal burning stoves, here are the basics of lighting one for the first time.

    1. Use a combination of paper and dry kindling to start the fire.

    2. With your draft control fully open, add pieces of hard wood until the fire is very hot and the flames are strong.

    3. When you have a decent bed of hot wood embers going, start adding smaller pieces of coal to the fire little bits at a time.

    4. Keep adding bits of coal until you have about a two inch bed of burning coal.

    5. Now you can begin loading coal onto the fire. Do not add too much at one time, but you want to fill the stove to the highest level possible for it to function correctly.

    6. Once all of the coal is burning with a nice blue flame, you can turn the draft control down some. You should not run the stove wide open for long periods of time or you could damage your stove.


Coal vs. Wood for your Stove

Birmingham Stove and Range Model 19.When most people think of stoves, they immediately think of wood burning stoves. Some people wonder if they can burn coal in their wood burning stoves. While many stoves are made for multiple types of solid fuels, some are only designed for certain types of fuel.

If you are not sure what can be used safely in your stove, consult your local dealer or find the paperwork that came with your stove for advice. There are some companies, such as Aarrow, that make stoves that can handle wood, coal and other solid fuels.

To be able to tell if it would be cheaper to use coal or wood in your stove, you need to do some math. A ton of coal produces about 26 million BTUs of heat and a chord of wood produces about 20 million BTUs of heat. Knowing that, we can estimate that a ton of coal is equal to 1.3 chords of wood.

If you figure out what a chord of wood costs you and what a ton of coal will cost you in your area, you will know what the best deal is for your home. We will not discuss prices here because they vary so much and many people that use the fuels have special access to free or nearly free fuel for their stoves. Some areas even have banned wood burning, so people in those areas may be allowed to burn coal instead.

Another major advantage of a coal stove is that they need tending a lot less than wood stoves. Coal can be stoked to burn for as long as 24 hours, but some types of stoves still require shaking down of the ashes every 6 to 8 hours which is still less tending than a wood stove requires. Stoker coal stoves can even burn continuously. Coal stoves have lost some popularity because coal is considered to be messy and the smoke is thick and blue.

See Also: Pellet Stoves

Photos by Matthias17 amd 1vintage1, Creative Commons Attribution License