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Unread 01-10-2009, 02:33 PM
 
Location: New York City
2,294 posts, read 5,633,440 times
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Default Keeping Coal Burning in a Coal Stove

We have an older coal stove in our home we are just beginning to use. I have anthracite coal and we've tried to start lighting it, but it needs a very hot flame to burn and continue burning.
We put kindling and small wood chunk "starter" logs in the stove to get things going, but the smoke was pouring out of the front smoking up the house and not giving the coal enough heat to catch.
We then decided to put the coal in the fireplace, get it red hot, and transfer to the coal stove. So far, that does not appear to be working really either--the coal tends to start cooling down.
What's the key to keeping coal burning and starting it burning?

Thanks!
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Unread 01-10-2009, 03:22 PM
 
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Default It can be tough

Anthracite coal wants to have a stove designed to burn it.

Several things to consider. The size of the chunks. Big chucks are going to be very tough, if not impossible in smaller stoves. Hard coal wants to have a certain mass of coal in the bed, it wants that coal in a shape as close to a sphere as possible. It does not like the bed disturbed like many other fuels. Just add more fuel on top.

Try these tricks. Grind the coal pretty fine, something like a blacksmith grade which is maybe 1/4" pieces at the biggest. First start a good wood fire and get a good bed of wood coals glowing red hot, add coal in a heap, not in a flat layer, add more wood over the top.

From that point on, only add more fuel to the heap, never poke or disturb the bed. It may be hard to regulate the heat in a stove, hard coal loves to burn in a bed with an active flame dancing over the top. Burns with a low blue flame that can look a bit like natural gas. Small beds of coal are difficult to keep burning, just do not have enough mass, especially in a natural draft mode.

I burned anthracite coal for many years in a hot water furnace. You definitely had to know exactly how to fire it. The other thing to know is you have to sift the ash for unburned fuel. The coals in the outside of the heap never completely burn. Can waste a lot of fuel by just throwing out the ash. I needed pretty cold weather to switch over to anthracite coal, puts out a lot of heat. Milder weather I just burned wood in a forced hot water Tarm boiler.

They make stoves designed just for burning hard coal. Don't mess with the bed once it is burning. On a stove you probably let it go out once a day, pulll all the ash, sift it, throw the recovered stuff back on the top, once you have another fire going good. Bed needs a lot of heat, then it glows red hot. The fully burned ash is like a powder. Could try rigging up a forced air blower like the blacksmiths do in their coal beds but many stoves might not be able to take the heat.

Got to know what you are doing. Stoves designed to burn anthracite coal will probably have the firebox shaped keep the coal in something like a cube shape. Takes a certain mass of coal to keep it going, small fires are next to impossible in just about any device in natural draft mode.
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Unread 01-10-2009, 03:59 PM
 
Location: New York City
2,294 posts, read 5,633,440 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cosmic View Post
Anthracite coal wants to have a stove designed to burn it.

Several things to consider. The size of the chunks. Big chucks are going to be very tough, if not impossible in smaller stoves. Hard coal wants to have a certain mass of coal in the bed, it wants that coal in a shape as close to a sphere as possible. It does not like the bed disturbed like many other fuels. Just add more fuel on top.

Try these tricks. Grind the coal pretty fine, something like a blacksmith grade which is maybe 1/4" pieces at the biggest. First start a good wood fire and get a good bed of wood coals glowing red hot, add coal in a heap, not in a flat layer, add more wood over the top.

From that point on, only add more fuel to the heap, never poke or disturb the bed. It may be hard to regulate the heat in a stove, hard coal loves to burn in a bed with an active flame dancing over the top. Burns with a low blue flame that can look a bit like natural gas. Small beds of coal are difficult to keep burning, just do not have enough mass, especially in a natural draft mode.

I burned anthracite coal for many years in a hot water furnace. You definitely had to know exactly how to fire it. The other thing to know is you have to sift the ash for unburned fuel. The coals in the outside of the heap never completely burn. Can waste a lot of fuel by just throwing out the ash. I needed pretty cold weather to switch over to anthracite coal, puts out a lot of heat. Milder weather I just burned wood in a forced hot water Tarm boiler.

They make stoves designed just for burning hard coal. Don't mess with the bed once it is burning. On a stove you probably let it go out once a day, pulll all the ash, sift it, throw the recovered stuff back on the top, once you have another fire going good. Bed needs a lot of heat, then it glows red hot. The fully burned ash is like a powder. Could try rigging up a forced air blower like the blacksmiths do in their coal beds but many stoves might not be able to take the heat.

Got to know what you are doing. Stoves designed to burn anthracite coal will probably have the firebox shaped keep the coal in something like a cube shape. Takes a certain mass of coal to keep it going, small fires are next to impossible in just about any device in natural draft mode.
I really appreciate it. We have focused on making a red hot bed and piling the coal into the stove's chute. It seems to be working better, anyway. The stove is throwing heat the best it has all day...so we will keep working at it.

Thanks!
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Unread 02-27-2009, 06:05 PM
 
Location: Massachusetts
1 posts, read 36,878 times
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I just had an alaska hearth coal stove put in. I have tried to keep the fire going for the past 2 days and doesnt seem to catch for too long, and doesnt seem to feed that well. any suggestions?
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Unread 02-27-2009, 06:14 PM
 
Location: Lost in Montana *recalculating*...
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My old neighbor had a stoker stove, and he had problems with anthracite. He had to wait until it was really cold, high pressure (= good draft) and then burn.

I burn wood (used to burn 4-5 cords a year). Never an issue with it, other than backpuffing on low pressure days. Just use smaller amounts of wood with a hot fire to combat that issue.
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Unread 02-28-2009, 12:55 AM
 
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The key to starting anthracite is "patience young grasshopper". It's not like wood where you can get an immediate effect. You do need a stove designed to burn it, some stoves are labeled as wood/coal but are really not suitable for coal. A typical coal stove will have a deep.. I'll emphasize deep... square firebox with vertical sides and all the air coming from underneath. If you're stove does not fit that description you may have issues keeping anthracite going.

First get a beer, then make sure all the damper controls are open fully open on the top of the stove and in the flue, make sure the vent that supplies air to underneath the stove is fully open as well and keep the ash pan door on the very bottom open as well for additional air. If you have a stove with a vent above the fire box this should be fully closed, the only air vents that should be open are ones below the fire.

Build a decent wood fire with a good amount of wood coals, you really can't skimp hear as this does two things.. it provides the fuel for starting but also heats up the flue to provide a good draft which is essential for a coal fire. Once you have a good wood fire burning for a while add a good 3 or 4 inch layer of coal. If you've done things correctly to this point it should start crackling almost immediately. Drink the beer... Let that simmer for awhile and be sure to keep both the bottom air vent and the ash pan door open., it may even appear that you have put it out at this point and you may not see any activity for a few minutes... "patience young grasshopper" Don't poke it, don't prod it... don't even look at it funny.

As the coal heats up you'll start to see the "dancing blue ladies". You'll get what will be is short burst of blue flame that will shoot up through the coal. When you're done with the beer or after about 10-15 minutes you should have some very visible fire. At this point you want to fill the firebox with as much coal as you can possibly fit.

Again it may appear you have put it out but you should hear crackling which is always an indication it's getting ready to ignite. Drink another beer... The fire may take as long as half an hour to fully start at this point. Once you get some good flame make sure to close the ash pan door and you can slide the bottom air vent to about 1/4 and adjust the top dampers if you have them to an almost closed position. Exactly what you need for your stove will vary, it's somewhat of a science and you'll get better as time goes by as you begin to understand how it operates. One thing to keep in mind is there is no immediate effect, if you turn the air up a little it may take a while before you see any effect.

The bottom air vent below the fire is what controls the amount of heat, the more it is open the more heat you will get but it will also accelerate how fast the coal will burn. Typically people get on a 12 hour cycle of shaking the ash down and adding coal in the morning and evening.


More here: How to Light a Hand Fired Coal Stove - Hand Fired Coal Stoves


Quote:
He had to wait until it was really cold, high pressure (= good draft) and then burn
Some people do experience that problem, usually the chimney isn't high enough or they have a very tight basement without any air coming into it. Coal stoves are ver efficient and typically have much lower stack temperatures than a wood stove so you don't get the same draft... but this is good thing becuse you're not wasting heat. It's not a problem that cannot be fixed, worse case scnario is you need to install a draft inducer. As I mentioned in the other thread we run ours year round right through the summer without any problems but we have a very high chimney too.

Quote:
I just had an alaska hearth coal stove put in.
Is that a stoker or a hand fired coal stove? If it's stoker and you have successfully lit it and it goes out after 2 or 3 days you either have bad coal, settings are wrong on the stove or a mechanical problem.
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Unread 03-02-2009, 12:31 PM
 
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The OP mentioned "smoke pouring out the front of the stove" with a woodfire ... which suggests that there's a serious draft problem with the stove/stack set-up.

Since this has the possibility of serious safety issues as well as problems with the fire burning, I suggest that you refer back to the stove manufacturer's specs for proper flue diameter and height. If you can't find those instructions, then get a qualified stove expert to look over the situation.

I had similar problems with a woodstove in a new house, with it not drawing properly. I tried adding some sections to lengthen the stack, and it still wouldn't draw well in certain wind conditions/directions; it would back up into the house with a lot of smoke. It turned out that the top cap was not helping the draft and we replaced it with a "windbeater" top. That solved the problem and created a steady draft for us with even a modest wood fire in the stove. But it took going to 8 different woodstove shops and seeking their advice before getting the right solution.
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Unread 03-02-2009, 12:50 PM
 
Location: Lost in Montana *recalculating*...
3,868 posts, read 6,421,891 times
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During burning season I took the cap off. We usually had the stove going 24/7 so hot that rain or snow never stood a chance, lol.
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Unread 03-03-2009, 05:52 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
The OP mentioned "smoke pouring out the front of the stove" with a woodfire ... which suggests that there's a serious draft problem with the stove/stack set-up.
I'm assuming by the post that they were referring to the original start up, certainly not ideal but it's possible. I know with our stoker when we relight it after maintenance you need to give it few minutes with the wood before turning on the forced air or you will fill the basement with smoke. Generally speaking there is no visible smoke from anthracite, the smoke would be from the wood.

But you do bring up a good point because another possibility is that the flue is blocked or partially blocked, one thing you do need to make sure of with coal is that the flue is kept clear. When coal burns it creates fly ash and this ash will deposit on any horizontal surface like in a horizontal run of the flue pipe or in the bottom of a chimney. How often you have to clean this out varies but in most cases once year.

While on the topic make sure you have CO detectors when using any solid fuel burning appliance, for that matter have them with any fuel. More uncommon but Gas and Oil are not immune from CO issues.

Last edited by thecoalman; 03-03-2009 at 06:00 AM..
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Unread 12-11-2009, 03:29 AM
 
1 posts, read 34,979 times
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Default I need help!!!!

I got my coal furnace started the other day and it was working fine. My house was heated comfortably and everything was good. Went shoping last night and came home to find my back had blown open do o the wwind. Checked and made sure no one robbed us (we have a guard dog so all was good). But my wife and I did notice that the heat down satirs had gone down considerably. I made sure all windows were secured propoerly and I have been up all night checking the thermo stat and it wont go above 55. We usually have it on 62. Is there anything anyone can suggest because I am ready to give up.
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