supplemental coal furnace?

maremmaAugust 9, 2012

Considering installing a coal/wood furnace in basement to supplement my 2800 sq.ft. house's baseboard hot water, oil-fired system. (natural gas not available).

At approx. $200 per ton delivered, I feel that anthracite coal would provide the most economical, efficient heat vs wood. In my experience, heating with coal requires less work than wood. Plus, I could tie the furnace directly into the hot water baseboard system.

Any input would be appreciated.

(BTW, at 68 years of age, I can't believe that outrageous oil prices are actually forcing me to revert to the coal-stoking days of my youth!)

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Hi Marem, I see we are both the same age. I do question a couple of things. I have had a wood stove not coal but know of someone who does have one, the care for the coal in my opinion is more for the coal then the wood. Plus in either case you need to deal with weight of the coal bags or the split wood and I know that coal can get a little messy. I hear what your saying about oil prices etc .. I have started to call around and ask for COD pricing on oil and only get 150 gals delivered at a time to cushion the cost.. I have been able to save a bit doing it this way ... wishing you luck in whatever you decide.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 7:55AM
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bigal, Thanks for the input. I've tried getting discounted oil, but the savings are negligible. I'm in the country, so the only gas available is propane.

This coal-fired furnace system under consideration has a mechanism which automatically switches to the oil furnace should it go out. I could build a coal bin in the basement, next to the coal furnace, and have the loose coal dumped via a shute into the bin. No bags or wood hauling to contend with. Of course, there's the ash cans.....

I can still recall those wintry morning days as a kid, shoveling coal into the furnace, adjusting the damper, and waiting to see the glow return. The hiss of the steam pipes revving up was a comforting sound. Only people of our generation know what I'm talking about.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 1:05PM
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I'm a little too young to have encountered coal directly, but not far off it.

I'd love to chastise you for considering such a dirty fuel, but I suspect the reality is that coal will make a big comeback as oil gets more difficult and expensive to obtain, and I can't blame you for seeking alternatives.

Hopefully these new-generation things burn a little more cleanly.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 3:43PM
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alan_s, Who knows if you can believe the coal industry's hype? Supposedly, anthracite coal coupled with the right stove emits less pollutants than wood or pellets. I wonder....

All I know is that we're afraid to raise the thermostat beyond 62-65 degrees with oil. This is no quality of life at our age, but we have so few options. Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 7:51PM
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Coal won't be making a comeback, its production and use are dangerous and environmentally damaging.

OP, you're one person with economic constraints, do what you have to do to be comfortable and happy. I think everyone will understand.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 8:52PM
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Where are you located?

I'm older than you, have a 2 year old Carrier Heat Pump with oil backup.

I live in Maryland.

Mild winters, but I've used less than 70 Gallons of oil in a year and a half. AND my electric bill is still less than it was the years before due in part to a Hybrid Electric Hot Water Heater.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 8:56PM
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I can only suggest you look at better insulation, windows, weatherstripping etc if you haven't already, instead of/in conjunction with your supplemental heating.

Another consideration might be a heat pump - if you have air conditioning already, or even if you don't, it may be an option for you - as well as cooling your house, it's basically an airconditioner that can work in reverse - scavenge what heat it can find outside and bring it inside. It does so much more efficiently than just electric heating - you actually get more heat than you would if you were using the same amount of energy in an electric heater.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 1:08AM
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Snidely, I think the US is just a few years and/or a government change from a paradigm shift in energy policy.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 10:51AM
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Any nearby neighbors are NOT going to like your coal fire.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 2:33PM
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Thanks for all the input and understanding.

In nw NJ, a heat pump may not be practical. Also, there is no duct system in my house. Trying to retrofit would be awkward and expensive. Is there something I'm missing?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 3:01PM
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Ok Alan, I'll bite. A shift to what?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 3:03PM
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Should I go the coal route, my neighbors would never know since burning anthracite coal produces hardly any smoke. Besides, living rural has its perks: my closest neighbor is 1/4 mile away.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 7:47PM
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"burning anthracite coal produces hardly any smoke"

It still produces a very characteristic smell.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 4:39PM
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Why do I feel compelled to answer your armchair analysis of coal-burning?

Having extensive experience in the art of burning anthracite coal, I can verify that the smell of burning coal is no more offensive than the smell of burning wood. In fact, it is perhaps LESS noticeable.

Please research your facts before pontificating.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 5:02PM
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