anthracite coal burning

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by comfortablynumb, Nov 7, 2005.

  1. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    I did get ahold of some anthricite to try out in the stove...
    you guys need to help me out... :grit:

    buring soft coal is easy... it lights easy.. you see it burn.

    this hard coal is weird. i dont remember how my uncle burned it.

    I got the heap of hot coals... a shovel full in the coals and full open drafts.

    it doesnt burn... it glows red hot, is it "burning"?

    some places about anthricite say its smokeless, other sitres say it is also flameless... :shrug:

    whats going on here.. is all hard coal does when it burns is "glow" like a hot chunk of metal?

    soft coal burns and smokes and lets you know its burning.

    the coal bed is exceptionally hot now, I am going to guess its "burning".
    no flames... this is weird.
    anyone use anthricite and know how to get the stuff lit? and how it is suppose to burn?

    I guess if in the morining there is nothing left... it burned away.

    Is is really "flameless?"

    smokey soft coal makes me wheeze.. so thats why I am trying this hard stuff.

    come on educate me.... :baby04:
     
  2. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    Once you have it going well all you have to do is keep adding chunks before the first are gone completely. I always start a wood fire then put the coal on top. You only need kindling wood to start it. Sometimes you will get some flame if there is a good bit of coal oil in the chunk, but usually it only glows. I always used good sized chunks unless I was down to the bottom of the pile. I like that better than the stuff you have to shovel on.
     

  3. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    I have a chunk of soft burning in there on the side to see the difference... I can SEE that hunk buring away. the rest is just... glowing.

    it must burn awful slow if thats all it does...thats good. some of it went dark and seems to have gone out on me, so I tossed a log on top.

    it lit up quick so it must be damn hot in there.
     
  4. JAK

    JAK Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. I have noticed something similar relighting good chunks of charcoal from a previous wood fire. The closer you have to pure carbon, the hotter it will burn, but the less volatile it will burn. Carbon has considerably less BTU/lb than Hydrogen, but it needs less oxygen per pound, and so it burns hotter and there is less expanding gases. I think pure carbon is considerably more difficult to light, and once it is burning it is harder to tell what is going on. Great stuff though.

    You might think about mixing it with other fuel. For example, if you had softwood burning underneath charcoal, with the charcoal sort of suspended above on a screen or grill, the heat from the charcoal might help complete the combustion of the volatile gases given off by the softwood, as long as there was enough oxygen. If find it is best to have air coming in in two places, at the bottom to keep things going down there, and at the top to make sure are the gases released burn completely. Mixing a more volatile fuel with the coal might also help generate a draft, if you don't have a blower. Be careful not to melt generate too much carbon-monoxide, which can happen.

    Tips on burning coal:
    READ THIS ---> http://hearth.com/what/coaltips.html

    WARNING:
    The above article say get some hardwood burning first to create a bed of red coals, then add the coal on top. It also has precautions about draft. I think if you burn it with wood you will have less trouble. Anthracite and the black char or Charcoal at the end of a hardwood fir are very similar in that they are very dry and very close to being pure carbon. Also, you can damage your stove with coal. It can burn that hot.
     
  5. Alex

    Alex Well-Known Member

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    We have a lot of open pit coal in the Chetwynd, BC area, infact a new mine, first one in so many years in BC. Now shipping millions per year; I think it goes to Japan mainly.

    Is your coal good, do you like it? I sure have a lot of wood though. But I am always game for a new source of heat, a new idea or method for me, even though ages old.

    Let us know what you think. I will probably scrounge around and get some.

    Thanks, fun idea,

    Alex
     
  6. Cosmic

    Cosmic Well-Known Member

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    Yup, burning anthracite is a whole different bag. Part of it will depend on what you are using to burn it in.

    It is not always flameless, in like a larger furnace it can burn in the early stages with a low blue flame all over the bed. Looks sort of like lazy natural gas. Can be small variations between coals. Anthracite is typically in the 14,000 BTU / lb range but can have heat values as high as 18,000 BTU/LB.

    In most cases it will glow a deep red over the bed surface and all the coals in the bed will have the same color. Anthracite wants to be fired in a very compact bed, something approaching a ball shape, or cone, you never try to burn it in a very flat spread out type arrangement. The compact bed can give out tremenous amounts of heat if you have good air flows. The ash is a whitish / gray powder but typically not all the coal is consumed. Screening the ash is common to recover the unburned coals. That is thrown back on the next fire.

    Best started with something like a hot wood fire or maybe a gas or oil aux burner. You never disturb the bed by poking or shaking or any other action. Anthracites like to be burnt in layers with new coals simply being added to the top. In smaller controlled fires, it will appear to have a "Critical Mass", enough coals must be burnt or maintaining a well lit bed is very difficult, only a very small percentage of the coals will burn to ash. I never burnt anthracites during milder weather, it just gave off too much heat, building a big enough bed was total over kill and over heated the house, smaller fires were very difficult to maintain.

    You must also be very careful of ash levels with anthracites, it they touch the grates, the grates will melt or burn out. One trick to get good regulated heat is to keep the bed covered with another ash. Such as burning rolled newpapers over the coal bed or some type of wood. This forms a light ash cover over the coals and helps reflect heat back into the bed, making it easer to turn down and regulate without going out.

    Burning larger size lumps of anthracites are difficult, best to burn coals of mixed sizes. One good trick is to take some lumps and crush them into a powder like coarse sand. This so called "Blacksmith" grade burns far faster and is sort of like a "Starter" for the larger lumps. You can buy this grade at a coal yard but is the most expensive of all coals. Must be careful to load it high enough in the bed to prevent it filtering down into the ash hopper before burning. In general the larger the lump the cheaper the coal per ton. I like to buy a ton of various sizes and then mix a load based on what heat I wanted for a given day / weather condition. More fine grades for lots more heat.

    Burning the hard coals was a killer app for beating sub zero weather. I never really winterized that particular house. Just had so much cheap heat available in a HS TARM boiler that could burn hard coals.
     
  7. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    well, Ive ben poking at it so.. that explains why it goes out.

    some of it did burn away to ash most left reddish rocks that broke apaert when ya whack em with the poker.. and those are still black inside... unburned.

    good dtips thanks!
    I have a small coal stove, and my coal grate burned out yrs ago.. it gets a nice heap of wood coals on the brick floor.... while tose were alive it was going good... but i spreadthe coal out... like a spread the soft coal out. it burns way alot faster now I see them burn together.

    in a better larger stove, this stuff would rock. in this little stove, a few scoops in the hot coals will extend the hot coal bed life for hours....

    so my idea now from how I see it burn, is once the nights wood has burned down to a heavy layer of wood coals, 3 scoops of this hard stuff on top and a log on top of that should burn till morning... the coal that burned away totally was under a log.

    I'll try getting a "heap" burning to see if it stays lit without me poking at it.

    nice stuff.. soft coal isnt as fussy... if yo dont mind all outdoors smelling like a train yard.
    other than the wheeze, I kinda like that smell.

    to me it doesnt warrant the cost to buy more, unless the "banking" experiment holds a hot stove till morning, I wont have to turn the electric on low to keep the freeze out of the house if it works.

    I really need a new stove, but a good one is a lot of $$$$.
    I wonder if a potbelly design is better for this kinda coal? the fuel pile in those sits at the bottom of a cone shaped firebox.

    it does burn clean, I cant smell it at all.
     
  8. JAK

    JAK Well-Known Member

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    Not personal experience, but an oldtimer explained how he used to burn coal in a small stove on his small wooden sailboat. It was a real artform to get it burning right, but it put out a really nice dry heat that would keep the cabin warm until morning. Everyone seem to take their boats out by late September now, but he said he used to sail right up until the river froze in December and the best sailing of the year was in fall.

    I always thought those small pot belly stoves were an odd shape, but after this coal thread it makes more sense.
     
  9. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    thats just what i was thinking about potbelly stoves... nver could figger how you tend a wood fire right thru that little door.. and the little circle gratein the bottom... now it makes sense, those are made for hard coal you dont stir aroudn, you just keep tossing more in and it burns to dust on the bottom.

    once you learn these things you feel really stupid for not figuting that out before... lol

    live and learn.. it never ends.
     
  10. Cosmic

    Cosmic Well-Known Member

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    Yup, in your situation, I would sort of suspect you might have the "Critical Mass" problem on burning straight anthracite. Probaby could experiment with a soft coal / hard coal mix. That can also solve both your smell and tendency of the chimmey to foul on soft coals. A good hard hot burn with anthracite can make the chimmey clean as a whistle. Everything just scales off and falls to the clean out pit.

    Most stoves designed to burn straight antharcite had something like a pot belly type shape. You want that compact ball shaped bed. Some fireplaces had grates that were shielded and sort of look like a jockstrap.

    Another good trick when firing small amounts of anthracite is to try some sort of forced air, like a small blower to give good positive draft. Maybe by automating the forced air can also control the heat load. A number of the old hard coal boilers fired pulverized coal and had forced air. They were an attempt to get out of having "Beds" and all the problems that can bring. Using forced air is a bit like some of the concepts of a "Fluidized Bed".

    With the hard coals in a home setting / equipment got to be very careful with that approach because the amounts of heat generated can damage / melt the equipment pretty easy. About like trying to burn coke in a home stove.

    In your case, I would recommend experiments with anthracites / soft coals / wood / other fuels mixes to find something that works good for you. Might play around with forced air via a small blower system and see how that works.
    You got some of the right ideas to experiment with how to add the hard coals. One other way is just grind all hard coals into powders or very small shavings. Going to get lots of heat fast, but finding a mix with other fuels might get a nice burning combo fuel.

    You also might want to start screening your ashes with about a 3/16" screen to recover any unburnt fuels. Those chunks that are red or yellow or whatever other than whitest - gray probably still have fuel value. Throw them back on top the next fire. In the old days, they had a gizmo that was a round screen affair built into a top of a metal garbage can. It had a funnel like thing to pour the ashes in, you turned a crank to separate the ash from the unburnt fuels which came out the back into another bucket. The entire contraption was like the lid on a garbage can. The ash went into the garbage can, the rest came out the back into a bucket. Did it outside, could get some dust. Ashes went out to the garbage man, leavings wents
    back on top the next fire.

    Could be interesting in what you get. Soft coals want to clinker, hard coals want to go to a powder ash if they are totally burnt. Screening the ash is probably a good idea to get a handle on what is happening. Hard coals always like that idea of a cover layer. Use the screenings to cover after each firing. Naked top layers of pure anthracite are difficult to burn to 100% ash without forced air systems.
     
  11. seedspreader

    seedspreader AFKA ZealYouthGuy

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    I honestly had no concept that something as simple as a coal fire, isn't really that simple. LOL

    When I was in boy scouts, we went to winter camp and they had potbelly stoves, I always thought you just threw the coal in after starting a wood fire.

    Thanks for the education.
     
  12. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    well soft coal (swpa bituminous coals) are that easy to burn zeal... it takes next to nothing to get a chunk of soft coal going, and it burns away, sofens up like a sticky hunk of rubber as it burns.... and if the door is open, smokes like.. well like a train.
    keeping the door closed with a low draft on soft coal seems to suck air in hard enough to burn of the smoke before it has achance to go up the pipe... you CAN burn soft coal cleanly... its every time you open the door it slows up and smokes on you... I build wood fores here and toss baseball size hunks of soft coal in on the pile and close the door, they burn down to a walnut size cinder, and are not easy to put out... soft coal is generally idiot proof. LOL

    this hard coal seems harder to get going but I see once it is "lit" you have to keep small scattered cunks lit by making new wood coals on top... and that doesnt tale a whole lot to do so it does save wood.
    when burning... ot looks like red glowing hunk of cherry-steel in a forge. its pretty cool.

    since here I have to have it ordered at $1 per 10 pounds, its not really "economical" but the burn properties make it an interesting fuel to experiment with...

    CRUSH it? this stuff is like hard rock...
     
  13. JAK

    JAK Well-Known Member

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    $1 for 10 pounds is not bad considering the BTUs are like 14000 to 16000 per pound. It has very little moisture content and less ash. That is comparable to paying $120 a cord for hardwood at 8000 BTU/pound for 2400 pounds. Another thing you can do with really good coal or charcoal is burn it with really cheap biomass, like something you haven't been able to get all the moisture out of but still has good BTU/dry pound. With the coal and biomass in combination it is easier to get complete combustion of both without temperatures that are too high or too low. It can also end up being lower in SOx and NOx.
     
  14. Alex

    Alex Well-Known Member

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    Now I really want to learn all about coal, after reading your comments. I am going to find everything about it I can. It sounds like a very interesting combustion process.

    Our cookstove, Katie-The-Cookstove has rotating grates (for cleaning) and one side is for wood and the other is for coal. One is solid and one is more open. So I will try some in her too, after I get it.

    Our main wood stove is a catalytic Blaze King, and I just read the on-line owner's manual; in great big bold letters it says: burning coal voids the warranty, etc., etc. So I guess I can't play with coal and that WOOD stove. Too bad.

    But, I am not going to stop having fun and learning about this. I am going to learn all about it and use it in Katie.

    Thanks for all the great inspiration and guidance -- all of you,

    Alex
     
  15. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    yeah I do know coal will gunk up the cat in a wood stove...

    and cheap coal smells like burnt tires... so spring for the good clean house coal (soft).

    if it has yellow streaks in it... it really stinks. (sulfur)

    good soft coal should be "coal black" LOL. if you look at all kinds of coal youll see how different sof coal is from different mines. some here is really colorful, red and yellow streaks in the black... some good soft coal is glossy black with no other colors in it (what you want).

    it stil smells like coal.... lol
     
  16. beaglady

    beaglady Well-Known Member

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    Maybe you ought to make a road trip to Harrisburg - used coal stoves are plentiful and sometimes cheap. sample classified ads

    We are in Central PA and burn anthracite as our primary heat source - used about 1-1/2 tons over the whole winter, around $85/ton. Older style coal stoves have a hopper and gravity feed the coal - some newer ones have an electrically powered auger. We start a fire in mid-November, using wood as a starter, then let it burn til spring. We put a bucket of coal in in the morning and one in in the evening, shake twice a day, empty ash pan once a day and that's it. I love coal.
     
  17. seedspreader

    seedspreader AFKA ZealYouthGuy

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    I must admit, I am suprised that some eco-nut hasn't condemned anyone for burning that evil fossil fuel.
     
  18. gspig

    gspig Well-Known Member

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    Actually, the eco-nuts prefer anthrocite coal over bituminus for the very reasons you are noticing. The problem is that bituminus is much more common. The scrubbers that go on coal fired power plants are needed to burn bituminus.
     
  19. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

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  20. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    holy cow... i got a pile lit I figured it out...

    dddaammmn thats HOT. I better be careful !

    when it does catch fire you know it, from the heat, and if you pick a burning lump out to examine it... it glows bright red and puts off some unreal heat for a walnut size hunk of rock...
    and it doesnt smoke or stink.. its just pure HEAT.

    looks like a hunk of red hot iron... to cool!

    one scoop was enough, two was to much. One full ash scooper on a really really hot pile of hardwood coals and it lights in about 5 min.

    damn... mongo like!!