Storing Coal for Home Heating at Your Retreat

One thing I haven’t seen discussed at SurvivalBlog is coal. It is an excellent survival fuel. I would recommend purchasing ten tons of coal for your survival retreat. When the SHTF, you would basically have over a three year supply of energy, with no trees to chop. Best of all, there are no storage problems. You can leave it in a pile, or bury it in a hole. It will keep and will not degrade.
Coal is very cheap. If possible, get a low sulfur anthracite coal. However, if your budget is tight, you can get a higher sulfur coal. The concern would be corrosion in your stove pipe. But even if you use high sulfur, a 3 year run shouldn’t be a problem. If you want something real cheap, try to get hold of petroleum coke. It used to sell for $5/ton. Great for heating, but it will be high in sulfur. A lower sulfur form is called needle coke or anode grade coke. You might attract some suspicion ordering a large load, so you might want to stress the farmer approach. Also, coal is used as a filtering media, so you can claim you are using it for bio-diesel production. Claim it absorbs the glycerin. Or just purchase smaller lots. Filter grade anthracite is readily available in 1-ton super sacks. This will cost a little more though.
Regards, – J.D.P.

JWR Replies: We have indeed mentioned coal in the blog, but not in quite a while. For any of our readers that have never burned coal, keep in mind that coal burns very hot and hence a typical woodstove grate may burn out when you switch to coal, which could put your stove’s firebox at risk. Make sure that your stove has a cast iron grate that is compatible with coal. (Talk to your local stove dealer if you aren’t sure.) OBTW, if you own a home without a coal bin, you can sometimes order coal for delivery in pallet boxes. (Often this is a bit less expensive than bagged coal, and the boxes are easier to store in bulk quantities if you don’t have a basement that is already set up for coal delivery and storage, or if your planned coal storage exceeds your existing bin’s capacity. A few of these big pallet boxes stacked two-high in your barn is an investment in peace of mind, since coal stores indefinitely. Ironically, even though there is more coal mined in the western U.S. than in the east, home heating coal seems to be more expensive west of Ohio, and coal for the consumer (home heating) market is downright hard to find in some western states. (And what we have here is nearly all low sulfur lignite or sub-bituminous coal, since that is what is principally mined in the west.) I know one gent in Nebraska that insists on burning only Anthracite, and he mail orders it from Lehman’s in Ohio. But that is a “spendy:” way to buy coal. For some background and practical “how to” on heating your home with coal, see the Anthracite Coal Forum.

Lastly, I should mention that if you plan to have a home blacksmithing forge, you should lay in a supply of coal and coke, even if you don’t plan on heating your home with coal. Here is one handy resource on home blacksmiths.