Two Letters Re: Storing Coal for Home Heating at Your Retreat

As a retired firefighter I want to mention that stored coal must be kept dry. I you do not, is will start an internal combustion fire deep in the center. To put it out, you must dig down to where it is hot. Regards, – G.C.P.

You brought out some very important points about the differences between eastern (anthracite) and western coal.

Most coal stove manufacturers recommend using only anthracite coal. A few go so far as to void the warranty on their stoves if you burn anything but anthracite.

My pantry is located in an outbuilding and even though it is double-insulated and heated with 220 volt baseboard heaters with a propane-fired furnace as a backup, I believe in redundancy and installed a wood/coal burning stove “just in case”. I bought the unit from a friend who was demolishing an older home in the area. The stove is heavy welded steel plate and carries a manufacturers tag stating it is rated for wood and coal.

Even though I have easy access to an almost unlimited amount of seasoned wood, I purchased a ton of (western) coal from a local mom and pop mine for $20. (“You-Load”). While the stove burns effortlessly with wood, it is a nightmare with coal: dirty, smelly, hard to regulate. The only real use I can see for coal is to damper the stove down at night, toss in a few lumps of coal and let it smolder overnight. The fact is, my stove was just not designed to burn coal, the firebox and flue are simply not up to par with that of a stove designed from the ground up to use coal.

The second problem I have with coal is deterioration. I put my coal outdoors on a plastic tarp. Within a year, the lumps and chunks of coal had been reduced by weathering to a coarse, almost sand-like consistency. I’ve found that even if I fill a couple lunch bags with this material and toss it in, it burns much faster than solid chunks and is not suitable for overnight use.

If I were seriously interested in burning coal, I’d do two things: 1.) purchase a genuine “coal-stove” and 2.) construct a weatherproof coal-bin. – Hawgtax