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Pellet insert vs coal insert

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by buckeyeboerboels, Jun 25, 2008.

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  1. buckeyeboerboels

    buckeyeboerboels New Member

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    I am looking to replace my old wood insert with either a pellet or coal insert. i reside in Ohio and can get anthracite coal pretty reasonable, but as I am new to this I'm not sure which insert would be a better fit for me. I have a 2,400 sq ft home which I want to heat primarily with this unit so i have to purchase very little fuel oil. any advise would be appreciated...

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Moved to the Pellet forum so members here can advise about owning a pellet stove. It would be a good idea to check pricing and supplies. I think coal will win out for btus/dollar. However, I think pellets will be much cleaner in the house.

    You should also check out the anthracite coal forums to get insight and options from coal insert owners.

    www.nepacrossroads.com/
  3. kilarney

    kilarney New Member

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    I debated very strongly between a coal stove and a pellet stove. At the end of the day, a pellet stove won out. But having this in the pellet forum is boud to cause some bias.

    Here is what tipped the scale for me:
    1) Coal is rare here. There are many pellet dealers, but only one or two coal dealers. If they stopped carrying coal, I'd be in a lot of trouble.
    2) Coal is not renewable. Sure, we have plenty of it. Despite this, I was leery investing a lot of money for something that is being dug out of the earth.
    3) Coal is not environmentally friendly. Burning coal emits carbon into the atmosphere that had been stored underground. This doesn't affect your wallet, but it was a factor for me.
    4) Cleanliness. Coal produces acid. Maintaining a coal stove is a little trickier. I'm really not that handy, so I didn't want to worry about it. It also produces more ash. We wanted an insert, which have smaller ash pans already.
    5) No auto ignitor. During the cold months, this is no big deal. However, during the shoulder seasons, this could be a real pain.
    6) It is messier. I haven't looked into this too much, but that's what I'm told. But is wet rice coal really that messy?

    Having said that, there are advantages to coal:
    1) It is cheaper. A ton of coal is about the same price as a ton of pellets, but it puts out about twice the heat.
    2) It is warmer. Coal stoves tend to put out much higher BTUs than pellet stoves.
    3) It is more stable. Coal just has to be dug out of the ground. No worrying about sawdust supplies, etc.
    5) Coal takes a lot abuse. You can store it outside, it can get wet - and it will still burn.

    I think it's hard to go wrong either way. It really depends on your situation.
  4. MoeB

    MoeB New Member

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    It's my understanding from reading posts on anthracite forums that stoker stoves don't have to be cleaned af often as pellet stoves. Is there anyone here who has burned anthracite who may be able to answer this question? I have two pellet stoves but have considered trying anthracite because of the higher BTUs/ton. I also understand that anthracite stoker stoves can run longer on a load of anthracite than a pellet stove. Can anyone confirm this?

    Moe
  5. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Another pro/con is that most batch fed coal stoves do not rely on electric - pellets stoves will 100% not work in power failures, etc.
  6. MoeB

    MoeB New Member

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    I should have a written that I've heard an anthracite stove can burn for longer on a load of anthracite than a pellet stove can on a load of pellets. Sorry for my lack of clarity.

    Moe
  7. buckeyeboerboels

    buckeyeboerboels New Member

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    I have priced some coal stoves and they are cheaper than a pellet and the coal is a little more expensive then pellets per ton, but provide more heat. I'm having trouble finding a dealer that sells coal inserts to compare to a pellet insert. i'm concerned if the coal requires more maintenance, more up-keep, burn out quickly, etc... and can a coal insert be a primary source of heat?
  8. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    My thoughts are that a coal stove will cost less over the years than a pellet stove because of the lack of electrical parts. When treated correctly, a coal stove can last for decades. The initial cost is usually much lower also. There are even some good used deals to be found in some places.

    Keep in mind that a stove on the hearth or part way back in will provide better efficiency than an insert that sits way back in and has panels around it.

    A company in Ohio makes some decent coal stoves:
    http://www.hitzer.com/model50-93.html

    The coal definitely requires more work to start - then again, most coal burners are designed to run 24/7. You will also have to deal with removing ash regularly - as well as a learning curve in the beginning.

    So Pellets are more automatic......
  9. buckeyeboerboels

    buckeyeboerboels New Member

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    Craig, thanks so much for the info. as that really helped. I wasn't sure if an insert provded as much heat as a hearth stove. My problem will be finding one that can sit in front of my opening as I have an 18" wide ledge that runs in front of my fireplace and of course it will have to have a rear pipe connection... I'm def. sold on coal vs pellet after reading much info hear and on the internet...
  10. slls

    slls Minister of Fire

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    I have burned 5 ton of coal in a coal stove. Any one that has burned coal in a stove know it is not easy, almost a science. It will heat a long time, then you have to deal with large clinkers.
    Maybe the new stoves are easier but i will never, never burn coal again. Did I say messy, nothing like coal dust, ever see a black coal miner, that's dust.
  11. MoeB

    MoeB New Member

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    Did you burn anthracite (hard coal) or bituminous coal? Stoker stove or hand-fired stove? Thanks!

    Moe
  12. slls

    slls Minister of Fire

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    It was hard coal. It was a Shenandoah with a shaker grate. I think one load of coal was oiled and the last one wasn't, wicked dust.
  13. savageactor7

    savageactor7 Minister of Fire

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    I'd get coal.
  14. slls

    slls Minister of Fire

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    I forgot to mention ash, I still have the 2 full size galvanized trash cans in the cellar to hold the enormous amount of ash. It is bad stuff, not the kind you spread around the garden. I believe mercury, lead , arsenic and who knows what else.
    The best way to find out about it, is do it, then you will have the experience.
  15. Jerry_NJ

    Jerry_NJ Minister of Fire

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    I've burned a few tons of hard (anthracite) coal in the past. I found it to be better than hard wood (in the same stove) and the only "art" I developed was getting the ash off the bottom of the fire after I broke the handle on the shaker grate. I used a long thin rod and would periodically run it around under the hot coals, worked well. A good shaker grate should do as well and be easier.

    My coal stove is totally enclosed, so there is no view of the hot coal "fire", however, I have seen inserts that have a glass viewing window in action in a show room and thought the red coals had a pleasant eye appeal. I believe the pellet "fire" is less visible/enjoyable...if you like to look at fire and hot coals :)
  16. buckeyeboerboels

    buckeyeboerboels New Member

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    I'll admitt I don't know anyone who actually has a coal stove, but from what i've read and the dealers I've spoken to, they say using anthracite coal with an aotomatic feed and automatic shaker system keeps you from having clinkers resulting in complete ash. I've also been told that they burn as clean and trouble-free as a pellet stove but you do have more ash. Is the info. i'm receiving correct or have I been mislead?
  17. michiganwinters

    michiganwinters Member

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    I dont know much about coal but we did have a quality pellet stove in our last house. The stove itself was rated for 1800sq but it wa only max 45,000btu's. Here are my likes and dislikes

    LIKES
    - fill hopper 1-2 times per day and thats that
    - insurance rated it as an appliance unlike having to have a woodstove rider


    DISLIKES
    - people say they are clean.....every bag of pellets had dust that floated about the room
    - noise.....I dont like hearing fans running constantly (part of why I have a woodstove)
    - not enough heat or btus for the cost of the stove. 45,000btu's - $1900 or woodstove 95,000btus for $1500
    - I personally was sick and tired of someone mandating prices to me. One year pellets would be $160ton the next there was a shorage because a mill shut down and now they are $325ton. Same reason I didnt do a corn stove pre ethanol 4.50 per bag now 8 per bag
    - I didnt have battery backup for when I lost power

    If I had to choose coal over pellets and coal was available in my area.....I would go with the coal setup you are looking at. my $.02
  18. buckeyeboerboels

    buckeyeboerboels New Member

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    May I ask what brand of pellet stove you have? i def. do not want a stove with noisy fans as it will be in my family room with my big screen T.V. Thanks...
  19. battyice

    battyice New Member

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    Clinkers in a hand-fed coal stove are normally caused by burning the stove very hot or using poor quality coal. I easily get 12hr burns out of a 90k btu hand-fed stove with no clinkers, no dust, and lots of heat.
  20. slls

    slls Minister of Fire

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    I would say that you are more than right. I did burn out a couple of dampers. I would bank it for a good 12 hour burn, never woke up to a cold house. Lots of heat, had my time with coal. I will leave it to the coal country people. Looking forward to pellet stove experience.
  21. mikezel

    mikezel New Member

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    Has anyone ever tried to burn coal pellets in a wood pellet stove. What if you mixed let say 10-20% coal in a pellet burning stove. what would happen.
  22. iceman

    iceman Minister of Fire

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    lol...heheheheheheheehhehe...wouldn't advise doing that ....coal is harsh for starters you would need better piping on your stove
    would be cleaning it a lot more and you combustion blowers may or may not be high enough for coal
  23. thecoalman

    thecoalman Member

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    Hello, I own the anthracite coal Forum mentioned in this thread. I'll try and answer some questions.

    They do have an auto igniter. Leisure Line began offering it as an option on their stokers just recently. Having said that you generally light coal once and let it burn for the entire season. As far as the mess goes I have no comparison personally but from the posts on my forum it's my understanding that its not much more of mess than pellets. Guess it really depends mostly on the person. The dust either comes from moving the coal or the ashes. The coal can be wet so you can dampen it lightly before moving it. You just have to be careful with the ashes. That does bring up one other point, coal can be stored anywhere, even outside exposed if necessary.

    The only thing that really needs to be cleaned is the fly ash out of the flue pipe. There is other maintenance but its minimal. This fly ash will eventually block it. How often you need to do this depends on the model, the coal etc. We have a full boiler that runs year round and we do it once a year but could probably go for a couple years. Other smaller stokers may need attention every two or three months.

    How long they can run depends again. Typically a few days for most models but I had one customer from when I used to deliver coal that had it set up for good week or two. Ours is fed by a 55 gallon drum and auger, the limiting factor for us is the amount of ashes it can hold. Typically during the coldest days of the year when it gets down around zero you''ll need to take the ashes out once a day and go through about half a drum of coal but that's for 4000 sq. ft. house. At this time of the year about once a week and the tub isn't really full.

    The most popular models now are stokers which do rely on electricity. They are not much different than a pellet stove. Most models will go out in very short time but the larger boilers will stay lit for many hours without electricity. However if power outages are concern where you live they have hand-fired models that are similar to a wood stove.

    1 ton of anthracite is approximately 1.5 ton of pellets. If the pellets cost $200 the coal would have to be less than $300 to compete. There's an excellent fuel calculator here from the DOE in an excel spreadsheet. If you don't have MS excel you can download and install Open Office for free to work with it.

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/experts/heatcalc.xls

    I don't know about specific longevity for different products but generally if you buy a coal stove from one of the established manufacturers you're buying something that you will have for a very long time. 2 or even 3 decades. Once you get into the boilers you're making a lifetime purchase. Our boiler has been running 24/7/365 for the the last 25 years and its not going anywhere soon. A similar unit made by EFM which is a much older company has had some boilers go 50 years and then they only need some refurbishing. All the established manufacturers have very long lasting products.

    Maintenance again depends on the model, ours takes about 2 or 3 hours each year mostly cleaning out the flue pipe.

    The boilers mentioned are most certainly primary heat.

    [​IMG]
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    I wouldn't call it a science but there is a learning curve especially for the hand fired units. If you're getting clinkers it's the coal itself, what you have is a coal with a lot of impurities in it which tend to fuse together. Good coal will burn to almost powder especially in a hand fired stove.

    The ash is actually used by old timers in gardens. Whether it does anything is debatable. It's mostly silica and inert. The toxic metals and other toxins are elevated slightly above dirt from my understanding. It can be used as clean fill.

    If you get it to burn take a long hard look at it because it will be the last time it will burn anything. LOL....

    If you want to burn coal you need a coal stove/stoker. We have a saying on our forum. You can burn wood in a coal stove but you can't burn coal in a wood stove. The designs for wood stoves are different. For the hand fired stoves coal needs a deep bed with horizontal sides. when you fill a coal stove you fill it up all the way... You control the burn through the draft.
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