Surviving Tough Times:

A Coal Stove for Savings

by Linda Hull


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In these days of rising fuel costs, you can save money during the cold winter by using alternative heating sources. One of the best alternative heat sources these days is a coal stove. Did you know that one ton of anthracite coal is equivalent to using two hundred gallons of oil? Coal is clean burning and plentiful, with prices lower than other fuel sources.

One of the best advantages of burning coal is the ease of obtaining and storing coal. A local supplier will deliver your winter's supply in bags on a pallet or in bulk, unloaded directly into your easily accessible storage bin. Bags can be stored outside covered with a tarp or in a basement or shed.

Coal stoves vary in size and come with automatic coal feeds, thermostats, computers to regulate fuel usage, automatic ignitions, and superb fuel efficiency. The modern stoves aren't what your great-grandparents used! Some of the popular brands include Franco Belge, Harman, Keystoker, and Vermont Castings.

For those who want off the grid, stoves are available to provide the warmth you need at a cost you can afford without dependence on electricity. Purchasing a used, older model without the techie features provides a reliable source of heat during the worst winter weather.

Installing a coal stove is best performed by qualified professionals. Consult your local building code inspectors to obtain a permit and building code requirements. They will also perform a final inspection to insure compliance with local building codes.

Preparing your stove's location is the first step. Manufacturer's directions will alert you to the required clearance from walls and combustible materials. Your stove must be situated on a stone or cement hearth or on a non-combustible floor protector as directed by your local building codes. Your coal stove must also be connected to an outside masonry or fuel factory-built (UL listed) chimney in accordance with local and state building codes and the National Fire Protection Association Code.

Be sure to alert your insurance company before you install and use a coal stove. Some companies require copies of installation instructions, a picture of the location of the stove, and proof of compliance to local building codes.

Coal comes in several sizes: rice, pea, buckwheat, and chestnut. Choose the size recommended by the manufacturer for your store. Coal burns slowly, but daily maintenance is needed.

  • Loosen ashes with a poker, so they will fall through the grate.
  • Shake the ashes from the grate twice a day, usually morning and evening.
  • Remove ashes daily. Ashes are placed into a metal container with a tight-fitting lid until cooled.
  • Fill the hopper with a load of coal.

Coal stoves require seasonal maintenance. Inspect your coal stove, the chimney, and connecting pipes after the heating season ends and the stove has cooled.

  • Connecting pipes should be free of soot, tar, fly ash, and obstructions.
  • Confirm that connector pipe joints are sealed.
  • Remove soot deposits from flue gas ducts.
  • Clean window glass panels on the front of the stove.

Another important maintenance chore is a chimney inspection and cleaning. A basic chimney inspection should be performed by a CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) Certified Chimney Sweep. Their job will include:

  • inspecting flue liners for cracks
  • inspecting the chimney for loose bricks and mortar
  • performing a thorough cleaning of the chimney flue to remove creosote and obstructions
  • confirm that the chimney cap is in place

Save money by buying enough coal to get you through the heating season. Orders are usually placed in late summer or early fall with delivery in November or early December. Coal suppliers will charge a delivery fee, but it is well worth it since they can easily unload your bags with a forklift or dump your bulk coal in its storage bin.

Once your stove is installed and lit, the fire will keep your home warm throughout the long winter months. Using a coal stove in conjunction with your oil furnace or existing heating system will save you money.

Take the Next Step:

  • For more related articles, please visit the TDS home and auto section.
  • Subscribe to our new weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter. This free html newsletter will provide ways to survive in this challenging economy. Each issue features nine articles to help you stretch your dollar!

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