Coal Heat: Pros and Cons of a Coal Burning Furnace for Heating

Keeping your family comfortable and warm often comes with the high cost of energy bills. Coal has a long history of fueling human innovation from ancient Chinese copper smelts to steam engines. Today, coal is an affordable heat source that is used in coal fired furnaces to heat homes, commercial buildings, barns, hot tubs, pools and greenhouses. Heating your space with a coal burning furnace has several main benefits and drawbacks that we will cover in this guide so you can decide if it is right for you.

What is Coal?

If you look up coal in a geological book you will find a photo of an unassuming black or brown rock. Around the world, there are more than 1.06 trillion tons of coal reserves and they can be found in abundance in the Eastern United States, Russia, China, Australia and India. Many eons ago, coal was considered to be a type of plant; however, millions of years of geological pressure transformed this organic matter into brownish-black sedimentary rock that is now deposited all around the world.

Coal has been used for thousands of years as one of the primary sources of fuel because of its high carbon content, which offers significant energy. However, all coal is not created equal. Some burn cleaner and hotter, while others have high moisture content that can pollute the air.

4 Main Types of Coal

  • Anthracite – 86-97% carbon with the highest heating value
  • Bituminous – 45-86% carbon and the most abundant coal found in the U.S.
  • Subbituminous – 35-45% carbon and lower than average heating value
  • Lignite – 25-35% carbon and the lowest ranking heating value

What is Coal Gasification?

Gasification converts biomass or coal into gases that are flammable due to the high content of hydrogen and carbon. In an outdoor boiler, coal is converted into energy through a controlled burn of a coal bed that becomes a mixture of high energy gases.

Those gases are then burned at high temperatures to produce heat that is transferred into the water jacket. The heated water is used through a series of exchange units to heat your home, hot water, swimming pool, or outdoor buildings. A coal fired furnace such as our Heatmasterss C Series offers flexibility and can be easily connected to almost any existing heating system.

Pros of a Coal Burning Furnace for Heating

Heating with a coal burning furnace provides powerful and safe heat, while saving you a lot of money in the long run. Additionally, there are other beneficial bonuses that come with using coal as a fuel.

Coal is Easy to Load and Reduces Work

Just pour coal into your outdoor furnace hopper and let it burn. It’s that easy to get consistent heat without much effort. Between cutting, stacking, and seasoning, wood requires a lot more labor, time, and work than coal.

Coal Can be Stored Easily

Whereas wood requires a large area to store and can harbor bugs or rot, coal is more compact for the amount of energy it produces and isn’t susceptible to rotting or insects. Gravity wagons, hoppers or other fuel feeding systems save time and minimize maintenance.

Can be Affordably Bought in Bulk

Many companies offer coal in bags or simple dump-and-go deliveries for easy bulk purchase. Some companies will auger your coal into a gravity shed. One ton of coal is approximately 40 cubic feet.

High Quality Coal Releases A Lot of Heat

Anthracite coal burns efficiently with no odor or smoke and by heating water rather than air, a coal burning furnace loses less heat. To get an idea of how much high quality coal can produce, one ton of anthracite coal equals about 8,200 kilowatt hours of electricity.

Round the Clock Heat Source

Unlike many other energy sources like solar, wind or hydro, coal is never affected by weather or the amount of available sunlight in a day. Because it is an extremely reliable fuel source, an outdoor coal burning furnace is good for people who don’t want to worry about having backup energy.

Cons of a Coal Burning Furnace for Heating

Like anything, a coal burning furnace isn’t perfect. The drawbacks to a coal burning furnace include both environmental and geographical factors.

Coal is Not Easily Available Everywhere

As an energy source, coal is both efficient and affordable but it isn’t available everywhere, especially if you are looking for anthracite. The Eastern United States has the highest concentration of coal, making transportation costs necessary for other regions, which increases the cost.

Bagged Coal Can Be Expensive

If you can only get bagged coal, the price can add up, decreasing the savings of using coal in the first place. Bulk is usually cheaper because you are not paying for bagging. However, not all areas have access to a local bulk vendor, making bagged coal the only way to go.

Ash Needs to be Removed Regularly

Whenever you are burning a solid fuel there will be ashes to remove. Staying on top of ash removal will keep your coal burning furnace performing at peak efficiency and maintain the durability for years. Our C Series comes with cast iron shaker grates and a removable steel ash pan to make cleaning a breeze.

Coal Has a Higher-Than-Average Carbon Emission

When you compare coal to other sources of energy, it puts out higher rates of carbon dioxide per BTU generated. Using high quality anthracite coal helps to reduce emissions as it has less sulfur content that other types of coal.

Clinkers Can be a Pain

Clinkers or slag is when noncombustible material melt and fuse together as ash lumps. If not taken care of, clinkers can fuse together to form a larger one that can become a problem by hindering air flow. This can especially become a problem if low grade coal is used.

Let HeatMasterss Help You Find the Best Coal Heat Furnace

The HeatMasterss team engineers our C Series Coal Furnace with a high-efficiency design that gets our customers a rapid return on investment. By combining the best materials with expert engineering, HeatMasterss has created the most rugged and long-lasting furnaces on the market.

Our furnaces are made with Titanium stainless steel that resists corrosion, withstands higher continuous temperature flawlessly and transfers more continuous heat to save you fuel and money. The C Series comes with time-saving features that keep every step of the process efficient, safe, and easy. All you have to do is make sure there is fuel in the bin.

Talk with our team about the advantages of a coal heat furnace to see if it’s the right large heating application for your property or business — find a local HeatMasterss dealer near you today!

Back to all posts