I am going to write several blog entries, documenting my experience with the Hitzer coal burning stove. The following is the first entry. Oh and by the way, names have been changed (sort of) to protect the innocent.
We have been very happy living in Wooster Ohio, but we quickly found that we did not move far enough south to escape winter. No bother, I like to ski anyway. Winter, however, brings the inevitable heating season. Along with the heating season comes the ritual draining of the wallet to keep warm.
We also love our house. However, it was built in the mid 70â€™s and its builders, having amazingly short sight, decided to endow the house with cheap electric base board heat. Anyone familiar with this form of heat knows its drawbacks all too well. The heating system heats only the air around it so you end up with warm areas of the room near the heater and colder areas further from the device. On the positive side, you can turn off/down specific heaters in areas of the house, but you freeze going into those rooms. Add to that the thin layer of insulation in the house, terrible windows and leaky doors, and you have all the pieces needed to make life miserable during a cold winter. Now tack on the worst part of it, when you go out to the side of the house, you know the side with the spinning wheel that the electric company was nice enough to install, that measures the amount of money that will be extracted from your wallet at the end of the month. You observe the aforementioned wheel spinning with a fervor of a child’s toy top. Honestly, I have no idea how people managed to afford to live in this house. The first winter we just dealt with things, but as the next winter drew near, the time for action drew close.
Needing an alternate source of heat, I explored several options including forced air, hot water, corn pellets, an outdoor heat source, heat pumps, and a wood burning stove. I talked with Alan and Sharon, stove specialists at Lehman’s, many times exploring the idea of installing some sort of stove. We talked a lot about what type of stove would suit my needs. I can cut wood but I do not have access to a steady supply of cheap wood. Besides as one other co-worker pointed out, how economical is that wood anyway, cut, haul, split, season, and constantly maintaining the fire. A winter full of hauling wood into the house does not appeal to me.
Alan and Sharon suggested a coal burner.A coal burner???I immediately thought about the classic movie, A Christmas Story, with Ralphie’s dad fighting with the coal burning furnace. The black soot coming from the basement and the black smoke coming from the chimney. No way! My youth was filled with stories of coal bins the size of a large room in the basement of my grandparents’ house. My uncle told me he had to go into the basement and shovel coal into that behemoth that heated the house and coming out covered with soot.NO NO NO! Not this lazy bum!
Undeterred, Alan told me about the different types of coal. He explained that the bituminous coal is the stuff that created all those problems. This stove uses a type of coal called anthracite! I googled the different types of coal and researched coal stoves, found out that these stoves are quite effective at burning the anthracite coal. Still, it took a bit of convincing, what about firing it, how about maintenance, what is the downside? My work on the Internet came up with some very valuable information on Hearth.com. I even took a trip out to the warehouse where the coal pallets are stored, found a broken bag (happens on occasion), and took a look at the content. You will get dirty if you handle this coal but it isnâ€™t what you would expect, hardly any dust. Sharon and Alan went on about the stove, a Hitzer 5093, the large stove. Explaining the gravity feed chute (this actually confounded me – how could this thing gravity feed?). They explained the blower option, and recommended it. They explained about shaking the grates and emptying the ash. I looked over the web copy and studied the options. Sharon and Alan were completely convinced that this was the right solution for the situation.
There were several hurdles to overcome before ordering the stove. Where was I going to put the stove? The thing needed a chimney, and I needed to put the coal somewhere. Then there is handling the heat. The stove will need to help heat the whole house, not just the basement. How was I going to get the heat upstairs? The house has no way of circulating the air, no forced air furnace (remember the baseboard electric heat).
I reasoned that the basement was the most ideal place for this stove, heat rises (right). I really did not want to haul bags of coal through the house to the stove and worse yet haul buckets of ash, especially since I did not know how much of this I would be doing. Here comes winter, I need to order this puppy yet.
The house does have a fireplace (neglected to mention that earlier), so it has a chimney. Unfortunately, the chimney is nowhere near the proposed location. The fireplace is a prefabricated fireplace with an eight inch flue. After talking with Alan and Sharon, I was not surprised to find out that the flue was not adequate enough to carry the hot gasses out of the house, apparently this coal burns hotter than wood. A new chimney would need to be installed. Now we needed to figure out where the chimney would go, how would we run it? Several ideas were tossed around, including running it through a closet or in a chase through the interior of the house. These options did not appeal to me, I really did not want further intrusion to the interior of the house. The chimney would be run outside, a hole had to be punched in the basement wall. I have never installed a chimney.
Enter Simon: Lehmanâ€™s stove installer, bringer of great knowledge – and intestinal fortitude. Simon stopped by the house after work one day and surveyed the situation. We agreed upon a location for the stove and chimney, after Simon explained how the chimney would go through the wall, rattling off part numbers and names of these parts along the way. We went outside and decided on a route up the wall, through the eave and above the roof. Need to get the stove ordered.
Follow the adventure by reading The Coal Chronicles – Book II