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AHS' Automatic Coal-fired Stoker Boiler

I'm considering buying an Alternate Heating Systems (AHS) Automatic Coal-fired Stoker Boiler for my low pressure steam system - who installs these in the Boston area? Do I need to get the ASME boiler because it costs $2000 more than the non-code one? If oil prices remain much higher than the other fuels, I foresee a great mass exodus from oil to coal - the opposite of what happened 40 years ago. Of course, the coal burners now are 85% efficient and burn as clean as gas.

I've calculated that I would save $800 this heating season if I converted from oil to coal. The conversion would pay for itself in several years. I've talked with my burner service and he didn't want to talk about it for some reason. Your input would be gladly appreciated.



  • PerryPerry Member Posts: 498
    What is the price of coal delivery?

    As a person who used to help deliver home coal, clean, and repair home coal furnaces and boilers there are several things you need to consider:

    If your house did not originally have a coal bin - you will need to convert a room to it (with sturdy walls). A typical home coal delivery will dump 5 tons of coal at once. Figure a 8 x 10 room and a pile about 5 foot deep. you will probably need several deliveries a year.

    The delivery truck will probably leave nice tire prints in your yard at times too unless you can locate the delivery chute right next to a driveway.

    Coal delivery cost money too. Does Boston still have people who do home coal delivery? Most places lost out years ago. The operation I was part of endid the coal delivery business in the early 1980's; although it hung on in Madison until the 90's.

    Coal is physically dirty. I hope you like coal dust and flyash everywhere in your basement (and perhaps in the rest of the house).

    You will need to have your coal furnace cleaned and inspected every year. Companies with big vacuum truck do this (and I used to do it as well). I doubt you can get one of those cleaner trucks to onsite without a couple of hundred (minimum) deployment fee. And the stories I could tell about what can go wrong with those big vacuum hoses running downstairs... (like don't have any loose laundry or other things anywhere near the area).

    The burner pots needed replacement every several years as well. Another job that isn't cheap.

    Oh, and another thing. Don't plan any weekends away in the winters. You, or someone, will need to feed the stoker typically daily (and sometimes twice a day).

    The facts are the coal did not go out of fashion because it was a more expensive a fuel than the others. It went out of fashion becuse it was a dirty labor intensive heating method that could have rather expensive and time consuming service calls to the furnaces. You can litterally replace a oil or gas furnace or boiler in the time it takes to change a stoker burner pot on a coal fired one. Burner or other repairs on oil or gas are much faster than that.

    But, it is your choice.

  • Eric TardifEric Tardif Member Posts: 38
    $175 per ton

    Here's the one I'm interested in:

    This coal boiler is self feeding. I pour bags of pea-sized coal into a 300 lb. hopper. I can get the 50 lb. bags pea-sized coal for about $175 per ton if I pick up in Fairhaven, MA - so I'm told. I've checked the price around Boston and to deliver a ton of bags would cost about $300. I figure I would only need 3 tons for my little house. I would feed the hopper once a week and check on it occasionally.

    This coal burner is 85% efficient and built to last without much maintenance besides the yearly check up.

    I believed the same thing you did since my grandparents had coal stoves and I never liked them because of the hassle. I read about this one and it seemed just like a modern burner without the mess.

    I can also buy refurbished ones. So I could save even more. :)

    Take it easy,
  • PerryPerry Member Posts: 498
    What about the Flyash, and other things.

    I had previously looked at the site and noticed several things:

    1) Why would they be selling refurbished boilers. It takes a lot of work to change a boiler - why would people return them?

    2) If their boilers work so well with alternate fuels; why are the selling a Riello Oil Burner that can be retrofitted to their boiler (dosn't this beg the question of all the fuel savings that they talk about). If a person can retrofit a oil burner - why are they returning boilers that are then refurbished and sold?

    3) Why do they claim that their boiler normally operates at 85% efficiency (as in their cost of operation chart). The 85% efficency claim for this style of boiler will be its peak efficiency which usually occurs at about 80% of the firing rate. What will be the normal efficency of the boiler... it depends on how you use it (this is not unique to these boilers - it is typical of non condensing boilers of all sizes including power plant sized boilers; modulating/condensing "hot water" boilers usually operater from the high 80's to the mid 90's if you can get them to use outdoor reset or you only need relatively cool heating water).

    Concerning your comment on going and getting the coal:

    Have you factored in the cost of that trip, and how much coal can you carry at once. Most pickups are rated for 1/2 ton and some are rated at 3/4 ton (and a few are rated a 1 ton).

    Somehow I don't believe it is as easy as they make it out to be. What I did not mention in my pervious post is that I spent a fair amount of years working in coal fired power plants. Iv'e seen about every possible tecnology for burning coal there is - and they all have some of the same issues (like ash disposal, and acid participation).

    But, if you believe you will save money - and that you can easily handle the added inconvience, and that there really arn't any hidden issues. Fine by me; and I'll wish you the best.

    By the way, who are you going to get to install it? Have you talked with them yet on it. Also, are you going to install a good CO detector in the basement?

    How old and in what condition is your chimney? This question needs to be asked of any boiler replacement, but you will not have some of the alternative options that some other boilers will have.

    Perhaps some others here can comment on coal fired boilers.

    Now I will admit that I do think coal boilers do have their place. Many people in the Apalacian mountains, in some places in the rest of the US burn coal as it is mined locally and they can get it probably for about %50 - $75 dollar a ton (delivered), if they don't outright mine it in their backyard at no cost except for some solid lumber and other mining supplies.

    I wish you the best on this; and hope it works out like you think it will.

  • Eric TardifEric Tardif Member Posts: 38
    The wife says no

    Those are very good points and some of them were in the back of my mind - such as the refurbished one. My wife told me she doesn't want coal. She grew up with it and wants nothing to do with it.

    So it's settled. No coal.

    So now I want to convert my oil to gas. I saw an oil to gas converter burner on ebay for $150! I calculated I'll save $400 minus the installation cost. So I'll pay for the conversion in one heating season! It's called a Wayne P265 Oil to Gas Conversion Burner.

    Here's the link:

    If the link doesn't work because it's too long, search google for "wayne p265". The second or third result is the ebay posting.

    And then when oil goes down again, I'll switch to the old burner. My burner man didn't want anything to do with it. He didn't tell me why either. What do you think?

  • Field-engineering a burner conversion

    can be done, though there are liability issues. Maybe that's why your burner man didn't want to do it.

    What make and model boiler do you have now? What burner is on it?

    And have you compared the true cost of gas to oil in your area? That means including all the little taxes and fees the utility doesn't want you to consider (that's why they're usually listed in very small print). A "therm" of natural gas has 100,000 BTU, a cubic foot of NG contains anywhere from 950-1150 BTU depending on where you live, and a gallon of #2 oil has 140,000 BTU so you have to take these factors into account too. The oil price per gallon almost always includes all taxes and fees, just like the prices for gasoline.

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  • Eric TardifEric Tardif Member Posts: 38
    Peerless Super Section Oil Boiler - 365 SF Steam w/Becket Burner

    It's a 24 year old Peerless oil boiler on it's last legs. The boiler man says that I should get a new one within a few years. It's at 76% efficiency and has a Becket burner.

    According to the attached heat calculation spreadsheet, oil costs $24/MBTU and gas costs $16/MBTU + $15 Fee. Since I'll probably be spending $350 per tank fill of oil, divide that by $24 getting 14.5 MBTU per tank fill. Gas would cost $16 X 14.5 getting $232 + $15 equals roughly $250 or $100 less than a tank of oil.

    Since I get around 4 to 5 tanks a winter, that would be roughly $400 savings with gas. :)

    As far as the liability goes, I can sign a form letting him off the hook.

    Take it easy,

  • You must live in an area

    where the utilities are still regulated- many of us haven't seen prices that low in years.

    If your Peerless in in bad shape, consider replacing it with a boiler that offers either oil or gas burners as factory options. That way there is no guesswork. The Smith 8 series is the one I'm most familiar with that offers both options.

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  • EricEric Member Posts: 66
    Great Idea!

    I'll try the Smith 8 boiler series if it can provide steam heat using gas and oil. That would be perfect.

    Actually, I get a nice discount if I buy 150 gallons of oil or more when I order.

    I'm not sure about the gas calculation after 15 Therms because I only use gas for my water heater, dryer, and stove. It was an estimate based on the rate above 5 Therms.

  • EricEric Member Posts: 66

    So I can buy the Smith G8 gas boiler for gas. Then when oil goes down, I can install my old oil burner (relatively good condition Becket) on the Smith boiler?

  • Get the burner

    from Smith. It will be perfectly matched to the boiler. I wouldn't use the old burner.

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