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# coal heating in 1946

Member Posts: 1
for an historic research about life after the second world war - I'm trying to find out how much coal was needed per-day, for heating a big house - small cassel (3 floors, 20 rooms)? was it 1 Kg? 10 Kg per day?
appreciate any help, couldn't find anything about it...
thanks
ilan

• Member Posts: 475
@ilansheizaf , My steam boiler was converted from coal to oil (steam system)... I do not know know how much it will take... you have to factor, how well the house / castle insulated, sq footage of room, size of radiator... size of the boiler...is it steam or hot water... it is very possible over 10 Kg if you trying to keep all rooms at comfortable temp assuming you live in north east US...
Thank you!
@LS123
• Member Posts: 10,125
Look in the library on this page, there are a number of books and pamphlets on how to fire your boiler. They are in a number of different sections, not just the section on coal.
• Member Posts: 23,894
One ton of coal provides about 20 million BTU of heat. More or less. So it is an easy enough calculation.

Let's suppose that your structure has a heat load of 150,000 BTUh, and the coal furnace operates at an efficiency of 72% (optimist!).

Then, on a nice cold day, your structure will require 150,000 BTUh times 24 hours -- 3,600,000 BTU of heat output. at 72% efficiency, that works out to about 5,000,000 BTU heat input.

Which is a quarter ton, or 250 kg of coal. Per day.

A bit more than you were quoting... !
Br. Jamie, osb
Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
• Member Posts: 10,125
A structure that large is likely to also have old bookkeeping records that will show how much coal they actually purchased.
• Member Posts: 5,877
edited January 2021
550 pounds per day??? Of course there are variables but that sounds higher than millions of housewives would be able to deal with.

This site has quite smaller number: https://www.heetinc.com/faqs

During a very cold winter day, the automatic stoker stove models could burn approximately 40 lbs. (one bag) of coal, generating over 500,000 BTU’s and leaving about 4 lbs. of ash

NJ Steam Homeowner.
Free NJ and remote steam advice: https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/new-jersey-steam-help/
See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el

• Member Posts: 23,894
Your numbers are about right, in terms of heat output from that bag of coal. The stuff does vary rather widely!

However, 500,000 BTU won't go far in many houses at the temperatures we keep them today. An automatic stoker stove is not even close to a coal burning furnace.

As a personal note. When I was a young'un, during World War II, my mother was home with us alone, as dad was otherwise occupied. We had a coal burning -- hand fired -- gravity hot water system. The house was... warmer than outside, let's say. I wasn't keeping track -- not really being into heating at the time -- but I do remember that she put a good bit more than 40 pounds of coal into that beast every day. More like 40 pounds (four good sized scoops -- I've weighed them) every two or three hours during the day, and a couple of bigger loads at night. I still have the shovels she used, and the coal and ash scuttles (the coal scuttles for the kitchen stove and the sitting room fireplaces).

While you may well be right, @ethicalpaul , about millions of today's housewives, you underestimate the strength and courage and ability of the Greatest Generation -- not just abroad, on the pointy and nasty end, but at home, literally keeping the home fires burning.

I might add, though, that she was mighty glad when, after the war, that monster got a genuine automatic oil-fired burner (a Quiet May, if I recall) installed.
Br. Jamie, osb
Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
• Member Posts: 475
@ilansheizaf, if this house castle really there still... you should be also able to find a room somewhere next to the coal boiler, where they used to keep coal... from what I have seen... if this is a castle... they must of have had a huge room near by to keep coal... although I have seen some people keep coal outdoor shed near by... so room sizes, radiators sizes, boiler capacity, insulation level, windows(?) ? I think @Jamie Hall has experience with lots of types of heating systems... as he describes above... coal is also one of them... you can see some you tube videos of some people burn coal for heat still... look them up... best!
Thank you!
@LS123
• Member Posts: 5,877
Thanks for sharing the real world experience, @Jamie Hall !

If you would help educate me, what are the operational and efficiency differences between a stoker furnace and a manually-loaded one of your youth?

I have toyed with the notion of going to coal heat when I retire to the boonies some day.

NJ Steam Homeowner.
Free NJ and remote steam advice: https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/new-jersey-steam-help/
See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el

• Member Posts: 23,894
The manual loaded one -- besides taking some real skill to get an even, uniform bed of coal, not too thick, not too thin -- doesn't differ that much in principle from a power stoker version -- except in the amount of labour required to keep the thing going! Depending on just how the stoker is arranged and where the coal bin is and how it is arranged, one may wind up with very little manual labour other than shaking the grates and taking out the ash now and then. And a good stoker will do a better job -- usually -- of keeping the fire in good shape (particularly the chain grate types, where there is a constantly, but slowly, moving grate from the firing area to the back of the firebox, making a nice even burn). Since the efficiency is very much affected by the evenness of burn, they can be surprisingly good.

I have a feeling that getting good quality coal may become increasingly difficult... and that's important. Less expensive coal may be lower in heat content -- but may also have shale mixed in, which you really don't want as it makes nasty clinkers which mess up the burn.

A good automatic power stoker, in a furnace or boiler designed for it, probably could approach the efficiency of some of the better conventional oil burners -- but that's asking a lot of it.
Br. Jamie, osb
Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
• Member Posts: 475
@ethicalpaul ... I thought you would like to retire somewhere in boonies .... not baby sit a coal burner? ... I am just kidding ....
I also like the work... but after seeing too many small residential coal burners.... to me it looks like bit of work to have a coal burner (I have never had one... only going by the youtube clips.... it all depends on where is the coal burner and where are the coal for fuel stored at... it seems like coal has a lots of dust, lot to clean up before after, and keeping an eye on when to put more coal etc... (just because it may not be my first choice... that would not equates to it would not be something that you would enjoy and keeping busy.... I think there are also different grades of coal... I know nothing much to contribute anything too helpful... best!
Thank you!
@LS123
• Member Posts: 542
edited January 2021
I have heated my house with anthracite coal for the last 11 years. The amount used per day is shown below, along with the degree days. The house was built in 1910 and has had blown-in insulation added. 2 stories, 10 rooms, plus a basement - 3500 sq ft total floor space being heated (that includes the basement since it is kept at 70F). The coal is burned in a stoker boiler (hot water), which was not widely available in 1946. At that time most equipment was hand fired, and likely was not quite as efficient.

• Member Posts: 5,877
Thanks @Jamie Hall and @Robert_25 ! What a great chart. Do you know why on some of those days there was such a huge spike in pounds of coal compared to the degrees? Maybe a higher thermostat setting for comfort on those days?

NJ Steam Homeowner.
Free NJ and remote steam advice: https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/new-jersey-steam-help/
See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el

• Member Posts: 542

Thanks for sharing the real world experience, @Jamie Hall !

If you would help educate me, what are the operational and efficiency differences between a stoker furnace and a manually-loaded one of your youth?

I have toyed with the notion of going to coal heat when I retire to the boonies some day.

Generally a stoker unit will have a greater overall efficiency, especially if burning coal with significant volatile content. The other advantage is you don't have to tend to a stoker every 12 hours like hand fired equipment. Depending on the size of your coal and ash bins you can normally go at least a few days without touching anything.
• Member Posts: 23,894
Still... Mom was really happy when that oil burner showed up. We even went and cleaned up the basement and put a rec room of sorts down there!
Br. Jamie, osb
Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
• Member Posts: 542

Thanks @Jamie Hall and @Robert_25 ! What a great chart. Do you know why on some of those days there was such a huge spike in pounds of coal compared to the degrees? Maybe a higher thermostat setting for comfort on those days?

A combination of wind, thermostat setting (weekend vs weekday) and domestic water usage. I should have mentioned that my house sits in miles of open fields and get slammed by wind, and the boiler provides domestic hot water.

Since 2011/2012 I have spent a lot of time tightening up the house, and improving the hot water heating system. I burn considerably less coal now.
• Member Posts: 542

Still... Mom was really happy when that oil burner showed up. We even went and cleaned up the basement and put a rec room of sorts down there!

I bet she was. Oil was cheap, the burners were quiet, and for many people it was their first experience with automatic heat. The coal industry countered with improved equipment, but I don't think it made much of a difference except in areas close to the coal fields.

As for the current availability of high quality coal, I would say that depends where you live. If you are within a reasonable trucking distance of Northeast Pennsylvania, getting good coal is not a problem at all. I get mine from Lehigh Anthracite.
• Member Posts: 10,125
I remember my grandma saying they got a gas furnace in the mid 50's when my grandfather died because she couldn't stoke the coal furnace.
• Member Posts: 475
@ilansheizaf , just wondering, are you trying to keep all the original things at this place ( I understand this is for a study)? is that why coal important?

i do not have 20 rooms... my coal steam boiler was changed to efficient oil burner, it heats up the whole house comfortably... I calculated that with in last 7 days I have only used approximately 35 gallons, give or take 5 gallons a day... this includes about 4 days keeping the house over 74F to accommodate to teens who like to wear too many clothes during summer and use the AC about 63-64F, and during winter wearing summer clothes increasing the heat to be mid 70s.... dont ask me to explain ... I have no clue why they are like that I usually keeps about 68-70 F max... all are single pipe steam with radiators.

I also dont know how you would be able to heat up 20 rooms with one boiler.... ( my oil tank can hold max 275 gallons of #2 heating oil) heats up total of 7 rooms, plus basement comfortably...

I do not have option for gas.... I would go with @Jamie Hall calcs and the chart from @Robert_25 perhaps spikes on @Robert_25 related to teens like mine, or really, cold and windy days or something else I dont know about how coal burns... you probably would want to compare apples to apples if your posting for study...
Thank you!
@LS123
• Member Posts: 234
edited January 2021
That's a very large house. I used to deliver coal and helped repair coal boilers, furnaces, and stokers as a teenager (I made a lot more \$\$\$ than anyone else working in restaurants or local business.. but came home very dirty most days).

In central Wisconsin where I grew up I would estimate that an older uninsulated 3 story house that size would need an average of 250 Lb/day and twice as much on the coldest days (average 114- to peak of 227 kg/day ) assuming it was a basic rectangle or square house. If there are wings jutting out - add 25-50% more coal.

For a 1946 house I would assume it would have a stoker that held at least 150 Lb of coal (if not twice that as you would be talking a very large boiler or furnace compared to most houses). You could fill it up twice a day in about 15-20 minutes every day. Something most teenagers and above, or hired help, could do.

If they had a very large stoker bin - they could fill it once a day.

Edited to add: A house that size would likely have a small industrial boiler or furnace. Several of the industrial plants had an automated auger system to feed the stoker bin - and the coal room had steeply sloped bottoms so the coal naturally fed into the auger. You could also manually shovel & carry coal from the coal room to the stoker if required.

Such a house may also have had multiple boilers or furnaces, and even multiple coal rooms.

Perry
• Member Posts: 951
edited January 2021
Wow, I never knew that you guys loved burning coal so much. I should have had you guys help me when I was fixing, rebuilding , installing or just servicing the coal units my employer installed and/or serviced in the western half of Pa. There is a lot of knowledge to get bituminous (soft) coal to burn efficiently. WE had a guy that could pick up a lump of coal, look at it and tell you how good it would burn and most times tell you where it was mined. I hated coal. It was dirty and dusty and the heating equipment had to be cleaned a lot.

Coal boilers could be fired by hand or by a stoker. The stoker was always better and much more efficient since the stoker fed the coal from underneath the burning coal which then allowed for the burning of the volitiles which contained a lot of heat but would mostly would be lost when the unit was hand fired. There were chain grate stokers that were only used in the biggest units, ram stokers like the Auburn or Detroit, or screw feed like the Wilbert. There were others but these were the only ones I am familiar with.

Lastly, there is hard (anthracite) and soft coal (bituminous) coal. If you are using coal in a home today, you better be using hard coal or your wife won't be your wife for long. You can pick it up without getting your hands dirty and it burns clean and leaves a soft powdery ash.

As you can probably guess, I heat my home with natural gas. My 2 cents
• Member Posts: 393
Jut one other point.  Homes use far less btu than people think.  When I’ve looked at the dirt cycle in my home, 3600sqdt brick Victorian, it consumes at its peak 100k btu. So average for the coldest day with sunshine might be 80k.  So half that 550lb figure.

My consumption this last Month was 300 therms including DHW.  So 42,000 but/hr average input.  Average temps would be around 35 , so almost 50% of design factoring in stack effect.   So 3lbs per hour average probably 6-8 peak.  What can a 350k input coal boiler hold?  60-70lbs and you’d load at 15-20%.

I’d guess you’d stoke it 4x a day so losing 40-50 each time isn’t that big of a deal.

My home had a 300sqft room as a coal bunker and stairs in the kitchen lead to a room adjacent to the boiler.
• Member Posts: 5,877
I really do have to meter how many btu my house is using, thanks for the reminder @motoguy128

NJ Steam Homeowner.
Free NJ and remote steam advice: https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/new-jersey-steam-help/
See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el