How to Burn Coal in a Stove


Coal burns differently from wood. When you light a fire in a coal burning stove, you must never stir the coals around as you would with a wood stove. What is convenient about a coal stove versus a wood stove is that the heat level is more easily controlled. Once you have successfully started a fire in your coal stove, use the air control to adjust the level of heat your coal stove puts out. This is the most efficient way to use a coal stove.

Things You'll Need

  • Charcoal starter
  • Kindling
  • Match or lighter
  • Learn about different types of coal. Charcoal starter is what you commonly see used in grills in the summer. It can help you to start a coal stove fire, but is not the coal you should burn regularly. Bituminous coal (soft coal) starts easily, but gives off a lot of pollution. Anthracite coal (hard coal) burns the most cleanly, but takes a long time to light and may be difficult to keep lit. Other types of coal exist, but are less commonly used.

  • Open the air control on your coal stove all the way. Keep it completely open until all the coal has been loaded and has caught fire.

  • Load some kindling into your coal stove. Kindling can be newspapers, cardboard, small pieces of wood or dried twigs and leaves. Light it with a match or lighter. Move the kindling as needed to achieve a strong fire.

  • Load a few pieces of coal into the fire once it is red-hot. Watch the fire closely. When the coals are enveloped in blue fire, it is ready for more coal.

  • Continue loading coal into the fire until it reaches a 1 to 2 inch depth across the bottom of the stove. Always load a little at a time, waiting until that blue flame appears before adding more.

  • Adjust the air control once all the coal is in the stove. As long as the coal fire gets air, it will continue to burn. Controlling the air controls the heat, as well as how fast the coal burns.

Tips & Warnings

  • According to hearth expert Craig Issod, coal fires should only be started when ambient air temperatures in your area are consistently below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If you start burning coal prior to that, your chimney will not vent correctly. Proper chimney function relies on the temperature extremes between the hot air in the stove and the cold air outside.
  • If you experience trouble getting your coal to light, use a small amount of charcoal starter mixed in with your regular coal. Do not use liquid starter, as it can pose a serious safety hazard.
  • Do not burn coal in any stove that does not explicitly say that it is a coal burning stove. Coal burns much hotter than wood, and burning coal in anything that is not equipped for it may pose serious safety and health hazards.

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