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%SECTION{summary}%I use a coal boiler at home, and had more information on my offline wiki (before the crash), but I wanted to put some of the information here, especially that related to switching to / from electric heat if the boiler goes out.



If Boiler Goes Out

  1. Turn (blower) switch on boiler off (stops boiler from firing and feeding coal)
  2. Move pilot (cat) light to other outlet (so cat can see his litter box)
  3. Turn (circulator) switch off on top of furnace (so we don't use electric heat to heat the water in the boiler)
  4. Turn lower heater circuit breaker on (on furnace) (so electric heat is available)
  5. Turn thermostat to Emergency Heat (so blower runs only when electric heat is on, not at first "point" when it might call for boiler only — more below)
  6. Close upstairs window (to minimize heating requirements — depending on outside temperature, I must keep a window cracked to demand enough heat to keep boiler lit)

When You Relight Boiler

  1. Depending on conditions (outside and inside temperature), as you get ready to light the boiler, turn off the lower heater circuit breaker (on furnace) to conserve elecricity and build heating demand
  2. After you've started to add coal to the wood embers, turn the blower switch on (and close the boiler firebox door(s)
  3. Move pilot (cat) light back to the boiler blower switch outlet
  4. Once the boiler (water) temperature starts to rise, turn the circulator switch on top of the furnace on
  5. On thermostat, turn Emergency Heat off
  6. Depending on outside temperature, crack an upstairs window (below 30 F usually not required)

Keeping the Boiler Lit

I had pretty good success this year (2003 -2004) keeping the boiler lit so I wanted to jot down some of the tricks:

If you turn off the blower (for example, to remove ashes), *be damn sure you turn it back on before leaving the area

  • I got in the habit of checking the boiler almost every 2 hours if I was home and awake (on at least one occasion, I caught the boiler before it was completely out and got it to refire) (if I woke up in the middle of the night I usually checked it also)

When checking the boiler:

  • Open the coal bin door and confirm there is a reasonable amount of coal (I usually added coal at night / evening in case it was wet, the boiler fires more at night and the wet coal has more firing time to dry (less chance of the wet coal actually putting out the fire (which I think has happened on occasion))
  • Open the bottom (firebox) door and look for (do this with the blower not running, turn it off if necessary, but be damn sure you turn it back on before leaving the area)
    • Signs of firing (a red glow, hot air near the back of the fire box (reach in, avoid touching the hot metal or getting ashes dripped on you)
    • Space left in the ash bin so that the bin will not fill up (and touch grate) before emptying (I usually emptied it once a day, at night)
    • If you see clumps of ash on the front of the grate, take the poker and pull the clumps into the ash bin — if clumps might be stuck in the "maw" between the grate and the lower edge of the coal bin, "scrape" ashes from underneath these clumps to make them easier for the ash mechanism to push. Don't pull enough out to cause raw coal to fall on the front (ash portion of the grate) — takes experience. As you are doing this, you will usually see the red glow from the burning coal.

  • If you think it's necessary (takes experience, if the boiler has not been firing hard, other hints??), open the coal bin door and take a medium blunt (1" diameter) wood stick and slide it down the front of the coal bin into the firebox area in two or three places across the width of the boiler. This pushes some fresh coal into the firebox. Sometimes the coal (gravity) feed seems to get jammed, and even if not, you can get a little extra fresh coal into the firebox which helps if the boiler has not been fired hard (is tending towards going out). (At that point, sometimes leaving the firebox door open (with the blower off) seems to create a little extra natural draft to get the fire going again. (On a few occasions, I think the fire has finally been killed by the blower, on at least one occasion I think the fire was about to go out and would have if I had kept the blower going, but by switching to natural draft in this manner, I got the fire to recover. Of course, I could be wrong. Takes a lot of experience (cleaning out the ashes and coal from a dead fire and restarting it).

If you turn the blower off, be damn sure you turn it back on before leaving the area).

Before walking away from the boiler, look back and make sure the blower pilot light is on.


  • () RandyKramer - 05 Mar 2004
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Topic revision: r1 - 2004-03-05 - RandyKramer
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