Some people like to use coal instead of wood as a home heating fuel. A ton of coal can produce an equal, or greater, amount of heat than a cord of wood because coal is denser. In addition, coal is a mineral, so it is waterproof and does not attract insects like wood, which is a biomass. However, coal is a fossil fuel and has some disadvantages compared to wood. A pound of coal produces about 10 times as much ash as a pound of wood does, and compounds in the coal, including sulfur, can corrode the chimney.
Use a firebrick lined stove and chimney pipe rated for burning coal. Coal fires burn hotter than wood fires, and they need a stove designed to burn coal. Although you can burn coal in an open fireplace, that is not an energy efficient method and most of the heat is lost. Moreover, coal fires are not a particularly attractive sight and can release pollutants into the indoor air when burned in an open fireplace.
Order some coal for delivery, or if you have a pickup truck or live in an area without access to delivery service, you can pick it up yourself from a dealer. In some areas, you can buy coal by the bag and transport it in your car trunk.
Open both the flue damper at the back of the stove and the draft control on the bottom of the stove all the way. A coal fire needs a higher temperature than a wood fire, and it needs plenty of air to ignite and to become established.
Crumple up several sheets of newspaper loosely. Open the loading door on the stove and place the crumpled newspaper on top of the grates in the bottom of the stove.
Layer some small, dry kindling wood in a crisscross fashion on top of the loosely crumpled newspaper.
Using long fireplace style matches, light the newspaper under the kindling, then close the loading door and wait for the kindling to begin burning. Add small pieces of hardwood until you establish a good bed of red wood coals.
Add coal slowly, one or two shovelfuls at a time, distributing it as evenly as possible and closing the loading door when you finish. Wait five or 10 minutes each time you add coal to allow each batch of coal to ignite before adding more. Adding too much coal at one time smothers the fire.
Repeat that procedure until you have a bed of burning coals 3 inches deep, then load coal into the stove up to the top of the firebrick lining.
Close the ash door and then adjust the draft control to a partially closed operating position after the coal is completely ignited and the wood is mostly burned.
Clean out the ash hopper before you start a new fire, or as needed, by shoveling the ash into the metal bucket.