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Can You Burn Coal in a Fireplace? The Definitive Answer!

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As the winter chill sets in, you find yourself cozied up at home, basking in the warmth of your roaring fireplace. You glance at the coal bucket nearby and ponder, can you burn coal in a fireplace?

You’re not alone in this curiosity, as many homeowners have asked the same question. That’s why we’ve assembled a comprehensive guide to address the matter, covering topics such as:

  • The results of burning coal in a fireplace
  • How to safely burn coal in the fireplace
  • Alternatives to burning coal in the fireplace

Read on to learn more about coal fireplaces and how to use them safely!

Can You Use Coal as Fuel in a Fireplace?

charcoal in fireplace

It’s not advisable to use coal as fuel in a fireplace. While you can technically burn coal in a fireplace, it’s not the best idea for several reasons.

When you burn coal in a fireplace, the particles from coal can coat the inside of your chimney and create a hazardous creosote buildup.

Moreover, coal produces more carbon monoxide than wood, which can be dangerous for you and your family without proper ventilation.

For these reasons, we recommend using seasoned wood for your fireplace. However, we’ll look at alternatives to using coal as a fuel source in your fireplace later in the article.

What Happens When You Burn Coal in a Fireplace?

There are several implications related to burning coal in a fireplace. That is because when coal burns, it produces several harmful chemicals, including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.

Additionally, burning coal in a fireplace can be dangerous for the following reasons:

  • Coal produces a lot of smoke: Coal has a lot of smoke when burned, leading to respiratory issues because it ignites 100 degrees hotter than wood.
  • Coal produces poisonous gases: When burned, coal releases harmful gases like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides into the air. These gases can be dangerous to your health if inhaled for prolonged periods.
  • Coal produces soot: Soot is a black, powdery substance that can build up in your fireplace and chimney. If left unchecked, it can eventually lead to a chimney fire.
soot in a fireplce

If you still choose to burn coal in your fireplace, there are some steps you can take to minimize the risk of problems that we’ll look at later in this article.

Ultimately, it is up to you whether or not you want to burn coal in your fireplace. However, we recommend against it unless you are willing to take the necessary precautions.

Burning coal can be messy and dangerous, and it is not worth risking your safety or the integrity of your home.

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How to Safely Burn Coal in a Coal-Powered Fireplace

While it’s not the best idea to use coal as fuel for your traditional fireplace, there are some steps you can take to burn coal in a coal-powered fireplace safely.

Things You’ll Need

  • An old or unused newspaper
  • 6-12 inches long of kindling wood (5-12 pieces will do)
  • A pellet or chunk of anthracite coal

Step 1. Open the Damper

The fire needs oxygen to burn, so the first step is to ensure your fireplace damper is open.

Step 2. Prepare the Fireplace

Next, you’ll need to prepare the fireplace. Start by crumpling up an old or unused newspaper and placing it in the center of the fireplace. Then, arrange 6-12 inches of kindling wood around the paper.

Step 3. Add 2-3 Pieces of Coal

Once the wood is in place, add 2-3 pieces of coal on top of it. Ensure the pieces are small enough to fit comfortably in your hand’s palm.

Step 4. Ignite the Fire

Now it’s time to ignite the fire! You can use a match or a lighter to get things started. Once the fire is going, close the screen or glass doors to keep the heat in.

Step 5. Add More Coal as Needed

As the fire burns, you can add more coal as needed. Remember to add small pieces at a time so you don’t overwhelm the fire.

Step 6. Extinguish the Fire Before Going to Sleep

When it’s time to call it a night, extinguish the fire completely, let the coal burn out on its own, or use a fire extinguisher.

Tips for Safely Burning Coal in Your Fireplace

Now that we’ve gone over how to burn coal in your fireplace safely, here are a few additional tips to keep in mind:

  • Only use coal meant for burning in a fireplace. Do not use coal from a power plant or industrial facility. This is because coal burned in a fireplace has fewer impurities than other types of coal, and these impurities can damage your fireplace and pollute your home.
  • Have your chimney and fireplace inspected and cleaned regularly. This will help prevent soot buildup and reduce the risk of a chimney fire.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors are working correctly. This is important because coal produces a lot of smoke when it burns.
  • If you have any respiratory problems, consult your doctor before burning coal in your fireplace.

Burning coal can exacerbate respiratory problems and should be avoided if you have asthma or another condition.

Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be able to enjoy your coal-powered fireplace safely.

What Can I Burn In My Fireplace Instead of Coal?

seasoned wood

Since coal is not the best fuel for your fireplace, what can you burn instead?

  • One alternative is dry and seasoned wood. Dry and seasoned wood burns cleaner than coal and is a renewable resource. However, wet or green wood will produce more smoke and is more difficult to ignite.
  • You can also burn pellets in your fireplace. Pellets are made from compressed sawdust and other wood waste, burning cleanly and producing little to no ash. While pellets are mainly used in pellet stoves, some models can be used in fireplaces with a pellet basket insert. Burning pellets in your fireplace is a great way to heat your home while enjoying the ambiance of a wood fire.
  • Manufactured logs are another option. These logs are made from sawdust, wax, and other combustible materials, and they are easy to light and produce little smoke.
  • Consider using a gas fireplace if you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly option. Gas fireplaces are clean-burning and efficient, and many models even come with remote control, so you can easily adjust the temperature.

Ultimately, the best fuel for your fireplace is the safest and cleanest burning. Wood, pellets, and manufactured logs are all excellent options.

No matter what fuel you choose, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and take precautions to keep your family safe.

Conclusion

So, can you burn coal in a fireplace? As described, it’s not the best idea, but it can be done safely if the proper precautions are followed. If you’re looking for a more efficient way to burn coal, consider using a coal-burning fireplace insert.

It’s vital to ensure that your coal is of the highest quality and that you have a well-ventilated area when burning coal. Be sure to follow all safety instructions when using any fireplace.

FAQs

Is it cheaper to burn wood or coal?

Coal is generally cheaper than wood, and this is because coal can burn hotter and for longer than wood.

However, it’s essential to consider the quality of the coal and the cost of having your chimney cleaned regularly.

Does smokeless coal give off carbon monoxide?

Smokeless coal does give off carbon monoxide. However, the amount of carbon monoxide produced is significantly less than that of traditional coal. This is because smokeless coal is burned more efficiently and cleanly.

What is the difference between coal and smokeless coal?

The main difference between coal and smokeless coal is that coal produces more pollution. Traditional coal consists of carbon, volatile hydrocarbons, sulfur, and nitrogen. When burned, it produces carbon dioxide, water vapor, smoke, and ash.

Smokeless coal is a type of fuel that produces less smoke when burned. It is made from anthracite coal – which is hard, black coal that has a high carbon content and low sulfur content. It is burned in purpose-built appliances called smokeless coal fires or stoves.

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Thomas Green

Thomas Green

Thomas has worked in the Chimney & Fireplace field for over 12 years. He is an expert in his trade and loves to help People with their needs. Thomas Write helpful articles so that homeowners can make the most informed decisions about their fireplace and chimney.