What’s All the Racket About?

The ash left behind when coal is burned can actually be incredibly useful. It’s used in a number of different products including tennis rackets and golf balls [source: American Coal Foundation]. Now that’s some renewable energy. ­

Types of Coal Stoves

If you decide to install a coal stove in your home, you'll be looking at two options. There are batch or hand fired coal stoves and stoker coal stoves. Both of them have advantages and disadvantages. In the end, it will probably come down to personal preference. Let's cover the basics.

Batch or hand fired coal stoves are more "hands on," hence the name. You have to load the coal into the fireplace yourself, much like a wood stove. Once your fire is burning, you'll have to check on it every 12 hours or so to keep it going [source: Podschelne]. This involves emptying the ash pan and raking the coals. Don't worry about being gentle when you rake them. In fact, long even strokes aren't going to get you anywhere. You need to be aggressive. Quick, rough strokes will yield the best results. One thing to keep in mind is that hand fired coal stoves require chimneys. So, if you don't already have one, you're going to have to make some room. In the end, operating a hand fired coal stove isn't that different from operating a wood stove, but it'll take a lot less coal to heat your home.

If you're looking for something that requires a little less maintenance, the stoker coal stove is probably more up your alley. Simply keep the hopper full of coal and empty the ash pan when necessary. If you do, your fire will never go out [source: Online Tips]. Stoker coal stoves actually hook up to a thermostat so you can control the temperature in your house. The stove automatically adds coal when necessary to maintain a constant temperature.

The biggest difference between hand fired stoves and stoker stoves is that a stoker stove requires electricity to run whereas a hand fired stove does not. This means that you can use a hand fired stove to keep your house warm even if the power goes out [source: Fireplace Capital]. If you live in an area prone to power outages, you may want to keep this in mind.