It’s Safe to Burn Alaskan Coal in Harman Coal Stoves

Multiple recent reports, articles and comments by Clean Air Fairbanks, Russ Maddox, Heidi Zemach through SewardCityNews and others have incorrectly reported and commented on the safety of burning Alaskan coal in Harman coal stoves.  To shine the light of truth on this issue, I put forth the attached letter I received today from a design engineer at Hearth & Home Technologies, which owns Harman Home Heating, that states:

“Coal units are tested with anthracite coal, because it has the highest carbon content and lowest moisture content of all coal types and therefore generates the highest temperatures during testing. The type of coal available in Alaska is typically bituminous or sub-bituminous coal, which has less energy content per pound of fuel and thus generates lower unit temperatures. Therefore, in terms of safety and clearances to combustibles, Alaskan coal does not pose a safety concern.

The only issue with high moisture content, high volatile coal is typically the emission of un-combusted volatiles. These can condense in the chimney and can result in a chimney fire if the chimney is not properly swept and maintained. Additional diligence in maintaining a clean chimney system will be required when burning the type of coal typically found in Alaska, but beyond that, there is nothing inherently dangerous about burning Alaskan coal in a Harman coal stove.”

This document clearly refutes the inaccurate statements recently put forth into the public domain by these groups and individuals and should reassure Alaskans that burning Alaskan coal in Harman coal stoves is not unsafe and they are not at risk of voided warranties or denied insurance claims because they burn Alaskan coal in Harman stoves.  Alaskans who have further questions should consult their stove manufactures and their insurance companies for accurate information as the groups and individuals listed above cannot be trusted to provide unbiased and accurate statements if the truth is contrary to their objective of denying Alaskans the opportunity to burn coal or they are parroting the statements of these groups.

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Properly cleaning chimneys is a safety issue for all people who heat with stoves, regardless of whether wood or coal is burned.  We have years of experience burning Alaskan coal in two different Harman stoves and can attest that our risk of chimney fires from burning Alaskan coal is a small fraction of the risk of chimney fires from creosote buildup with burning wood.
I am in no way affiliated with Heath & Home Technologies, Harman Home Heating, Usibelli Coal Mine, Aurora Energy, Alaska Railroad or any stove retailers.  I am a local Seward resident who owns two Harman coal stoves and who has successfully, safely and inexpensively heated their home by burning Alaskan coal for years.  This letter from Harman resulted from a simple phone call to explain what was being stated in the public domain about burning Alaskan coal in Harman stoves and asking Hearth & Home Technologies/Harman Home Heating for their response.
Anyone can contact a stove manufacturer to receive this same information.  But many people will be swayed by what groups and individuals who have perceived authority state and will not make their own effort to find out if it is true or not.  My goal is to put the truth out to people who burn Alaskan coal that they are not unsafe and at risk and to people who might be interested in burning Alaskan coal that they do have good options.  People need the truth so they can make informed decisions, not misleading statements masquerading as fact to advance a particular agenda.
Coal Letter for Alaska

12 Comments

  1. Harman Stoves was contacted on Oct 3. Perhaps they have reconsidered their position but that is news to me. Good on you for posting their letter to defend your use of their product. However, your reckless effort to smear folks’ and organization’s good names and throw such allegations and judgements and declarations around is quite frivolous besides defamatory and libelous. This effort remains all about public safety and awareness no matter how hard you try to create some conspiracy or deceit. Perhaps you should reread the Fire Marshal’s announcement before reaching such absolute conclusions. He confirmed without equivocation that sub-bituminous coal should not be used in stoves designed and certified for anthracite. The message is know your stove.

    From: Harman Customer Service

    Their message to me was confidential and offered in the light of public safety. The letter you solicited for public display was over a month after their first pronouncement and was offered as a defense.

    If I were you I’d check with your insurance agent and Underwriters Laboratories Engineers before further slandering anyone.
    To: russXXXXXXXXXXX
    Sent: Thursday, October 3, 2013 4:15 AM
    Subject: RE: Alaska (Thread:372763)

    Thank you for your inquiry.

    Unfortunately our stoves will not work properly with sub-bituminous coal. We do not have a forced air system. Hope you have good fortune in finding a coal unit for your use.

    Thank you,
    Tony O.
    Hearth Expert
    Warranty/Tech Support
    ………………………………………………………………………..
    HHT_Logo_Tag

    hfxtechsupport@hearthnhome.com
    http://www.hearthnhome.com
    ………………………………………………………………………..
    Notice: This communication is intended to be privileged and confidential to the person to whom it is addressed, and it is subject to copyright protection. If you are not the intended recipient or the agent of the intended recipient, please do not read, copy or use this communication or show to any other person. Instead, please notify the sender immediately by telephone and then delete it from your systems.

    • Russ, you are wrong once again. You stated in your comment:
      “Perhaps you should reread the Fire Marshal’s announcement before reaching such absolute conclusions. He confirmed without equivocation that sub-bituminous coal should not be used in stoves designed and certified for anthracite.”

      I have read the Fire Marshall’s announcement at:
      http://www.dps.alaska.gov/Fire/docs/news/179.pdf
      and the Fire Marshall never stated this. What the Fire Marshall actually stated was:
      “Just as it is important to use dry seasoned wood in a woodstove to prevent the buildup of creosote in the chimney, it is just as important to check the moisture content in the type of coal that you are burning. Only use a grade of coal that is recommended by the manufacturer of your heating equipment.”

      The letter from Hearth & Home does exactly what the Fire Marshall said to do – check with the manufacturer to see if burning Alaskan coal is safe in their stove that you have. Hearth & Home confirmed exactly that – there is no safety issue with burning Alaskan coal in Harman coal stoves.

      It’s irrelevant that the letter was a month later than your inquiry. I contacted them right after the SCN article posted.

      And while you’re responding to me, you never responded to my request from 11/3/13 posted on Heidi’s article. I’ll reprint it here for your convenience:

      “Russ, I’m doing further research on the topics in this article to validate them or highlight further corrections if needed. While not in the article itself, you said in your comment: “And thanks to Neil Wasmund for pointing out the fact that folks are unsafely burning coal in woodstoves in Seward or this useful information never would have been fully understood.”

      I’ve reviewed all the comments made by Neil Wasmund on the previous article (http://sewardcitynews.com/2013/09/residents-raise-coal-burning-concerns/) and do not see anything of the sort and Google does not yield any other references. Please provide the link to where Neil Wasmund made those comments so we can all read the primary source.”

      • The topic is coal quality and making sure to use the appropriate fuel in the right stove, remember? If I have learned anything in life it is one cannot win a war of words with an angry woman. Nor will I try. Your serial obfuscation of every word I write and grandiose speculation as to what motivates me and my intentions are not adding anything to this forum and frankly reveal that you do not know me in the least. And honestly your obsessive behavior is creeping me out. Along with my kids and grandkids. Please do not further address me or mince my words or otherwise cast aspersions on my good name or those I am affiliated with. I will engage in deliberative dialogue with anyone who is respectful and doesn’t hide behind aliases at anytime, that being said I have much more pressing matters to attend to at this time than entertaining your whims. Good luck with your coal stoves, ma’am.

  2. Sissy, the letter from Hearth and Home states that they only test with anthracite coal. If they have not tested with bituminous and sub-bituminous coal; how can they make the statement that it is safe? I understand overheating would be best tested by using the anthracite coal, but the explosive components of coal with high water content should be tested in their stoves also, especially if they are selling them to people for that purpose. I would think that their statements in this letter could possibly open them up to litigation in this case.

    • Summer, if you have that question, I recommend you contact Hearth & Home and ask them as there’s no way I could respond for them. They are one of the largest stove companies in the country and I am certain they would be savvy enough to not expose themselves to potential litigation. I told Hearth & Home I’d be sharing their response publicly before they provided the letter to me.

      So their answer, on top of years of first-hand non-explosive experience burning Alaskan coal in Harman coal stoves, which is real-life testing, is good enough for me. If it’s not good enough for you or others, feel free to do the research and publish documentation from Hearth & Home with their response.

  3. This post is irresponsible and misinforms those who burn coal. What matters is what the manual says and what type of coal is used.

    Harmon’s design engineer is misinformed that Alaska coal may be bituminous. Usibelli’s testing on Healy coal BTU shows their coal to be lignite A but other testing shows it may grade as high as subbituminous C. Regardless, it will be millions of years before Healy coal can be ranked as high-value anthracite or bituminous.

    Further, the letter from the Harmon design engineer omitted the fuel use caution in the Harmon TLC-2000 manual. The Harmon manual included the caution to protect not the user, but to protect Harmon from liability.

    Harmon TLC-2000 manual, http://hearthnhome.com/downloads/installManuals/TLC2000.pdf

    “Anthracite coal, pea or nut size, is the primary fuel for which the TLC2000 is designed. Bituminous coal may also be burned but the results will vary due to the variation in bituminous coal from region to region. CAUTION: Use of fuels other than those specified will void the product warranty and may pose a risk to personal health and safety.”

    • SCN reader – When I contacted Hearth & Home, I gave them the link to the Usibelli website so that they could see the Usibelli coal data sheet as part of their consideration. I told them that Usibelli indicates sub-bituminous C but the Clean Air Fairbanks has claimed it is Lignite A. So Hearth & Home had that coal data sheet information before their response.

      You stated:
      “Usibelli’s testing on Healy coal BTU shows their coal to be lignite A but other testing shows it may grade as high as subbituminous C.”
      Please provide a link to whatever source you are referencing that it’s Lignite A. However, if your source is Clean Air Fairbanks, don’t waste the keystrokes as they do not meet my criteria as a reliable source of factual information.

      If you want to refer only to a manual and ignore what the manufacturer design engineer states when specifically asked, go right ahead.

      I anticipated that someone would bring up the warranty question since it wasn’t specifically addressed in the letter. It wasn’t in the original letter because it wasn’t part of my original question to Harman as personally I didn’t care about the warranty as we’ve already burned Alaskan coal in our Harman stoves so the point for us is moot. But I wrote Hearth & Home this morning and got the following response today:

      “On Nov 7, 2013, at 12:59 PM,

      Sissy,

      The labels on Harman coal stoves list “Coal” as the approved fuel, with no information regarding type, moisture content etc. The warranty would not be void as long as the stove is being operated and maintained in accordance with the Owner’s Manual.

      Thank you,

      Ty Shoop
      Hearth Expert
      Technical Support Specialist”

      • By Usibelli’s numbers, Healy coal is lignite A. If you prefer to dress a pig in lace, call it subbituminous C. Regardless, there’s no data to support calling Healy coal anthracite or bituminous. Anyone burning Healy coal in a Harmon TLC-2000 has violated the warranty and UL certification. Your insurance company, mortgage lender, volunteer firefighters, and neighbors should be advised of the risk of explosions and fires due to your misuse.

        Sissy, you are a danger to yourself and your Seward neighbors. Further, your participation in this comment thread is evidence that you have been informed your coal burning constitutes misuse of your stove and increases the risk to safety. Any harm that you may cause will carry additional liability for reckless and knowing.

        Do yourself a favor. Carefully read the advice Mr. Shoop gave you, “The warranty would not be void as long as the stove is being operated and maintained in accordance with the Owner’s Manual.”

        Then look at the data and original sources below. You can’t ignore the original sources just because it was published in the Clean Air Fairbanks report http://cleanairfairbanks.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/caf-report-alaska-heating-coal-may-violate-manufacturer-fuel-use-requirements. Or do your own legwork if you prefer. Meanwhile, stop violating the manual for your coal stove by burning wet, low-grade coal.

        Usibelli Test Results:
        27 – 30% moisture content Gross As Received Range
        7,200 – 7,740 Btu/lb Gross As Received Range
        Source: Usibelli, Healy Coal Data Sheet http://www.usibelli.com/Coal-data.php

        Rank by Heat Content:
        Lignite A = 6,300 – 8,300 Btu/lb
        Subbituminous C = 8,300 – 9,500 Btu/lb
        Source: Gareth D. Mitchell, Coal and Organic Petrology Labs, Pennsylvania State University http://www.steel.org/en/Making%20Steel/How%20Its%20Made/Processes/Processes%20Info/Coal%20Utilization%20in%20the%20Steel%20Industry.aspx

        Moisture Content for Low Ranks of Coal:
        Subbituminous = 10 – 45%
        Lignite = 30 – 60%
        Source: Indiana Center for Coal Technology Research http://www.purdue.edu/discoverypark/energy/assets/pdfs/cctr/outreach/Basics8-CoalCharacteristics-Oct08.pdf page 13

        Harmon TLC-2000 Manual:
        “Anthracite coal, pea or nut size, is the primary fuel for which the TLC2000 is designed. Bituminous coal may also be burned but the results will vary due to the variation in bituminous coal from region to region.”
        “CAUTION: Use of fuels other than those specified will void the product warranty and may pose a risk to personal health and safety.”
        “OMNI-Test Laboratories Report # 135-S-28-4”
        “UL 1482, UL 737, ULC-S627”
        Source: Harmon TLC-2000 Manual http://hearthnhome.com/downloads/installManuals/TLC2000.pdf

        • SCN Reader – I have to say your arrogance is truly amazing. Have you been building stoves for 30 years? Are you one of the biggest stove builders in the entire country? Yet you think you know more about this than Harman/Hearth & Home and that what you state matters more than what they state. Truly amazing.

          As I stated in my previous comment to you, when I called Hearth & Home with my original question, I gave them the link for the Usibelli coal data sheet so that they could review that before providing an answer. I even told them some claimed the coal was Lignite A. Their response was an unequivocal reply that there is no safety issue with burning Alaskan coal in Harman coal stoves and it does not void the warranty. So what label the coal has is not that important – Hearth & Home saw the data on the coal and said there is no problem.

          No one is claiming Healy coal is anthracite. I didn’t, Hearth & Home didn’t and Usibelli didn’t. Hearth and Home mentioned bituminous in their letter, but they also mentioned sub-bituminous. So your comment that “there’s no data to support calling Healy coal anthracite or bituminous” is both correct and irrelevant.

          Your comment that I’ve been “informed” is hilarious in it’s arrogance. I actually chuckled out loud when I read that. I haven’t been “informed” of anything. All that’s been stated are a bunch of opinions, a lot of misinformation and verbal bullying trying to force others into doing what you and the rest of the anti-coal contingent want. It must really torque you off that you have no power or authority on this matter.

          You are obviously so entrenched in your position that you are beyond the point of reason or even being able to consider a different point of view. When I read Heidi’s original article and then the Clean Air Fairbanks op-ed – oops “report” – I said to myself, I want to know if this is true or not, even though the Clean Air Fairbanks source is suspect. So I contacted Hearth & Home to find the answer, got the answer, and shared it with others.

          You think I am 100% wrong and I think you are 100% wrong. You are entitled to your opinion and there are thousands of topics that people don’t agree on. This is one of them.

  4. Burning the wrong coal in Harmon stove may cause: Irrational thoughts – Thinking your right when your wrong – Inability to process basic safety information-Being argumentative-Unable to decipher fact from fiction – Over Blogging.
    Sounds like your burning the wrong coal Sissy.

    • hcss – Other readers can decide for themselves if you they agree with your assessment or not. Everything I’ve written has been factual, includes documentation of my sources, direct quotations and original source material. My goal is to put the truth out into the public domain because there has been so much misinformation about burning coal. I find it interesting your comment didn’t have one substantive issue in it – just a bunch of mud-slinging.

      That’s funny – over blogging – this is the first time I’ve ever posted an article on SCN. How’s that over blogging?

      • Sissy, I believe that mud slinging was exactly what you were doing earlier in this post. And actually thank you very much for directing me to google search Mr. Maddox. It’s funny because all I see is a man who cares about Seward and our environment. Someone who has taken abuse and slander for what he believes in, but continues to work even harder for them. I see someone who has volunteered his time and resources to causes that hopefully will keep our air and water clean. Since you’ve got your google page open; why don’t you read a little more about him. And I must say he is much braver than you or I, when he makes a statement he does put his name out there, first and last.