If you live somewhere that coal is an abundant resource (such as Pennsylvania), it's the cheapest heat source you can go with. The fuel cost is inexpensive, starting at about $5 per M/Btu. The price for coal stoves starts at about $1,300, with about $500 more for installation from a professional.
As far as maintenance goes, coal burning stoves do require some. You'll need to clean self-stoking models about once a week, using a stiff brush. (If you go for a manually stoked unit, expect to shake the grates twice a day and shovel the ash once per load.) Every six months or so, you'll want to check the vent pipes to make sure there is no corrosion. And once a year, you should have a technician service the stove.
Let's take a look at the pros and cons now.
Pros of Coal Stoves
- They have a long burn time (depending on the model, you can get 18-20 hours per load).
- If coal is abundant in your area, this is the cheapest way to heat your home through the winter.
- You can avoid manually stoked models for "self-stoking" units that require less work.
Cons of Coal Stoves
- Coal is a non-renewable energy source and not as environmentally friendly as alternative fuels.
- It isn't available in all locations.
- Coal produces sulfur and fly ash that can corrode some metal pipes, so you need to opt for more expensive stainless venting.
Source: Sep. 2006 issue of Home Magazine