How to Start a Coal Stove Fire
No one told me it would be so hard to start a coal stove when I purchased one. Starting a coal stove is nothing like starting a wood stove fire or a pellet stove fire. Not even close. When you are done reading this, you will be amazed at how simple it can be.
Some people will have you believe that it just takes patience. Bulls**t! I went online to see how other people start their stoves and found a few different ways people go about it. Below, I detail one method that hasn't let me down yet, as well as two other methods that haven't worked for me (but still might work for you).
Use a Heat Gun
Digging around online, I found a way to start your coal stove every time and not have to worry about building a fire with paper or wood or use charcoal briquettes and sit there for hours on end.
I use a . Some people use heat guns for stripping paint, heat shrinking electrical wires for automotive applications, and welding plastics together. I use one to start my coal stove. I know it sounds crazy, but once you try it, you will stop wasting your time and money on other useless methods. heat gun with a rating of 750 oF to 1000 oF
Wear some welder's gloves or any fireproof or fire-resistant gloves. I also suggest wearing safety glasses when lighting coal because small pieces tend to pop off like popcorn. You'll thank me later.
- Stick the end of heat gun onto the middle of the grate.
- Pile up some coal at the tip of the heat gun. You do not need to cover the tip; just pile them up against it.
- Turn your heat gun on high and close the door as much as possible. I know your arm is in the way—just close it a bit to keep as much of the fumes in the stove as possible.
- Hold the heat gun in this position until you the coal starts to light about 2 inches around. This takes approximately 2-3 minutes.
- Plug your stove in and make sure the blower is on. It helps to have someone there to plug it in when it's ready. I do this alone every time, and it always works. Just make sure your fire is big enough before plugging in or it will go out. It will be very bright so don't look directly at the fire.
Keep in mind, the end of the heat gun is going to be extremely hot after you use it, so be very careful not to touch it or place it on anything that will catch fire. This is where having those heavy duty gloves comes in handy; I have made the mistake of accidentally touching the end after use. Ouch!
Good luck, and if it doesn't work the first time, make sure you have some coal in the end of the heat gun. Afterwards, make sure you dump out any coal that is left in the end of the heat gun.
Other Methods That Might Work
Use Paper or Dry Kindling
- Start a small fire using some paper or dry kindling.
- Add small pieces of hardwood when the fire is burning hot. Keep the draft control fully open until a hot fire is established.
- When a decent bed of red wood embers builds up, start adding coal—small amounts at a time. Keep the draft control open!
- Continue adding small amounts of coal until there is a 1” to 2” bed of burning coal. Don’t add too much coal at one time, and allow sufficient time between each load for the coal to thoroughly ignite.
- It is important, at this point, to fill the stove to the highest level possible. A deep bed of coal is critical for the proper function of all coal stoves. Since coal can be regulated better than wood, a deep bed does not mean that you can only run the stove hot; rather, you can control the heat by setting the air control on your stove.
- After all the coal has been ignited and is burning with a blue flame, the draft control can be turned down. Serious damage can result if the stove is run wide open for extended periods of time. Make sure that the ash pan door is closed at all times.
Sounds easy, right? Not at all! You will be sitting in front of your stove for a while. It took me an hour to get the coals to catch fire!
Use Match Light Charcoal
This is another method I found online. Other brands of solid charcoal starter (e.g. Royal Oak and Minute Light) might do the job as well. This method eliminates the mess of wood.
- Spread the charcoal out until it barely covers the grate and put a small amount of coal on top. Don’t cover the charcoal completely!
- Light the charcoal. Open air controls all the way.
- When the coal is burning with a blue flame, add more coal as before.
Never use liquid starters on a coal or wood stove. Starters with large quantities of wax or softwood in them may not burn hot enough.
Always make sure that your chimney is drafting upward before you start your stove. Some chimneys have a tendency to reverse while not in use. In most cases the following procedure will start the chimney:
- Place a small piece of newspaper as far up the chimney as possible and light it.
- When it burns and gets pulled up the chimney, begin lighting the coal.
- Never poke or stir the coal fire when starting or at any other time. Coal fires like to be left alone; many former wood burners tend to fool around with their coal fires, thereby, putting them out!
Be warned; it's not as easy as it sounds! I tried the lighting Match Light charcoal and did everything this procedure told me to do, and all I ended up with was a cellar full of smoke and fumes. I have never started a coal stove this way. I tried for—and I am not kidding—4.5 hours, to no avail. This person made it sound so simple. It's not. Period.
You can also try using these little coal starters that some people refer to as coal mice. They are 2-inch boxes that have a fuse sticking out. You are supposed to put the box on top of the grate where your coal fire would be.
- Pile some coal on top of the box and then light the fuse with a long candle or BBQ grill lighter.
- Close the door, and when the box ignites, plug in your coal stove and tada, your stove is up and burning. Maybe.
These little coal mice are only $1.50 per box; some places are a little more expensive than that. They can work but not all the time. I went through two of these boxes the first time I used them. The second time, I went through three. Just about every time I need to start my coal stove again, I go through 2-4 coal mice. A lot of the time, these things are duds and do not work. It costs me $3-$5 to start the stove, and I have to restart my stove every 4-5 weeks because of cleaning—yes, you need to shut down the stove every few weeks to clean it or it will not function properly. So, on average, it costs me $18 to $30 to restart my coal stove during the winter.
I highly recommend trying the heat gun method. It has worked for me without fail and has saved me both time and money.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.