Wood heat compared to coal

Asked February 3, 2014, 6:28 PM EST

I read your report -
Penn State Extension's Renewable and Alternative Energy Fact Sheet: Wood Heat for Your Home: Does It Pay Off? - but the comparison is for wood, pellets, oil, and gas but not coal, which for Pennsylvania is interesting. I have a coal fireplace insert and the coal that I get in Carbon County costs $170 a ton. Can you tell me where it fits on the curves?

Montgomery County Pennsylvania

1 Response

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has a Heating Fuel Comparison Calculator (Excel spreadsheet) that may help you.

Energy content of wood can be variable. A big factor is moisture content. Air dried wood is what we hope for and need. Moisture will consume a lot of the energy value. Wood is usually sold by the cord, which make energy value per unit specie depended. Harder woods have more energy per cord than the soft wood. It would be nice to buy wood on an air-dried ton basis. A good cord of hard wood should weigh about 2500 pounds. A cord of air dried hard wood contains about 20 million BTU. On a ton basis, wood has 16 million BTU, anthracite coal has about 29 million, and bituminous coal has 23 million BTU.

At $170 per ton on anthracite, you are getting about 170,600 BTU per dollar. Fuel oil could cost no more that 80 cents per gallon to be that cheap. You might need to add delivery cost to your coal. Hope this helps.