Shopping for a coal-burning stove?
You’ve come to the right place.
Wait, Are Coal Stoves Still Around?
While coal is no longer a common heating fuel in American homes, it is still around, and it’s completely legal.
You can use coal to heat your home since it burns hotter and longer than wood and leaves very little ash.
Like wood, you have to be extra-cautious with safety, ensuring the stove is appropriately set up to exhaust gasses outside.
The main downside of coal-burning stoves is that they are getting harder and harder to find. Amazon and other online stores have limited variety, as do brick and mortar stores.
But there are still a few companies such as Legacy Stoves, US Stove, and Alaska Company that make high-quality coal-burning stoves.
What’s In This Buying Guide
- 1 What’s In This Buying Guide
- 2 Best Coal Burning Stoves
- 3 1. Our Top Pick: Alaska Company Channing III
- 4 2. Best For Large Homes: Legacy Stoves Mark III
- 5 3. Best for Small Homes: Legacy Stoves Mark I
- 6 4. Best For Cooking & Heating: US Stove SR57E The Rancher
- 7 5. Best Coal Circulator Stove: US Stove BCAC Automatic Coal Circulator Heater
- 8 6. Best With Modern Design: Legacy Stoves TLC 2000
- 9 7. Best With Vintage Design: US Stove 1869 Caboose Potbelly Coal Stove
- 10 Coal Burning Stove Buying Guide
- 11 Pros & Cons Of Using A Coal Burning Stove
- 12 Frequently Asked Questions
- 13 Final Verdict: Which Is The Best Coal Burning Stove Sold Today?
We’ve done our best to hunt down the best coal-burning stoves. We review them in this guide and tell you where you can buy them.
We also look at coal-burning stoves in more detail, including their safety, efficiency, and heating performance.
If you prefer burning wood instead, see our reviews of the best wood-burning fireplace insert. An insert is safer and more efficient than an open fireplace. (link to guide)
If you want to keep using your open fireplace, then make sure you get a fireplace screen for added safety. (link to guide)
Best Coal Burning Stoves
- Our Top Pick: Alaska Company Channing III
- Best For Large Homes: Legacy Stoves Mark III
- Best for Small Homes: Legacy Stoves Mark I
- Best For Cooking & Heating: US Stove SR57E The Rancher
- Best Coal Circulator Stove: US Stove BCAC Automatic Coal Circulator Heater
- Best With Modern Design: Legacy Stoves TLC 2000
- Best With Vintage Design: US Stove 1869 Caboose Potbelly Coal Stove
- Our top pick
22W x 32D x 37.5H in
- Best for large homes
Pea or nut coal
25W x 24D x 32.5H in
- Best for small homes
Pea or nut coal
20W x 19D x 32H in
- Best for cooking & heating
24W x 20D x 28H in
BCAC coal circulator
- Best circulator stove
33.5W x 26D x 34.2H in
- Best modern
25.7W x 18.5D x 35H in
- Best vintage
21.6W x 19.5D x 36H in
1. Our Top Pick: Alaska Company Channing III
The Alaska Company Channing III is a compact, good looking, and powerful coal-burning stove. It combines a coal stove’s high heating performance and efficiency with the charm of a wood stove, complete with a viewing window where you can watch the coals crackling and glowing.
- Looks great.
- Includes viewing window.
- It can be connected to a wall thermostat.
- Can heat large spaces up to 2,500 sf.
- It only runs on rice coal.
The Channing III is available in several finishes, but we particularly love the brick red option since it’s unique and blends well with most home decors.
We also love the viewing window – not all coal stoves have it. You can enjoy the heat from the stove as well as the sight of coals burning.
Talking of heat, the Alaska Channing III has a max output of 85,000 BTU. Combined with the 265 CFM blower, it easily warms homes up to 2,500 square feet, and that’s enough to heat multiple rooms or a large open basement.
You can adjust heat levels using the integrated auto heat control box. Simply select a number between 1 and 5 to increase or reduce heat output.
For finer temperature control, the manufacturer says you can connect the Channing III stove to a wall thermostat. Check the manual for thermostat requirements and how to go about the connection.
The hopper in the Channing III has a 100lbs capacity. Once you fill it, you can enjoy continuous heat for several days.
The Channing III also comes with an ash pan and a rheostat to control blower speed.
Issues & Limitations
The Alaska Channing III only runs on coal, specifically rice coal, which can be hard to find in some areas. So make sure you can get a steady supply of rice coal before purchasing the Channing III.
The Alaska Company Channing III is best for: Anyone looking for a well-designed and powerful coal-burning stove that can heat a small to medium-sized home.
Avoid if: There’s no store selling rice coal near your home. Also not suitable for large homes bigger than 2,500 sf.
2. Best For Large Homes: Legacy Stoves Mark III
For heating large homes, we recommend the Legacy Stoves Mark III. With a max output of 92,000 BTUs, the Mark III heats homes up to 4,900 square feet.
- Powerful heating performance.
- Great for large homes.
- The Blower system improves heat distribution.
- It can be used with different coal sizes.
- No option to connect the thermostat.
- No hopper – you have to refill the stove daily.
Despite its compact size, the Legacy Stoves Mark III burns hot enough to heat homes up to 4,900 square feet.
It accepts different coal sizes, including nut and pea coal, giving owners more options.
The Mark III uses a specially designed baffle to increase heat output and reduce heat loss through the chimney. It also comes with a blower to help spread heat further and faster throughout the house.
The Mark III is made from ¼-inch steel, ensuring it’ll serve you for years. It comes with a ten-year warranty, but most owners have had theirs for way longer than that.
The design of the Mark III stove is a mix of modern and traditional. It’ll look great in any room. To add to the room’s coziness, the Mark III has a viewing window so you can enjoy the look of coals burning.
Issues & Limitations
As far as we can tell, there doesn’t seem to be a way to connect the Mark III stove to a thermostat for fine heat control.
The only way to control heat on the Mark III is by closing and opening the intake damper.
Another major limitation of the Mark III is that it doesn’t come with a large hopper. The stove holds just enough coal to last between 12 and 24 hours, depending on the type of coal and how cold it is.
Unlike some stoves that you can leave burning for days, the Mark III needs to be refilled daily.
The Legacy Stoves Mark III is best for: Large homes up to around 5,000 square feet.
Avoid if: You have a small home (the Mark III is overkill). Also not suitable if you’ll not be around to refill the stove with coal daily. We recommend the Super Magnum Stoker instead. Its 100lbs hopper can keep the stove burning for 100 hours.
3. Best for Small Homes: Legacy Stoves Mark I
The Legacy Stoves Mark I is the smaller sibling to the Mark III and Mark II coal-burning stoves. Being the smallest of the three, it’s perfectly sized for smaller homes up to 1,500 square feet.
- Efficient heating for smaller spaces.
- Compact space-saving design.
- Includes viewing window.
- Doesn’t connect to the thermostat.
- No hopper.
The Legacy Stoves Mark I stove is similar to the Mark III in every way except size and heat output, so we won’t repeat any details we’ve already mentioned above.
The Mark I is slightly narrower, measuring 20” wide and 19” deep, so it shouldn’t take up too much space in small rooms.
Heat output tops out at 48,000 BTU, enough to heat spaces between 900 and 1,500 square feet. It’s perfect for heating a small home, a single level, or a large continuous space like an open living room or a basement.
It’s also a great way to add heat to a large garage or workshop.
Issues & Limitations
Similar to the Mark III, the Mark I stove doesn’t connect to a thermostat, so you don’t have a way to finely control heat.
It also lacks a hopper. Each load lasts 24 hours max, less if it’s cold or you are using fast-burning coal.
The Legacy Stoves Mark I is best for: Small homes or large continuous spaces like a basement or garage.
Avoid if: You want to heat a large home. Get the Mark III instead.
4. Best For Cooking & Heating: US Stove SR57E The Rancher
If you grew up with one of those coal-burning stoves that also warmed or cooked food, The Rancher from US Stove has the same versatility.
It is a cooking range as well as a heating appliance.
- Cooks and heats.
- Beautiful vintage design.
- A wide flat top accommodates multiple pots and pans.
- Compact and space-saving.
- It can be used with bituminous or anthracite coal.
- Only heats small spaces up to 1000 sf.
The SR57E Rancher coal-burning stove is one of the most practical stoves. Its compact design fits nicely in small spaces, and it looks great as well.
Most importantly, it can heat and cook at the same time. Once you start a fire and add coal, the wide flat top becomes hot enough to cook food.
The main downside here is that you can’t instantly turn down or increase heat when cooking, and that’s why the Rancher stove works best for slow cooker recipes. Just put a big pot of pot roast and let it simmer for hours.
The stove is also great for quickly frying foods like meat or eggs. When heat is low, you can also use it to keep a pot of coffee warm.
As for heating, the Rancher warms spaces up to 1,000 square feet, despite having a 60,000 BTU output. That’s not surprising considering its size and the fact that it doesn’t have a blower to spread the heat.
We recommend using the Rancher as a supplemental heater to bring down the cost of your oil or electric heating bill, and it’s especially great for heating specific rooms.
The SR57E Rancher stove features a durable and rugged cast iron construction. You’ll likely use it for decades.
There’s a spin draft control that regulates how much air is coming in and thus how hot the stove gets. Other features include a large ash pan and shaker grate.
Issues & Limitations
The Rancher stove is not meant to heat an entire home since its maximum coverage is 1000 SF. If you want to keep your entire home warm, consider one of the other stoves we’ve reviewed. Look for the one that matches the size of your home.
The SR57E Rancher is best for: Anyone looking for an old-timeycoal-burning stove that doubles up as a cooking range.
Avoid if: You want a dedicated coal-burning stove that can heat your entire home.
5. Best Coal Circulator Stove: US Stove BCAC Automatic Coal Circulator Heater
Coal circulator stoves run more efficiently than ordinary stoves. They are also safer and more versatile. Our favorite pick is the BCAC automatic coal circulator heater from US Stove.
It not only heats your home, but you can also cook on it.
- Heat small and medium-sized homes up to 2,000 square feet.
- Warming/cooking surface on top of the stove.
- Efficient heating.
- Safer for kids and pets.
- Looks more modern than most stoves.
- Non-electric thermostat.
- Takes up more space than an ordinary stove.
- No viewing window.
The BCAC coal circulator consists of the main stove set within a metal box with grills on the front. This creates a pocket of air between the stove and the outer box.
This design supercharges convection, allowing the stove to quickly heat the pocket of air around it. This air goes out into the room and is replaced by cold air. That’s why such stoves are called circulators.
Coal circulators are generally more efficient compared to ordinary stoves. They heat your home faster and burn for longer.
They are also safer since the outer box doesn’t get as hot as the stove itself.
Another advantage of this unique design is that the stove looks a lot more modern compared to other stoves. If you are not a big fan of the classic style of most coal stoves, you might love the BCAC coal circulator.
While the manufacturer doesn’t specify the BTU output, the BCAC coal circulator is rated to warm spaces up to 2,000 square feet. It’s ideal for small and medium-sized homes or large open spaces like a basement or garage.
For heat control, the BCAC coal circulator comes with a non-electric bi-metallic thermostat. Once you set your preferred heat level on the dial, the thermostat will automatically open and close the damper to keep your home at a consistent temperature.
The BCAC coal circulator also doubles up as a cooking stove. When you lift the top of the outer box, you can access the hot surface of the stove inside. You can use pans and pots on this surface or leave a pot of coffee on it to keep it warm.
Issues & Limitations
One downside of coal circulator stoves is that they take up more space than an ordinary stove. Considering the clearance required around the stove, the BCAC coal circulator may not be ideal for some small homes.
The BCAC coal circulator is best for: Anyone shopping for a coal circulator stove that can heat their entire home or multiple rooms.
Avoid if: You want a compact, space-saving coal-burning stove.
6. Best With Modern Design: Legacy Stoves TLC 2000
If you don’t want the boxy design of a circulator stove but still want something modern-looking, we recommend the TLC 2000 from Legacy Stoves.
The stove is set on a pedestal, making it look like one of those chic wood stoves. The extra-large viewing window adds to its modern style.
- Modern style.
- Can heat large spaces up to 3,000 square feet.
- Doubles up as a cooking grill.
- Extra-deep firebox for longer burn time.
- Large viewing window.
- The cooking grill is small.
- Doesn’t come with a blower.
While it does have some classic elements, the TLC 2000 has a mostly modern styling. The pedestal design looks great, as does the matte black finish and the silver trim around the viewing window.
The viewing window is much bigger than in other stoves. It adds a cozy feel to the room when the fire gets going.
The TLC 2000 has a max output of 72,000 BTUs, good enough for heating homes up to 3,000 square feet.
It runs best on anthracite coal, but you can also use bituminous coal. But anthracite coal produces the most consistent heating.
Thanks to the extra-deep firebox, the TLC 2000 can burn longer than most coal stoves – up to 48 hours.
The TLC 2000 doesn’t have a thermostat of any kind. The only way to control heat is by adjusting air intake.
We’ve seen coal-burning stoves that also have a cooking surface. But the TLC 2000 is the first coal stove that also works as a grill.
You’ll need to get the grill separately. It fits in a slot on top of the stove directly over the coals. You can even close the lid over the grill to let the meat smoke and slow cook.
Issues & Limitations
Our only complaint is the size of the grill. It’s too small to grill a family-size meal. Think of it more as a one or two-person grill.
Another thing to note is that the TLC 2000 doesn’t come with a blower, so it takes time before the heat spreads throughout your home. But you can buy it separately.
The Legacy Stoves TLC 2000 is best for: Anyone looking for a modern coal-burning stove that can heat a large home.
Avoid if: You prefer the classic/vintage look of other stoves.
7. Best With Vintage Design: US Stove 1869 Caboose Potbelly Coal Stove
The US Stove 1869 potbelly coal stove resembles one of those vintage stoves that were common in train stations. It’s an excellent choice for those who want a vintage-style coal stove in their home.
- Beautiful classic style.
- Durable cast iron construction.
- The flat top can be used for cooking.
- Compact – great for small spaces.
- Only heats small spaces.
- Requires frequent reloading.
The US Stove 1869 potbelly coal stove is a good conversation starter. It has a classic style, complete with the potbelly design, cast iron construction, and flat cooktop.
The stove has a compact design that takes up minimal space in smaller rooms. It produces up to 65,000 BTUs and can heat spaces up to 1,200 square feet.
The limited heating area makes the 1869 stove perfect for heating small (non-mobile) homes and large open spaces like a basement.
The top of the stove has a thick flat lid that lifts to provide access to the firepot. This makes it easy to add more coal from the top.
The firepot holds about 40lbs of coal, enough for about 8 hours of burn time. You can use anthracite or bituminous coal.
The stovetop doubles up as a cooktop. You can cook or warm food on the surface.
For heat control, the 1869 potbelly stove uses a slide draft control that lets you adjust how much air gets in.
Issues & Limitations
If you are looking for a coal stove that can heat a large home, this is not it. The 1869 potbelly stove is small and only heats up to 1,200 square feet.
Its small size also means you have to refill the firepot frequently with coal. While most coal stoves can go for at least 24 hours on a single load, the 1869 stove has a burn time of just 8 hours.
The US Stove 1869 Caboose Potbelly Coal Stove is best for: Anyone looking for a vintage-style coal-burning stove.
Avoid if: You prefer a modern-looking coal stove.
Coal Burning Stove Buying Guide
Advantages of Coal Burning Stoves (vs. Pellet Stoves)
The most significant advantage of a coal-burning stove is its heat output. Coal produces much more heat compared to the same amount of pellets.
A small coal-burning stove could easily put out 60,000 BTUs or more of heat, while a similar size pellet stove will have an output of less than 20,000 BTUs.
You’d have to get a large pellet stove to get a lot of heat from it.
If you have a big home or space to heat, or you get really cold winters, a coal-burning stove will keep your home warm and cozy with less coal.
When you run the numbers, you’ll find that a coal-burning stove will cost you less to run compared to a pellet or wood stove. This is especially so if coal is easy to find in your location.
Many people assume that coals produce a lot of ash and are messy. But this really depends on the type of coal. It’s the same way different types of pellets will produce varying amounts of ash.
If you burn high-quality anthracite coal, it’s not that messy. And since coal stoves come with a removable ash pan, dumping the ash is not a hassle.
Is A Coal Stove Safe To Use?
The other big reason most homeowners hesitate to get a coal stove is safety. Coal is not exactly a popular fuel right now, and people worry it could pollute indoor air.
Burning coal carries the same hazards as burning pellets or wood – harmful gasses could enter your home and affect your family’s health. Some of these gasses like carbon dioxide and monoxide can be deadly if they build up.
However, if you install and operate a coal stove properly, it’s totally safe. The most important part is to make sure the stove is adequately vented as directed in the user manual.
A well-vented coal stove safely exhausts gasses outside.
Some coal stoves have catalytic combustors that re-burn gasses produced by the burning coal, ensuring a cleaner fire.
It also goes without saying that you should have smoke and carbon dioxide detectors installed in your home. This applies even if you have a pellet or wood stove.
For maximum safety and peace of mind, only have a qualified professional install your new coal stove.
Also, follow the instructions provided in the user manual to the letter. This includes clearance distance from walls and combustible materials, floor protection, use of a damper, and so on.
Also, carefully read the instructions on using the coal stove. Coal stoves require a bit more work to start up and maintain. Failure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions can emit gasses into your home or cause a fire.
What To Look For When Buying A Coal Stove
Before you even start looking at coal stoves, check whether you have easy access to coal. Specifically anthracite coal.
Anthracite coal is more expensive than bituminous coal, but it burns hotter and cleaner.
Coal is getting harder to find. Your local government may have restrictions on buying or using coal. In other places, it’s hard to find coal locally.
If you live in the UK, the government is already in the process of banning coal-burning stoves.
Before you buy a coal-burning stove, make sure it’s legal to burn coal in your area and that you can get a continuous supply of high-quality coal. With that sorted, here’s what else to consider when buying a coal-burning stove.
1. BTU & Heating Area
The first thing to consider is how big a stove you want. Not in terms of size, but heat output. Look for the BTUs.
The smallest coal-burning stoves come in at around 50,000-60,000 BTUs, while large ones can produce 120,000 BTUs or more of heat. The bigger the space you want to heat, the bigger the stove you should get.
The BTU rating will usually be accompanied by the maximum area the stove can heat, which will help you choose the right stove.
If you have a small home or want to heat a large continuous space like a garage or workshop, a small 50,000 to 70,000 BTU coal-burning stove will do. These stoves can heat spaces up to 2,000 square feet.
For a medium-sized home or heating a single level of your home (2,000 to 4,000 sf.), get a 70,000 to 90,000 BTU coal-burning stove.
For large homes, get a 90,000+ BTU coal-burning stove.
2. Type & Position of Vent
The next thing to check is the venting requirements of a particular coal-burning stove. If you already have a chimney, look for a coal-burning stove that can be vented vertically through the chimney.
Note that most coal stoves don’t come with the stovepipe that passes through the chimney. You have to buy it separately and any additional accessories such as a barometric damper.
If you don’t have a chimney, look for a coal-burning stove with a vent at the rear. It’s usually located at the bottom of the back of the stove.
You can then have a professional install venting through the wall.
Also, check whether the stove uses a direct or power vent. Direct venting uses the natural movement of air to exhaust gasses and draw in the fresh air, whereas power venting uses a fan to force exhaust gasses out and bring in new air.
Both options are safe and work great. However, do keep in mind that a power vented coal stove will be useless in a power outage.
3. Hand Fired vs. Stoker
A majority of coal-burning stoves are hand-fired. That means that you are the one to start a fire in the stove and add coal.
You also have to manually add coal every few hours or days.
This is part of the reason why coal stoves can be a bit of a hassle to operate. They require careful tending to make sure they are working right. On the upside, most hand-fired stoves don’t rely on electricity (unless they have a blower) and will keep working even during an outage.
If you have a bigger budget, look for a stoker stove. It requires less work to operate. Stoker stoves have a large hopper that stores 100lbs or more of coal.
An auger system automatically delivers fresh coal to the firebox to keep the fire burning. Stoker stoves are usually connected to a thermostat, which tells the stove when to add more coal to a fire and where to position the air intake damper to increase or lower the fire.
4. Type of Coal
Check whether the manufacturer has special requirements on the type and size of coal you can use with a particular stove.
There are two main types of coal used in coal-burning stoves: anthracite and bituminous coal.
Anthracite coal is more expensive, but it burns hotter and cleaner since it has fewer impurities. It’s the one most manufacturers recommend. But some also allow bituminous coal.
As for size, some stoves can work with different coal sizes like nut, pea, rice, and stove. Others work only with a specific size of coal.
Make sure you can get the particular coal in your area.
5. Burn Time
Burn time refers to how long you can go before adding fresh coal to a stove.
With a coal stove, you should never let it die down unless you won’t be using it for several months. That’s because starting it up again is a tedious job.
Whenever the stove has a bed of red glowing coals, it’s time to add more.
Burn time depends on the capacity of the firebox (or firepot for potbelly stoves) and whether the stove has a hopper.
Some stoves hold only 8-12 hours’ worth of coal, while others can hold enough coal to burn for 24-40 hours.
Stoves with large hoppers can burn for days. Your work will only be shaking the grate to maintain airflow and emptying the ash pan every couple of days.
The longer the burn time, the less of a hassle the stove will be to maintain.
6. Heat Control
How do you control the amount of heat the stove produces?
In most hand-fired coal stoves, you control the heat by adjusting the air intake damper using a dial or knob. Opening the damper wider allows more air in, and the coals burn hotter. Closing the damper limits air intake, which reduces heat output.
Stoker coal stoves typically come with a thermostat, and some can be connected to a wall thermostat. With such a stove, it’s easy to keep your home at a consistent temperature.
7. Cooking Function
Coal-burning stoves get so hot that they can work as cooking appliances.
Coal stoves with a cooking function will feature a flat top where you can place pots and pans. We’ve also seen a couple of coal stoves with a grill function.
If not cooking, you can also use the flat top to keep food or coffee warm.
8. Build Quality
A well-builtcoal-burning stove is essential for safety. The best stoves have a thick steel or cast iron construction with a fire brick-lined interior.
Some of these stoves have a 10-year or lifetime warranty.
Pros & Cons Of Using A Coal Burning Stove
- High heat output – a coal stove can heat your entire home.
- Better value for money – coal is more efficient than pellets or wood.
- Some coal stoves can also cook food.
- Some coal stoves can run without electricity.
- A good coal-burning stove is pricey.
- Requires more work to start and operate compared to a pellet stove.
- Not as environmentally friendly as a pellet stove.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which type of coal do you burn in a coal-burning stove?
Bituminous or anthracite coal. But anthracite coal is the best.
Does coal burn hotter than wood?
Yes, a coal fire will be hotter compared to a wood or wood pellet fire.
Are coal stoves safe?
As long as the stove is adequately vented outdoors and you follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions, a coal-burning stove is safe to use.
Can you burn coal and wood at the same time?
There are some stoves that allow you to burn coal and wood simultaneously. But most specify that you can only burn coal on the stove.
The only time you should use wood is when starting a fire since you will need a bed of burning wood to ignite coals.
Final Verdict: Which Is The Best Coal Burning Stove Sold Today?
In our opinion, the Alaska Company Channing III is the best coal-burning stove for most homes. It looks great, is fairly easy to use, and can heat most small to medium-sized homes.