Best Coal For Narrowboaters! [FUEL 101]

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Many narrowboaters like to use a multi-fuel stove. Walk on to pretty much any narrowboat and you are more than likely to be greeted with one. The question is, what is the best coal to burn in such a stove? Well, if you at all curious please read on. As, as always, if you have your own recommendations feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

What Should You Look For in Narrowboat Coal?

The main requirements for me personally when buying coal for my boat is as follows:

Slow Burn

No-one wants to lug a bag of coal into their boat only for it to burn up quicker than a boy racer on a Friday night! We all want to feel some value in our lives, and slow burning coal is one of them. It also means you don’t have to lug it around as much (it’s pretty heavy stuff).

Low Ash

Ash will make your boat dusty, something that can be annoying if you are house proud (I should say boat proud). So you should experiment with different types of coal and find one that is low ash. A lot of the popular brands these days like to call themselves low ash, so that’s a start!

Temperature

When the coal is burning at full pelt (is that even a saying?), you want to find coal that burns with the highest temperature possible. For the optimal coal, you should make sure to factor this heat alongside the burn rate mentioned above. You may be happy with a slightly lower temperature if the coal burns much longer, for example.

Smell

Whilst our hot coal fire is raging we want to smell a nice wholesome burning smell. However, some coal can have an almost toxic smell that can be off-putting at the best of times.

Which Coal Would I Recommend for your Narrowboat?

Personally, I like eCoal50 by Homefire. Simply put, I have found that this coal burns the longest at the highest temperature. Homefire themselves like to say things such as it giving out ‘80% less smoke’ and up to 33% less CO2. Not sure whether this is true, but it does seem to be low in the smoke department from what I can tell (I am not a coal expert at the best of times!). The coolest part is that this product is made from olive stones. So the next time you are eating those stuffed olives know that you could be contributing to such a product 🙂 The makeup of this product does make it more eco-friendly as far as coal goes.

Click the image below to view this coal over at Amazon and see for yourself…

Of course, this is my own coal of choice based on the criteria I talked about earlier. I would always recommend you to try out several coals yourself and come to your own conclusions. The exact setup in your boat make give you different results. For example, if you have a smaller multi fuel stove you might not warm to (see what I did there) the larger size coal pieces that you get with the ecoal50 coal.

And if you are stuck with an emergency coal need and only a fuel boat to solve it, not to worry, just ask them which coal they recommend. They deliver the stuff pretty much around the clock and most are friendly and willing to give out ‘coal tips’ for free 🙂

Anything Else I Should Consider?

When thinking about coal and narrowboats, here are some other tips…

Price

Be careful when buying coal by the canal side. A lot of marinas might not give you the best price, for example, so make sure you are not getting ripped off. Use the power of the internet to find out the true price for any coal you want to buy and make sure that you are at least paying close to this price. I have seen people paying over the odds for their coal and not even knowing. The only exception is when buying from a coal boat. You are paying for more of a door-to-door service here and frankly I am willing to pay a little extra to support the dieing breed of fuel boats. If you have no idea what I am talking about when I say ‘fuel boat’ you should watch the excellent video below from ‘Cruising the Cut’.

Is Burning Coal on my Narrowboat Eco-friendly?

I think it’s pretty clear that burning coal has an environmental impact. I managed to find an article by Greenpeace that talks about coal as still being one of our biggest polluters. They talk about burning coal as a major problem when it comes to climate change. It produces more carbon dioxide than oil or gas. Burning coal also causes toxic elements like mercury and arsenic to be released into the air, and small particles of soot that contribute to air pollution.

I also found a study by an organisation known as Heal. They state that burning coal can be seen as an established cause of irreversible brain damage in children (from the Mercury that is produced). Mercury eventually accumulates in the environment and food chain, affecting people’s health.

In the interest of balance, both these pieces are referring to the coal fired power stations that are still operational in the UK. These obviously burn way more coal than any group of narrowboaters would. However, it is fair to make you aware of how you may be effecting your environment by burning coal.

Not all Coal is Coal!

There is a physical environmental impact when we mine coal from the ground in the old-fashioned way. However, you can see from this article that not all things we refer to as coal are actually traditional coal. The coal mentioned in this article is in fact made from olive stones. Other boaters swear by using similar coal like substitutes such as firewood briquettes (otherwise known as compacted sawdust pellets). The only downside here is they won’t smoulder quite as well as traditional coal. Just be aware that these coal substitutes exist and may help you lessen the environmental impact in some way. Anthracite mixed cobbles are another one! Talk to your local ‘coal dealer’ for their take on the whole thing 🙂

Now I think that’s enough coal talk for now. I suggest you go get yourself a cup of tea and contemplate your next cruise! Far more exciting 🙂

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