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The composition of coal varies over such a wide range, and the methods of firing have to be altered so greatly to suit the various coals and the innumerable types of furnaces in which they are burned, that any instructions given for the handling of different fuels must of necessity be of the most general character. For each kind of coal there is some method of firing which will give the best results for each individual set of conditions. General rules can be suggested, but the best results can be obtained only by following such methods as experience and practice show to be the best suited to the specific conditions.
The question of draft is an all important factor. If this be insufficient, proper combustion is impossible, as the suction in the furnace will not be great enough to draw the necessary amount of air through the fuel bed, and the gases may pass off only partially consumed. On the other hand, an excessive draft may cause losses due to the excess quantities of air drawn through holes in the fire. Where coal is burned however, there are rarely complaints from excessive draft, as this can be and should be regulated by the boiler damper to give only the draft necessary for the particular rate of combustion desired. The draft required for various kinds of fuel is treated in detail in the chapter on “Chimneys and Draft”. In this chapter it will be assumed that the draft is at all times ample and that it is regulated to give the best results for each kind of coal.