Coal is composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulphur, besides the mineral substances which remain in the ash.
Wood contains the same elements, with the exception of sulphur and nitrogen.
Newcastle coal is considered the best, as it burns without making any dust and leaves very little residue; but it requires to be stirred often, or it cakes and goes out.
Silkstone is a good burner with a very little ash.
Brooch coal burns very brilliantly, and leaves almost no ash. It will burn to the last fragment. It is considered, from its rapid combustion, a very expensive coal.
Anthracite is fit only for hall stoves.
The very cheap coal lately sold in London at 17s. per ton is of use only in the kitchen, as it makes so much dust that it quite destroys the furniture.
Coal contains a certain amount of water, some more, some less; it is therefore most economical to buy it in the hot dry weather, when the water having exuded, the weight will be that of coal, not coal and water. Moreover, coal is sold much more cheaply in the summer than in the winter, the demand for it being less.
The price varies with the seasons and the locality.
Wood makes a cheerful, clean, and pleasant fire, but it is seldom - we may say never - burnt alone in our country. It heats ovens better than any other fuel. Joined to coal it makes the best fire imaginable, and we believe (in contradiction to the received opinion) that good hard chumps of wood save the coals. Fir apples, or the cones of the fir tree, make a wonderfully bright and pretty fire, added to the coals.
Coke is a preparation of coal, or, rather, the refuse of coal when gas has been extracted from it. It burns clearly and without a flame and gives out a great heat, and saves coal when broken into very small pieces and added to the fire. It can be used by itself in close stoves, but will not burn alone in an open grate. It is of use in the kitchen grate from its power of heat when in a thorough state of combustion. In the drawing room it is objected to on account of its peculiar vapoury smell; still, for people of small means, it is a saving. Packing the cinders at the back of the grate and putting on small coal, slightly moistened, also economizes coal. A ton of coals should make one fire for seven weeks.
Charcoal is wood burnt to mere carbon, the hydrogen and oxygen having been expelled from it. It is used only in stoves for the more delicate kinds of cooking. It should never be burned in bedrooms, as it gives off nearly pure carbonic acid gas, which is a deadly poison, and which causes drowsiness, lethargy, and death.
Cooking by gas is considered economical.
Wood for lighting fires is sold in bundles. A bundle used with skill will light three fires. Wheels made of resined wood are sold for the same purpose at \d. each, and ignite very rapidly; but this fact renders them dangerous to keep in the house, for fear of their igniting by accident.
But little more than a quarter of a century ago every housewife saved her linen rags to make tinder; now they are saved to make paper. Brimstone-tipped matches sold in a bunch, but spread out like a fan, were at that time sold in the streets by poor match-girls, a class as peculiar then as the boys with their "box o' lights" are now. What a change has the lucifer produced! The trouble of getting a light years ago can only be well understood by those who then used flint and steel. At length the great discoveries of Sir Humphry Davy in chemistry became known. Phosphorus became of commercial importance as a light-bearer. There were other discoveries of great use, particularly that of chlorate of potash. Phosphoric matches were soon reduced in price from five shillings a hundred to sixpence for the same quantity. Finally, by various improvements in their manufacture they were reduced to their present price. It was in 1842 that Mr. Reuben Partridge obtained his patent for making splints, without which only half progress could have been made in the cheap manufacture of matches. Kraft, the discoverer of phosphorus, travelled through Europe, and was received at various courts to show his inventions.
Schrotter, the great Austrian chemist of Vienna, discovered in 1845 a method of rendering phosphorus less combustible than it is in its ordinary state, yet quite as efficient as a source of light. To this discovery we owe the present popular matches which light only on the box, as Bryant and May's do.
A solution of 5 ounces of ammonia in 1 gallon of water will extinguish a fire.
Sprinkle lightly a little powdered nitre over it.