The 8 Major Metro Areas That Are Most Fired Up About Burning Coal to Keep Warm

John Egan

On chilly days, most Americans heat their homes by turning up the thermostat for a furnace powered by natural gas or electricity. Even today, though, some folks fire up coal-burning stoves to supply warmth.

Among the country’s 50 biggest metro areas, nowhere is dependent on coal or coke (a coal byproduct) for heating fuel more than Pittsburgh, PA.

A WikiLawn review of U.S. Census Bureau data shows 173 of every 100,000 occupied housing units in the Pittsburgh area rely on coal or coke for heating fuel. By comparison, 108 of every 100,000 occupied households across the country depend on coal or coke to generate heat.

Like Pittsburgh, six of the seven other metro areas on our list are in the Northeast, where coal historically has been more popular as a heating source than in other parts of the country.

Certainly, the total number of occupied U.S. households where you’d find a coal-burning stove is tiny — just one-tenth of 1 percent, or a little over 128,500 households. Of those households, an estimated 1,939 are in the Pittsburgh metro area, according to our analysis of data from the Census Bureau’s 2013-2017 American Community Survey. The annual survey takes the pulse of America in terms of demographic and housing characteristics.

Anyone who lives in or grew up in Pennsylvania undoubtedly knows why coal remains a source of heat for more than 1,900 households in the Pittsburgh area.

In 2017, Pennsylvania ranked third among the country’s top coal-producing states, behind Wyoming and West Virginia, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). That year, Pennsylvania mined 49.1 tons of coal, or 6 percent of the country’s total coal output.

Over the years, coal production in the U.S. has fallen off as utility companies have switched to natural gas, a cheaper source of energy, or to wind and solar power, which, unlike coal, are renewable sources of energy. Nationwide coal production slipped nearly 3 percent in 2018 from the previous year, according to EIA.

The Keystone Stone, particularly the Pittsburgh area, enjoys a centuries-old relationship with coal. Mining of bituminous (or “soft”) coal in Pennsylvania dates back to the late 1700s. In Pennsylvania, bituminous coal first was mined in Mount Washington — aka “Coal Hill” — just across the Monongahela River from Pittsburgh, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Over the years, industrial plants around the state, including steel factories in the Pittsburgh area, have consumed much of the coal mined in Pennsylvania.

Beginning with Pittsburgh, here’s our list of the 8 Major Metro Areas That Are Most Fired Up About Coal-Burning Stoves. (Or, put another way, the 8 Major Metro Areas Where Frosty the Snowman Should Be Afraid of Losing His Two Eyes Made Out of Coal.)

1. Pittsburgh, PA

Photo: Flickr // Bryan Chang

Number of occupied housing units: 1,118,610

Number of occupied housing units using coal or coke for heating fuel: 1,939

Number of occupied housing units per 100,000 using coal or coke for heating fuel: 173

2. Hartford, CT

Photo: Flickr // Bill Wootten

Number of occupied housing units: 512,877

Number of occupied housing units using coal or coke for heating fuel: 629

Number of occupied housing units per 100,000 using coal or coke for heating fuel: 123

3. Philadelphia, PA

Photo: Flickr // Tony Shi

Number of occupied housing units: 2,469,188

Number of occupied housing units using coal or coke for heating fuel: 2,637

Number of occupied housing units per 100,000 using coal or coke for heating fuel: 107

4. Cleveland, OH

Photo: Flickr // CAZamostny

Number of occupied housing units: 959,615

Number of occupied housing units using coal or coke for heating fuel: 1,013

Number of occupied housing units per 100,000 using coal or coke for heating fuel: 106

5. Providence, RI

Photo: Flickr // Russ David

Number of occupied housing units: 700,220

Number of occupied housing units using coal or coke for heating fuel: 582

Number of occupied housing units per 100,000 using coal or coke for heating fuel: 83

6. Boston, MA

Photo: Flickr // itsjuststan

Number of occupied housing units: 1,930,177

Number of occupied housing units using coal or coke for heating fuel: 1,204

Number of occupied housing units per 100,000 using coal or coke for heating fuel: 62

7. New York City, NY

Photo: Flickr // Andy_Hartley

Number of occupied housing units: 7,916,318

Number of occupied housing units using coal or coke for heating fuel: 4,450

Number of occupied housing units per 100,000 using coal or coke for heating fuel: 56

8. Buffalo, NY

Photo: Flickr // Steve Zimmermann

Number of occupied housing units: 525,820

Number of occupied housing units using coal or coke for heating fuel: 284

Number of occupied housing units per 100,000 using coal or coke for heating fuel: 54

Author Bio: John Egan is a freelance writer who covers everything from personal finance to lawn care. His masterful work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Forbes, and The Guardian.

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About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

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