A lot of really good input in this thread, thanks. I think this one covers most of the points, so I'll use it as a "template" to answer and add in thoughts...
blrman07 wrote:some things to consider
1. she is 90 years old
2. likes it warmer than you do
3. limited income
4. burning about 100 gallons a month in fuel oil
5. rice coal weighs about 30-34 lbs per 5 gallon bucket
6. one full ash pan a day
7. Around 3-5k in expenses to just get going from scratch
Points 1 through 3 are true. She's a spry one, but age has definitely taken it's toll. One problem is the fact at that age they do need it warmer. Then you've got the limited income problem.There's nothing that can be changed on that front, as far as her options are concerned. Now, if us kids pitch in that's another story...
I'm guessing she is on budget billing so her fuel oil usage is actually higher than 100 gallons a month in the winter, but yes, over a 12 month period that's about what it would average out to be. A problem here is that as fuel oil prices go up, that $350 a month will also.
Points 5 and 6, yea, she isn't going to be handling those. No way, she needs to just focus on getting around and not falling down... She doesn't need to be carrying heavy buckets around - ah, no, she CAN'T carry heavy buckets around...
Point 7 - It does add up - install chimney, buy stove etc. etc.
Forget power outages, generators, and battery backup for now. First there are very important questions you have to answer.
1. where is she going to store either bulk or bagged coal?
This is actually the least of the problems. She lives in the country, has lots of space. She wouldn't be moving it anyway, lots of options here...
blrman07 wrote: 2. can she lift 35 pounds of coal per day into a stoker stove hopper Even if it was broken up into smaller 5-10 pound containers can she do that every day without fail throughout the day?
No, this was never even considered as an option in my first question. The question was really, can stokers do what hand feds can't meaning can they run unattended for a couple days reliably. I think I now have the answer to that question from all the responses here...
blrman07 wrote:3. can she bend over or squat down to pull the one full ash pan a day?
See answer to point two above... nope.
4. Are these other family members going to be available EVERY day from now on, sometimes twice a day in the bitter cold to do the above items?
Actually, in this respect the answer is yes. She basically shares a driveway with my sister and her husband. She has dinner with them every night. This is pretty unique and is actually the only reason I even have entertained the idea for coal there. Now, the twice a day in the bitter cold is a problem. Once a day would be reasonable, but not twice a day...
blrman07 wrote:As a pastor I have one 90 year old lady and one 88 year old with two more in the low 80's that all live alone that attend my church. Two of the three have family members that live within a ten minute radius but they don't always get by to see mom every day. My 90 year old is spry but there are days where due to the simple fact of being 90 she doesn't even want to fix a meal.
This is very true. Mom has dinner with my sister every night basically because she doesn't cook anymore. She never was much of a cook, and now she doesn't have to/want to/able to. I actually think if I were to ask her about this point, she would probably like the fact she doesn't have to cook anymore, one of the few things about getting old that she would like
blrman07 wrote:I believe that asking "mom" to switch to coal with all the work associated with tending coal would be asking too much. As a younger person we don't even think twice about some of these items but when you cross the 3/4 quarter point of your life, the items to be considered just to get through one day becomes the elephant in the corner.
My opinion is that coal is not the way to go in this instance, hand fed, stoker, or auger.
Save everyone a future of finger pointing and accusations and just chip in $25-50 a month and send a check to the oil man. It sounds good now to say that someone will be there every day but what if they get sick, catch the flu, break a leg, you get the point.
Well, I see your point about the finger pointing, but honestly, the three of us should never have that problem. My sister (with lots of help from her husband) have been caring for her on a daily basis. My brother, who lives in Western PA, actually drives up to pick her up and take her to his house where she sees her doctor. He found her an excellent doc near him and he has been doing 16 hour round trips to pick her up and bring her back home for years now. I go up and fix her house, and take care of all the technical aspects she needs. All three of us have been pretty active in keeping her in good stead. You might be right on the monthly $ addition. But I'm not done looking yet at all the alternatives. The $ addition may be in the installation of different heating systems....
I'd say at this point, if we do decide to add in a coal stove, I'd probably go with a hand fed that has a magazine feed. No electric needed, 24 hour burn times super solid in the coldest of weather, easy to handle (given someone that can take out the ash and add in the coal that is not mom). My mother knows how to handle a fire, we grew up burning coal... If she doesn't have to take out ash or worry about putting in the coal, she can run the stove.
I have to say, thanks a bunch for all the thoughts and feedback. This has been really excellent information and well thought out responses. It has certainly served me to have a much clearer idea on the side of stokers - I am very familiar with the hand fed side...