My second year heating with coal is slowing down. It is Feb. 28, 2013 and here in Western Mass. I do not expect much more coal fire since the temps are now high 40's into 50's daytime and barely freezing or thereabout at night. It makes me happy at these times that my rig also burns cordwood (early in the heating season, as well). Got about 1/3 ton of nut coal, 1/4 cord split hardwood, 1/2 ton of bio brick (terrible....it burns like toilet paper) nevertheless I have fuel for fall, winter & spring.
This year I learned a great deal about hand firing coal, and also became much more familiar with my equipment (continuing to tweek). Gratefull to NEPA Crossroads and all the members who email in for the knowledge base which leads me to my own applied experience. The most important thing I have learned is to never stop seeking solutions ,inquiring about your hunches, and being open minded about what this is all about. I believe there is something unique about every stove / furnace setup, especially draft and how to control it. Draft makes all the difference, leaks or diversions will hamper the effort to maximize the benefit of coal vs. wood. Once you can confidently control draft, now comes temperature control in and around the stove, and ultimately the living space.
Maximum enjoyment for me is tending. Couple times a day, morning and bedtime, otherwies you can always peek if you want to. But it gets old watching a steady controled coal fire is like watching water boil! Ash & dust comes with the territory, but like the stove itself there are clever ways to control & minimize it. This summer I will construct an overhead vent/duct system that I can start while cleaning out ash. Little sheet metal, fan, wiring & switch and bingo! Look for pictures next season.
Thank again to all!