So as promised on my off days I said i was going to test by taking out the hopper, moving the fan, and using the toilet paper suggestion in the doorways to test draft. I removed the hopper about 30 minutes ago. Filled the firebox. Fan has been moved to opposite end of the house blowing towards the room with the stove. Toilet paper taped to all the doorways. The draft is working as it should as the TP is sucking inward on EVERY room in the house. I was a little skeptical about that one...lol. But indeed is working. Stove is warming up as i was quite cold this morning. It is 25 degrees outside. I am sitting in the stove room which is where the computer is, on the opposite side of that room of course. Quite warm back here, but the fan is not sitting beside me now either as it was right here attached to the ceiling. I will update later in the day and let everyone know how the warmth of the house feels compared to the previous way. I can tell however that the stove is warmer along with the area directly around it with the hopper removed. I have not plugged any of the over fire holes yet. I might try that later once i have something of a base line to compare before and after to.
You're started in the right direction. How about the draft setting? Did you adjust to -.04? You can set manual damper at -.04. However, I found the D.S. likes the barometric damper, ........and so will you. No opening, and closing the manual damper. Automatically compensates to weather changes. Like I said before; install it, and forget about it.
Nothing wrong with leaving ALL the over fire air holes open. However, I found the more holes plugged, the stronger the draft coming up through the coal bed. Your fire box is a lot smaller than my 1600 fire box. You may want less holes plugged. Right now, I'm running with 2 holes open. Quite often I'll run with 3 holes open.
Another trick I've learned with the up & down temps we've been having this year. When the temps are up, and you don't want excess heat, open more over fire air hole. This will weaken the draft through the fire bed. The fire will continue to burn, but at a slower rate. You'll actually burn less coal.
Never plug all the over fire air holes. The D.S. has no other continuous air flowing through the stove for dilution of gasses. At tending time, empty ashes from previous shaking, shake grates, brighten up the fire, and fill to top of firebrick......mounding up in center. Close ALL doors. and let it be. It'll be fine. What ever you do, don't open any stove doors. Just let it be. Once the gasses ignite, you'll see / hear a soft gentle puff. Most of the time, you won't hear anything. You'll just notice flames. And of course, once gasses are ignited, the air coming through the over fire air holes will aid in burning the gasses.
1.) with hopper removed, you'll get better, steadier heat from the D.S., without the mood swings.
2.) -.04 draft will keep the heat in the stove, and not let it go up the chimney.
3.) adjust over fire air holes for draft through coal bed.
So far, you're looking good. Can't hardly wait to hear your findings / opinions. Don't forget to give us the difference between stove temp, and pipe temp. I seem to average a 300* difference once stove settles in. Hope yours are as good as mine.
EDIT: I agree with others on NOT mixing the rice coal in with the nut. Buy it, and re-sell it is a good suggestion. I have run my HITZER 30-95 on buck, when in a pinch. I'd steal a little buck from the house coal. Rice is smaller yet. Don't do it....