As far as fines are concerned, I don't start sifting till about half way thru the winter (late January) which is about the time that I start digging in under the coal chute door. I actually have a 55 gallon barrel full to the brim of fines that came from last winter and part of this winter. When I was hauling coal in barrels, they weighed in at about 450 pounds. So I'm guessing I've got close to that much weight in fines now lol. I'm planning to do a little landscaping with them this summer around our previous dog's memorial in the yard.
I'm such a coal snob to the point that I just don't wanna deal with them in my fire lol. In past attempts to just throw in fines with the coal load most of them just shook out into the ash pan and in the meantime they made the burn unpredictable, slow to recover ect.... Although, I've considered giving it another try. Maybe I could sprinkle a couple shovels on top of the stove size for a blanket so it will idle better. It's getting to be that time of year for cooler running fires. I don't mind sifting, it gives me something to do while the fire is revving up before shake down.
Thank you for the replies fellas