Since I have yet to actually have my 503 installed, I can't answer any of these questions from direct knowledge or experience. Having said that, here is what I have gleaned from information posted on these forums:
tfaath wrote:Will it burn pea size coal? I’m in the process of looking at bringing in my coal supply early and I’d like to make sure that I’m buying the right stuff.
The Hitzer manual recommends nut or pea, although they state that with pea you need to be careful since it has the potential to fall through the grates. From what I understand, pea is also harder to get started in a hand-fired stove (take that with a grain of salt--I have yet to try and start a fire with either size). I'm personally planning on buying nut size coal. Also (again from info posted on these forums), Blaschak and Superior seem have better consistency in the quality of their coal, while Reading and Kimmel's tend to be less consistent in their quality. Your mileage may vary. Blaschak is available where I live, so that's what I'm going to try first.
Also, how noisy are the fans? I’m putting the 503 in a rather small family room .. too much noise could be a problem.
I can't be of much help here. Sorry. As Lsfarm says, you probably won't notice the fan noise after a while. And since you've already ordered it and plan on installing it, you'll have to live with it regardless. The fan has three settings (off, manual and auto). While you can turn it off and leave it off, it would most likely severely decrease the overall heat output. At least on auto, it would only be potentially bothersome some of the time....
How is handling the coal in the house, any problems with coal dust?
From what I understand, the unburned coal itself is not very dusty/dirty. It's apparently bagged wet (?) and does not produce much (if any) dust. What can
produce dust is the fly ash if you're not very slow and very careful when emptying the ash pan.