MidnightMadman wrote:What are the biggest risks? What can I do to make 100% sure none could happen?
If you’re concerned about eliminating all risk of injury or loss, I’d advise you never take a medication, avoid all saturated fats, never climb a ladder and, most importantly, NEVER even consider riding in an automobile.
The simple but important point is that almost nothing is riskless, and it’s impossible to be 100% certain nothing bad will ever happen from using a coal stove. That being said, here is my newbie list of four major risks and some practices to minimize those risks, modifiable by those with more experience or common sense than me:
1) house fire—You know, from your installation, whether there is any flammable construction material conceivably close enough to the stove or stove pipe to catch fire. You can educate and reassure yourself about this issue, or modify the installation in some way to lessen this risk further. Also, never leave unattended an open fill door or ash pan door, from which exploding pieces of coal could fly onto flammable material, such as rugs or paper, etc.
2) carbon monoxide poisoning—Except for a small amount of cost, there is no penalty for having an extra CO detector, especially having at least one on each level of your house. I had one type on each level, but they were of the same type, and neither had a digital readout. Personally, I was reassured recently by adding a third detector, this one of a different brand, which has a digital readout of CO level and historical peak levels. One other thing that helps me—with CO risk and with risk of some types of burns—is to remember that: Draft is Your Friend
. If you open the fill door only when ashpan door and other modifiable draft limiters (such as manual pipe damper) are fully open, poisonous and/or flammable gases are more likely to be sucked up the chimney rather than out toward you or your house.
3) Eye injuries—Whenever the fill door is open, wear goggles.
4) Burns—flash burns from unvented explosive gases (minimized by remembering that the Draft is Your Friend, especially during/shortly after loading), burning from ignition of clothing when tending the stove (never reach into the stove when wearing your clown costume, for example), and the common skin burn (minimized, but not prevented, by wearing gloves)