Shaking should be done only when there is a hot fire.
The frequency of shaking will depend on the degree of burning. Shaking should be done at least once a day and preferably twice a day.
Best results from shaking will occur when short “choppy” strokes are used rather than long, even strokes.
The amount of shaking is critical. To little or too much shaking can result in the extinguishing of a fire due to air flow. It is suggested that you shake until you notice small red coals drop through the ash pan, across the entire length of the grate.
In the gravity fed hopper units, dead spots will start to develop over time in the firebox. In the Hitzer 503 Fireplace Insert, the dead spots will occur along the very front firebrick (below the door). In some freestanding units the dead spots will occur along the side firebricks. Ash tends to build up in these areas because they do not have the weight of fresh coal pushing down, which forces the ash into the ash pan during shaking. This, over time, causes a reduction in the size of the burning firebox which in turn, reduces heat output. To maintain a clean firebox, before shaking take a poker and push down on the developing dead spots. This helps the ash in the dead spots to be shaken out more easily. This should be done several times a week, depending upon your burning rate.
The heat output of the coal is controlled by the primary draft control, which is found on the back of the unit and on the ash door slide of the free standing units. On the fireplace units it will be found on the ash door slide. Experience and trial and error will dictate the proper settings for your heat requirements.
Coal responds very slowly to changes in the draft settings. Because of the slow response time, over correcting is a common problem. When changes in the heat output are needed, make only small changes in the draft setting and wait for the temperature to stabilize.
A poor drafting chimney could result in reduced heat output from the unit. Hard pulling chimneys may require a damper to be installed in the stove pipe, on free standing units.
Ashes should never be allowed to accumulate in the ash pan, so that they do not in any way impede the flow of combustion air to the fire. Excess ash accumulation can cause the fire to go out and cause severe damage to the grates and grate carrier. This happens because of the absence of a cooling air flow beneath them.
Ashes should be put into a metal container with a tight fitting lid. The closed container of ashes should be placed on a noncombustible floor or on the ground, well away from all combustible materials, pending final disposal.
CAUTION! ASHES SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED TO ACCUMULATE ABOVE THE TOP OF THE ASH PAN. ASHES IN CONTACT WITH THE BOTTOM OF THE GRATES ACT AS INSULATOR, INTENSIFYING THE HEAT ON THE GRATES, AND COULD CAUSE THEM TO WARP. WITH AN EXCESSIVE ASH BUILDUP, PRIMARY COMBUSTION AIR IS RESTRICTED, THUS THE UNITS OUTPUT COULD BE REDUCED.
GRATES WARPED IN THIS WAY ARE EASILY RECOGNIZED.
For more information see:
This article adapted in part from an article entitled “Operation of Hand-Fired Anthracite Stoves” provided by Hitzer Inc. drawing from their decades of experience burning coal and building coal stoves.