Someone else has a Stelrad
I knew there were others out there. I have a Stelrad boiler in my basement that came with my house - I posted about it last year and there is a picture in that post as well.
We moved in the house in the summer of 2004 after I got back from Iraq and I tested it that winter. I used it a fair amount last winter - mid December to March almost exclusively, and this year from late October until ???. I have used it almost entirely with nut coal and have gotten progressively better at it (in fact in the photo in the other post you can see a small fan in front of the boiler which I thought I needed to keep a hot burn going but I now know I don't need).
My setup is a 3 story masonry chimney and I have been using nut coal. This has worked really well for me.
I would definitely recommend coal in that boiler, I used wood last year at the end of the season and was pretty disappointed. The problems I had were:
1. The draft design almost forces air from the front loading door when the loading door was opened - which seems to be a bigger problem with wood than coal and ends up with a pretty smoky basement when loading / starting the wood fire.
2. The wood fire just couldn't be kept going for long enough. Unless I turned the thermostat all the way down there was no fire left in the am.
3. My house has a gravity hot water heating system - no circulators at all. The wood fire had a tendency to get very hot quickly and the gravity hot water just doesn't react that fast - it takes time to get going - which the coal is better at - more consistent and even. Some of this problem in my house stems from how the Stelrad is connected to the gas boiler / house system.
4. At 120,000 the total btu output of the Stelrad is really not enough for my house when its really cold - its a large old house, some insulation, but lots of space. Last year I really tried to force the Stelrad to do all the heating and it can't. This year I have let the gas boiler take on some of the load and its working fine. I know that I am burning what I expect to burn and my test gauge that I'm not loosing too much heat up the chimney because I can still touch the single wall stovepipe coming out the back.
Anyhow - I have really enjoyed using the Stelrad this year and last - its almost like a hobby, but a hobby that saves money and for a cheap guy like me that's great. I do dream of owning a large stoker boiler - maybe next summer, 08, I will rebuild my garage and create a space for a nice boiler out there and a large bin.
I'd be happy to try and answer any other questions about the boiler.