Thought id post up my thoughts on doign the switch from hand fed to stoker as i did it this year, maybe be helpfull for people thinking of it.
My house came with a harman mark III, i had never used coal at this point but had used wood so i burned wood in the stove , trying coal here and there as there was some left by previous owners, i could never get it to burn good so i went back to wood. After 2 years of wood i decided i was gonna make coal work, i found this forum, read a bunch asked questions and got going in the right direction, the first year of all coal was great, house warm, basement hot. only problem was teaching my wife how to shake and fill the stove, it was jsut to hard for her and took to long and she didnt like doing it> So this year we decided to get some kind of stoker so she could take care of it also. We ended up with a Leisure line Pocono.
after running it this winter i can say its great, although it didnt get very cold this year so the stove ran at idle almost all year.
I like everyhting about the stoker execpt the cost, it was expensive, and i had at add some stuff to get it heating the house good (mostly duct work)
my wife can fill and empty it (as long as the ash bin isnt to full)
runs on its own after its started and filled/empited
cold? just turn the thrmostat up.
My major operating dislike is that it requires power to run, not that it goes out instantly if the power goes out for a little but it wont make good heat in that power out stateand will go out after a hour or so, SO figure a generator in your pricing(one that will run your equipment, theres tons of threads here on that subject)but you should have a gene anyway for just in case times.
also a added benifit is its way cleaner than a hand fed (well my hand fed anyway).
the stoker does have a little more maintence but i like that kind of stuff so it doesnt bother me.
If any new people have any question, even if you think their silly/stupid, dont hesitate to ask, the people here are great and coal is a great way to save money and be warm