Well, what can I say?
I'm very happy with this boiler and the money that it has saved me over the course of the heating season.
First off, I'll cop to ~500lbs of coal that was wasted because of start up, unintentional shut downs, dialing in performance etc...and I'll also acknowledge that the winter was very mild in SE PA. That said, I ordered 4.5 tons of coal at 265 per ton, and I currently have ~700lbs in my bin. The house was kept between 65 downstairs and 72 upstairs all winter long, with the final adjustment being 69 downstairs and about 74 upstairs. I was still playing with radiators up until the end of the year, but that's an acceptable trade off for the abilty to heat the house at low cost.
As far as the operation of the boiler, I could and do wish that I had slaved my old boiler in line with this one so that I could have increased the mass of water maintained at operating temperatures. 52 gallons of hot water running through a ~75 gallon system would have made the heat transfer into the house much quicker and more efficient, I'm thinking. However, that said, If I didn't re-program my thermostat for lower temperatures in the off hours, the boiler kept the house rock steady at the temperature setting. It was only when I tried to 'economize' and reduce the house temperature during the night that I had issues bringing the temperatures back up, and that was more a timing/radiator issue than a performance issue.
Loading coal was a novelty, but it never became a grumble. Same with emptying the ash pan, though I would recommend a dust collection system be installed similrr to some I've seen here. The one issue that I did not expect was the amount of times that I would have to vaccuum out the tubes in the boiler. However, access through the fire box opening allows me to perform a weekly cleaning that takes place without even shutting the unit down, while I do a monthly clean out from up top.
Get the easy cleanout option when you order yours.
I have had many relights of the unit through carelessness about emptying the ash pan or trying to stretch that last bit of coal in the hopper through one more night, but I expect that's a common problem when one transitions to a solid fuel appliance. I have become a stud at getting this baby going after it goes out, however, and have done so many mornings before my daughter had to get up to use the hot water. Good thing about the 12 gallon capacity is that it heats up in a hurry.
Overall, I expected to use about 5-6 tons of coal had the weather been colder, and it appears that I would have been right on the money with that estimate. I expected it to be more work than burning gas or oil, and it was, but not so much as to make me wish I had gone another route. And I've learned more about my heating system than I ever thought I would, so all things considered I'm a very happy guy.
With the exception that I probably won't be using this again, as I've met someone and we'll be moving in to her house together before the next heating season.
Life, go figure....