I can tell you my observations going from coal stove to stoker boiler. during the colder winter days (not spring/fall), I would tend the hand fired every 12 hours. The stoker boiler, every 24 hours. As far as fuel consumption; at the end of the heating season, I see where the stoker boiler uses about 1/2 ton less. Dead of winter, they consume about the same amount per 24 hour day. The stoker may use a tadd less. Spring and fall is where I find the stoker boiler really shines. It heats just enough water to do the job. In other words; it stores btu's in the water. If no call for heat, it just sets there idleing on the timer. But, you do need electric for a stoker. I like both, hand fired and stoker. For boiler, my choice would be stoker.