Which Boiler to Buy

Which Boiler to Buy

PostBy: mikey55 On: Wed. Jun. 25, 2008 10:41 am

hi I currently heat with a utica fuel oil boiler baseboard through 90 % of house. I have in floor in a 12 x27
addition.the hot water is a boiler mate tank heated buy boiler thru seperate zone.2 other zones in house .
upstairs one and other basement.new construction in 1999 so insulateded fairly well.i am thinking of buying a keystoker k6 boiler have been quoted 4700.00 cash and carry .does this sound reasnable?will this boiler do the job alone as I have to use the existing chimney and I have been told you cant run 2 in one chimney?can this boiler set up be used in summer for the hot water or would I be better off using the fuel in summer for hot water.are these key stokers good units?thank you in advance for any help.
Stoker Coal Boiler: key stoker ka6
Stove/Furnace Model: ka6

Re: Which Boiler to Buy

PostBy: bmac On: Wed. Jun. 25, 2008 12:11 pm


I'm doing the same thing, more or less. I looked at the KA6 Keystoker as well, but I ended up going with the KAA-2. When I called Keystoker, they told me to measure the overall length of all my baseboards in the house and multiply that times 4 to get my overall square footage regarding volume.
I had 70 ft. of baseboard, as well as one blower unit that's located under my kitchen sink. The base board alone figured at 280 sq. ft., and I added another 20 sq. ft. (although the blower was nowhere near that) to round things up to 300 sq. ft. The KAA-2 was factory rated at 400 sq. ft. In comparison, the KA6 was more than double what I needed at 675 sq. ft.

As far as similarities, both boilers include the hot water coil, but that's about it. The KA6 is offered with a fuel oil backup (option), and has a larger hopper/ash pan (275 lbs.), whereas the KAA-2 only has a 100lb. hopper, meaning you have to fill the hopper & empty the ash pan more often.

I built my home in 1995, and I initially installed the same Utica boiler. I think it was an SHW365, or something like that. The boiler is rated at 68-69k btu's, and carries a boiler water capacity at 10-11 gals. In comparison, the Keystoker KAA-2 carries a net BTU rating per hour of 76, and a gross rating of 90. The water capacity is about 24 gallons, so it's double the oil boiler as far as boiler water.
My house is 1700 sq. ft. in living space, and I wanted fuel oil backup to support the coal boiler in case I decided to leave for a few days, or for various other reasons, so I was also looking at the KA6 for that option. The fuel oil option for the KA6 is almost $600. All told, the price of the boiler at $4500-$4700, plus the fuel oil backup ranged from $5200-$5500. I have two relatively new fuel oil burner units, and I thought that I could save by just buying the boiler setup to take the burner, but Keystoker only discounts their price $168 for you using your own burner, even though they cost $250-$320 by themselves.

End result, after doing my homework and financial figuring, since I already have the fuel oil system installed, and since the Keystoker KAA-2 didn't have the fuel oil option but more than fit my heating needs sizewise, I opted to buy the unit and install it in series with the fuel oil system currently in place.

You can run both (coal & fuel oil) in the same chimney as long as you set them up as an "either/or" type of system, meaning "one or the other". As I understand it, you can't run two seperate forms of solid fuels up the same chimney at the same time, at least by NY state code anyway. This code/law was mainly initiated due to people burning wood, along with other forms of fuel in the same chimney.......which is obviously due to creosote problems/hazards.

The cost on my boiler was $3563 from Brad & Cathy Warner/Warner's Coal & Stoker, Owego, NY. I have to drive a couple of hours to go get it, but their ability to get it by Sept./Oct. was better than most. If you live out of state (i.e; PA.) I think you'd save on tax as well.

Hope this helps.....

Stove/Furnace Make: Utica Oil Fired Boiler - Yuck!

Re: Which Boiler to Buy

PostBy: Ginny On: Wed. Jun. 25, 2008 1:28 pm

We too are looking for a coal fired boiler with self feed and automatic shake and as of yesterday we were told that our name would be placed on a waiting list and there was a wait possibly until Feb. and could not be guaranteed a price because the price goes up and he did not know what the future would bring.

The waiting list we are on is for a Harman in the Geneva, NY area. Have you researched this make?

We too have a fuel oil/baseboard system. Found measuring the baseboard info great! No one had ever told us that.


Re: Which Boiler to Buy

PostBy: bmac On: Thu. Jun. 26, 2008 10:29 am


I'm no authority on coal, or coal boilers at all. There's many more here that are far more versed on coal boilers than I am.
That said, I'm not new to boilers in general, or plumbing in that type of system. I laid out and designed my home heating system when I built it new, and my house has heated exceptionally well with it.

I've done a ton of research on the various brands, mostly with the help of members here (coal berner, scrapper-23jr, LsFarms, and huntabsarokee....just to name a few).....

I was going to go with the Harman VF3000, and I had a local dealer who was getting 2 in soon for inventory, but after finding out how Harman's dealer/customer policies work, and that the warranty was only valid if it was "professionally installed" (thanks to members here), I finally decided to go with the Keystoker. On top of that, Harman has a 5 yr. warrranty, whereas Keystoker has a 10 yr. with no stipulations.

With the Harman, if you buy your boiler from a dealer you are happy with, and regarding their service, you should be fine providing you have them install it (usually contracted through a local plumber). Most dealers don't do the installs.
My Harman dealer tried to press the issue of them installing the boiler, but I said no. I knew who they used, and I've seen his work.....enough said. I do my own work anyways, as, like everyone, we all know what we like, or the way we like it.

Last, but not least, is the 5 yr. warranty vs. the 10 yr. I guess. Both machines are well built, no doubt.

The Harman VF3000 is rated at approx. 95k BTU's for $4500
The Keystoker KAA-2 is rated at 90k BTU's gross for $3500-$3700
The discontinued Keystoker KA4 was rated at 96k BTU's for approx $4000
The Keystoker KA6 is rated at a gross 144k BTU's for $4500 (same money as the Harman)

The KA4 was comparative to the Harman VF3000 as far as output was concerned, and was obviously less in price when it was available. The KAA2 is slightly less as far as output, but the price was $800-$1000 less than the Harman. The KA6 is the same price as the Harman, but it's output is well above the Harman.

Another point to consider is that the Keystoker's come with the domestic hot water coil (DHW) installed, and part of the sellable unit. With the Harman, it's an accessory option and needs to be purchased. Usually an extra $200-$260.

Not to ramble on, but I was open to any and all options at first. This was only what I have found since joining these forums...thanks to many....

Take care,
Stove/Furnace Make: Utica Oil Fired Boiler - Yuck!

Re: Which Boiler to Buy

PostBy: syncmaster On: Fri. Jun. 27, 2008 4:42 am

really good boiler info but you missed a very important thing.
the K-6 has a 8" chimney pipe
the VF3000 has a 6" chimney pipe (in the specs it calls for a 7" flue)

If you are using a existing chimney that would be the deciding factor.

Another thing to concider is the differance in BTU's between the K6 and VF3000.
if the VF3000 has enough BTU output for your size house then it would be a better fit for you.

I would think having a proper sized boiler will be more efficent in terms of less temp over shoot and better idling for DHW in the summer.

The K4 is no longer sold.
the Kaa2 dosen't have a oil burner option.
Stoker Coal Boiler: harmanVF3000 Coal/oil option
Coal Size/Type: Rice
Stove/Furnace Make: VF3000
Stove/Furnace Model: Harman VF3000

Re: Which Boiler to Buy

PostBy: LsFarm On: Fri. Jun. 27, 2008 7:54 am

Keystoker will build the KA6 with a 6", 7" or 8" chimney flue pipe connection,, it works fine with any of the sizes.. Necking down from 8" to 6" at the boiler exit would not be a problem providing it is done correctly.

Greg L
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland

Re: Which Boiler to Buy

PostBy: stoker-man On: Fri. Jun. 27, 2008 11:38 am

Keystoker will build the KA6 with a 6", 7" or 8" chimney flue pipe connection,, it works fine with any of the sizes.. Necking down from 8" to 6" at the boiler exit would not be a problem providing it is done correctly.

I find it interesting that a single boiler can be used with 3 varying breech diameters.

We frequently get calls about using our DF520 stoker, which requires an 8" breech and an 8X8 masonry chimney, or 9" round Metalbestos chimney, or about downsizing by one inch, the requirements of an oil boiler flue.

Our engineer made a determination on one sample case and I use it as a guideline for all similar questions.

He cited a list of written and established codes, fire standards, etc. and came up with a certain amount of BTUH ratings and matched them with flue requirements.

If a boiler has a multiple range of firing rates, the upper limits require the flue to match the breech of the boiler, as designed. If the unit is fired in the lower range of firing rates, a 1" smaller is generally permitted (but may not be). The breech size of the finished boiler never varies. This is the general assessment of our engineer and complies with all the various codes.

What I am wondering is how Key can offer one unit with 3 sizes of breeches, unless they offer differing stoker feeds which can only produce a certain amount of BTUH. Is this the case?

If not, and you undersize your flue by too much and suffocate the family, or burn down the house, who is going to cover the damage?
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: 1981 efm wcb-24 in use 365 days a year
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite/Chestnut
Other Heating: Hearthstone wood stove

Re: Which Boiler to Buy

PostBy: bmac On: Fri. Jun. 27, 2008 11:44 am


Yep, you're right, I knew I missed something. Like Greg mentioned though, most of the 8" flue boilers will narrow to the 6" flues without a problem. If you have an adjustable draft (like most are) they will usually encompass the difference, or tapering. To be honest, I don't remember my flue size on the double wall stainless system I have now....either 6 or 8"...gotta check that, it's been awhile (10yrs. or so). The KAA2 has a 6".
I also mentioned previously that the KAA-2 doesn't have the fuel oil backup option, and that the KA4 was extinct, so for those of us who already possess a fuel oil system, and where the KAA-2 will handle the heating chores, the fuel oil backup issues are a moot point, providing space isn't an issue.

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The difference in gross BTU output between the Harman VF3000, and the Keystoker KAA2 is about 5 - 6k btu, but the difference in price is almost $2k. Most requirements (or choices) for heating don't fall in such small parameters as 5 or 6k regarding BTU output, so it's either smaller or larger in most cases. I think that might've been part of the thinking as to why Keystoker discontinued the KA4, which by the way was more or less a match to the Harman, sans the water coil option (Harman), and quite possibly the fuel oil backup. Their thinking was the same as I mentioned here regarding the KAA2. Since the KAA2 was rated at 90k BTU gross output, and the KA4 was 96, why produce both ? The difference between them was very minimal as far as output, and covered most of the same area there, more than not. The biggest differences was boiler water capacity (24, 40 & 55 gals.) and hopper size. As I mentioned before, hopper size on the KA4 was much closer to the KA6 though....225lbs. for the KA4, 275lbs. for the KA6, as opposed to 100lbs. for the KAA2

Harman only has the one stoker boiler (VF3000), and I'm sure they targetted the average household when they designed it that size. In my case, as with many, a good thourough researching of this site/forum provides valuable information with which to make an educated decision regarding the most applicable type, brand, or size of coal unit to buy. And, I might add, which falls within most of our meager budgets...

Many guys on here (such as yourself) bring up various points, small or large, that we might miss......which in effect could change our decision on a particular model or make.......we all appreciate that, believe me.

Overall, in my situation, the Keystoker was the "hand's down" winner overall. But that was for me. I covered my dislikes with the Harman, and none of them really involved the workings of the machine at all, except maybe for the DHW coil being an add on option, whereas the KAA-2 (as well as the other Keystoker boilers) were included. My issues with Harman were with the dealer/customer policies that the company has in place, as well as the insistance on the "professional installation" and it's affect on the warranty. Which by the way is only 5 yrs. in relation to Keystokers 10.
Those issues, along with the price difference, are some big detractors.

One of the big things I considered the other day, was that due to the big demand now for coal burning boilers (and furnaces), and since Keystoker is so back logged, many will cave in and buy the Harman instead of going without, only later to realize that Harman's policies weren't to their liking. Their machine is a great unit as far as reliability, but nowadays, they all are, for the most part.
I almost went the Harman route, but I hesitated for lack of further research on them, their warranty, etc. I'm glad I held off and waited.....

Sorry so long.....

Take care,
Stove/Furnace Make: Utica Oil Fired Boiler - Yuck!

Re: Which Boiler to Buy

PostBy: syncmaster On: Fri. Jun. 27, 2008 2:35 pm

I totaly agree with you about Harmans refusing to talk directly to the customer.
The only reason I was willing to still order a vf3000 is the people on this forum... I know I will get great advice here.

When I was deciding between keystoker and Harman I called keystoker and spoke to a guy there and I said I only have a 6" ss chimney your K6 calls for a 8" chimney is that critical ?
And he kinda hemed and hawed and said "well you might have enough draft but then again you might not"
He never said anything about ordering it with a 6" flue outlet.

maybe the keystone guy I got wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed.

Something that might be confusing with the k6 is if you order it with direct vent option.... then I think the flue opening is 6"

Everything I have read say's that it is against fire code to reduce the flue pipe coming out of a boiler.

I had to choose between the Kaa2 and the Vf3000 and the Kaa2 dosen't offer the fuel oil gun so that left the Harman.

I have a farly small boiler room , not enough room for 2 boilers so I will be ripping out my 15 yr old weil Mclain boiler.
and will install the VF3000 with the oil gun.

Don't worry that everyone will go to Harman because keystoker can't build them fast enough..... Harman is also swamped with orders.

I ordered mine in May and should get it in september.... I hope!

If you try to order a Vf3000 today they'll tell you Febuary 2009 and the price is pending a steel price increase.
Stoker Coal Boiler: harmanVF3000 Coal/oil option
Coal Size/Type: Rice
Stove/Furnace Make: VF3000
Stove/Furnace Model: Harman VF3000