My first house in Nashua NH (city) was an all natural gas system with boiler FHW heat and 50 gallon DHW heater---my heating and DHW costs were the least of my worries. When I built my new house in Kensington NH (rural) in 1999, natural gas wasn't an option; unfortunately, I bought into the marketing B.S. about propane: >90% of propane is produced domestically, not tied to the price of Middle East oil in case of war, etc. The system is a 92% efficient, condensing FHA propane furnace and standard 50 gallon DHW heater. The first couple of years weren't too bad with the price of propane; but, in 2006 the price jumped to >$2.00/gallon. Although I first considered going with wood pellets, I quickly dismissed this idea after talking to a couple of wood pellet burners who knew what they were talking about. Being a NEPA expatriot, it was time to start burning anthracite. I bought a Keystoker Koker and successfully heated my house in 2007 thru 2010 for a reasonable cost. I finally plumbed in the Koker's DHW coil in January '09 and started realizing the beauty of cheep DHW too---now I was spoiled. I knew the time had come to pull out all the stops and convert my existing "mickey mouse" system to a "real" system.
With the knowledge gained from this website I decided to go with a boiler last spring. The decision wasn't easy; due to the number of great anthracite boilers out there, but I decided to go with the AHS S130 in March '11. The installation went fairly smooth; although, it was a big job doing all the design and physical work of converting my existing FHA system to hydro-air. I also had to figure out how to re-wire my existing Honeywell thermostats/two zone air damper system so my existing propane furnace now acts as an air-handler; and, converts back to a propane furnace with the flick of one switch. I considered ripping out the propane furnace and replacing with a dedicated air handler; but, the estimates I received from HVAC contractors were outrageous---plus I would lose the propane back up option...
Plus---based on the nasty flyash-moisture corrosion problem I saw with only running the Koker during the heating months (Oct - May), I also decided to start burning 24/7/365 with the conversion to a boiler too. I admit: I was complacent the first year with the Koker. I completely cleaned the unit at the end of the season; but, I didn't wash the Koker down with sodium bicarbonate, disconnect the flue pipe, and add a small heat source (light bulb) to fight basement moisture during the non-heating months. I learned these steps are essential to keep your anthracite burner corrosion under control for the long haul... Live and learn.
I also had a tough time choosing between the S130 and S260. My original decision was going with the S130, knowing the S130 didn't really have enough BTUs for my heat load; but, thinking it would be more efficient running the S130 hard with a high duty cycle; versus, running the S260 and having it idle significantly more. Well this didn't work out well; especially, when I tried heating my pool with the S130. I upgraded to the S260 in July; and, haven't looked back since. Although I've had a couple of hickups with the S260, the S260 boiler is a beast, cranking out the BTUs and completely burning all coal to ash---even when idling. I'm a completely satisfied AHS boiler owner and I'd highly recommend the S130/S260/S500/S1000 to anyone out there looking for cheep heat, DHW, and saying NO to the "MAN." I'd like to single out Darren Brickler at AHS for his great technical support too!!!