What is The Best Fuel for Multi-Fuel Stoves: Coal or Wood?
Traditionally, wood-burning stoves were intended to burn wood and wood alone. But buying a multi-fuel stove opens up the possibility of heating your home with either coal or wood. The question is, which of these options is best?
The first thing to say is that, contrary to what many people think when they set about buying a multi-fuel stove, it should be an either/or decision. It’s not advisable to burn both coal and wood on your stove at the same time as this can damage your flue lining. The sulphuric acid found in coal and the high moisture levels found in wood will combine to create a nasty solution that will stick to and erode your stove system.
Olympus 8kW Multi-fuel Stove
Smokeless is best
It’s also worth pointing out that, while most multi-fuel stoves are equipped to burn normal house coal, often stove manufacturers will advise against this. The amount of soot found in house coal can result in your stove system becoming clogged very quickly.
To avoid this, you can use smokeless coal to reduce the amount of smoke and soot going up your flue. Smokeless fuel has the added benefit of being better for the environment and being suitable for use in smoke control areas.
Of course, you should always check your owner’s manual for the final word from the manufacturer on what fuels are recommended for use in your stove.
Now getting down to which fuel is best for multi-fuel stoves, the answer is fairly obvious when you think about it. If multi-fuel stoves were the most effective method of burning wood, then what we know as wood-burning stoves would have become redundant years ago. The very fact that multi-fuel stoves exist indicates that they have been designed and engineered for the purposes of burning coal.
The most obvious example of this is the grate. Coal burns best on a raised grate since it needs an air supply from below to burn effectively. Wood doesn’t need this additional air supply, so when you’re using wood on a multi-fuel stove you might find that it burns faster than on a wood-burning stove because of the extra oxygen around it. Wood burners come with a flat grate, which limits the air supply to the fuel and results in a slower burn.
In short, if you’re thinking of using wood as your main fuel then it’s best to buy a wood-burning stove in the first place. By buying a multi-fuel stove, you’re already making a commitment to coal being the fuel you want to use most of the time.
For the reasons we’ve already mentioned, that makes smokeless coal the prime candidate. Some smokeless fuels that you might like to consider are anthracite, as well as a host of brand name alternatives such as Taybrite and Phurnacite.
Of course, a multi-fuel stove also brings with it the versatility of being able to choose which fuel you’d rather use at a particular time.
Gr8Fires 2017-01-16 12:11:52
@ Lucy Courier Hi Lucy You're right - there are so many choices. One way of narrowing down the
options would be to use the list of DEFRA exempt fuels. That way you'll know they are of a requisite
quality. Full info: https://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk/fuels.php Thanks, Gr8Fires
Lucy Courier 2017-01-14 18:52:33
I would really like to know the difference between the smokeless fuels and which one is best to burn
on an Esse multi fuel stove. We have bought a house with this stove in and would like to burn the
best/ best value for money smokeless fuel. Also how do you know what you are buying if you buy from
different suppliers. Are there standards they have to adhere to, is it best to buy from a large
company etc etc...Many thanks.
Gr8Fires 2017-01-03 10:02:31
@ Jessica Hi Jessica We would guess (and it's only a guess) that what you're doing is probably not
as good for the stove as burning the two fuel types completely separately, but certainly nowhere
near as bad as loading the fuelbox with both and burning them simultaneously. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Gr8Fires 2017-01-03 09:58:30
@ Jayne Hi Jayne Sounds like one of the nice stove problems to have if your fuel is continuing to
heat the house longer than expected. You're closing all vents fully but the stove isn't
extinguishing? There embers will still glow for a little while due to the residual oxygen and heat.
If the stoves is continuing to operate as if the vents were open, it could be that a seal is broken
in the stove or flue (allowing oxygen in) or that a strong downdraught is bringing oxygen down the
chimney to the stove. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Gr8Fires 2017-01-03 09:46:21
@ Mick Clayton Hi Mick Unfortunately, that's akin to 'how long is a piece of string?' It depends on
the size and quality of the fuel itself, the size of the stove, how you're operating it and a host
of other factors. It will just be a case of trial and error until you find what works for your
stove. We offer some general pointers here:
http://blog.gr8fires.co.uk/2014/01/24/how-to-keep-a-wood-burning-stove-lit-overnight/ Thanks, Gr8F
Jessica 2017-01-03 00:50:11
I've been burning both wood and smokeless fuel on my multi-fuel stove. My normal practice is to burn
wood during the day, then let it burn down and add smokeless overnight. I do this because I find the
smokeless fuel stays warm much longer than wood, so I can wake up to a warm house. But now I read
about the risks of coating my chimney liner in sulphuric acid by burning both fuels, and I'm
panicking a bit! - I don't burn wood and smokeless coal at the same time other than at the
"changeovers" in the morning and evening. But I don't let the fire go out when I'm swapping over
either - I just pile the smokeless onto the wood embers, or vice-versa. Am I setting myself up for
a collapsing chimney?
JAYNE 2016-12-31 19:25:42
Hi, Iv got a multi burner it started not shutting down so its a glow all the time any idea what
could be wrong with it iv changed all the seals Jayne.
Mick Clayton 2016-12-30 18:50:24
Hi, How much smokeless fuel (lumps of coal) do I put on my multi fuel stove. Wanting to put smokless
fuel on stove to slumber through the night and wake up to a warm house. My multifuel stove is a
Mendip Woodland 4.5kw. Thanks
Gr8Fires 2016-12-21 11:16:53
@ Edward Paul Hi Edward There will still be some soot and creosote build-up over
time. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Edward Paul 2016-12-20 09:29:47
Thank you, your article has been extremely helpful and confirmed what my sweep told me. Just one
question as you recommend smokeless fuel as best for a multi fuel stove. Will burning only smokeless
fuel/coal in a multi fuel stove eliminate corrosion in the liner, or just reduce it? Many thanks.
Gr8FIres 2016-12-05 12:17:43
@ Geoff Hi Geoff This should answer your question:
http://blog.gr8fires.co.uk/2016/08/30/top-flue-exit-or-rear-flue-exit-on-woodburners/ Thanks, Gr8F
Geoff 2016-12-03 09:23:22
Which is best rear fitment or top for a multi fuel stove
Gr8Fires 2016-11-27 21:39:25
@ Alexandra Gillett Thanks, Alexandra.
Alexandra Gillett 2016-11-21 09:28:46
This is very useful. I am thinking about having a stove installed, and this has helped me understand
the difference between a wood-burning stove and a multi-fuel stove.
Gr8Fires 2016-10-10 11:28:18
@ Enrico Hi Enrico The information you've been given is correct. You just need to choose whether
you want to burn wood or solid fuel when using your stove and stick to that while the stove is lit.
Once the fire is extinguished, you can choose again before lighting the stove next
time. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Enrico 2016-10-09 10:13:09
I have been told by the chimney sweeper that I shouldn't burn coal and wood together as it will
damage the linen of the chimney. It looks like something released by the smokeless coal will react
with the water released by wood and transform it in a corrosive substance. I was wondering if you
could tell me the best way to alternate smokeless coal and wood without triggering this reaction.
Gr8Fires 2016-02-12 12:01:27
@Luis Hi Luis, Sure, some great options here:
Luis 2016-02-12 09:14:18
Could you recommend a decent <8KW inset casette multifuel stove?
Gr8Fires 2015-06-18 12:34:18
@Bob Morrison. Hi Bob, Thanks for the feedback. We would generally use smokeless coal and smokeless
fuel fairly interchangeably. This is mainly because most fuel suppliers and manufacturers will refer
to man-made smokeless fuels as a coal and also because, for our purposes, we tend to be referring to
both natural and man-made fuels (and rarely need to differentiate). For most stoves, a smokeless
fuel - whether natural or man-made - will be suitable to burn.
Bob Morrison 2015-06-17 17:25:11
"Coal" and "Smokeless Fuel" appear to have become interchangeable on two posts on this subject.
There is of course "COAL" and "smokeless COAL" , a natural product which is mined, whereas
"smokeless FUEL" appears to mean man made products like Super Therm, Taybrite etc. Could posts be
made more definitive in future?