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 2019-10-21 09:14:46
@ Elizabeth Brown Hi Elizabeth It would depend on which softwood. Many are fine to burn. The main
issue is that they are not as dense as hardwords, which means they burn more quickly and you need to
burn more to generate the same heat levels. More info:
https://blog.gr8fires.co.uk/2013/05/07/best-wood-for-wood-burning-stove-fuel/ Thanks, Gr8Fires
Elizabeth Brown 2019-09-28 12:06:35
Since moving in my cottage and inheriting a multi fuel stove, I have only burnt seasoned hardwood
and had the flue liner cleaned regular. My wood suppliers as just told me my next delivery will be
softwood as that is all they can get for a while. Can you advise me if this will be okay to burn as
I looked on internet and what I'v read doesn't advice it.
christopher charles hughes 2019-04-12 05:07:47
Gr8Fires 2018-07-04 15:05:59
@ Martin williamson Hi Martin, The answer used to be cast iron, but the modern steel stoves are
just as good as cast iron. As long as you're getting a good quality stove, you'll be okay with
either. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Martin williamson 2018-06-06 13:47:38
Do you recommend cast iron stoves or steal stover
Andy Moore 2017-12-29 12:27:35
I burn coal on a multi fuel stove. I have spent ages working out the best fuel to use and am still
working on on it. Here is what I have found so far. Phurnacite or Stoveheat Premium burns really
well and lasts for ages. It's easy to light and very easy to keep in over night -in fact when it's
been cold I have kept the fire burning for a fortnight. 12 hours without a refuel is possible. I
have found that it pays to keep a reasonable draft from below at all times, so I tend to keep the
bottom vent at least half open. If the top vent is open a crack the air wash keeps the glass
clear. Now the downsides. Manufactured fuels like the ones mentioned above eat metal flue liners due
to the high sulphur content. The last one only lasted six years before it corroded through. I have
just replaced it. I am now experimenting with small grain anthracite. I have found that this is hard
to light and harder to keep in overnight, but it burns incredibly hot - even with only a 5kw stove
it heats the whole of my ground floor. The trick with anthracite is to add it in layers. Light the
stove with something like stoveheat, wait for it to glow red hot, then add one layer of anthracite.
Once the anthracite is glowing red hot add another layer and keep doing this until you have the
required amount of fuel. Then you can control the heat with the vent. Whatever you do don't add a
full scuttle load of anthracite in one go because it just smothers the fire. I am hoping that the
lower sulphur content of anthracite will mean that this new flue liner will last longer. Just need
to work out how to keep anthracite in overnight :)
Gr8Fires 2017-11-09 09:21:35
@ Andrew Swann Hi Andrew Is the fuel dry? Is there enough ventilation in the room? Try cracking a
window to see if that helps and, if so, you could consider something more permanent, like an air
brick. Solid fuels need a good air supply from below to burn, so experiment with the bottom
vent. Is the draw up the flue good enough when burning logs? Thanks, Gr8Fires
Andrew Swann 2017-11-07 18:01:44
I have recently installed a multi - fuel stove and have found it difficult to burn anthracite. I've
tried starting the burn with logs then introducing anthracite, the anthracite starts to glow,
however cools the stove then gradually goes out. I have made sure vents are open providing max air
flow. can anyone offer any advice. Thanks
Gr8Fires 2017-10-06 13:50:17
@ John Coffey You're welcome, John.
John Coffey 2017-10-06 08:32:46
I have a multi wood burning stove and have been burning both wood and coal at the same time. Now I
know that it is not good for the flue so will from now on will only use one or the other when I use
the stove. Thank you for this information as I did not know this before.
Ray Southall 2017-09-14 11:23:24
I believe there are multi purpose stoves that come equipped with the choice of either using coal or
smokeless fuels or wood by the ability to change the grate or the seating on which the type of fuel
you wish to use is possible.
Gr8Fires 2017-08-10 12:51:32
@ joanna pocock Hi Joanna It depends on your appliance. Some stoves offer conversion kits. Aside
from the grate and ashpan, the other thing most woodburners have is a log retainer/bar to stop fuel
rolling out when you open the door, so that we be the other consideration. Thanks, Gr8Fires
joanna pocock 2017-08-09 16:47:23
Hello Gr8Fires can you answer me this question..... I have a woodburning stove can I buy a grate
then start using coal or do I need to get the whole thing replaced with the liner too?
Gr8Fires 2017-07-24 14:07:43
@ Jennifer mallett Hi Jennifer The best advice for the wellbeing of your stove is one type of fuel
at a time, but lots of people do burn both. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Jennifer mallett 2017-07-18 07:48:00
I have a multi fuel stove can I burn taybrite and hottie logs together
Gr8Fires 2017-02-14 14:28:33
@ Stephen Lansbury Hi Stephen There definitely is differences, but there isn't a great deal to go
on beyond what the manufacturers tell you about performance and suitability, plus your own trial and
error. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Stephen Lansbury 2017-02-13 08:33:50
Hi. I usually burn wood, mainly seasoned ash, on my Charnwood Island II but have smokeless fuel as a
standby. Unlike Patricia Moss we get a lot more heat out of wood than smokeless fuel and it will
often take quite a while to light compared to the wood. The lined chimney and 8 year old stove are
serviced regularly so I was wondering if all smokeless fuels are equal in heat output? Cheers,
mike richardson 2017-02-05 16:31:37
a good tip to people thinking of buying a stove of any description , is check out what your local
authority approves of first .
Gr8Fires 2017-01-23 12:41:02
@ Patricia Moss Hi Patricia, If you're using the stove regularly then getting the chimney swept
every six months is recommended. Some degree of soot smell is probably inevitable, so as long as
you're using the appliance and fuel as recommended by the manufacturers. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Patricia moss 2017-01-21 19:36:38
Hello, I am burning smokeless fuel om my Clearview multi burner at the moment, because we get a lot
more heat out of it, than using wood. I do worry a little that it seems to smell sooty sometimes. It
was swept about 4 to 5 months ago. Is this acceptable. It does have a metal liner which has been
well covered with something like aspestos, but obviously not aspestos. It goes up a massive chimney
which is 600 years old. I would not like to set the house on fire !!! Kind regards Patricia. Ps. I
am always ready your little gems of advice.