Wood or Multi-Fuel?

Although wood is the typical type of fuel people think of to burn in a stove, you can also burn other fuels such as coal in a multi-fuel stove. Here we talk you thorough the types of stove so you can work out what would be best for your home. 


Multi fuel stoves

Multi-fuel stoves can burn wood, smokeless fuel and coal.

There are differences in the ways these fuels burn, and not all multi-fuel stoves are optimised for burning all compatible fuels equally efficiently.

How different fuels burn
Coal needs air to reach it from below through a grate. Most multi-fuel stoves have a riddling plate that allows you to remove any ash that's built up, letting more air through from underneath.

Wood, on the other hand, burns best when sitting on a bed of ash (also called a firebox, which is where the fuel burns), with air circulating from the top.

Because of these differences, a multi-fuel stove may not be optimised for burning both types of fuel. 

If you are planning on only burning wood, getting a dedicated log burner is advisable. However, if you think you may not have regular access to wood and so would like the option to burn coal occasionally, then a multi-fuel stove is a good option. Some stoves have a control allowing you to circulate more air from above or below, depending on the type of fuel.

Ideally, it’s best to work out what type of fuel you want to burn and what you have access to first, and then base your buying decision on that. If you live in a smoke controlled area, you will need a Defra-exempt stove or to only burn smokeless fuel on a multi-fuel stove,Also keep in mind that if you are buying a stove to be more eco-friendly, coal isn’t a carbon-neutral fuel like wood. 


Wood burning stoves

Also called wood fuel stoves, these run solely on wood logs, pellets or chips (although chips are really only used for large buildings such as community centres).

Log burner
There is a lot less manufacturing involved in logs than there is with pellets and chips - or indeed none if you collect already fallen wood yourself - making burning this type of wood very eco-friendly.

However, you need to factor in time for drying the wood - ideally around one to two years - to make it most efficient, which means you will also need the space. You can buy ready-dried wood, but at a higher price.

Take a look at our guide to using a wood burning stove for more information on sourcing wood, drying it yourself and prices.