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.
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.
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.