Multi-Fuel stoves can be quite similar to wood-burning stoves in design and appearance although can use multiple fuel sources to generate heat such as wood, coal, wood pellets, or peat. The stoves that have grates for the fire to burn on and can be removed by a removable ash pan are generally considered multi-fuel stoves. If the fire burns on just a bed of ash it is a wood-only fuelled appliance and cannot be used for coal or peat, it is strictly a wood-only fuelled stove.
As the name suggests a multi-fuel stove is designed and built with the intention of allowing you to burn more solids fuels than just wood and because not all fuels burn in the same way it is designed to allow multiple different fuel sources to be used this is the reason why traditional log burners cannot be fuelled with coal whereas multi-fuel stoves are set up to be versatile enough to handle most types of solid fuel, we will go into a bit of detail about which types of fuel can be used and why they are chosen as a fuel source for certain stoves.
Firewood – is any wood material that is gathered and can be used for fuel. Generally, wood is not highly processed and is usually sold in a log form which is different in appearance from other forms of wood fuel like wood pellets or chips. Firewood can also be heat treated or unseasoned which is usually fresh/wet wood, these fall into the categories of hardwood and softwood.
Coal – is carbon and various other elements, coal is significantly sourced from former wetlands and generates more heat than burning wood but has the downside of generating thick toxic fumes, its also not recommended to burn wood and coal together or if you do not use it for long periods of time as burning wood and coal together can eventually damage your wood burning only stove or even your multi-fuel stove with regular uses of both together.
Wood Pellets – The advantage over using coal or peat is that wood pellets are renewable although sometimes the amount used can overtake the ability to replenish the fuel source and you may need a pellet basket to use this as a fuel source.
Peat – Although used for hundreds of years peat is the most inefficient in terms of pollution and heat generated per tonne than even coal so it is advised you choose other options available such as smokeless fuels or simple firewood.;
It is advisable and worth it to take the time to consider which type of fuel you decide to use before you choose what type of multi-fuel stove you will purchase, coal, for example, cannot be burnt in smoke control areas plus it is a dirtier and more expensive fuel source than wood, if you do decide to choose coal as your primary fuel source it must be in a permitted area then you would require your chimney to be swept more often as the thick smoke from burning coal has a heavier amount of emissions, due to this reason then coal will most likely be subject to tighter regulations in the future.
What is the Difference Between a Wood Burning Stove and a Multifuel Stove?
The differences between wood-burning stoves and multi-fuel stoves are mostly based on the grate. As different solid fuels have different requirements for burning, multi-fuel stoves must have an adjustable airflow functionality as well as a removable grate, multi-fuel stoves have these functionalities as different fuels have different burning requirements so they require the ability to adjust the airflow and remove the grate to be able to empty the ash and burnt debris.
With traditional log-burning stoves, the airflow circulates from the top, this is due to wood burning better on a bed of ash whilst drawing air from above whereas coal burns best when air circulates from below. To be able to accommodate coal-burning fuel multi-fuel stoves feature a grate that allows ash to fall through into a pan below allowing for easy removal and emptying while the fire is burning to prevent a build-up of ash that could stop the air from circulating as well as it should
Choosing whether you want a wood-burning stove or a multi-fuel stove is a decision you must make, here are the differences between multi-fuel burning stoves and wood-burning stoves so you can make an informed decision and decide which one is right for your home.
Wood-burning stoves barely need an introduction, as the name suggests wood-burning stoves are stoves that solely burn wood logs as their primary fuel source rather than any other type of fuel. Wood-burning stoves feature a pan base, this is where the ash collects, the pan base leaves some ash on the floor which as mentioned above actually aids in the combustion of the wood, generating more heat and generally helping the fuel source to burn, this isn’t the case with multi-fuel stoves.
Different fuels burn in different ways and some fuels are recommended to be avoided altogether, especially in wood-only burning stoves as the only fuel sources you will be able to buy without the risk of damaging your stove. If you are in the majority that thinks ‘wood is wood’ then you are not alone in this belief, when it comes to wood. There is a myriad of woods with different burning properties, this is going to sound a little bizarre to you. Still, woods come in different types that differ in burn time, from the burn time, the scent, the amount of smoke produced and even the amount of crackle produced from the burning log. What is essential is to make sure the wood you are using is seasoned wood, below we will explain how to know if the wood logs you are using are seasoned.
When checking if your wood logs are seasoned then there are a few ways you can check this, one is checking whether the wood logs make a dull thudding sound when knocked together as opposed to the loud, clear ‘clacking’ of well-seasoned logs then the wood is probably not as dry as it ideally needs to be.
Another trait of well-seasoned wood is to check whether the bark comes away from the log easily, if the wood log is dry then the bark should come away from the log easily, if the wood is unseasoned then the bark won’t give so easily as the wood is a lot more damper than its well-seasoned counterpart. If you’re in the belief that there is not much difference between seasoned and unseasoned wood then you would be wrong as well-seasoned wood generates 50% more heat than its unseasoned, damper counterpart.
What Type of Wood Should I Use?
When deciding what type of wood to use you may just think wood is wood and that’s it, but it is a lot more complex than that as the different woods, like mentioned above have numerous properties that are affected by the type you decide to use, we will go through a few types so you have an idea of what type of wood you want to use.
First and foremost Ash is considered one of the best woods to burn, they produce a nice steady flame and a great heat output. You could actually burn ash wood when it is still green but its performance will be compromised and it is generally not recommended.
Another two great kinds of wood to choose as a fuel source in your wood-burning stove are Hawthorn and Yew as they burn slowly and produce a nice steady flame and a nice balanced heat output.
If splitting and sparking are one of your concerns when choosing which wood to burn then Apple is a good option, the downside is the flames are smaller resulting in less heat output but it does burn slowly and steady so it is a very good option.
Multi-Fuel stoves as the name suggests allow the user to burn more than just wood, on top of the usual logs you would burn they can be used to burn a variety of other materials other than just the regular wood logs or wood pellets you would opt for in a wood burning stove, these include turf briquettes or peat, coal, anthracite and other smokeless fuels as options. It is worth noting that if you live in a smokeless area then you can only opt for smokeless fuels and if you do want to use wood as your primary fuel source for that cosy fireplace feel then you would need to purchase a DEFRA-approved multi-fuel stove, for an even more eco-friendly option you can opt for an eco-design multi-fuel stove which can still burn wood, peat and turf briquettes.
Taking a look inside you would notice a difference in comparison to a wood-burning stove straight away in the inclusion of a ‘riddling grate’ that primary function is to sit just above the floor of the stove which allows airflow to help in the burning of smokeless fuels and allows ash to be collected in the ashpan for ease of cleaning after use – it is important to clean the riddling grate regularly after use so as not to disrupt airflow and allow it to flow freely around the stove so fuels can burn efficiently.
How to Use the Multi-fuel Stove Air Controls and Their Location
A lot of stoves, multi-fuel stoves and wood-burning alike feature multiple air vents, for wood-burning stoves primary use is mainly to start the fire, keep the glass clean of soot and improve the efficiency of the stove. In multi-fuel stoves, they can help you change the airflow to assist with the burning of different fuels.
Here is a quick breakdown of what each vent does:
Primary Air Vents – The primary air vent is located on the bottom of the stove. For wood-burning stoves, this is usually closed off when the fire is burning but for multi-fuel stoves, it can be controlled to allow less or more air to circulate under the grate for use when burning coal.
Secondary Air Vents – The secondary air vent is located on the top of the stove and usually gets pre-heated before entering the stove to stop ash and dirt from the smoke from sticking to the glass window on the stove, it is also useful in allowing the fire to draw air from above when burning wood and in a multi-fuel stove you can close this air vent off for when you use coal as your fuel source.
Tertiary Air Vents – Some stoves may mention a tertiary air vent, this comes through the back of the stove and is there to ignite any particles that are exiting the stove which makes the stove more efficient and cleaner burning.
What can affect the cost of installing a multi-fuel or wood-burning stove?
Numerous factors come into play when considering your choice of wood-burning stoves or multi-fuel burning stoves, one of the most important of these or what will greatly influence your decision is the installation costs but these all do depend on your home. Installation may cost you more if:
You would need to have your chimney relined so as to make sure no gases escape.
Your chimney needs work on it due to the relining and if it is particularly tall then it may need scaffolding which would end up costing you more.
You may need a flue created as you don’t have a chimney on your property.
A vent needs to be fitted in the room the stove is located – this is a building regulation requirement.
We recommend getting three quotes after a survey. Some installers charge for this, others don’t, so shop around. Get written confirmation of what the quote includes, so you can easily compare costs and decide which choicer is best for you.