Multi fuel stoves vs wood burning stoves

Wood burning stoves

Multi fuel stoves vs wood burning stoves

Article 3 of 6

Multi fuel stoves vs wood burning stoves

Want to know if you should get a wood burning stove, multi-fuel stove or a wood pellet stove? Our guide will help you decide.

Not sure what sort of stove you should get? From wood burning stoves, to multi-fuel and wood pellet stoves, we'll help you to choose the right type for your home.

Although wood is the typical fuel people think of to burn in a stove, you can also burn other fuels in a multi-fuel stove - such as coal. 

Here, we talk you thorough the types of stove so you can work out which would be best for your home, as well as the different styles and brands. Scroll down and view our gallery, below, for ideas. 

We've also compiled all of this information into our downloadable stove-buying checklist. This includes key factors you need to consider when buying and tips on using your stove. You can use our checklist to make sure you get the best stove, save money and buy safely.

To access the checklist, click buying a stove

This page also includes information on everything you need to know about getting a stove, having spoken to industry experts and installers, plus asked stove owners about the things they wish they had known before buying a stove.

Stove brands

When we asked 183 Which? members who own stoves which brand they had (survey: Sep 13), Stovax came top with 15% of members owning one. Clearview came second with 9%, then Moroso (7%), Charnwood (4%) and Jotul (4%). Here are some of the types, styles and brands of stoves available, from modern pellet stoves to traditional wood burning stoves.

Multi-fuel stoves

Multi-fuel stoves are also called mineral-fuel stoves. They can burn wood, smokeless fuel and coal.

There are differences in the way these fuels burn, and not all multi-fuel stoves are optimised for burning all compatible fuels with equal efficiency.

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. The Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) found that 77% of people that have a multi-fuel stove only burn wood.

Multi-fuel stoves 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 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 and want to burn wood, you will need a Defra-approved stove, or only burn smokeless fuel.

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. Take a look at our guide on how to buy a stove to find out what you need to consider. 

Wood burning stoves

Also called wood-fuel stoves, wood burning stoves 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'll need to factor in either drying time or cost. The cheapest fuel for your log burner is wood that you have collected or bought that still has a high moisture content. But to make it burn efficiently and safely, you will need to leave it to dry out - ideally for around one to two years - which means you will also need the space. You can buy ready-dried wood, but this costs a lot more.

For more information on sourcing wood, drying it yourself and prices, see our guide to using a wood burning stove

Wood-pellet stove

Wood pellet stoves can look quite different to log burners and tend to cost a lot more. They use pellets made from wood by-products, such as sawdust or other organic materials like corn, which are tightly compacted together. Check which type of pellets the stove can burn before you buy.

Many wood pellet stoves have a ‘hopper’, which feeds the pellets into the stove so it needs filling less frequently. Many also have an automatic ignition to light the pellets electronically, a timer for turning the stove on and off, and a back-up power supply in case there is a power failure - something worth looking out for. 

Pros

  • Drier and denser than wood logs, making them more efficient
  • Use materials that may otherwise go to landfill
  • Requires less storage space for fuel
  • Produce less ash than burning logs.

Cons

  • Making the pellets does have an environmental impact - they produce 3.5 times more carbon per kWh than wood logs
  • Wood pellets can be harder to come by than logs
  • They rely on electricity so will make impact your electricity bill
  • Need to be maintained more regularly than a log stove - wood pellet stoves need to be serviced as well as having twice yearly chimney sweeps.

Find out more about the installation and running costs of stoves by taking a look at our guide to stove costs and savings.

Want all this information on buying a stove in one bite-sized chunk? Then take a look at our stove-buying checklist on our stove installation page to make sure you get the best, save money and buy safely. This page also includes a video guide talking you through a typical installation.