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Home & garden.

Updated: 30 Dec 2021

Wood burning stoves vs multi-fuel stoves

Considering buying a log burner, multi-fuel stove or a wood pellet stove? Our guide to stoves will help you decide which, if any, to buy
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Paula Flores
Wood burner in brick fireplace 451108

Log burners, multi-fuel stoves and wood pellet stoves – we talk you through the differences between the three main types of stove to help you decide if one of these is right for your home.

Most people think of burning wood in a stove, but if you have a multi-fuel stove you can also burn other fuels such as certain types of coal. When we surveyed Which? members who own a stove, 52% said that they have a wood-burning stove and 48% have a multi-fuel stove.*

Find out more about wood-burning stoves and pollution to learn more about the wider context. 

If you've already decided to buy, visit our page on buying a stove to see our full advice guide. It includes information on the key factors you need to consider when buying a stove, important installation advice and tips on using it.

You can also visit our wood-burning stove reviews to find out how stove owners rated big-name brands on key factors, such as quality and value for money. Two brands got five stars for all criteria. 

How much do log burners and multi-fuel stoves cost to buy and install?

To find out the average cost of different types of stoves and installation, we've asked stove owners what they spent, scoured stove stores to find average prices and worked with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to ascertain installation costs.

Log in to access the costs on this page. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to unlock our research plus all of our expert reviews.

Multi-fuel stoves

Multi-fuel stoves are also called mineral-fuel stoves. They can burn wood, smokeless fuel and coal. The government is going to ban house coal and any fuels that have more than 2% sulphur content, as these are the most polluting.

There are lots of smokeless fuel alternatives, although many of which are based on naturally occurring anthracite.

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

How different fuels burn on a multi-fuel stove

To burn efficiently, smokeless coal or mineral fuels needs air to reach it from below. Multi-fuel stoves have a grate for the fuel to sit on, making them ideal for coal. Some also 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.

Therefore, a multi-fuel stove may not be optimised for burning both types of fuel. However, some manufacturers are introducing innovations to their stoves that allow you to change how you burn fuel, for example having a removable or adjustable grate.

But this doesn't guarantee efficiency for all fuels. You'll need to make sure you use the stove correctly and follow the manufacturers' instructions. It's also worth checking that the stove has been independently tested and verified to burn all types of fuels efficiently, and to current standards, including the CE mark. The CE mark is being replaced with the UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking. This marking is used for goods being placed on the market in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). It will be mandatory from January 2023. 

If you want to burn both types of fuel, and especially if you think you may not have regular access to one, then go for a multi-fuel stove with this new technology. 

Also look out for a multi-fuel stove that has primary and secondary (sometimes called airwash) air vents. These allow you to control whether more air circulates from above or below, depending on the type of fuel. 

If you know you'll only burn wood then opt for a wood stove.

If you have a multi-fuel stove and live in a smoke-controlled area, you will only be able to burn smokeless fuel – such as anthracite coal. If you want to burn wood, you'll need a Defra-exempt stove (more on this below).

For more information on what you need to consider when buying a stove, take a look at our expert advice on how to buy a stove.

How much do multi-fuel stoves cost to buy and install?

These prices are for the purchase and installation of a typical standard stove, with an average output of 4kW.

Log in to access the costs on this page. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to unlock our research plus all of our expert reviews.

Multi-fuel stovesFromTo
Flue through the floor/ceiling, not in a chimney
Chimney that is in good working order
Chimney that needs a lot of work (eg relining etc)

Wood-burning stoves

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

There are two types of wood-burning stoves: log burners and pellet stoves. Log burners (or wood burners) are the most popular, and usually used as standalone room heaters for one room. 

Pellet stoves are more commonly used to heat entire houses. They're also usually larger and more modern looking.

How much do wood-burning stoves cost to buy and install?

Log in to access the costs on this page. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to unlock our research plus all of our expert reviews.

Wood-burning stove costsFromTo
Flue through the floor/ceiling, not in a chimney
Chimney that is in good working order
Chimney that needs a lot of work (eg relining etc)

Hunter Parkray Aspect 5 Slimline wood-burning stove

What can affect the cost of installing a multi-fuel or wood-burning stove?

There are a number of factors that affect installation costs, and these all depend on your home. Installation may cost more if:

  • you need to have your chimney relined because otherwise gases would escape
  • your chimney needs work on it and is particularly tall, so may need scaffolding
  • you need a flue created as you don’t have a chimney
  • a vent needs to be fitted in the room – 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. One Which? member advised:

Invite more than one installer to visit and give advice.

You can also visit Which? Trusted Traders to find a trustworthy stove installer in your area. All traders who bare our logo have passed our extensive checks, so you can be assured they're reputable. 

Other stove types

Log burner

If you're buying a stove to be more eco-friendly, wood could be considered a low-carbon fuel, depending on where it's sourced from and how it's processed. 

There's also a lot less manufacturing involved in logs than there is with pellets and chips – or indeed none if you collect already fallen wood yourself.

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 you will have to dry this out first to ensure it burns efficiently and safely, without being excessively polluting.

This can take up to two years, which means you'll also need the space for it. Alternatively, you can buy ready-dried wood. This will cost more, but is likely to have a lower moisture content – burning logs with less than 20% moisture is recommended. 

If you live in a smoke-controlled area, you'll also need a Defra-exempt stove to burn wood. You can find out whether you live in one of these areas by contacting your local council and use the Defra website to see a list of all the exempt stoves on sale.

Cost of wood for a log burner

Clearview Pioneer oven multi-fuel or wood-burning stove

It's estimated that stove owners use around one to 1.25 tonnes of wood a year, if they have an average-sized stove and house.

But this could vary greatly depending on what wood you use. It also varies according to the wattage and efficiency of your stove, the hours you run it and the energy efficiency of your home.

Prices also vary by supplier and region, so it's worth taking a look at how much it costs in your area before making a decision.

Keep in mind that although some types are cheaper to buy, they may be less efficient to burn – and will be more polluting. For example, partially seasoned logs have around 25% to 35% moisture and so a 3.4kWh output per kg.

Kiln-dried logs and seasoned logs, on the other hand, have around 20% moisture and so a 4.5kWh output. Pellets and briquettes have the moisture content of around just 10%, and a heat output of around 5kWh. 

Burn logs with a moisture content of less than 20% to minimise pollution and increase efficiency. With anything other than kiln-dried logs, briquettes and pellets, you'll need to dry them out yourself before using them. 

For around £100, you can also buy, or even find, freshly cut logs. These are cheaper, but have a high moisture content of between 50% and 60% or even higher. They will therefore have a very low heat output of around 1kWh to 2kWh per kg.  

Because of their inefficiency, and because burning moist logs will create more build-up in your chimney and potentially harmful air pollution, you shouldn't burn them as they are. Drying them yourself is called seasoning and will take one to two years. You'll also need the space to do so.  

Wood pellet stoves

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 such as 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 of wood pellet stoves

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

Cons of wood pellet stoves

  • Making the pellets does have an environmental impact
  • 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.

*October 2021 survey of 1,375 Which? members who have bought a stove in the past 10 years. Which? conducted an online qualitative study with 15 members of its own panel who have bought a wood burning or multi fuel stove in the past three years.