Coal and wood are both great sources of heat for your home, and can typically be used alone or together within an open fireplace fire.
But can you burn coal in a wood burning stove?
Coal cannot be burnt inside a wood burning stove. Coal needs a source of air from below the fire to burn efficiently, and so there needs to be a grate at the bottom of the stove which wood burning stoves won’t have. Multi fuel stoves have a grate and so allow you to burn coal.
I’ve explained in more detail below why we can burn coal in our multi fuel stove, but not our wood burning stove.
Can You Burn Coal In A Wood Burning Stove?
If you aren’t familiar with the types of stoves you can buy for your home then wondering whether you can burn coal inside a wood burning stove can be a valid question.
As the name suggests, wood burning stoves are designed for only burning wood.
Wood stoves are designed to specifically burn wood in the most efficient way possible. Wood burns best with a source of air from above, and so wood stoves are setup to supply air to above the fire.
Our wood burning stove has one controllable air vent located underneath the stove. Air doesn’t head straight to the fire from below, but is instead directed around the body of the stove to be fed to above the fire.
There are also some uncontrollable vents located at the back of the stove, but these also feed fresh air to above the fire inside the stove.
Wood also burns better on a bed of ash and so wood stoves will have a flat base at the bottom of the firebox that allows ash to build up between fires.
Coal burns more efficiently with a source of air from below the fire. We can’t use coal in our wood burning stove because it’s not set up to burn coal effectively. There’s no airflow to the fire from below. Even if there was then any ash that formed at the bed of the stove would block the airflow from even getting to the fire.
You therefore can’t burn coal in a wood burning stove. If you’re looking to burn coal in your home, then you’ll need what’s known as a multi fuel stove.
Multi fuel stoves are designed to allow you to burn different types of solid fuel such as wood and coal. They are setup so that air can get to the fire from both above and below.
While our wood burning stove has one controllable air vent, our multi fuel stove has two. One air vent controls the supply of air to above the fire, while the other vent controls the flow of air to the fire from below.
This allows us to change between burning either wood or coal inside the stove.
To help burn coal, our multi fuel stove has a metal grate at the base of the firebox. This allows ash to fall through into a separate compartment so that air can still get the base of the fire without being blocked.
The metal grate can also withstand higher temperature produced by burning coal. Wood burning stoves typically have the same fireproof material at the base base of the firebox as on the sides on back, and so would be damaged or warped over time by the higher heat generated from burning coal.
Ash in our multi fuel stove falls into an ash pan than can be removed from the stove to allow us to easily get rid of the ashes between fires.
Why Can’t You Use Coal In A Wood Burning Stove?
In summary, the reason’s why you can’t use coal in a wood burning stove are that:
- Coal burns more efficiently with a source of air from below the fire, and wood burning stoves aren’t setup to do so.
- You need a grate at the bed of a wood stove to allow ashes to fall through so that air can get the fire from below. Wood stoves don’t have a grate at the bed of the firebox and so any build up of ash from the fire would block the air from getting to the fire from below.
- Coal typically burns hotter than wood, and so using coal in a wood burning stove can cause permanent damage to it.
- Coal can produce a lot more ash than wood, and wood burning stoves aren’t designed to cope with the large amounts of ash left behind by burning coal.
What Happens If You Put Coal In A Wood Burning Stove?
If you use coal inside a wood burning stove then it won’t burn properly due to incomplete combustion.
Inadequate combustion of fuel is bad for both you and your stove. Fuel that doesn’t burn properly will produce more smoke as a result. Larger quantities of creosote can also be produced, which lines the inside of your chimney or flue and requires you to have it swept more often. (I’ve explained how often you need your chimney or flue swept here.)
Other forms of waste gases such as Carbon Monoxide may be produced as a result of the coal burning poorly. As coal burns much hotter than wood then burning coal in a wood stove can also damage it.
It’s therefore recommended to never burn coal in a wood burning stove.
How To Convert Wood Stove To Coal
Certain models of wood burning stove allow you to convert the stove to be multi fuel, therefore allowing you to burn coal inside the stove as well as wood.
For example, we can buy a ‘Multi fuel Conversion Kit’ from the manufacturer of our wood burning stove that converts the stove to be multi fuel.
This kit replaces the base part of the wood burning stove and adds a metal grate, ash pan compartment, and extra air vent to the stove.
The metal grate and additional air vent allows coal to be burnt because it helps supply air to the base of the fire, while the added ash pan compartment collects any ash that forms during a coal fire.
If you’re looking to burn both wood and coal in your home then a multi fuel stove is the type of stove you’ll want to look at getting.
If you think that you’ll only be burning wood for the foreseeable future, then a wood burning stove that has an optional multi fuel conversion kit may be the right type of stove for you, as it allows you to burn coal if you decide you want to further down the line.