Multi Fuel Stoves vs Wood Burning Stoves (The Differences Explained)

In Indoor Fireplaces, Wood Burning Stoves by James O'KellyLeave a Comment

Multi fuel stoves and wood burning stoves look and operate very similarly to one another, but have slightly different purposes and components.

So what are the differences between multi fuel stoves and wood burning stoves?

The main difference between multi fuel stoves and wood burning stoves are that multi fuel stoves:

  • Can burn coal and other smokeless fuel as well as wood.
  • Have a grate at the base of the firebox.
  • Come with a removable ash pan located beneath the firebox.
  • Have a primary air vent located on the front of the stove.

For a multi fuel stove to be able to burn types of solid fuel other than wood, a couple of different components need to be different compared to a wood burning stove.

We have a multi fuel stove and wood burning stove in the family, and so I’ve used examples from both of these stoves to explain the main differences between them.

Difference Between A Multi Fuel Stove And A Wood Burning Stove

The main difference between a wood burning stove and a multi fuel stove is the types of fuel that can be burnt. Wood burning stoves are designed to only burn wood, while multi fuel stoves can burn a number of other types of solid fuel, such as smokeless coal and briquettes.

With multi fuel stoves, you’re not required to burn fuels other than wood. We generally only burn wood in our multi fuel stove, but it gives us the option to burn other types of solid fuels such as coal in the future if we wanted to.

To be able to burn other types of solid fuel efficiently and cleanly, a multi fuel stove needs to have a few differences compared to a wood burning stove.

For coal to burn efficiently, a fire needs a source of air from below. As such, multi fuel stoves incorporate a grate at the base of the firebox, and a separate air vent located on the front of the stove to control the air flow to underneath the fire. Multi fuel stoves also have an ash pan compartment located underneath the firebox to collect any ash that falls through the grate. Air from the vent on the front of the stove flows to the firebox grate through the ash pan.

Wood burns best on a layer of ash, and so you won’t typically find a firebox grate or ash pan on a wood burning stove. Instead, wood stoves are found with a flat surface of fireproof material at the base of the firebox that allows for a bed of ash to build up.

Using photos of our multi fuel and wood burning stove, I’ve explained the different components found in both in further detail below.

Here’s photos our of stoves for reference:

Multi Fuel Stove
Our multi fuel stove
Wood Burning Stove
Our wood burning stove

Firebox Grate

Wood burning stoves are typically lined on the base of the firebox with the same fireproof material used on the back and sides. This is because wood can burn efficiency with only a source of air from above, and so a layer of ash on the base of a wood burning stove firebox is recommended by many manufacturers to help insulate the coals, and help maintain the fire.

On the other hand, coal requires a source of air from below to burn efficiently.

Multi fuel stoves therefore typically have a grate incorporated at the base of the firebox to provide a source of oxygen to the fire from below.

To highlight the difference between the two types of stove, below are pictures of the fireboxes in our wood burning stove and multi fuel stove.

Multi Fuel Stove Firebox
The firebox of our multi fuel stove
Wood Burning Stove Firebox
The firebox of our wood burning stove

Ash Pan Compartment

Since multi fuel stoves need a grate at the base of the firebox, they come with an ash pan compartment located underneath the firebox to collect any ash that falls through the grate.

Here’s what our multi fuel stove ash pan compartment looks like:

Ash Pan
the ash pan on our multi fuel stove

To help the ash in the firebox fall into the ash pan, our multi fuel stove incorporates a handle that allows us to rotate the grate. The handle is located on the side of the stove unit, and pulling the handle in and out rotates the grate.

The centre of the grate on our multi fuel stove can rotate
Grate control handle

Ash can therefore be safely and efficiently removed from our multi fuel stove as and when required.

Our other stove is a wood burning stove, and there’s no grate at the base of the firebox, and also no ash pan. On this stove, a bed of ash is left of at the base of the firebox, and any excess ash is cleaned out as needed.

No ash pan or grate on our wood burning stove

Primary Air Vent

The final main difference between multi fuel stoves and wood burning stoves is the location of the primary air vent.

To help you understand the terminology used below, my other article explains the differences between primary, secondary and tertiary air in stoves.

Coal requires a source of air from below to burn efficiently, and multi fuel stoves therefore require a grate at the base of the firebox. Primary air to a fire in a multi fuel stove is fed through this grate from the ash pan compartment.

Multi fuel stoves therefore incorporate a primary air vent on the front of the unit that allows fresh oxygen to reach the fire from below. The primary air vent is located in front of the ash pan compartment, and the amount of air flowing through the ash pan and grate to the firebox can be altered using the vent controls.

The images below show what the primary air vent looks like on our multi fuel stove.

Primary Air Vent
Primary air vent open on our multi fuel stove
Primary Air Vent
The primary air vent mostly closed

The following picture also shows what the back of our stove door looks like for reference. Both the glass door and the ash pan compartment have seals to ensure that all airflow is going through the air vents.

Multi Fuel Stove Door
The back of the door on our multi fuel stove

Wood burning stoves typically feed primary air to the firebox from underneath the stove, and not from the front like multi fuel stoves.

This can be seen on our wood burning stove, where there’s no air vents located on the front of the stove and primary air is fed to the fire from a vent underneath. A handle controls both the primary and secondary air vents located underneath our wood stove.

Our multi fuel stove also has a similar handle, but only operates the secondary air vent located underneath the stove.

Multi Fuel Stove Handle
The handle to control the secondary air vent located underneath our multi fuel stove

In summary, both primary and secondary air vents are located underneath our wood burning stove, while on our multi fuel stove the primary air vent is located on the front and the secondary vent is located underneath.

Using A Multi Fuel Stove As A Wood Burning Stove

In many cases, you can use a multi fuel stove as a normal wood burning stove by simply using wood as the only source of fuel. We really only burn wood in our multi fuel stove, and the fact that it’s a multi fuel stove doesn’t prevent us from having a successful and hot wood fire.

Some multi fuel stoves can be converted to a wood burning stove by replacing the grate at the base of the firebox with a flat bed of fire-resistant material, or even removing the grate entirely and using the ash pan compartment as the base of the fire. You may need to line the sides of the ash pan compartment to protect them from the heat of the fire, while having a layer of ash will help protect the base.

Another solution for using a multi fuel stove as a wood burning stove could be to let the ash build up from the ash pan over the grate, turning the base of your firebox into a bed of ash that will help maintain a fire when only burning wood.

Can You Convert A Wood Burning Stove To A Multi Fuel Stove?

Wood burning stoves are designed to only burn wood, and so have a flat-based firebox with no grate or ash pan.

However, some wood burning stoves can be converted to be able to burn other types of fuel by using a multifuel conversion kit. Not all models of wood burning stove can be converted, and so it’s worth checking your stove’s manual or contacting the manufacturer.

For example, a multifuel conversion kit is available for our wood burning stove (a Parkray Aspect 5 Slimline).

Our stove doesn’t currently have this optional bit of kit installed, but can be purchased and inserted into our stove at any time.

The multifuel conversion kit replaces the original base of the firebox with a grate, ash pan and further air vent. Some of the firebricks would have to be removed prior to fitment of the conversion kit to allow it to be installed correctly.

The kit would be installed at the base of our wood stove shown here:

A multifuel conversion kit would replace the base of the firebox in our wood burning stove

Details of this multifuel conversion kit can be found here on the manufacturer’s website, along with documentation explaining how it would be fitted to our wood burning stove.

Further Reading

Check out some of my other articles that may help you further understand how to make the most of your wood burning stove or multi fuel stove:

Parts Of A Wood Burning Stove Explained

How Much Ash To Leave In A Wood Burning Stove

Primary, Secondary And Tertiary Air On A Stove Explained

Air Wash Systems On A Stove Explained

Secondary Burn On A Wood Stove Explained

Things We Had To Consider Before Buying Our Stoves

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