Should I Choose A Multi-fuel Or Wood-Burning Stove?

When you take the decision to install a stove in your home, there are many things to think about. One of the most critical things to decide is whether you will choose a wood-burning stove or a multi-fuel stove.

A multi-fuel stove, as you can imagine, has the ability to burn various types of fuel, whereas a wood-burning stove runs entirely on wood. But is this the only difference?

While it might be easy to believe that this is where the differences end, there are ways in which the two are anything but similar. For this reason, it is important to think about the pros and cons of each type of stove and weigh up your options.

Installing a stove can be a tricky and often complex job, and while it will massively enhance your life, you will want to make sure you get it right.

In this guide, we are going to walk you through everything you will need to know to make an informed choice on the type of stove that will best suit you.

Before we can dive into the pros and cons of each type of stove, it is vital to understand the difference between the two. As we have already discovered, a wood-burning stove is designed to be fueled solely by wood.

Wood burners have a flat base where you place the wood for burning. This wood will then burn down into ash and unlike a multi-fuel stove, it can actually be beneficial to leave a small amount of ash in place. This will help with combustion.

One of the complications of the wood-burning stove is that many people forget that there are some types of wood that are better for burning than others. So, if you do choose this type of stove, be sure to check out which types of wood work best.

A multi-fuel stove is also able to burn wood, but you also have the option to burn other types of fuel. Most commonly, multi-fuel stove owners will burn coal, peat and briquettes.

One of the key differences between a wood burner and a multi-fuel stove is that where a wood burner has a flat base, the multi-fuel stove has a grated bottom that is located just above the stove floor.

Your fuel is placed on this grate and this allows for better airflow around the inside of the stove. Since multi-fuel stoves work with smokeless fuels, this airflow is extremely important in keeping the fire going. It is also a good idea to remove any ash from the bottom of a multi-fuel stove as this will not be conducive to a healthy burn.

Pros And Cons Of Wood-Burning Stove vs Multi-Fuel Stove

While some people will find that a multi-fuel stove will serve them much better, others will find that a wood-burning stove works better for them. There are several aspects to consider and looking at the pros and cons can be the best way to make a choice.

Burning Efficiency

A key consideration is that a wood-burning stove is far more efficient than a multi-fuel stove. There are several reasons for this.

Primarily, a wood burner is designed only to burn wood and as such, has features that will optimise this ability. For example, the flat base gives you the right conditions for laying your wood, particularly on top of a small pile of ash. This is often referred to as a fire box and will help to fuel the fire.

On the other hand, a multi-fuel stove may not be quite as efficient. This is largely because, while they are designed to burn different types of fuel, you’ll likely find that burning wood doesn’t get such an impressive result.

This is down to the riddling plate which smokeless fuel sits on top of as the air circulates underneath, boosting the burn. But if you choose to burn wood in your multi-fuel stove, you’ll likely find that this airflow from underneath is more of a hindrance.

That being said, there are many newer multi-fuel stoves which have what is known as an airwash. This allows the user to control where the airflow comes from. Since wood requires air from above to burn, this can be useful if you want to experiment with different types of fuel and gives you the diversity you would expect from a piece of equipment like this.

Multi-Fuel Burners Don’t Emit Smoke

Wood will typically kick out quite a lot of smoke; you’ll have a flue fitted to siphon this out of the house but in some areas, there may be restrictions on what you can burn.

As more and more authorities become aware of the danger of pollution to the environment, many smoke-controlled areas have been announced.

This means that it is illegal to burn fuel that will produce smoke from a chimney unless it is a fuel that has been pre-approved. In most cases, this will mean burning a smokeless fuel such as smokeless coal or peat.

For anyone that lives in a smoke controlled area, a multi-fuel stove can be very advantageous. There are stoves that are DEFRA-exempt and in this case, you will be able to burn wood. These stoves have been tested against the government criteria and are approved for use due to the limited emissions that they produce.

If you want to use a wood-burning stove and live in a smoke controlled area then looking for a DEFRA-exempt stove would be a wise move.

Running Costs

Naturally, you are going to want to spend as little as possible heating your home. One of the advantages of owning a wood burner or multi-fuel stove is that you will likely save on your home energy bills. However, the last thing you want is to replace this cost with something far greater.

Wood Burners

Wood burners can be operated with either logs or with pellets. Typically, there are two different types of wood-burning stoves; those that burn logs and those that use pellets.

As a general rule, pellet burners are normally much bigger and will be used as an entire-house heating system whereas a log burner heats just the room it is installed in. Log burners are the more common type.

The cost of the wood will depend on where you source it and the type of wood you use. It is important to only use wood with less than 20% moisture unless you want to affect the quality of the burn. For this reason, we would always suggest using seasoned logs.

The amount of wood used by one household for a single log burner every year is thought to be a little over a tonne; that’s a lot of wood, so it pays to be smart when shopping for it.

You will need to think about delivery costs as most wood suppliers will bring the wood to you. Normally, stove owners will buy in bulk as you tend to save more money the more wood you buy at once.

However, transporting it will be an issue unless you have the correct vehicle. Take a look at the table below to get a rough idea of the average cost of wood.

 

Type of wood

Average price

Kiln-dried logs

£115 per m³

Seasoned logs

£135 per m³

Briquettes

£150 500kg

Pellets

£120 500kg

 

You might also consider that each of these types of wood fuels will burn at different rates. You may find that logs give a greater burn time and are more environmentally friendly but pellets may kick out slightly more heat.

If you aren’t bothered about the aesthetics of your logs, it is possible to buy them cheaper if they are ‘misshapen’ or ‘wonky.’ Of course, you can also find wood or chop down trees on your property which will cost you nothing but this is a limited resource.

The most important thing is that you only ever used seasoned logs, so if you do collect them yourself, be sure that you have the space to leave them to dry out which can take up to two years.

Multi-Fuel Burners

Anthracite coal is one of the most commonly used fuels for those with a multi-fuel burner. This is a naturally occurring substance that gives off almost no smoke which makes it very eco-friendly and suitable for smoke-controlled areas. However, there are also some man-made types of anthracite coal that are just as efficient.

The cost of this type of fuel comes in at around £420 for 1000kg (this comes in smaller bags so you will need space to store these.) For other types of smokeless fuel, you can expect to pay around the same price, if not ten or twenty pounds more.

If you won’t be using your multi-fuel stove very often, it is also possible to purchase fewer bags of fuel although, much the same as wood, the more you buy, the more you’ll save.

You will also need to factor in the cost of delivery.

One of the major benefits of a multi-fuel stove is that you have the freedom to change suppliers and fuels as often as you would like in order to get the best deals.

Maintenance

Regardless of the type of stove that you select, there will be a degree of maintenance involved.

One of the most important aspects of this is having a chimney sweep come to clear the flue. As a rule of thumb, this can be done bi-annually, but if you prefer to do it every twelve months, this is perfectly acceptable.

The cost of hiring a chimney sweep in the UK can be anywhere between £50 and £100 with £90 being the average.

Day to day maintenance will be pretty much the same with either type of stove. You will need to perform regular cleaning so, in this aspect, either a wood burner or a multi-fuel stove would be just as good.

Cost Of Ownership

When looking at the pros and cons of each type of stove, one of the first things people want to know is which will be the most affordable to install.

If you already have a chimney, the cost will be much lower, but in some cases, this may also need to be installed and can boost the price significantly, regardless of the type of stove you choose.

Even if there is a current flue in place, you may need to hire a qualified contractor to check whether it is safe to use. So, this is another cost that you will need to factor in. Again, this will apply no matter whether you choose a wood-burner or a multi-fuel stove.

However, the price of buying the stove itself won’t vary too much between types. We offer wood burners for as little as £799, but the price can go up depending on the model, wattage, size and many other factors.

The same applies to multi-fuel stoves; we offer some more budget-friendly options below £1000 but you can opt for something more high-end if you wish.

Things To Consider

Having looked at the pros and cons associated with wood burners and multi-fuel stoves, it is clear that there are differences between the two.

But knowing these may not be enough to help you make an appropriate decision. There are several things you will need to think about before committing to any particular type.

Convenience Of Multi-Fuel Over Wood Burners

There is no denying that having the option to burn various types of fuel will be much more convenient. If you ever find that you cannot access wood, there are other options which makes a multi-fuel stove a lot easier to use.

You may also find that burning these smokeless fuels is easier than burning wood. Getting a wood fire to start is notoriously tricky and can take a level of skill. While this is something that can be learned, it often takes some trial and error.

You might need to try different types of kindling and various types of logs before you find a way of getting a fire that is hot, long-lasting and aesthetically pleasing.

Ease Of Access Locally To Coal And Wood

There are some places that are much more remote than others and it can be difficult to access your chosen fuel. While most of the UK will be well-served when it comes to fuel, you may find that one type of fuel is more plentiful in your area than others.

While you can order wood and other types of fuel online, even on websites like Amazon, if there is ever a time where you run out and need wood quickly, having a local source can be invaluable.

This is definitely worth considering when choosing which type of stove will work best for you.

Types Of Fuel That Can Be Burned

Earlier, we talked about smoke-controlled areas. This will have an impact on the type of stove you choose. If you live in one of these areas, there is very little point in investing hundreds, perhaps thousands in a wood-burning stove that you won’t be able to use.

For this reason, we have to reiterate that looking for a DEFRA-exempt or approved stove is the best way forward.

Regardless of where you live, smoke-controlled or not, there are a lot of people who simply don’t like the idea of burning fuels that are not eco-friendly.

While many types of wood can be burned, most of the hardwoods that are often used in a wood burner are considered to be carbon neutral. This is great news and means that your choices open up.

However, it can be useful to find a supplier that replaces trees for those that are cut down and has ethical values.

It can also be helpful to understand which types of wood give off the least amount of smoke. Oak and maple are both extremely efficient for burning and also emit very low amounts of smoke, making them some of the most popular.

That being said, there are many other types of wood and provided that the logs are seasoned, there should be limited smoke. The main reason that wood smokes when it is burning is down to moisture and seasoning is a process that removes this issue.

Storage Of Fuel

While we aren’t going to tell you that you need a huge wood store in your back garden, you will need somewhere to store your fuel to keep it dry.

As we have discussed, buying larger quantities of fuel can mean that you get a better deal and this attracts a lot of wood and multi-fuel stove owners. However, you are then left with the problem of storing it.

The main thing to think about is that you have somewhere dry, especially if you are storing wood. Peat also needs to be kept especially dry and can be wrapped if moisture in the air is an issue.

If you intend to season your own logs, this will require somewhere in the open where there is a good amount of dry airflow.

Design

One of the great things about both wood burners and multi-fuel stoves is that they come in a huge range of designs. There are freestanding stoves or inserts and these heating appliances come in a great choice of sizes.

It is important to think about the size of your room as a larger room may need a bigger stove to adequately heat it. What’s more, in a grand living room, a smaller stove may not be the focal point you had hoped it would be.

Conversely, if you have a relatively small space, you might consider a more compact design.

Wattage

You should look at the wattage of the stove as this will help you determine whether it will efficiently serve the room in which it will be installed.

On average, a wood-burner or a multi-fuel stove will be about 5kw and if you have a larger room, this will need to be higher. However, the size of the room is not the only factor that will affect this.

If your home is well-insulated, you may not need something quite as high. You could have a professional help you to determine the right wattage, but as a general rule you can multiply the dimensions of your room and divide this by 14; this will give you the correct wattage.

Conclusion

If you have decided to install a stove in your home, one of the first things you will be asking yourself is whether you should choose a wood burner or a multi-fuel stove. Generally speaking, if you only plan to burn wood, you should go for the former.

However, there are benefits to both types of stove and it can help to look at the running costs, the maintenance and how easy each type of stove is to use.

On the whole, both stoves are efficient, user-friendly and will add a cosy feel to your home. Plus, a lot of your decision will rest on personal preference.

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