Can you use household coal in wood-burning or multi-fuel stoves?

Can you use household coal in wood-burning or multi-fuel stoves

As ever, we can only offer general advice on the type of fuel you should be using on your stove. Your go-to resource on whether or not you can burn household coal is the stove manual provided by the manufacturer.

Hopefully we’ll be able to flesh out some of the details and give an explanation of the information you’re likely to find in your manual.

Firstly, household coal and any similar coal-like or smokeless fuels should not be used on a wood-burning stove. Wood burners have a flat grate rather than the raised grate needed to burn coal. Not only is this impractical – since coal needs an air supply from below to burn properly – it would also seriously damage your stove, which is not equipped to have hot coals burning on it.

What about multi-fuel stoves?

Well, even with a multi-fuel stove, burning household coal is not a good idea. If you check your manual, we would expect it to warn against the use of household coal. It might not tell you why you shouldn’t use it.

The main reason is that, when coal is added to a fire it doesn’t start to burn immediately. Before it catches light, large quantities of smoke are released. This thick yellow-grey smoke is highly volatile. It will will fill your stove and flue system and, once up to temperature can create an explosive flash.

The force of this will often crack the glass in your stove door or cause damage to your flue. Even if you’re fortunate enough to avoid an explosive flash, the volatiles released by the coal will still catch fire. They will burn intensely for around 30 minutes until the coal settles into a more controlled burn.

This extreme initial burn will start to damage the inside of your stove. Examples of premature wear you will see include twisted baffles, misshaped grates, pitted and cracked liners and warped fuel retainers.

For those reasons, household coal should only be used in open coal fires. The ventilation of air from the room into the open fireplace dilutes the volatile smoke and stops the flashes and intense burns that make coal unsuited to the more confined conditions of a stove.

What should you use instead?

Manufactured or smokeless coals are a far better option when it comes to finding an appropriate solid fuel for your multi-fuel stove. They are made to burn more consistently and steadily.

7 thoughts on “Can you use household coal in wood-burning or multi-fuel stoves?

  1. Thanks. I take it you recommend keeping the airwash vents open (or partially open) whilst burning solid fuel?

    Also purchasers of solid fuel stoves need to be aware that the best ones are those with full width riddling grates. Those with a central riddling grate are simply not as effective.

  2. Hi I have had coal all my life, but never heard of “housecoal”. I’m used to anthracite as I’m from a mining family.. Is it bituminous coal, a younger age type of coal (as opposed to anthracite which is much older) with lots of gas given off when burnt?

  3. Hi you say that a woodburning stove ie mine is a burley stove when i purchased it i was told i could buy the multi burner attatchment for 230 to incert into the stove i have purchased a much cheaper one that is now in use and is i believe safe to use in a woodburning stove please enlighten me further please.

    • Hi Mick

      That will depend on where you bought the cheaper option, whether it is manufactured to the correct safety levels and whether it fits the stove in the same way as the more expensive version.



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