Is it OK to burn coal and wood at the same time on a woodburner?

Burning Coal and Wood at the same time

It is a question that many people are unsure of the answer to after they have bought a multi-fuel stove (and lots of others plough on oblivious to the situation without finding out the answer): can you burn coal and wood on a stove at the same time?

The first thing to say – and apologies for stating the obvious here – is that you must not burn coal at all on a wood-burning stove. As its name suggests, you should burn only wood on a woodburner. If you intend to burn fuels other than wood, you will need to buy a multi-fuel stove instead.

Multi-fuel stove rules

So having bought your multi-fuel stove, what is the situation with regard to burning coal and wood on it?

The answer is that, even when you are using a multi-fuel stove, you should not burn coal and wood at the same time. While you have the option of burning either fuel on your appliance, this should be done separately and never simultaneously. Here’s why…

Coal contains sulphuric acid, while wood – even when well seasoned (as it always should be before being burned on a stove) – is relatively high in moisture. When the two fuels are burned at the same time, the sulphur released by the coal and water from the wood combine to create a nasty solution that will stick to and corrode your stove system.

This might result in damage to internal parts, holes in the flue pipe and other potentially expensive wear.

So, make sure you only burn one type of fuel at a time to avoid those problems.

Also, remember, even if you are burning just coal, you should not burn regular house coal on a multi-fuel stove.

Read this article to find out why you shouldn’t burn house coal on a multi-fuel stove.

The best white woodburners and multi-fuel stoves

NB. This article is about white wood-burning stoves. For some off-white shades, check out this article on cream wood-burning stoves.

White Woodburners

Wood-burning stoves have traditionally been black, but you can now get a stove in just about any colour you like. That includes the possibility of operating at the opposite end of the monochrome palette with a stylish white woodburner.

White wood-burning stoves are still relatively thin on the ground, so they immediately cut a strong visual impression by virtue of being so unusual. Here are some of the best white woodburners.

Thorma Cadiz Black and White Wood Burning Stove

Thorma Cadiz
The Thorma Cadiz retains some black features but is dominated by it white colouring. Its rounded body and window add to the sense of modernity created by the white steel finish. Its 11kW heat output make it suitable for large rooms. Click here to have a closer look.

Thorma Milano II b White Multi-Fuel Stove

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Another appliance from Slovakian manufacturer Thorma, the Milano features the styling of a traditional continental woodburner. This creates a nice juxtaposition with the ultra-modern white stove body. It is made from steel and packs more of a punch then you might expect from the photo. It produces a 7.5kW heat output. Click here to have a closer look.

Invicta Tennessee 8 kW Wood Burning Stove White

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With its chest-style design features, the Invicta Tennessee is undoubtedly a stove to treasure. It comes in a crisp greyish white finish. Unlike the steel appliances we’ve looked at so far, this stove is made from cast iron. Click here to have a closer look.

Invicta Boheme 14 kW Wood Burning Stove

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The Invicta Boheme really is something to behold with its stunning white ceramic tile finish, which overlays a cast iron body. It produces an impressive 14kW heat output. Click here to have a closer look.

Looking for cream woodburners? You’ll find them here.

Why does smoke come into my room when I light my woodburner?

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Lots of people with woodburners that otherwise function perfectly find that smoke seeps into their room during the lighting process. If you find yourself in that position, hopefully we will be able to help you find a solution by the time you have read this article.

The most likely cause

Does the smoke come out of your woodburner only when you’re lighting it? If so, the most likely cause is that a pocket of air has formed in the flue and is stopping the draw of the smoke up the chimney. With the stubborn air blocking the exit route, the smoke created during your stove-lighting process has no choice but to come back down the flue and out of the vents and/or open door of your woodburner.

How to deal with it

If this is happening to you, one way to stop the smoke getting into your room is to put a sheet of newspaper flat on top of a log inside the firebox and light it in several place. The sudden, intense and even burn of the flat paper will cause a surge of heat up the chimney, which ought to dislodge the air pocket and allow your stove to work properly without smoke escaping into your home.

How to stop this happening again

We’ve addressed how to deal with the problem, but how do you guard against it to prevent it happening again? One way of minimising the risk of air pockets sitting in your chimney is to leave the air vents on your woodburner wide open when it is not in use. This creates a flow of air through the stove and so reduces the chances of air sitting in one position.

This is also best practice when your stove is out of use for extended periods because the air flow reduces the chances of corrosion.

Other possibilities

Is the smoke coming out of your woodburner at times other than when it is being lit? Are you unsure whether air pockets are the cause of your problems? There are other possible causes.

These include:

  • Strong wing
  • Poor draw
  • Exposed property location
  • Lack of ventilation

Click here to find out more about tackling those problems.

Why does my woodburner glass turn black and how can I stop it happening?

Glass Black Woodburner

Being able to see the flames dancing around the firebox is one of the many joys of being a wood-burning stove owner, so the last thing you want is a layer of soot or dirt blocking that view.

The first thing to say is that a little bit of soot or cloudiness is normal. Given the environment in which the glass operates, it is inevitable that some of the by-products of burning wood or smokeless fuels will make their mark. You can remove this cloudiness by following these tips on cleaning wood-burning stove glass.

Secondly, we have it much better than our ancestors. Nearly all modern wood-burning stoves come with an in-built airwash system. This uses the stove’s top vent to create a layer of air that washes over the glass and prevents grime from settling.

Given the presence of the airwash system – and bearing in mind what we’ve established about a bit of blackening over time being normal – if your stove glass is regularly going back after use then you might need to chance something about the way you’re operating the stove.

What could be causing your stove glass to go black?

Let’s look at some of the main reasons for stove glass to turn black:

Burning unseasoned wood
Perhaps the main cause of blackening of stove glass is the burning of unseasoned wood. All logs should be seasoned – that is cut, chopped and left to air – for at least 12 months to allow the moisture level to drop to around 20-25%. You can check this with a moisture meter.

Using unseasoned wood means energy is used on evaporation rather than burning. This causes an incomplete burn and results in excessive smoke being produced. This settles in the form of soot, tar and creosote inside the flue system and, you guessed it, on the glass.

Incorrect use of airwash
As mentioned above, most wood-burning stoves now come with an airwash system to discourage soot from settling on the glass. If your stove is not functioning like that at the moment, you might be using airwash incorrectly.

You should try to avoid closing the airwash vent completely when the stove is in use or the glass will blacken. Read more on using airwash here.

Fuel touching the glass
If the glass is blackening in just one or two areas rather than across its entire surface, it might be that you are overloading the stove or loading fuel too close to the glass, causing the fuel to burn against the glass.

Burning coal
Most stove manufacturers advise against burning regular household coal (bituminous coal) in multi-fuel stoves. Instead, it is advisable to burn smokeless fuels.

Not burning hot enough
If the stove is not operating at optimum temperature (for instance, if you’re trying to have a small fire burning in a big stove), the appliance might not get up to a hot enough temperature for the airwash to function correctly.

Poor draw
If you’ve followed our instructions, double-checked your stove manual for correct usage of the airwash system and ruled out other causes, the problem might be the result of poor draw. In other words, the movement of air from your room, into the stove and up the chimney is not powerful enough.

The poor draw might lead to smoke lingering in the firebox, because it is not being ‘pulled’ up the flue, or prevent the airwash from functioning correctly. Possible solutions are increasing the amount of ventilation in the room or fitting an anti-downdraught chimney cowl.

Can I swap a gas fire for a woodburner?

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With many households keen to end their reliance on continually rising gas prices as a form of heating for their home, we’re often asked if it is possible to swap a gas fire or boiler for a woodburner.

The answer is definitely yes, but the presence of the gas fire is not of any advantage. In fact, the chances are you will have to remove the entire gas fire system before starting from scratch with a wood-burning stove system.

Can I keep my gas fire flue for a woodburner?

This is the other question that is often asked: ‘can’t I just connect the woodburner to the gas flue?’ Unfortunately, the answer is almost certain to be no.

Gas flues (and, for that matter, oil flues) are not made to withstand the same high temperatures as wood-burning stove flues. They are usually single skin in construction and simply cannot cope with flue gases passing through at the sort of temperatures generated by a stove.

Stove flue are specifically manufactured for use with wood-burning stoves and are often made from completely different metals than their gas fire counterparts.

Read more on flue suitability.

Don’t miss anything

So, we’ve established that the whole gas system needs to be ripped out before installation work starts on your woodburner. Don’t forget your back boiler.

If a gas boiler is fitted behind the old fire to provide heat to your radiators or water, that will need to be removed to.

Read more on the importance of removing old back boilers.

What next?

If you’re happy to go ahead with installing a woodburner in place of your gas fire, you might like to browse some stoves to start getting ideas. Alternatively, if what you have read here has made you put your plans to install a woodburner on hold, perhaps a new gas fire is the way to go.

The legal requirements of owning a wood-burning stove

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Staying on the right side of the law with your woodburner

Owning a wood-burning stove brings with it a great deal of fun and lots of benefits (including the potential to be more environmentally friendly and reduce your heating bills).

But it also comes with some responsibilities. It’s important to meet those responsibilities in order to avoid falling foul of the law.

Here are some of the main things to keep in mind regarding the legal requirements of owning a stove:

Building Regulations

All stove installations must comply with what is known as Document J of the Building Regulations. That involves meeting certain requirements relating to ventilation, flue position and stove position.

A Hetas-certified installer will ensure that all those regulations are met and can sign-off the project to confirm that this is the case. If you’re doing the installation yourself, you’ll need to pay your local council’s building control office to perform an inspection.

This is essential in order to meet the Building Regulations and have a legal stove installation.

Smoke Control Areas

Another legal consideration is whether or not you live in a smoke control area. If you live in one of these zones – usually large towns and cities – then the fuel and appliances you can use are restricted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. But this doesn’t mean you can’t have a stove at all.

Here are some examples of stoves that have been approved by Defra to be used in smoke control areas.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

All new wood-burning stove installations must have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted alongside them.

This is a legal requirement and if you don’t have an alarm, you’re breaking the law (as well as putting your household at unnecessary risk). Click here to buy yours now.

Do I need to remove the back boiler before installing a wood-burning stove?

Removing back boiler stove

The question

When removing old open fireplaces in order to install a wood-burning stove, it is fairly common to encounter on old back boiler. This is a boiler system design to take heat generated by the fire and transport it to heat radiators or water in other parts of the property.

It usually takes the form of a shoebox-sized boiler behind your fireplace and will be connected to a cylinder

The question is, does this back boiler need to be removed during the stove fitting process or is it simply enough to dismantle and disconnect the boiler from the system and seal the pipes?

The answer

Regardless of what measures have been taken to decommission the old boiler, it is very important to remove it before fitting your woodburner. The reason for this is that leaving the boiler in situ can cause an explosion.

With the pipes and boiler sealed, the heat from the woodburner coupled with any residual moisture in the boiler will lead to pressure building inside. The outcome can be a potentially fatal explosion.

NOTE: This applies even to back boilers that are no longer live and disconnected from the plumbing system. A Healthy and Safety Executive warning updated previous industry advice to recommend a total removal of the boiler.

The solution

As alluded to above, the first thing to do is to get a plumber to disconnect and remove the back boiler.

Some people want to keep the back boiler for reasons of convenience and not having to remove it. As we have established, that is not a safe or sensible option.

If the reason you were keen to keep the back boiler is because you wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to heat your radiators and generate hot water using your wood-burning stove, the solution is to install a specialist boiler stove.

This is a wood-burning stove that comes with its own back boiler, which can be plumbed into your heating system and achieve those results.

Take a look at some recommended boiler stoves.