People often ask us ‘which type of fuel is best?‘, We wish there were a simple answer. Many factors apply and what is best for you might be totally wrong for someone living just a mile away from you. The environment, location, supply and cost all have an effect on the best fuel for you.
Here’s our quick round-up of some of the most common options available in the UK. Take a look at the price, weight and heat comparison table below. We hope it helps you decide which fuel could be best for you.
Wood is perhaps the oldest heat source known. Once in decline, the popularity of wood burning stoves and multifuel stoves has given the humble tree a resurgence as a domestic fuel, with people from the highlands to the inner-cities all using it.
Wood is classed as a “carbon-neutral” fuel as it cannot emit more carbon when burned than the plant absorbed when growing. Using locally sourced wood as a fuel further reduces your carbon footprint by cutting down environmental transport costs.
Wood fuel comes in two categories: Softwood or Hardwood. Whichever type you choose, the wood must be well seasoned. Seasoning is the storing and drying of wood to reduce the moisture content; Fresh cut logs can contain as much as 60% water.
Burning new wood:
- doesn’t burn as efficiently as dry wood
- has to steam away a significant amount of water before the room heats up
- can cause harmful creosotes and excess soot to build up in the chimney
- Softwood is easy to ignite and gives almost immediate heat, however, it is very light and burns quickly so a large quantity will be required to fuel your home.
- Hardwood is much denser than softwood and has a greater heat output. It is harder to light, but you won’t have to refuel as often or store as much timber. The calorific value of hardwood is about 4.1kWh per Kg for air-dried logs rising to 5.3kWh/Kg for kiln-dried.
Manufactured Log Briquettes
- Manufactured Log Briquettes, in most cases these are made from wood waste from sawmill industries which would otherwise go to landfill. The waste is dried, processed and pressed into log shaped moulds to form a. Log briquettes have a very low moisture content (less than 10%) and a higher calorific value than hardwood with manufacturer claims of 4.8 to 5.5kWh per Kg. They can be used immediately without seasoning and don’t need storing in purpose-built wood sheds although you should keep them dry as they are perishable.
Wood burning in a Smoke Control area is an offence unless used to fuel a DEFRA approved appliance such as a certified wood-burning stove. Most approved coal merchants now supply logs and can give sound advice on the best methods of burning safely and efficiently. For more information on using wood for fuel see our infographic – A guide to wood burning.
Peat (or turf) is the product of decayed plant vegetation from wet open marsh areas prevalent in Scotland and Ireland. Peat has a high heat output and low sulphur emissions. It burns with a short flame like coal and not a tall orange flame like wood.
- Peat briquettes are natural bog peat that has been highly compressed and dried; they have a moisture content of less than 20% and a calorific value of around 4.5kWh/Kg. We haven’t tried them here yet but some customers swear by the unique aroma that burning peat gives. Peat is not suitable for use in Smoke Control areas.
People have used coal as fuel for thousands of years; there are indications that it was employed in Britain during the Bronze Age (3000 – 2000BC). During the Roman occupation, there was a healthy export of coal from North West England to the rest of the empire.
Coal comes in many different forms; some are better for fuel use than others.
- House coal is a natural coal used primarily in open fires, it is not suitable for stove fuel unless expressly stated by the manufacturer and should never be burned in Smoke Control areas. For those allowed to burn house coal the calorific value is typically 7.0 kWh per Kg.
- Anthracite is an extremely dense, smokeless coal that burns slowly and has a very high calorific value; typically 9.2 kWh per Kg. Anthracite is suitable for multifuel stoves, room heaters and cookers including Agas.
- Lignite is a low-quality brown coal with a low calorific value, high moisture content and a large amount of carbon (around 30%). Not really suitable for domestic heating as you cannot burn it in smoke control areas. Lignite has a low calorific value; typically 4kWh per Kg.
Manufactured Smokeless Fuel
- Manufactured Smokeless Fuel is made by pulverising coal, heating slowly to remove harmful hydrocarbons and then reformed into uniform pieces or briquettes. Very popular as domestic fuel and widely available under different trade names. Briquettes have a calorific value of around 5kWh per Kg.
Always check with your stove or fireplace manufacturer before changing your fuel type.
Ask your NACS Chimney sweeps for fuel advice, they see first-hand the problems that arise when poor or wrong fuel is used.