Monday, January 30

What Alternatives to Firewood Are There?

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If you own a multi fuel stove, then you aren’t restricted to burning firewood alone. In fact, there are more solid fuel alternatives to firewood than many people realise! Keep reading and the Direct Stoves team will tell you what they are…

Can your stove burn solid fuels? 

Before we continue, there’s an important point to absorb – it centres on whether your stove is capable and suitable for burning alternative fuels to firewood. 

It’s a common misconception that all stoves can burn all types of fuels. The truth is, they can’t!

Today’s wood-burning stoves have advanced combustion technologies to limit emissions. This is as a result of EcoDesign legislation, which sets strict limits on the smoke and particulate matter that stoves are allowed to emit into the atmosphere. 

Burning fuels other than firewood in these wood-burning stoves can interfere with these combustion technologies, potentially leading to damage. 

Aside from these combustion technologies, there is another reason why you shouldn’t burn alternative fuels in a wood-burning stove – the fundamental design difference between wood-burning stoves and multi fuel stoves. 

Wood burners burn firewood on the flat surface of their firebox (i.e. on the floor inside the stove). Multi fuel stoves burn their fuels on a grate which is raised above the floor of the firebox. 

This is because firewood only requires air from above in order to burn. Alternative solid fuels on the other hand require air from above and below in order to burn. Solid fuels also need an escape route for the ash that they develop – hence being raised above the floor of the firebox on a grate.

Tip – here at Direct Stoves, we make it easy to find stoves capable of burning alternative solid fuels. Explore our dedicated Multi Fuel Stoves department here.

What are solid fuels? 

So, what are solid fuels? Here at Direct Stoves, we define a solid fuel as a fuel other than firewood which is suitable for burning in a multi fuel stove. 

Some of these alternative solid fuels are made from recycled materials, and are also designed to be smokeless. As such, many alternative fuels for stoves advertise themselves as being eco-friendly.

What solid fuels can I burn in a multi fuel stove?

If you find yourself asking that question, you’ll be glad to know there are a surprisingly varied number of fuels available for multi fuel stoves. From smokeless coals to briquettes and more, we’ve detailed these fuel options below. 

Smokeless coal

Smokeless coal – also sometimes referred to generically as smokeless fuel – is a type of solid fuel which is designed to emit zero (or a minimal amount) of smoke during combustion. 

With an anthracite base, smokeless coals are composed of a type of coal which is drawn from coal formations that have aged longer than any other. This means that anthracite-based smokeless coals have an exceptionally high calorific value. 

By calorific value, we mean the heat of combustion. In other words, anthracite-based smokeless coals burn with exceptional heat. 

To give you an idea of how hot, consider that anthracite-based smokeless coal has a calorific value of approximately 32.50 MJ/Kg compared to dry wood, which has a calorific value of approximately 21 MJ/Kg. That’s a big difference!

You may be wondering how anthracite-based smokeless coal is able to provide so much heat without emitting smoke. The answer lies in anthracite’s exceptionally high carbon content (typically over 97%). 

Because of the high percentage of carbon, this leaves little room for volatile elements in the coal – and, it’s these volatile elements that generate smoke. In fact, for a smokeless coal to be classed as smokeless, it must have a sulphur content of only 2% or less.

Anthracite for multi fuel stoves

What types of smokeless coal are there?

When shopping for smokeless coal, you’ll find that there are many types available. These are all anthracite-based smokeless coals, and usually come in the form of ‘ovoids’ (an ovoid being an egg-shaped pellet). 

Whilst these fuels are all very similar, they tend to be marketed under different names depending on the company that has manufactured them. The most common of these smokeless coals include: 

Brazier

Brazier is a smokeless coal which is claimed to be up to 24% hotter than traditional house coal, whilst also producing 80% less smoke. Taking the form of a briquette, Brazier is manufactured by a company called CPL Ltd.

Briteflame

Briteflame is another smokeless coal that’s produced by CPL Ltd. Briteflame takes the form of ovoids and is suitable for use on both open fireplaces and multi fuel stoves.

Briteheat

Manufactured by CPL Ltd, Briteheat is sold as an ‘economy’ smokeless coal and takes the form of ovoids. According to the Coal Merchants Federation, Briteheat is suitable for most multi fuel stoves – but not AGA cookers. 

Burnwell Blend Plus

Burnwell Blend Plus takes the form of smokeless briquettes. Sold as an ‘economy’ smokeless fuel, Burnwell Blend Plus is manufactured by M & G Solid Fuels Ltd, who promote the fuel as providing maximum heat with low residual ash.

Calero

Formerly sold under the name Therma, Calero is a small, 26gm ovoid which is produced by Maxibrite Ltd. The manufacturer states that Calero is suitable for use in multi fuel stoves – but not AGA cookers. 

Coalite Newflame Plus

Also produced by Maxibrite Ltd is Coalite Newflame Plus. This is a large 110gm, pillow-shaped ovoid and is claimed to be easy to light, with good heat output and a long-lasting burn. Maxibrite Ltd also states that Coalite Newflame Plus gives off an attractive, long flame when burnt.

Cosycoke

Manufactured by Monckton Coke & Chemical Company, Cosycoke is a smokeless coal that is made up of 50/50 Sunbrite Doubles and imported petroleum coke doubles. Because of the inclusion of petroleum coke doubles, Cosycoke is exceptionally easy to light. 

Cosycoke was previously marketed under the names Lionheart Crusader and Aimcor Supercoke.

Dual Smokeless

Dual smokeless is an anthracite-based ovoid manufactured by CPL Ltd.

Excel

Excel is a HETAS-approved medium-sized square-shaped briquette that is both easy to light, and has an excellent heat output. Excel is manufactured by Oxbow Coal Ltd.

Ecoal

Ecoal is an unusual smokeless coal, in that it is a hexagonal-shaped ovoid that includes up to 30% renewable materials. Ecoal is manufactured by Coal Products Ltd. 

Glow

Glow is a smokeless coal manufactured by Oxbow Coal Ltd, that has the benefit of slumbering easily, whilst also producing plenty of heat and little ash.

Heat

Heat – which is produced by CPL Ltd – is billed as an ‘extremely economical’ smokeless coal that burns cleanly and provides an exceptional heat output.

Homefire Ovals

Homefire Ovals are easily identifiable thanks to the two parallel lines that are stamped across the middle of each ovoid. This smokeless coal is promoted as having long refuelling intervals due to its very slow burn.

Maxibrite

Maxibrite is a 34gm anthracite-based smokeless coal which is easily recognisable thanks to the ‘M’ that’s stamped on each ovoid. 

Newheat 

Newheat is another HETAS-approved smokeless coal that’s produced by Oxbow Coal Ltd. Promoted as being easy to light, Newheat also promises a long burn time, low ash output, and good heat output.

Phurnacite

Phurnacite is an anthracite-based smokeless coal that takes the form of an ovoid, which is stamped with two parallel longitudinal lines on every ovoid.

Sunbrite Coke

Produced by Monckton Coke & Chemical Company, Sunbrite Coke is a very dense type of smokeless coal. Because of its density, Sunbrite Coke requires a good supply of firelighters to catch light – but once lit, will burn very slowly, with a high heat output.

Taybrite

Taybrite – which is sometimes also sold under the brand name ‘Surefire’ – is an easy to light, and slow burning smokeless coal that’s produced by CPL Ltd.

As you can see, when it comes to buying smokeless coal for your multi fuel stove, you’re certainly not short of choice. These are just some of the most common smokeless coals on the market. You can view a complete list of ‘approved’ solid fuels on the DEFRA website.

The key point is to ensure that you’re buying an anthracite-based coal that’ll give off minimal smoke.

Note – are you a manufacturer of smokeless coals and want to be included on this list? Then let us know!

Wood bricks/wood briquettes

If you don’t want to deal with smokeless coal, then another alternative fuel you can consider using in your multi fuel stove is wood bricks. 

Wood bricks are manufactured by first drying out bark-free wood fibres. These wood fibres are then compacted into dense ‘bricks’ or briquettes. 

Because wood bricks have such a low level of moisture, and don’t contain any other elements like bark, they burn very cleanly with little to no smoke.

Coffee logs

Yes, you read that correctly! Coffee logs are a relatively new phenomenon and offer the owners of multi fuel stoves an eco-friendly way to keep their homes heated.

Created and manufactured by Bio Bean, Coffee logs are made from used coffee grounds that are collected from coffee shops across the UK. 

Bio Bean processes and thoroughly dries the coffee grounds, before compacting them into neat briquette-style logs. Because of their low moisture content, coffee logs burn around 20% hotter than seasoned firewood. 

According to figures from Bio Bean, coffee logs help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 130% (compared to coffee grounds sent to landfill). So, if you want to do your bit for the environment, you could do worse than buying some coffee logs!

Wood pellets

Another relatively environmentally-friendly way of fuelling your stove is to burn wood pellets. 

Wood pellets are typically made from sawdust, which is a by-product of the milling of lumber. As such, you’ll be making use of a by-product which would normally end up in landfill.

Wood pellets for multi fuel stoves

Because they are very dense, and have a low moisture content (usually less than 10%), wood pellets burn very efficiently, giving off little to no smoke and plenty of heat.

Note – if you want to burn wood pellets in your multi fuel stove, you’ll need to use a pellet basket. This will provide somewhere for the pellets to sit whilst they burn.

Peat briquettes

Peat briquettes offer an interesting alternative to firewood and other solid fuels. 

Made from shredded peat, which is then powerfully compacted into briquettes, peat briquettes are renowned for their very slow and stable burn. In fact, peat briquettes can burn for up to five times longer than firewood.

This makes peat briquettes ideal for scenarios where you want to leave your stove burning all day.

Peat for multi fuel stoves

Peat briquettes also have the advantage of giving off very little smoke and zero creosote – meaning your chimney or flue will need sweeping less often (compared to burning firewood). 

Peat briquettes also give off a nice, organic ‘peat smell’, which is typically far favourable to the aromas given off by other solid fuels.

Soy and switchgrass logs

Another solid fuel that’s billed as a ‘sustainable alternative’ is soy and switchgrass logs. 

These are logs which are made from a 50/50 mix of ground and compacted soy bean and switchgrass. The logs are then covered in a natural wax, which acts as a binder, holding the soy and switchgrass together in a convenient log shape.

Soy and switchgrass logs burn similarly to wood bricks, being easy to light and burning cleanly. 

An enjoyable benefit of using soy and switchgrass logs is that they give off a pleasant scent as they burn.

Paper bricks

If you want to take things into your own hands and make your own fuel for your stove, then consider paper bricks. 

Paper bricks – as their name suggests – are made from old newspapers and other paper materials. 

To make your own paper bricks, you’re not just going to need a load of old papers. You’re also going to need a paper brick maker. 

A paper brick maker (also known as a paper briquette press), is a metal press which allows you to take pulp paper and compress it into a dense brick which is perfect for burning in your stove. 

Paper bricks for multi fuel stoves

To use a paper brick maker, it’s vital that you process the paper first. Begin by shredding it, and then soaking the strips of paper in water until they begin to break down into a mushy pulp (this can take up to four days). 

Once sufficiently softened, the pulp can be placed into the paper brick maker. Paper brick makers usually feature one or two levers that allow you to very tightly compress the paper pulp, squeezing the water out and forming a brick. 

It’s then necessary to let the resulting paper bricks dry for at least several weeks (but ideally longer) before they are dry enough to burn. Remember, low moisture content is key to creating an efficient, clean-burning solid fuel.

Wax logs

Although their composition can vary, wax logs are generally made from a mix of petroleum wax and sawdust. Because of this, wax logs tend to be very easy to light and are viewed by many people as the ‘convenient’ option when it comes to getting their stove going.

Wax logs also tend to have double the amount of energy per pound than firewood – so you’ll find that they give off plenty of heat. 

Wax logs are also designed to burn at a controlled rate. This means you should get consistent burn durations from your logs. In fact, it’s possible to buy wax logs which are advertised as being able to burn for set durations, e.g. 3-hour wax logs.

Check the manufacturer’s instructions!

With so many alternatives to firewood available, it can be difficult to know which one is best for you. It’s generally down to personal preference – some people prefer smokeless coal, whilst others favour wood briquettes.

However, you may find that your stove makes the decision for you!

Before you go out and buy any solid fuel, we’d always recommend checking the manufacturer’s instructions that came with your stove. You may find that they advise against the use of certain fuels. 

This is especially important whilst your stove is still under warranty. Burn the wrong fuel, and you may find that you have voided your warranty. 

So, always check the manufacturer’s instructions.

What not to burn in a multi fuel stove

In addition to checking which fuels your stove can burn, there are a few ‘fuels’ that you should stay away from altogether. 

We put fuel in quotes in that last sentence, because there are materials out there that many people consider to be fuels, but which most certainly aren’t!

The materials you should never burn in a multi fuel stove, include:

  • Wet (aka green) wood.
  • Painted wood.
  • Pressure-treated timber.
  • Composite woods such as MDF.
  • Cardboard.
  • Driftwood.
  • Plastics of any kind.

Those are just a few of the materials that people are often tempted to chuck into their stove. 

But, here’s the thing. Your stove is not a bin!

You likely spent a decent amount of money on your stove and the associated flue and other parts. So, don’t fall into the habit of using your lovely stove as a dustbin.

Feed it with the right fuels, and you’ll find that your stove will provide you with decades of loyal service…

Firewood resources

If you think solid fuels might not be for you, and you’d rather use firewood in your stove, then you’re in luck. The Direct Stoves team has written a series of detailed guides that’ll help you select the very best firewood: 

Resources – for more stove and firewood advice and information, explore our dedicated resource hub.

Multi fuel stoves on sale UK

Are you thinking of investing in a multi fuel stove? Maybe you’re upgrading from a standard wood-burning stove? Whatever your situation, we’ll have a multi fuel stove for you here at Direct Stoves. 

We stock a huge range of multi fuel stoves, but to give you an idea of what’s available, we’ve highlighted some of our most popular models below.

Woolly Mammoth 5 Wood Burning/Multi Fuel EcoDesign Stove

Woolly Mammoth 5 Wood Burning Multi Fuel EcoDesign Stove

Woolly Mammoth 5 Wood Burning / Multi Fuel EcoDesign Stove

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As one of our most affordable multi fuel stoves, the Woolly Mammoth 5 is a fantastic value all-rounder that’ll be perfect in all types of homes.

With a 5kW heat output, the Woolly Mammoth 5 will provide enough heat to keep medium to large size living rooms toasty warm on even the coldest of winter days. 

Featuring a simple, sleek design, the Woolly Mammoth 5’s steel body combined with a cast iron door, means it’ll look great for years to come. Thanks to the use of steel and cast iron, you’ll find the Woolly Mammoth 5 reaches its optimum operating temperature quickly – making your firewood or solid fuel burn more efficiently. 

You’ll also be able to admire the fire burning within due to the Woolly Mammoth 5’s large viewing window. Air wash controls will ensure the stove class remains crystal clear, too.

Saltfire Scout Tall Wood Burning/Multi Fuel EcoDesign Stove

Saltfire Scout Tall Wood Burning Multi Fuel EcoDesign Stove

Saltfire Scout Tall Wood Burning / Multi Fuel EcoDesign Stove

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If you want a compact stove which also has integrated room for fuel storage, then check out the Saltfire Scout. 

The Saltfire Scout’s smaller dimensions make it perfect for use in snug spaces and smaller rooms. It can also be installed in a freestanding configuration thanks to the pre-fitted heat shields that will protect any combustibles near to the rear of the stove. This stove also features a heat shield underneath, which means it can be safely used on a 12 mm hearth.

A heat output of 4.1kW means the Saltfire Scout can heat smaller and medium-sized rooms, and because it does this with an efficiency of 75.4%, it’ll make your fuel last much longer. It’s also DEFRA-approved, meaning it can be used in smoke control areas such as towns and cities. 

It’s also possible to add an extra touch of character to the Saltfire Scout as you can select the stove door in a series of colours; light grey, charcoal, Mojave red, ivory/almond, and burnished.

Mendip Loxton 8 SE DEFRA-Approved Wood Burning/Multi Fuel EcoDesign Stove

Mendip Loxton 8 SE DEFRA-Approved Wood Burning Multi Fuel EcoDesign Stove

Mendip Loxton 8 SE DEFRA-Approved Wood Burning / Multi Fuel EcoDesign Stove

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Are you looking for a multi fuel stove with a bit more oomph? Then, with an 7.5kW heat output, the Loxton 8 from Mendip has got you covered.

Powerful enough to heat larger rooms and open-plan spaces (up to 168 m³), the Mendip Loxton 8 is an attractive stove with a simple, understated appearance that’ll suit contemporary and traditionally-styled homes alike.

The Loxton 8 is packed with great features, such as an air wash system to keep the stove glass clean, a three-flow air system to provide highly efficient and clean combustion, and a convection top plate that aids air flow and heat convection.

For added versatility, the Loxton 8 is external air compatible, meaning it can be used in newer homes with low air permeability. 

Stoves that use other types of fuels

Did you know that there are more than just wood-burning and multi fuel stoves? Here at Direct Stoves, we also sell the following types of stoves: 

Need installation advice?

Do you want to buy a stove for your home, but you’re not sure if the one you want will fit? Then the Direct Stoves team can help. 

We offer a video survey service, where one of our experts will be able to advise you on whether your desired stove will be suitable for your home.

The best place to buy multi fuel stoves

With FREE mainland UK delivery and 14-day no hassle returns, Direct Stoves is the best place to buy your multi fuel stove.

We also offer a range of finance options to help you spread the cost of your purchase. These options even include 0% interest over 12-months.

Shop multi fuel stoves at Direct Stoves now 

For more stove buying guides, advice and information, read the Direct Stoves blog

Buying Guide: What Is a Multi Fuel Stove? | What Fuel Should You Burn in a Multi Fuel Stove? | 9 Exceptional Multi Fuel and Wood-Burning Stoves for Small Spaces

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