Can I burn Coal in a Wood Stove?

Can I burn coal in a wood stove? The short answer is usually no.

However, it depends on what type of stove you have.

Most wood burning stoves aren’t designed to burn coal, but some are designed to be multi-fuel or multi-pupose. It is important to understand the differences and we will explain whether or not you should burn coal in your stove and how to do it if so.

What is Coal?

So, what is coal?

According to USGS, coal is a sedimentary deposit composed predominantly of carbon that is readily combustible. Coal is black or brownish-black and has a composition that (including inherent moisture) consists of more than 50 percent by weight and more than 70 percent by volume of carbonaceous material.

In simple English, it’s big lumps of black rock-type material that can be burned as a fuel, for energy in terms of heat and light.

Burning coal is not eco-friendly and non-renewable. It produces harmful by products and gas emissions such as sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxide that cause pollution to the environment, including acid rain. Both wood and coal are fuels. The difference is that one is found in a natural form that is renewable (wood), the other is found in fossils that will eventually run out (coal).

Therefore, if you’re looking to be more eco-friendly, you probably shouldn’t choose to burn coal in your wood burning stove, never mind if you actually can using your specific stove.

Can I Burn Coal in my Wood Stove?

The majority of wood burning stoves aren’t designed to burn coal, so in most cases the answer will be no you can’t burn coal in a wood stove.

There is a very high chance that you shouldn’t burn coal in your wood burning stove. Before you try, you need to know what kind of stove you have, what is best practice for that model, and what is recommended by the stove manufacturer.

The most important factor is to find out if your stove is known as a multi-fuel stove.

These are stoves are designed to burn coal, and they can usually burn wood too (hence the multi-fuel tag). Every stove that is designed to burn coal will have a grate in the firebox, but please note, not every stove with a grate is suitable for burning coal. Some wood burning stoves also have grates.

Coal gets very hot so the grate should be made up of bars of metal with gaps in between them. The metal is usually cast iron because that is good at withstanding high temperatures. The gaps between the bars let air from below get to the coal, which helps stop the grate bars from getting too hot.

Make sure that the grate remains unblocked and that the ash in the ashpan does not come too close to the bottom of the grate. This will prevent your stove from being damaged due to the lack of air and the grate becoming too hot. Usually, multifuel stoves have a riddling mechanism that allows you to shake any ash that is blocking the grate down.

Please note, it is not recommended to burn wood and coal at the same time because burning coal produces sulphuric acid and wood can contain a lot of moisture. This combination can coat your chimney in a sulphuric acid solution which can quickly eat away at anything and everything. Also, the conditions needed for burning wood are not the same for burning coal.

How to Burn Coal in a Wood Stove?

Now that we’ve established whether or not you can burn coal in your wood burning stove, how do you do it?

Below we have put together a step-by-step guide on how to burn coal in a multi-fuel stove:

Step 1: 

  • Remove the ash pan to clean out the stove thoroughly, and make sure that there are no visible wood particles left in the firebox before proceeding.

Step 2: 

  • Evenly distribute the coal inside of an old pot or bucket that can fit inside your firebox with at least two inches clearance around all sides.
  • Light it on fire.
  • This ensures you have burned off excess moisture from the coal making them dryer and therefore better suited for combustion.

Step 3: 

  • Once your fire is burning well, spread the coals out evenly in a single layer over the bottom of the stove’s firebox.
  • Ensure they are not stacked on top of each other and fill up any areas where ashes may have settled, so no voids remain for smoke to get trapped.

Step 4:

  • Close all doors/vents/flues tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil, ensuring hot gasses don’t escape through these small openings.

Step 5:

  • Begin your first cycle with a hot and small fire.

Step 6:

  • Once safe to do so, slowly open doors/vents for greater airflow.

We hope you now have all the information you need to make a decision.

It’s important to do your research and find out if you have the right type of stove to burn coal safely.

The burning of coal in a wood stove (when safe to do so) is an excellent way to stay warm during the winter months. Coal burns at a higher temperature than wood, and because it produces more heat, coal can be used efficiently by those who have limited access to firewood. However, you need to ensure that you do it correctly and safely.

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