Coal vs Wood Logs vs Peat Briquettes

Friday 20th September 2019

The temperature is dropping and you’re starting to think about lighting the fire for the first time this year, but which fuel to use?

At Kellys we sell a range of coal and wood for the fire, and so we’ve put together this short guide to help you choose which to buy.

The type of fuel you use will largely depend on the type of fireplace you have within your home, and we hope this guide will go some way towards helping you understand which fuel you should be burning. 

Below we have provided some details about wood, coal, and peat briquettes, and below that we have described the best fuel to burn on wood-burning stoves, multi-fuel stoves, and open fires.

Remember - before you begin burning anything in your fire this Autumn make sure your chimney is cleared! View a range of products available at Kellys for chimney cleaning here

Many people choose to burn wood as their main fuel source. Wood is, of course, a more sustainable fuel source than coal, however it may not be the most efficient, depending on the type of fireplace you have. 

Wood burns best with air flow coming from above, and zero air flow coming from below. This means that if your fireplace has a grate below which allows air flow, then wood is not the right choice. If, however, you have a wood burning stove, with either no grate, or a flat grate which doesn’t allow air flow, then wood is the right choice. 

Be mindful of the type of wood you’re burning, and specifically how dry it is and how it has been dried.  The less moisture content the better - aim for 20% moisture content or less. Dried wood is more efficient, meaning that energy won’t be wasted by having to burn off the water. High efficiency will equal greater heat output. Dried wood also releases fewer potentially harmful particles when burned, and will minimise sooty deposits building up in your chimney. 

Some people burn wood which has been collected from their garden and not dried at all. This is not a good idea! If you are planning on burning wood collected from your garden, then at the very least this wood should be left to dry for a whole year to reduce it’s moisture content. 

Some of the most common types of woods are shown below with their moisture content and heat output:

Free wood - as much as 90% moisture. Typical heat output of 1kWh per kg.

Seasoned logs - typically 25% to 40% moisture. Typical heat output of 3kWh per kg. 

Kiln-dried logs - typically less than 20% moisture. Typical heat output of 4.5kWh per kg.

For many years coal was the first choice of fuel for fire places due to it’s ease of storage, and dense energy. 

Coal burns best when air flow comes from below, meaning that if your fireplace has a grate which allows airflow then coal is likely the best fuel to burn. Coal should never be burned in a wood burning stove. 

Due to it’s density, coal will burn hotter and longer than wood logs which is one main advantage, however the chemicals released from coal burning are certainly worse for the environment, and worse for your lungs should they be inhaled, than wood smoke. 

Coal is typically more expensive that wood logs, however this cost is often off-set by the fact that it lasts longer, so you don’t need to purchase as often. 

There are four main types of coal, which we will not go into detail about here, but what we will point out is the difference between regular household coal and smokeless coal.

Regular coal is cheaper than smokeless coal, but emits more soot and chemicals when burned. Soot can clog chimneys, and even damage the lining of your flue and chimney if left unchecked. That being the case, you will need to stay on top of sweeping your chimney more often if using coal.

Smokeless coal emits less smoke, fewer chemicals, and is better for the environment. It is, however, more expensive than regular coal. We always recommend burning smokeless coal instead of regular household coal if you can afford to.

Peat Briquettes
Peat briquettes have been becoming more and more popular over the past number of years. They produce consistent, high heat and can burn for up to 3 hours. Considered to be the a highly sustainable fuel source, and friendly to the environment when compared to coal. 

Peat gives off an enchanting scent when burned, and this, combined with it’s high efficiency, good sustainability, easy storage, and affordability is why peat briquettes have become increasingly popular recently.

Peat briquettes can be burned on open fires, multi fuel stoves, and wood burning stoves, making it a highly versatile fuel source. 

Check out our Titan Coal Bunkers for fuel storage to store any of the above fuels.

We have a fast efficient delivery to Ireland and UK for Coal Bunkers.

What to burn on an open fire
Open fires are fairly versatile - you can burn wood logs, coal or peat briquettes. That said, you should be aware of how each fuel type should be burned i.e. logs should be burned without a grate and on a bed of ash, coal should be burned with a grate allowing airflow from below. 

If burning coal on an open fire we recommend using smokeless coal as these fumes will be substantially safer. 

With an open fire it’s critically important to ensure your chimney is clear, with no blockages, as you DO NOT want the a blockage preventing smoke from escaping through the chimney. It’s also critically important to have a carbon monoxide monitor installed nearby just in case. 

What to burn on a wood-burning stove
The clue is in the name - burn wood on a wood burning stove! Under no circumstances should coal be burned on a wood burning stove. You can, however choose to burn peat briquettes on your wood burning stove. 

What to burn on a multi-fuel stove
Although multi-fuel stoves are designed to burn either coal or wood, it is important to know that coal and wood should never 
be burned at the same time. The mixture of the smoke produced by both of these fuel types can cause irreparable damage to the chimney lining.

Another point to consider is that the soot emitted from regular household coal can also be damaging to a multi-fuel stove, and some stove manufacturers actually state that regular household coal should not be burned at all. 

Instead of regular household coal we recommend opting for smokeless coal, which as stated above, produces less soot and is all around healthier for the environment, and for your stove. 

As a last point on multi-fuel stoves, we recommend burning either logs OR smokeless coal and sticking with it. Regularly changing from coal to logs and back again can risk building up sooty deposits that just aren’t good for the stove or your chimney. 

Peat briquettes are also a good choice for your multi-fuel stove. 

We hope the above guide has helped you to understand more about which type of fuel is best for your fire. 
For further information or guidance just give us a call on 028 4177 3674!

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