Major Differences Between Wood & Coal Burners

Updated April 17, 2017

Wood burners and coal burners may have several major differences, but both give the consumer a low-cost heating alternative. Look at the options each type of burner offers to see which product is right for you. Always consult the proper authorities in your area to ensure that either burner meets local standards for use.

Drafts and Beds

Wood burners do not require a grate at the bottom as a source of air. Instead they can burn with a draft from the top or sides. Coal burners must have a draft of air from the bottom and a deep fire bed to ensure a longer burning. Each load of coal should burn for longer periods than wood.


Both types of burners require maintenance. Coal burners need cleaning on a regular basis, whereas wood burners usually require cleaning at the end of the season. Creosote builds up in the chimneys of wood burners. This can led to fires if the chimney does not undergo proper upkeep procedures. Coal is cleaner-burning and does not create a creosote byproduct, but these stoves produce about 10 times more ash. Watching for ash build-up is a key to maintaining any coal burner. Smoke from wood fires can be heavy and thick, whereas coal smoke is less visible.

Starting a Fire

Times vary for fire starting as well as when heat is produced. A coal burner is not as easy to start as a wood burner. The use of different types of coal will affect the starting time and how much heat is produced. Additionally, the user must follow rules regarding loading, shaking and adjusting the coal burners. Temperature outside the coal burner must be less than 12.8 degrees C to get the proper draft, and wood or other igniters may be necessary to start the fire.

Other Considerations

Wood costs less than other fuels, including coal. Coal is usually most abundant in states that produce it. Its availability varies, and it may be harder to find than wood. Environmentally, coal is a non-renewable resource that will eventually run out, whereas wood is renewable. Forests can continuously be replenished with new tree growth.

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About the Author

Nicole Alexander has been writing since 1994. Her articles can be found on various websites. Alexander plays soccer, hockey and tennis and participates in various outdoor activities.