Fuels - Pellets, Coal, and Wood Wax

There's nothing quite like a wood fire. And many homeowners feel it's worth the effort to produce one. But there's no mistaking the fact that it's an effort. You have to purchase seasoned wood (or season it yourself), set the wood and kindling, and coax the fire into life. This can be a wonderful, satisfying experience, but you may not have the time.

If you just want a decorative fire, or if you're just looking to produce trouble-free heat, here are some alternative fuels you may wish to consider:

Wood Wax Fire Logs

You've seen these in the supermarket under various brand names. These neatly wrapped logs are composed of sawdust mixed with wax. Since the sawdust would have been a waste product, this even makes them somewhat environmentally friendly. But the clear advantage of these logs is that you can get a fire going in no time. Just follow the instructions on the package, including the instructions about using only one log at a time. These logs burn hot, it's not safe to use a pile of them. (If it were, the manufacturer would love to tell you so and have you burn extra.) They leave little ash and produce a consistent burn. This is an ideal solution if you want to burn regular wood some of the time but don't always have the leisure to start and attend to a fire.

Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are a fuel option if what you desire is heat. They can't be used in your existing fireplace unless you retrofit it to be a pellet burning appliance. Once you've done that, you can't burn logs in the fireplace anymore. Wood pellets are made of compressed sawdust which makes them even more environmentally friendly than wood wax fire logs. And if you have a pellet burning appliance, they are simplicity to use. Just take the bag of pellets, pour some in the hopper and let the automatic feeder do the work. A full load of pellets can burn for 24 hours producing clean, even heat.


Coal sounds so old-fashioned, but there's a reason it's been popular for so long. It works. Coal burns cleanly without producing visible smoke or creosote. A coal stove produces an even, controllable heat for longer periods of time than a wood stove. If you're not sold on coal, you can get an appliance that is rated to handle both coal and wood and decide for yourself which fuel you like working with more.


Oil stoves are the perfect thing to heat up your kitchen or small living room. The cost to operate an oil stove is about the same as operating a natural gas heater. Especially if your home doesn't have a natural gas hook-up, an oil stove is a wonderful option. The stove is almost completely quiet and runs without electricity.


An electric fireplace can give you the look and feel of a real wood fire without any hassle. There's no chimney to clean (since there's no chimney at all). You don't have to worry about venting smoke and fumes since there aren't any. You can turn this appliance on with the flick of a switch, the push of a remote control button, or the setting of a thermostat. Electric fireplaces can cost a little more to run for the heat they produce. But they are ideal for rooms that have no easy way to vent to the outside. Apartments, condominiums, and offices are ideal candidates for a no muss, no fuss electric fireplace heater.