Charcoal will go further if it is used efficiently and if its quality is optimum for the particular end use. Charcoal quality can be specified and measured in various ways which are usually derived from the various end use requirements. Efficiency in use normally means transferring the maximum amount of the heat content of the charcoal to the object to be heated, be it water for cooking, the air of a room, or the charge in a blast furnace. Efficiency depends on the use of properly designed charcoal burning equipment.
The least demanding market for charcoal, quality-wise, is the domestic one. The reasons are that performance cannot be measured easily, the power of consumers as individuals to specify and obtain good quality charcoal is minimal and there is a certain trade-off possible between price and quality which the household consumer uses to obtain satisfactory results. However, this does not mean that quality control is not worthwhile. Provided it does not become unwieldy and bureaucratically counterproductive, a system of quality guidelines for household charcoal is a worthwhile step in ensuring maximum yield from the wood resource, nevertheless giving adequate household performance. On the other hand, large users such as the charcoal iron industry know from their operating experience and research, the properties they seek in charcoal and have the means in the form of concentrated buying power and control over at least a part of their own charcoal production, to ensure that the charcoal they use conforms to their specification and produces pig iron at minimum overall cost.
Most of the specifications used to control charcoal quality have originated in the steel or chemical industry. When charcoal is exported, buyers tend to make use of these industrial quality specifications even though the main outlet of the imported charcoal may well be the domestic cooking or barbecue market. This factor should be borne in mind since industrial and domestic requirements are not always the same and an intelligent appraisal of actual market quality requirements may allow supply of suitable charcoal at a lower price or in greater quantities beneficial to both buyer and seller.