Everything You Need to Know about Buying an Ethanol Fireplace
Aesthetic advantages of a fireplace are irrefutable. It is the warm, cozy feeling that transforms any property into a home. From a warming fire during the winter to the ambiance brought to a dinner party or a romantic evening, advantages are numerous. And that is the reason why an increasing number of homeowners is opting for an ethanol fireplace that brings in all of the benefits of this feature but without the needless mess.
Unlike traditional fireplaces, ethanol fireplaces do not require a chimney, vent, or flue, nor do they require a gas line. In fact, tabletop or freestanding ethanol fireplaces are actually portable – some can even be used indoors and outside. This means easier installation, with plenty of choices to suit any space, including wall-mounted, two-sided, and even hanging ethanol fireplaces.
There’s also the option to convert an existing fireplace or hole in the wall into an ethanol fireplace by installing an ethanol fireplace insert.
Ethanol fireplaces are revered for being an eco-friendly choice. Ethanol fuel is a clean-burning, biodegradable, renewable resource that is comparable in cost to – or even cheaper than – buying wood. With today’s forests a more precious resource than ever, it’s no wonder that many homeowners are turning to the hassle-free, low-maintenance benefits of ethanol fireplaces. Ethanol fireplaces remove the need to chop down wood, deal with soot marks, or clean any remaining material once the fireplace has burned out.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-install fireplace to brighten up a room, there are some questions that need to be addressed. Here are some of the top considerations when shopping for an ethanol fireplace.
- Ethanol fireplaces do not require a chimney
- No gas line required
- Ethanol fireplaces can be portable
- Ethanol is Eco-friendly
- Easy to install
Basics of Bioethanol
Bioethanol, or ethanol for short, is a renewable alcohol biofuel produced from naturally fermented sugar, corn, or other plants or manufacturing waste. It is an extremely flammable yet clean-burning fuel, making it an ideal choice for starting contained fires.
Ethanol also goes by the names bioethanol or denatured alcohol.
Bioethanol is 100% pure alcohol. As a result, fireplace fuel manufacturers add odorless, unpleasant flavors to the ethanol to ensure it’s not consumed by humans.
- Bioethanol is renewable
- 100% pure alcohol
- Clean burning
Basics of Ethanol Fireplace Functions
Ethanol fireplaces are fueled by ethanol. Ethanol is added to the burner and ignited with a long lighter or remotely. Once there is no more need for a fire, it can be extinguished either via a valve or a lid, depending on the model.
A significant advantage of ethanol fireplaces over solid fuel fireplaces is the lack of dangerous fumes. In fact, that’s why ethanol fireplaces do not require a chimney – only nominal amounts of water and carbon dioxide are released. This also means no soot on the walls or ceilings. The only place you should see any soot at all – and even then it will be a minuscule amount – is where the flame touches the fireplace.
There are various types of ethanol fireplaces that work in different settings, making them completely adaptable to any space. Wall-mounted, recessed, or hanging ethanol fireplaces are most similar to the profile of a traditional wood-burning or gas fireplace. Two-sided ethanol fireplaces provide an elegant room divider between two spaces, such as a master bedroom and bathroom or living and dining room, allowing you to join the ambiance in multiple areas.
Tabletop and freestanding ethanol fireplaces are among the most flexible in terms of relocation. There are even specially designed outdoor ethanol fireplaces for when you want to warm things up outside. To learn more check out our article on how ethanol fireplaces work here.
No matter what model, all ethanol fireplaces generally work in the same way.
- Adding bioethanol fuel
- Lighting the flames
- Instant fireplace enjoyment
Ethanol Fireplace Heat Production
Ethanol fireplaces produce on average 2-6 kW of heat per hour, which is enough to heat a space of 20 to 40 square meters or 215 to 430 square feet. It takes about 10-15 minutes for ethanol fireplaces to warm up to their full heating potential. Keep in mind, ethanol fireplaces aren’t typically used as a primary heating source for space.
If the room is smaller than 20 meters / 215 square feet, there should be some means available to ventilate and cool off the room.
- Can heat a space 20 - 40 square meters
- Ethanol takes 10-15 minutes to warm up
Ethanol Fireplace Burn Time
The burn time of an ethanol fireplace depends on the flame size and fuel capacity of the fireplace. Most ethanol fireplaces can burn for 1-10 hours when fully fueled, although you can generally expect about 4-5 hours of burn time from a standard ethanol fireplace. The cost of using an ethanol fireplace is only about $1-3 per hour, depending on how much fuel you’re using and the overall size of the fireplace.
Once fuel runs out, the ethanol fireplace will shut down quickly. To resume the operation, more ethanol should be added about 5-15 minutes after the burner has cooled down.
- Ethanol can burn from 1-10 hours
- Cost is about 1$ -3$ per hour
Ethanol Fuel Availability and DurabilityEthanol fuel is available online and in hardware stores. When shopping for ethanol fuel, it should be specified on the label that it is designed specifically for fireplaces. Bioethanol fuel comes in premeasured, safe containers that are easy to store and won’t expire.
Refilling the Fireplace
Refilling an ethanol fireplace is as simple as adding the manufacturer-recommended amount of fuel to the fireplace burner. Ideally, it should be done via a funnel to help prevent spills. In the event of a spill, the fuel that is outside of the burnet should be removed with a damp cloth.
While the alcohol is odorless and will not stain unless the fireplace is lighted up remotely, any residue from the hands should be removed before lighting up the burner.
Ethanol Fireplace Safety
Like all fireplaces, safety is an important factor for bringing open flame into a home. There are certain factors to look out for when assessing the safety of an ethanol fireplace.
First, look for ethanol fireplaces that are certified by organizations such as Swedcert, SP Sitac, TUV, UL, or C-UL. These certifications are not required by law, and manufacturers that invest in this costly annual testing are clearly more concerned about the safety of their products. If you’re wondering what type of testing the fireplace has undergone, typically certification involves testing the durability of the fireplace by striking it with a heavy object, as well as the safety of the burner, by tipping the fireplace to a certain angle.
Price is also a good indicator of an ethanol fireplace’s safety. Higher priced ethanol fireplaces use sturdier materials that will withstand high heat. The weight of a fireplace will give an idea of whether it’s made with thicker and heavier stainless steel. A more expensive ethanol fireplace will generally have a better quality burner, weighing between 2-5 kg. Other safety features to look out for include a lid, which allows you to regulate flame size or easily turn flames off, and a spill tray in case you spill fuel.
It should be noted that in many ways ethanol fireplaces are safer than wood-burning or gas fireplaces. Their only byproduct is water and minimal amounts of C02, compared to lighting two average candles. Check out our recent post on ethanol safety here.
- Ethanol is safe
- Expert organizations certified
Legal Requirements and Regulation Codes
The U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association both approve ethanol fireplaces as safe for home use. There are no governing bodies or laws that regulate the use of decorative ethanol fireplaces. As long as they are installed properly and not used as a primary source of heat, there is no legal or administrative limitation for the installation of the fireplace.
In a specific scenario, there are two aspects that should be addressed. In the case of a multi-unit residential building, the building manager should be consulted over the specific rules and codes that may exist for the unit in question. Additionally, the insurance company should be contacted prior to installing the fireplace. Most insurance companies will require the fireplace to have a valid safety certificate.
Bioethanol is completely legal
The building manager should be consulted
The insurance company should be contacted
Ethanol Fireplace Installation
Ethanol fireplaces have no flues, vents, chimneys, gas lines, or pipes, which makes installation a breeze. Wall-mounted or hanging ethanol fireplaces are simply affixed to the wall, much in the same way a television set would be. Some safety precautions should be made, such as ensuring that the wall-mounted ethanol fireplace is kept at least 1 meter / 3 feet away from curtains, furniture, and other fixtures.
Freestanding models are even simpler. After the fireplace has been assembled, you simply put the burner inside, add fuel, and place the fireplace where you’d like to use it. Again, you’ll want to keep a safe distance of 1 meter / 3 feet from other items. Note that there is no need to put anything underneath a freestanding ethanol fireplace either, as it will not damage the floors.
For safety reasons, many ethanol fireplaces require minimal assembly. The only tool required is a screwdriver and a few minutes to slide in the ethanol burner and attach any safety glass panels.
- No vents or gas line
- Freestanding ethanol fireplaces are the easiest to install
Ethanol Fireplace Inserts
If there is already a space for a traditional fireplace but with the wish to upgrade to the eco-friendly, clean-burning benefits of an ethanol fireplace, a ventless fireplace insert is a perfect solution. Ethanol fireplace inserts can be placed into an existing closed-off fireplace with minimal installation, giving new life to old wood-burning fireplaces. Unlike costly gas fireplace installations, there is no need to perform any major reconstruction. A simple insert can add greatly to the comfort of the room while being priced comparably to a freestanding ethanol fireplace.
Alternatively, the fireplace insert can be used to transform the ethanol fireplace showpiece into a single or double-sided feature wall. This style of ethanol fireplace is also known as a ‘hole in the wall’ ethanol fireplace.
- Place in an existing fireplace
Best Ethanol Fireplaces
The best ethanol fireplace is dependent on what you’re looking for as a consumer, based on the budget and desired aesthetic. However, there are a few guidelines to help ensure you’re getting the best quality ethanol fireplace available.
First, look for ethanol fireplaces with safety certifications.
There are no laws requiring fireplace manufacturers to get these certifications, so brands that invest in them are generally more concerned about safety, bringing homeowners the peace of mind.
Second, pay attention to the materials the ethanol fireplace is made from. Heavier weight, lower gauge stainless steel generally means you’ll have a better quality burner. This means brighter flames and better safety, as cheap burners can be harder to turn off, posing a major safety risk.
Finally, don’t forget about the look of the ethanol fireplace. There is a wide range of decorative finishes and materials for ethanol fireplaces, from minimalist glass to striking natural stone or rock.
Ultimately the best ethanol fireplace is one that delivers top-notch safety, good quality manufacturing, and plenty of eye-catching styles. Check our selection of modern fireplaces on our home page!
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