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How Does An Ethanol Fireplace Work?

By Brittany Rycroft July 13, 2019

Ethanol Fireplaces - How They Work And What You Really Need To Know

Decoflame ethanol fireplace installed in living room

Your first question is probably 'What is an ethanol fireplace?’ You may have seen them used in films or TV, or maybe a local restaurant or hotel sets them up on their patio in the fall. They're beautiful, elegant, easy to maintain and install, and don't have the usual mess of ash or chimney build up. Quite simply, it is an environmentally friendly fireplace that burns ethanol instead of coal, firewood, or any other type of fuel. As it doesn't run on traditional fuels, it leaves no soot or ash, can be set up almost anywhere and doesn’t require a chimney.

What is Bioethanol?

Well, now you know that bioethanol is a highly efficient fuel, but where does it come from? What does this fuel look like, and how do you use it? Bioethanol is alcohol, which means it comes from the fermentation of sugars, just like any other alcohol. It is made from industrialized crops such as corn, sorghum, wheat, sugar cane, and in some cases, it comes from forestry byproducts such as wood pulp and sawdust.

However, just because it is alcohol doesn't mean you'd want to drink it. Bioethanol is denatured alcohol, meaning that it’s been mixed with additives, which would make it toxic and unpleasant to drink—but it does make for excellent fuel. Since it derives from industrial crops, it is renewable and biodegradable as well as inexpensive and plentiful. People have used it as a traditional fuel additive for years, augmenting the performance of regular gasoline and reducing emissions.

If you've had a traditional fireplace, you may have had to deal with the unfortunate side effects: piles of ash to be removed, soot on the windows, or the dreaded build-up of dangerously flammable resins inside the chimney itself. It's a constant maintenance hassle that never ends, with only dubious benefits to be gained.

By burning cleanly and efficiently, bio-ethanol fireplaces remove all those concerns. It burns completely, producing only a little bit of carbon dioxide and water as byproducts. This means that you'll never have to worry about your chimney because you won't have one. Bioethanol is the perfect fuel.

Bio Ethanol fuel cycle process

Are These Fireplaces Safe?


You might have a few concerns about the safety of bioethanol fireplaces, given that the fuel source is burnable alcohol. The fact is, bioethanol is perfectly safe. Safer, in fact, than more traditional fuel sources by quite a bit.

As mentioned above, there are a lot of things that can go wrong with a traditional fireplace. The most dangerous, of course, is the problematic chimney and the dreaded possibility of a chimney fire. Standard fuels burn carbons releasing oils into your chimney. Over time, this can cause a real problem. Stray embers may ignite the oils leading to a chimney fire which can be devastating. Wood-burning fireplaces also have the potential for releasing carcinogens into your environment. While not as immediately concerning or obvious, you probably would prefer to avoid this, if possible.

Bioethanol fireplaces produce little more than a small amount of carbon dioxide. This might sound alarming, but the amount produced is negligible and can quickly be expelled by opening a window. As for the dreaded chimney fire? There is no chimney, and bioethanol burns completely clean, meaning there is no build-up of the oils or carbons and therefore no potential for a chimney fire.

Of course, there is always a potential danger any time you introduce an open flame into your house. For instance, you should take care if you have children or pets in your home, but these modern fireplaces are much safer than their more traditional competition.

ethanol fireplace with automatic remote start

Components and Parts

All bioethanol fireplaces have a few essential parts: the burner, the body, and accessories. The difference is in how you choose to put them together. The burner is the part of the fireplace that burns the ethanol. However, the way the burner works vary dramatically between automatic and manual models.

Automatics have several distinct advantages over the manual burner, which might influence your decision. A manual fireplace burns fuel directly from the reservoir, requires a lighter or match to light, and offers little control over the fire itself. Manuals also have a smell of burning fuel about them that many don't like.

An automatic, on the other hand, separates the reservoir from the burner, meaning there is no direct contact between the flame and the fuel supply. This aspect makes it not only safer but offers you much more control. Many modern fireplaces link directly to apps or devices, meaning you can turn it on or off with your phone. Automatics also offer safety mechanisms such as child locks, which manual burners do not, and can be turned on and off automatically. This increases your control and enjoyment of your fireplace.

The body is the housing of the burner unit and comes in a variety of attractive styles and sizes from wall mounted to freestanding or two-sided. Finally, there are the accessories. We offer many different styles and accessories for your aesthetic pleasure from fire rocks to ceramic logs.

 

Installing Your Ethanol Fireplace

Most of the time, installing a new ethanol fireplace is as easy as taking it out of the box, following the instructions, and enjoying your new fireplace. Some of our models, like the tabletop or freestanding models, are that simple, but in some cases, it might require a more 'hands-on' approach.

Freestanding models, such as the Planika Tondo Commerce or the Decoflame Sydney, are just that: freestanding. They're designed for simplicity, so the only considerations you need to make are the size of the space available and your budget. The included how-to instructions will take care of the rest. Other models, however, are a little more involved.

Wall-mounted units are no more difficult to install than a flat-screen TV and require even less setup. Find the studs of your wall, make sure the unit is level, and secure the unit to it. Most of the wall-mounted units are ready to go right out of the box.

Recessed fireplaces require you to insert your unit into a wall. You might be better served in this case to hire a professional for installation, as it will require construction. If you choose to do it yourself, however, you should make sure that the wall is adequately fireproofed before installing the unit.

Given they run on ethanol fuel, the units won't need a chimney, gas lines, or anything else. They're as simple as can be, but if you have any 'how to' questions, please speak with your sales representative.

Ethanol insert installation with 2 men

Maintenance Required

As opposed to traditional wood-burning fireplaces, ethanol fireplaces are designed to be easy to clean and maintain. If you're accustomed to a traditional fireplace, you're likely already aware of how much maintenance they need. From glass cleaning to shoveling out ash, removing soot, and cleaning that chimney, it can be an exhausting process. The good news is, ethanol fireplaces require none of that.

With an ethanol fireplace, all you need to do is make sure that it is kept full of ethanol and give it a decent cleaning every so often. It's that simple. Even though ethanol burns clean, there may still be a little soot that builds up over time on the burner or other surfaces. This build-up isn't a product of the fuel, of course, but rather the flame itself.

When cleaning, make sure your fireplace is turned off and cool. Remove the burner and then clean it off with warm water and mild soap. Dry it with a towel and let it air dry completely before reinstalling it and refilling the reservoir. You can clean the surface of the glass and the body with the same method. You should clean the burners regularly, as they are subject to direct flame and can become discolored quickly.

Other than that, your primary duty is to keep the reservoir filled. Your instructions will take you step-by-step through that process. If you have any questions, contact your sales representative for details.

Cleaning ethanol fireplace with rag


Is an Ethanol Fireplace Right for Me?


Perhaps you have a small house in need of just a little more heat during the winter, or maybe you have a large house that could use the panache of an open flame in a living room or study. You might even want an outside patio with a little extra something to make it unique and keep it warm enough to be used into the fall months.

Getting a modern fireplace can be a difficult decision. There are many options available, from a traditional wood-burning fireplace to ethanol, and it isn't always easy choosing the best option for you. In most cases, ethanol is going to be an ideal solution, though if you need a high-heat fireplace, an alternative heat source may work better.

In terms of simplicity, ease of maintenance, and safety, you can’t beat ethanol. It fits easily in any home, takes up as little—or as much space— as you want, it's clean, and it's environmentally friendly. What more could you ask for in a fireplace?

Check out our home page to browse the best selection of modern fireplaces! If you found this article helpful, be sure to give it a share on your social media! 


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