Ethanol and water vapor fireplaces have everything you want from a modern fireplace:
- Clean energy, check
- Easy to set-up, use, and maintain
- Traditional fireplace vibe
- Sleek designs and space-conscious sizes
Ethanol and water vapor fireplaces also have unique features which set them apart.
So, let’s look at everything you need to know about ethanol versus water vapor fireplaces so that you can purchase the one for you.
What’s an Ethanol Fireplace?
An ethanol fireplace uses ethanol as fuel to produce heat and a real flame. It also emits small amounts of steam and carbon dioxide.
Freestanding Ethanol Fireplace
Note: Ethanol fireplaces aren’t meant to be primary room heaters. They’re mainly decorative accessories with heating functions.
What’s a Water Vapor Fireplace?
A water vapor fireplace uses water as fuel and has a ceramic disk that vibrates at ultrasonic frequencies to create mist.
It also has light-emitting elements (LEDs). When this light passes through the water droplets, it creates the illusion of a breathtaking inferno.
Dimplex Opti-Myst® Pro 1000 Built-In Electric Firebox
Here’s what a happy customer had to say about the flames of a water vapor fireplace.
“I think I love you
Burn baby burn....but not exactly a disco inferno, but surprising good.”
Note: Water vapor fireplaces don’t emit any carbon dioxide. Therefore, they are some of the cleanest and greenest energy options in the market.
Additionally, not all water vapor fireplaces have a heating function. Always check the product specifications for this feature or provisions for an external one if you need a fireplace to warm up your space.
For example, this Dimplex Opti-Myst model doesn't have a heating function, however, the manufacturer says you can add an external one above the cassette.
So, which is the most effective fireplace for you?
It depends on how you value each one’s unique features.
Let’s look at some of the most important attributes you need to consider when choosing between ethanol and water vapor fireplaces.
Feature 1: Safety
The National Fire Protection approves decorative ethanol fireplaces for home use.
However, some researchers posit that ethanol fireplaces can produce harmful microsized pollutants which can negatively affect people with respiratory issues, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Additionally, ethanol fireplaces can lower the quality and quantity of your air because:
- They need small amounts of oxygen to work. This can deplete the fresh air in your home, especially in buildings that aren't well ventilated or spacious.
- They produce small amounts of carbon dioxide. If the room isn't well ventilated, the built-up carbon dioxide can lower the air quality.
You can easily resolve these issues by opening a window or two, but if that isn’t an option, you may want to consider a water vapor fireplace over an ethanol one.
Water vapor fireplaces don't need oxygen to work and don’t produce carbon dioxide.
Therefore, water vapor fireplaces are most suitable for people with breathing issues and those living in small spaces that aren't well ventilated.
Risk of Fire
Ethanol fireplaces are generally safe, but are more likely to cause fire because:
- Ethanol fireplaces have real flames that can burn flammable materials.
- An ethanol flame is hot and can cause burns when mishandled.
- Alcohol is highly flammable and must be handled with care. More on this in the next section.
On the other hand, water vapor fireplaces are profoundly safe, as they don't have a real flame.
Feature 2: Use
Using an Ethanol Fireplace
Even so, there are some shared basic guidelines, such as:
- Never refill when the fireplace is working or hot as ethanol is very flammable. Extinguish the flame first and wait for the burner to cool for at least 15 minutes before replenishing.
- Use a small funnel or pump to avoid spillages when refilling the burner.
- In case of spillages, wipe it before turning on the burner as the spilled ethanol can ignite.
- After refilling, place the fuel can far from the burner—at least 1,500 meters—before lighting the fireplace.
- Use the recommended lighting device and always light the burner as instructed in the manual.
Using a Water Vapor Fireplace
Water vapor fireplaces are incredibly easy to handle.
For example, you can choose to connect the water vapor fireplace directly to tap water and enjoy the dancing flames, or refill the tank manually and reinstall it.
Feature 3: Maintenance
All you need to maintain an ethanol fireplace is:
- A damp cloth to clean the outer parts
- A glass cleaner to keep the glass part spotless
Note: Some people use steel wool to remove stains and build up from the fireplace. We don’t recommend steel wool because it may erode the material and lower its quality and lifetime.
Water Vapor Fireplaces
Water vapor fireplaces are also easy to maintain. All you need to do is:
- Use a soft cloth for the outer parts. You can add soap and water to clean the top cover.
- Use a soft cloth or evaporator to remove build-up in the water tank.
- Rinse and dry air filters often to prevent build-up and discoloration.
For more extensive cleaning, see the video below.
Feature 4: Installation
You don’t need a professional to install an ethanol or water vapor fireplace.
Every ethanol and water vapor fireplace should have a detailed but easy-to-follow manual. Make sure you check the shipping information for this manual.
Once your product arrives, follow the instructions to the letter as in the video below.
Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the soothing ambiance of a modern fireplace.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is the most effective? An ethanol or water fireplace?
An ethanol fireplace is just as effective as a water vapor fireplace.
The only difference between them is how they deliver this effectiveness in regards to your tastes and preferences.
Use the table below to decide which fireplace aligns more effectively with your needs.
|Feature||Ethanol Fireplace||Water Vapor Fireplace|
|Heat||Yes||Depends on model|
|Type of Flame||Real||Illusion|
|Carbon dioxide||Yes, but in small amounts||No|
|Ease of installation, operations, and maintenance||Easy to install, run, and maintain||Easy to install, run, and maintain|
|Cost of operations||Cheap ($1–3 per hour)||Very cheap (as low as pennies per hour for some models)|
|Safety||Very safe as long as the manual is followed to the letter||Very safe once the manual is followed to the letter|
|Ambience||High quality with some models having log-like accessories||High quality with some models having crackling log-like accessories and the illusion of smoke|
Which is cheaper, an ethanol or water vapor fireplace?
Both water vapor and ethanol fireplaces are quite affordable.
On average, a water vapor fireplace consumes only 230 watts per hour, and ethanol fireplaces will cost you $1–3 per hour.
Between an ethanol and water vapor fireplace, which is more appropriate for small spaces?
It depends on the features of the small space. If it’s well ventilated, both ethanol and water vapor fireplaces are appropriate.
If not, water vapor fireplaces are better than ethanol fireplaces. Ethanol fireplaces need small amounts of oxygen to work and produce carbon dioxide. You’ll need to leave a window open every time you use an ethanol fireplace.
If having an open window isn't an option, consider a water vapor fireplace.
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