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What Is A Gel Fuel Fireplace?

By Lawrence Macmillan August 15, 2021

Gel fuel fireplaces differ from traditional fireplaces because they are vent-free and don't need to be hooked up to gas or connected to electricity. Due to concerns regarding the pollution that is produced by traditional wood-burning fireplaces, many homeowners are now seeking alternative heat sources that burn cleaner fuels. 

A gel fuel fireplace is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. As you are not restricted by a hookup, electric connection and do not need a chimney, the unit can easily be maneuvered to wherever it is needed inside or outside of your home. An alcohol-based gel is used to produce the heat and a flame and it doesn’t produce very much mess as it is smokeless.

Generally, gel fuel comes in a 13 ounce can and delivers a total of 3 hours of use. The BTU of a single can is typically around 3,000, and whilst this fuel source may create less heat than alternative methods, less heat is lost as there isn’t a chimney pulling the air out of the room. 

Made from isopropyl alcohol, gel fuel may sometimes contain organic materials which will pop or sizzle as they burn to replicate the sound of regular wood burning. Although standard gel fuel isn’t toxic and doesn’t produce any harmful fumes, colored variations are more likely to release toxins into the air so you must be cautious if you plan on using this type of fuel. 

Before you begin burning gel fuel, you will need to remove the paper labels from the exterior of the can. Then you will need to open the lid in a similar way that you would open a paint can. In your fireplace, there will be a designated compartment that holds the cans of fuel.

Many will have the capacity to store around 3 cans of fuel at once. To light the fuel you will simply need to use a match or a lighter. Then, to smother the flames you will need to drop the lid back onto the can.

Fortunately, cans of gel fuel can be resealed and reused in the future. Once you have used what you need, you can then replace the lid and wait until the flame goes out. So long as there is some fuel remaining, you will be able to use it again until the quantity depletes. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a gel fuel fireplace?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a gel fuel fireplace

Now that you know what a gel fireplace is, you may be wondering what the advantages and disadvantages are associated with such a unit.  

The Advantages

Burns clean fuel

One of the main reasons why many homeowners opt for a gel fuel fireplace is because they are more environmentally friendly. Unlike most other types of fuel, gel fuel burns clean and doesn’t produce any harmful fumes such as carbon monoxide.

This fuel doesn’t create any soot either so you needn’t worry about it affecting the quality of air in your environment. 

Easy to install and maneuver

As gel fuel fireplaces do not require a vent or a chimney, they are not overly challenging to install. There are different models available, some of which are freestanding and others that are wall-mounted. Whilst the former offers portability and gives you the flexibility to transport it to different rooms, the latter is going to be effective in minimizing the heat loss inside the room in which it is installed. 

Versatility

As mentioned, a great thing about gel fuel fireplaces is that many are suitable for indoor and outdoor use. If you enjoy relaxing in your garden but feel deterred by a drop in the temperature, an outdoor gas fuel fireplace offers a perfect solution.

When it is time to return indoors, you needn’t worry about having to wait a while for the flame to completely die down. Simply reseal the can and ensure that the flame has been extinguished. 

Real flame 

Rather than using electricity, these fireplaces use real flames. This fire is created by the thickeners that are added to the alcohol. As such, you get the benefits of a traditional fireplace i,e the appearance of the flame, without the complex installation requirements or changes to your home.

If desired, you may opt for gel fuel cans that contain certain additives. When burned they will then make a sound that replicates the sound that a real fire produces as it burns. It is worth noting that these canisters are slightly pricier. 

The Disadvantages

Difficult to regulate the flame 

Once you have lit the canister of gel fuel, it can be difficult to regulate the size of the flames. Because of this, you will need to determine whether you require a single can or multiple cans.

If you require the use of your fire over a prolonged period, you will likely require more than one can of this fuel. Other types of fires typically incorporate controls that can be used to adjust the height and intensity of the flame. 

Extinguishing the flame 

Extinguishing a fire that is fueled by gel is considerably more difficult than other types of fires. To get rid of the flame you need to lower the lid before dropping it onto the can. Once you have done this, you will need to wait for the flame to go out. You must make sure that this is done responsibly to eliminate any risks to your safety. 

Regular refueling 

Unfortunately, gas fuel does not have a very long run time. Typically, one can is likely to last for a maximum of 2.5 to 3 hours before it needs to be replaced. If you require long-lasting use of the fire then it is likely that this runtime will not suffice.

For many people, regularly having to replace the fuel can is going to become quite annoying and a little tiresome. Alternative options such as traditional fireplaces that burn logs are going to deliver all-day use and may be more accommodating of your needs. Also, regularly having to replace the fuel cans is going to become a rather costly expense. 


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