Bioethanol fireplaces are similar to other types of fireplaces like wood burning fireplaces and stoves, gas fireplaces and pellet stoves, in that they offer a real fire.
However, bioethanol fireplaces use a specific type of fuel, bioethanol fuel, which can typically have a cleaner burn compared to firewood, natural gas or wood pellets.
This means that bioethanol fireplaces don’t typically have the same level of requirements for the venting of waste by-products from a fire.
Bioethanol fireplaces are one of the more environmentally friendly forms of fireplaces. Bioethanol is a by-product of agricultural fermentation processes and bioethanol fuel burns cleanly enough that bioethanol fireplaces don’t typically have a requirement for a chimney or flue.
We own a bioethanol fireplace insert, which sits inside our living room fireplace, and we use it to enjoy a real fireplace experience during the milder months when heating the room is less important.
Although it sits in our fireplace with a chimney breast above, there’s no requirement for the chimney, or even any other flue system, thanks to the clean burn of the fuel where no smoke or other harmful particulates are emitted.
There is however a requirement on the minimum size of room in which our bioethanol fireplace is located in, along with other safety requirements.
We discuss in more detail below how eco friendly bioethanol fireplaces really are, using our own bioethanol fireplace as an example.
Are Bioethanol Fireplaces Environmentally Friendly?
Bioethanol fireplaces can be considered environmentally friendly because their clean burn of the bioethanol fuel means that only carbon dioxide and water vapor is released by the fire.
Bioethanol fireplaces can only burn bioethanol fuel.
Bioethanol is typically derived from the fermentation of sugars and starches, as a by-product of the process. Bioethanol can be used in bioethanol fireplaces in the form of bioethanol fuel.
Bioethanol fuel can typically be bought in 1 litre bottles or more. We usually buy 1 litres of bioethanol fireplace fuel for our own fireplace.
As our fireplace has a fuel capacity of 1 litre, we know that one bottle will be the right amount to bring it back up to full from empty.
Manufacturers typically request the use of higher grade (higher alcohol percentage) bioethanol fuel for their fireplaces.
For example, we’re requested in our fireplace owner’s manual to buy 95% to 97.5% alcohol content bioethanol fuel, and the fuel we buy is 96.6%.
Using higher alcohol percentage bioethanol fuel can help with the clean burn of the fuel.
The burning of bioethanol fuel in a bioethanol fireplace is a relatively clean burning process compared to other types of fireplaces, with minimal by-products released.
The manufacturer for our fireplace explains:
‘Bioethanol combustion uses oxygen from the air inside the room and releases carbon dioxide (non-toxic) and water vapors.’Imagin Fires
As a result, bioethanol fireplaces don’t typically require the use of any form of venting such as a chimney or flue, as there are minimal or no harmful by-products that need to be released from a home.
Burning wood, for example, can release by-products such as smoke and other particulates, which need to be safely removed from home into the atmosphere. Wood burning appliances therefore need venting in the form of either a chimney or flue, depending on the type.
Bioethanol fireplaces still release carbon dioxide, however, and so for safety reasons to help mitigate the risk of lowering oxygen levels in a room, fireplace manufacturers may state:
- The minimum room size required to place a bioethanol fireplace in
- The need for the room to be well ventilated
For example, we’re requested in our owner’s manual to:
‘Only use [our bioethanol fireplace] in adequately ventilated rooms with a minimum volume of 40 cubic metres. The room should be well ventilated with enough oxygen and fresh air being supplied (e.g. partly open window/air vents).’Imagin Fires
We therefore use our bioethanol fireplace in a sufficiently sized room, which also has an existing external air vent to help with fresh air intake.
For our type of bioethanol fireplace, which is the insert type, we’re still required to place it in an existing open fireplace or chimney breast.
This is only for other safety reasons as the fire is open on the top and sides and not fully contained. Our chimney doesn’t need to be open to use our fireplace, however.
Other types of bioethanol fireplace may not need to be placed inside an existing fireplace like ours does. See our main article on the types of bioethanol fireplaces for more information.
Bioethanol fuel is often considered as a great alternative to burning other types of fuels. The below are taken from research articles on bioethanol fuel:
‘Bioethanol fuel has an important role in the field of environmental conservation by mitigating global warming and conserving fossil fuel. The production of bioethanol from biomass or waste is one way to reduce both the consumption of crude oil and environmental pollution.’Bioethanol production from lignocellulosic biomass (water hyacinth): a biofuel alternative, 2020.
‘Bioethanol is one of the most interesting biofuels due to its positive impact on the environment. Based on the presented data, it is obvious that bioethanol can be an alternative solution for the current fuel issue. The biggest challenge remains how to reduce the production cost of bioethanol fuel.’Bioethanol Production from Renewable Raw Materials and Its Separation and Purification: A Review, 2018.
As one of the main challenges of bioethanol fuel is the cost of production, one of the downsides of using bioethanol fireplaces is the cost to run them.
We cover how much it costs to run a bioethanol fireplace in more detail in another article, but it can be more costly to run them compared to other types of fireplaces.
While bioethanol fireplaces can be more environmentally friendly compared to other forms of fireplaces, their running cost can be a barrier to their implementation and use in more households.
From our experience, our bioethanol fireplace is the most expensive form of fireplace to run compared to all of our other fireplaces including:
- Wood burning fireplace
- Wood burning stove
- Multi fuel stove
- Pellet stove
- Gas fireplace
- Electric fireplace
See our article covering all of the pros and cons of bioethanol fireplaces for more information.