Bioethanol fireplaces are like many other types of fireplaces and use a real fire to deliver a realistic fireplace experience with real flames.
However, bioethanol fireplaces differ in that they only burn bioethanol fuel, which is considered to be one of the cleanest burning forms of fuel for any fireplace.
This allows bioethanol fireplaces to have more freedom when it comes to placement in a home as they may not necessarily be tied to an existing fireplace or other flue system.
Bioethanol fireplaces don’t need a chimney or flue to be used in a home. Bioethanol fireplaces don’t typically produce smoke or other harmful particulates that would otherwise need to be vented from a home.
However, certain types of bioethanol fireplace may need to be placed inside an existing fireplace or chimney breast, not for use with the chimney, but for other safety reasons.
For example, we have a bioethanol fireplace insert that we need to use inside our existing fireplace.
We can however use this bioethanol fireplace without the chimney needing to be open. Other types of bioethanol fireplaces can be used around a home outside of any existing fireplace or chimney setup.
We discuss in more detail below why bioethanol fireplaces don’t need a chimney or flue, the main types of bioethanol fireplace and whether they are constricted to any existing fireplace or not, and how a bioethanol could be set up to look like it has a real flue system.
Do Bioethanol Fireplaces Need A Chimney Or Flue?
Bioethanol fireplaces do not typically need to be used alongside a chimney or flue system.
This is thanks to a clean burn of the bioethanol fuel.
Bioethanol fireplaces can only use bioethanol fuel, and bioethanol fuel can be made up almost entirely of denatured alcohol.
For example, the below shows the fuel that we use for our own bioethanol fireplace. It has an alcohol content of 96.6%.
As shown on the packaging for our bioethanol fuel, it’s very clean burning. This means that the bioethanol fuel burns cleanly with minimal wastage in the form of by-products.
The manufacturer for our bioethanol fireplace explains in the owner’s manual that:
‘Bioethanol combustion uses oxygen from the air inside the room and releases carbon dioxide (non-toxic) and water vapors.’Imagin Fires
No by-products other than water vapor and carbon dioxide are typically released by a bioethanol fireplace, such as smoke or particulates.
Our fireplace manufacturer states:
‘There is no smoke given off by our bioethanol fires.’Imagin Fires
This clean burn of the fuel also helps to make bioethanol fireplaces one of the most environmentally friendly forms of fireplaces.
This all means that bioethanol fireplaces don’t need a chimney or flue in order to be used.
A chimney or flue is used to help remove waste by-products from a fireplace, such as smoke and other particulates, from a home by providing a safe passage of these by-products from inside into the outside atmosphere.
As bioethanol fireplace fuel is so clean burning, a chimney or flue therefore isn’t required to use a bioethanol fireplace inside a home.
See our main article on bioethanol fireplace fuel for more information.
Chimneys and flues are typically required when using other types of fireplaces that also use a real fire, such as open wood burning fireplaces, wood burning stoves, multi fuel stoves, gas fireplaces and pellet stoves.
For example, burning wet wood can lead to inefficient combustion of the fuel and lead to harmful particulates being released by a fire. Any wood burning fireplace appliances therefore always need a chimney or flue.
However, since bioethanol fireplaces release carbon dioxide, you may still need to follow other safety requirements and recommendations when using a bioethanol fireplace indoors.
For example, we need to use our fireplace in a room with minimum volume of 40 cubic metres.
This is for safety purposes to help ensure that there’s always a sufficient supply of oxygen in the room. The manufacturer for our fireplace also explains that ‘the room should be well ventilated with enough oxygen and fresh air being supplied (e.g. partly open window/air vents’.
Before buying a bioethanol fireplace its therefore recommended to check the installation requirements for that fireplace, for things such as minimum room size.
Furthermore, depending on the type of bioethanol fireplace, you may be required to place your fireplace inside an existing fireplace or chimney breast, even if the chimney won’t be used.
Insert types of bioethanol fireplaces (like ours) are primarily designed for use in existing open fireplaces, and our owner’s manual explains that:
‘The Eton [our model of fireplace] should be only used in an existing fireplace or chimney breast and is not suitable as a freestanding model in a room.’Imagin Fires
We need to use our bioethanol fireplace in an existing fireplace for other safety reasons because the fire in our fireplace isn’t fully contained. Our fireplace is open on the top and sides and so using within the firebox of an existing fireplace helps to minimize any safety risks.
Our owner’s manual recommends ‘boarding up the chimney with fireplace material if using an open fireplace’, as ‘this will prevent heat loss and any stray particles falling into the fuel box’.
If you are to use a bioethanol fireplace in an existing fireplace then using and closing up a fireplace damper, if allowed by your local building regulations, could be helpful. Much of the heat generated by a bioethanol fireplace located in an open fireplace could be lost up the chimney otherwise.
We only typically use our bioethanol during the milder months of the year when heat output isn’t important and so we don’t personally close up our chimney.
Bioethanol fireplaces can have relatively low heat output compared to other types of fireplaces, which we cover more about in our bioethanol fireplace heat output article.
Other types of bioethanol fireplace don’t typically need to be placed inside an existing fireplace, including:
- Wall mounted bioethanol fireplaces
- Standalone burners
As all bioethanol fireplaces don’t require the use of a chimney of flue, these other types of bioethanol fireplaces have more flexibility in the placement around a home.
See our main guide on the types of bioethanol fireplaces for more information.
If you want to help your bioethanol fireplace look more realistic, for example with a freestanding stove bioethanol fireplace model, you could have a fake flue installed alongside it.