Bioethanol fireplaces are a type of fireplace that use bioethanol fuel to help deliver a realistic fireplace experience.
There are many advantages that bioethanol fireplaces offer compared to other types of fireplaces, such as using a real fire instead of faux fire effects, which electric fireplaces use.
However, there are also a few downsides to owning and using a bioethanol fireplace.
The main advantages of bioethanol fireplaces include real flames, supplementary heat, portability, ease of use, minimal mess and typically no requirement for a chimney of flue. Downsides include relatively low heat output and typically higher running costs compared to other types of fireplaces.
We cover all the pros and cons of bioethanol fireplaces below.
Advantages of bioethanol fireplaces include:
- Real flames
- No chimney or flue required
- Versatility for installation locations
- Clean burning
- Minimal mess
- Easy to light and use
- Bioethanol fuel can be considered environmentally friendly
- Typically lower purchase costs compared to other types of fireplaces
- Options for remote control
The disadvantages of bioethanol fireplaces include:
- Lower heat output compared to other types of fireplaces
- Certain size fireplaces can require certain size rooms for safety purposes
- Some types will require an electrical supply
- A real fire is used, but may not be contained in all cases
- Can only use bioethanol fuel
- Bioethanol fuel is highly flammable
- Typically higher running costs
- Can’t add more fuel during use
- No fireplace smell
We’ve been using our own bioethanol fireplace for a while now and have come to understand its strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.
We go over each of these pros and cons of bioethanol fireplaces in more detail below using our own fireplace as an example.
Bioethanol Fireplace Advantages
1) Real Flames
Bioethanol fireplaces offer real flames thanks to using a real fire.
A bioethanol fireplace is able to provide a real fireplace experience as the fuel it uses, bioethanol fuel, is highly combustible.
With sufficient fuel within the fuel box, a manual bioethanol fireplace can be lit using standard fire lighters or matches. The flames will start and burn through the fuel until there’s none left, or when the fire is put out.
The ability to generate real flames is a significant advantage that bioethanol fireplaces offer over some other types of fireplaces, in particular electric fireplaces, which don’t offer real flames and can only provide faux flames effect using lights and mirrors (see more about how electric fireplaces work here).
Electric fireplaces and bioethanol fireplaces can be similarly priced when compared to other more expensive types of fireplaces such as wood burning stoves and pellet stoves.
We enjoy using our bioethanol fireplace over our electric fireplaces where we can because the ability to view real flames is such an added bonus.
2) No Chimney Or Flue Required
As bioethanol fireplaces are clean burning, they don’t typically require any form of chimney or flue to operate indoors.
A chimney or flue would be required to safely move any smoke or other emissions out of a home. Other types of fireplaces that also offer real flames, such as wood burning fireplaces and stoves, pellet stoves, and gas fireplaces all require a flue or chimney.
One big advantage with bioethanol fires is the ability to enjoy their real flames without necessarily needing to think about venting.
For example, the manufacturer for own bioethanol fireplace explains:
‘No chimney or flue required. As the Eton [our model of fireplace] emits no smoke, you don’t need to go through the time and expense of opening up the flue or chimney again.’Imagin Fires
Bioethanol fireplaces can therefore be a great option when looking to enjoy a real fire experience in rooms without sufficient venting in the form of chimneys or flues.
3) Installation Location Versatility
As bioethanol fireplaces don’t require a chimney for flue, this allows them to be placed in more locations around a home that wouldn’t be possible with other types of fireplaces that also use a real fire.
You can find a range of bioethanol fireplace forms including wall-mounted, freestanding, insert, tabletop and recessed.
However, a manufacturer may still state other requirements for the placement of a bioethanol fireplace.
For example, even though we don’t need a chimney or flue, our manufacturer still requests that our fireplace ‘should only be used in an existing fireplace or chimney breast and is not suitable as a freestanding model in a room’.
This is because our fireplace is an insert model, and as it has open sides and top, placing it in a suitable existing fireplace is required for safety purposes.
We therefore only use our specific model of bioethanol fireplace in our existing open fireplace.
While this is required for our fireplace, many other models of bioethanol fireplace can be used freestanding outside of an existing fireplace. It’s always worth checking this before looking to buy.
Bioethanol fireplaces will also still typically need to be placed in a room of sufficient size in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines. We discuss more about this downside in the next section.
As there’s typically no requirement for a chimney or flue to be used with a bioethanol fireplace, it not only helps make them more versatile for installation but also helps allow them to be more portable compared to other types of fireplaces.
If you have a model of bioethanol fireplace that isn’t constrained to one particular area (such as ours is to an existing open fireplace), you could freely move it around a home between fires to enjoy the flames and heat in different rooms.
5) Clean Burning
Bioethanol fireplaces are extremely clean burning forms of fireplaces, which is why they don’t typically require the need for a chimney or flue.
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
Manufacturer’s typically request high quality premium bioethanol fuel for their fireplaces to aid in clean burning, and our manufacturer strongly recommends that we use bioethanol liquid fuel between 95% and 97.5% alcohol content.
The fuel that we use has 96.6% alcohol content in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines, helping to promote a clean burn of the fuel.
See our main article on bioethanol fireplace fuel for more information.
6) Minimal Mess
Bioethanol fireplaces only burn bioethanol fuel and the only by-products of burning this fuel are carbon dioxide and water vapors.
No other mess is less behind, such as ash that you would typically find with other wood burning appliances that use a real fire.
The only thing we’ve had to clean up when using our bioethanol fireplace is any fuel that has spilt onto the fuel box lid when we’re refuelling.
For safety reasons, any spilt fuel needs to be wiped clean before lighting.
7) Ease Of Use
Compared to other types of fireplaces and stoves that use a real fire, bioethanol fireplaces can be relatively easy to use.
For manual bioethanol fireplaces (which don’t have an electrical connection), bio fuel typically needs to be manually added to the fuel box.
For our manual fireplace, we simply need to pour more fuel into the fuel box using our bottles of bioethanol fuel.
To light, we take a long match and light the fuel inside the fireplace.
A bioethanol fireplace will then burn until the fuel runs out.
To shut off our bioethanol fireplace, we simply take the closing tool that came with the fireplace and close the lid to the fuel box.
For electrical, automatic, bioethanol fireplaces, the process of using them can be even easier.
Automatic pumps can be supplied with electrical bioethanol fireplaces, helping to make the refuelling process even easier. They will also have a dedicated control panel where the fire can be started and stopped at the press of a button, or even using a remote control.
The video below compares using manual and automatic bioethanol fireplaces.
See our main article on using a bioethanol fireplace for more information.
8) Environmentally Friendly
Bioethanol fireplaces only use ethanol fuel.
This ethanol fuel is marketed as bioethanol fuel because it’s ethanol produced from biomass.
Bioethanol fuel is stated to be a form of renewable energy and it a by-product from the production of materials from using agricultural products such as sugarcane, corn and potato.
Using a bioethanol fireplace can therefore be considered a more eco friendly way to provide a real fire in a home. This is compared to burning other fuels such as firewood, which can release harmful particulates when not in the most ideal state, such as when burning wet firewood.
See our main article where we discuss the eco-friendliness of bioethanol fireplaces for more information.
9) Typically Lower Purchase Costs
Of all the types of fireplaces and stoves that use real fires, such as wood burning fireplaces, wood burning stoves, pellet stoves, and gas fireplaces, bioethanol fireplaces can typically be on the lower end of the scale for purchase costs.
For example, our fireplace cost us $200 (£180).
Although you can spend much more than this on a bioethanol fireplace if you wanted, buying one of the lower end models won’t typically cost as much as other types of fireplaces and stoves that also use a real fire. Our wood and pellet stoves cost us over $1,000 each.
Electric fireplaces can be cheaper than bioethanol fireplaces, but they don’t offer real flames.
See our main article on how much each type of bioethanol fireplace typically costs for more information.
10) Remote control options
Many automatic, electrical, bioethanol fireplaces can come with remote control, allowing you to use a bioethanol fireplace from the comfort of your seat.
Note that manual bioethanol fireplaces (like ours) won’t have remote control and must be used manually.
Bioethanol Fireplace Disadvantages
1) Lower Heat Output
Although bioethanol fireplaces offer a real flame, they can typically have lower heat output compared to other forms of fireplaces and stoves, and even those that don’t offer real flames.
From personally owning and using all types of fireplaces and stoves, we would say that bioethanol fireplaces have some of the lowest heat output, if not the lowest.
For example, our heat from our electric fireplace is much more noticeable. Our bioethanol fireplace is also no match for our wood burning, pellet or multi fuel stoves.
However, bioethanol fireplaces aren’t designed to be a primary source of heat.
For example, the manual to our fireplace states:
‘The [bioethanol] fireplace is meant for use as a secondary heat source.’Imagin Fires
See our main article on bioethanol fireplace heat output for more information.
2) Room Size Requirements
Bioethanol fireplaces consume oxygen from the room as part of the combustion process of the bioethanol fuel. Carbon dioxide is one of the by-products from the fire released back into the room.
For safety reasons, manufacturers of bioethanol fireplaces therefore typically state the minimum room size, area or volume, required for their fireplaces.
For example, our manufacturer states:
‘Only use in adequately ventilated rooms with a minimum volume of 40 cubic metres.’Imagin Fires
Our room size is approximately 40 cubic metres and so is suitable for our bioethanol fireplace.
When choosing a bioethanol fireplace consider the size of room(s) that it will be located in, and for safety purposes ensure that the room is sufficiently ventilated and sized for the fireplace.
3) Electrical Supply Requirements
Manual types of bioethanol fireplaces, which need to be manually refuelled and operated, typically won’t require an electrical supply.
However, automatic types of bioethanol fireplaces will typically need an electrical supply.
This allows all of the main features to be useable, such as automatic refuelling and lighting.
If looking to buy an automatic bioethanol fireplace, consider how it will be powered.
4) Real Fires
Bioethanol fireplaces always use a real fire, and while this can an advantage for reasons such as flame visuals and heat output, it can be a downside for safety reasons.
Some models of bioethanol fireplace don’t fully contain the fire. For example, our fireplace only has safety glass covering the front and backs of the fireplace.
The fire is therefore open on the top and sides.
As a result, our manufacturer requires us to place our bioethanol fireplace in an existing fireplace or chimney breast and isn’t suitable as a freestanding model for elsewhere in a room.
However, many other models of manual bioethanol fireplaces do have the flames contained, and therefore may not have the same location constraints as ours does.
Automatic fireplaces also typically incorporate more safety features such as sensors to automatically shut off the fireplace in case of any issues.
5) Can Only Use Bioethanol Fuel
Bioethanol fireplaces can only use bioethanol fuel. Other fuels such as wood cannot be used.
For example, the manufacturer of our fireplace states:
‘Only bioethanol fuel specifically produced for bioethanol fireplaces is suitable. It is extremely dangerous to use bioethanol car fuel, other liquid or gel fuels or solid fuels, or a mix of fuels.’Imagin Fires
If using a bioethanol fireplace you will therefore have to buy and use bioethanol fuel of the right type and quality in line with the guidelines for your fireplace.
See our main article on bioethanol fireplace fuel for more information.
6) Bio Fuel Is Highly Flammable
Bioethanol fuel that’s used for bioethanol fireplaces is highly flammable.
Although this is useful for lighting such fireplaces, the flammability of the fuel should always be considered and measures taken to ensure that a bioethanol fireplace is used safely should be undertaken, such as:
- Wiping any excess fuel away that may have spilt on the fireplace from manually refuelling.
- Keeping the fuel stored away from the fireplace.
Our fireplace manual explains:
‘Take care not to spill any fuel on or near the appliance. Any spilled fuel must be cleaned before lighting.Imagin Fires
Do not leave any bottle of bioethanol fuel or lighter on or near the fireplace shelf. Do not store bioethanol fuel near the appliance.’
7) Running Costs
As bioethanol fireplaces can only burn bioethanol fuel, with manufacturers typically stating the fuel used should be of a certain alcohol content, the running costs of a bioethanol can be relatively high compared to other types of fireplaces and stoves.
For example, when we buy a 2 litre bundle of bioethanol fuel (2x 1 litre bottles) we’re spending around $15 (£13).
Our instruction manual states that our bioethanol fireplace can burn for 3 to 4 hours. We find that 1 litre of fuel does last around 3 and a half hours.
Based on 3.5 hours of burning, it costs us roughly $2.10 (£1.80) to run per hour.
This can vary however depending on the type of bioethanol fireplace, type of fuel and burning conditions (we can also get the fuel cheaper when buying in bulk) but consider that a bioethanol will typically cost more to run than other forms of fireplaces and stoves.
See our main article on how much it costs to run a bioethanol fireplace for more information.
8) Must Wait To Refuel
Bioethanol fireplace manufacturers typically request that you leave the fireplace to cool down before refuelling.
This would be for safety purposes to help prevent any fuel being added from catching alight.
Our fireplace manufacturer states:
‘Before refilling the steel fuel box with bioethanol fuel, always ensure the fuel box has returned to room temperature (this takes approximately 30 minutes from extinguishing the fire).’Imagin Fires
We therefore always wait at least half an hour to allow our fireplace to cool down sufficiently before adding any more fuel. Always wait the required time as stated by the manufacturer of your fireplace or fuel.
As a result, expect some downtime for your bioethanol fireplace after it has run out of fuel. With our fireplace having a 1 litre capacity, this means we need to wait 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours.
9) No Real Fireplace Smell
Although bioethanol fireplaces use a real fire, they’re extremely clean burning and so don’t give off any traditional fireplace smells that you could expect from wood burning appliances.
Our bioethanol fireplace doesn’t produce any distinct smells during use, which can be considered both an advantage and a disadvantage.
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