Simply put, an ethanol fireplace is a ventless fireplace that runs on bioethanol fuel. Bioethanol is made from the fermentation of different plants like corn, soybeans, or even beets. It is also a renewable fuel, unlike gasoline and other fuels. This means you don't have to worry about running out of it anytime soon.
Ethanol Fuel Creation
Ethanol has an alcohol base, produces no smoke or toxic by-products, which is why these fireplaces are allowed to be vent-free. They are made from 304 or 316 stainless steel that makes them very durable. Usually, they range 15 to 50 inches wide and at their max, put off 30,000 BTU's. They are not the typical size and strength of a modern fireplace, though, many of their benefits outweigh their lack of power.
Are Ethanol Fireplaces Safe?
When it comes to ventless fireplaces, many people shy away from this option because of the risk of inhaling dangerous by-products. While there is a small possibility of ingesting chemicals from ventless fireplaces, they are all scrutinized heavily by the EPA and tested for safety against standards set for children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
However, with an ethanol fireplace, you do not have to worry about inhaling any of those by-products.
Ethanol fuel combustion only puts off steam & carbon dioxide. The amount of CO2 put off by burning an ethanol fireplace for 3 hours is similar to burning 2 candles. It's so insignificant, it makes for a very safe option for people who have respiratory issues and want a vent-free fireplace but are concerned about their health.
Ethanol on Coffee Table
It's also important to note that, unlike other fireplaces, ethanol fireplaces can be installed in small apartments or tiny homes without worry. Because of their high safety standard and low BTU output, they don't have near the regulations that other gas or electric fireplaces do. This makes them very versatile and great for people who want a little extra heat but don't have the space to install a large gas or wood fireplace.
Ethanol Fireplace Operation
An ethanol fireplace is very simple to operate. First, you set it up in the desired location. Second, you put fuel into the burner pan located on the bottom of the appliance. Third, using a long lighter you light the fuel. It's as simple as that. Typically, it will take up to 15 minutes before an ethanol fire has reached its full flame potential.
Ethanol fuel can be sold in bottles ranging from 1 liter to 1 gallon. If you choose the larger bottle, or you are naturally clumsy, it might be a good idea to use a funnel and make sure all the fuel ends up in the burner pan. Using cheap fuel can cause your room to smell like alcohol, as the fuel has an alcohol base. So, be aware of the quality to price ratio when purchasing.
You also don't want to fill the burner with fuel more than halfway. Adding too much fuel can make it difficult to put out if you don't burn until its empty.
Is An Ethanol Fireplace Expensive?
Usually, 1 liter of ethanol fuel can last from 4 – 8 hours depending on the setting the flame is adjusted to. The cost of 1 liter of ethanol fuel is around $10. While that may seem expensive compared to a wood fireplace that you could fuel for free with wood from your back yard, there are many other costs you have to consider.
Ethanol Fireplace in Kitchen
First, the installation costs you nothing. While installing a wood or gas fireplace could cost over a thousand dollars in labor. We will discuss this more in the next section. Also, the unit itself is significantly cheaper than a gas or wood fireplace. An ethanol fireplace ranges from ½ to as low as 1/3 the cost of the average wood or gas fireplace.
Lastly, there is little to zero maintenance required for an ethanol fireplace. You don't have a chimney or burner to contend with, so there isn't a need to hire a professional to inspect the appliance. So, while the fuel may appear a bit more expensive on the front end, in the long run, an ethanol fireplace is way cheaper than the rest.
Do I Need A Professional To Install An Ethanol Fireplace?
The short answer is no. Because ethanol fireplaces are vent-free, you don't have to install a chimney or pipe connections. Also, there is no burner tube that requires a gas connection. Since the most complicated parts of the installation aren't needed, that allows you to set up your ventless fireplace in a snap without the help of a professional.
Though most models are free-standing and installation is a breeze, even the models that are recessed into a wall require less effort to install than others. All you need to do is create a hole in your wall and add some framing. Your ethanol fireplace will simply slide in without any additional steps.
Ethanol on Rooftop
The ease of installation is also a bonus because for free-standing models you don't have to pay to relocate it. If you want it in the bedroom, put it in the bedroom. If you'd like to enjoy it on the coffee table while you watch TV, you can do that. There are no limits to where you can take your ethanol fireplace.
Ethanol fireplaces can be used inside or outdoors. They are often used in spas, hotels and bars because of their modern look and stress-free maintenance. So, if you are looking for a fire feature to add to your living space, but don't want to deal with the hassle of a wood fireplace, then an ethanol fireplace may be a great option for you.
Care and Maintenance
While we've already said ethanol fireplaces are very low maintenance, there are a few, very easy things you need to do to care for your fire feature. A soft cloth and warm water is all you need to clean the exterior. Using an abrasive sponge is not recommended because it can scratch the surface of the burner pan and exterior. You may want to use glass cleaner if you have glass panels along the sides. That will help remove any dirt buildup.
It's important to note that you should wait at least fifteen minutes after burning before you begin cleaning. This will keep you from burning your fingers and /or hands during the cleaning process. Also, consider waiting fifteen minutes for the appliance to cool down if you plan to top off the fuel. Fuel flare-ups can happen if the tray is still warm and new fuel hits it.
For now, this is where we will end our discussion on ethanol fireplaces. We hope you learned enough to make a decision on whether or not an ethanol fireplace is right for you. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to our NFI certified techs at 800.203.1642
If you were to mount a TV above a recessed ethanol burner that is lined with hardie board, what distance should be between the ethanol fireplace and the TV? To mitigate heat damage to the TV, we intend to install a mantle. How deep should that mantle be to redirect heat out into the room and not straight up the wall?
As fireplace manufacturers cannot test their units under various television models, there is no such specific clearance listed for any models. The only guidance available would be the mantel clearance listed by the fireplace manufacturer, then placing the television above it without protruding out in front of it.
Submitted by:Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional on November 8, 2021
While not one and the same, ethanol units and gel fuel models are very similar. There is no clear advantage or disadvantage to one over the other. A key consideration for you would be the access and pricing of local denatured alcohol (for ethanol models) or the appropriate gel fuel canisters for the specific gel model.
Submitted by:Tyler M. - NFI Certified Specialist on April 15, 2013