Are Bio-Ethanol Fireplaces Safe?

Key differences between automatic and manual bio-ethanol fireplaces.

In the past, living in an apartment building or the lack of a chimney has ruined our chances to own a fireplace. This changed when bio-ethanol fireplaces were introduced to the market. This interesting invention made it possible to bring real fire to any setting as it does not require ventilation systems.

We should ask ourselves, however, if such fireplaces are safe? This depends on the fireplace construction and the technology it uses. There are two types of bio-ethanol fireplaces available – manual and automatic. It turns out that automatic fireplaces with the vapour-burning technology are the only safe solution out there.

Manual ethanol fireplaces – a can with burning fuel

The development of ethanol fireplaces started with the introduction of manual products. Such devices are nothing more than a metal container that you must manually fill with ethanol and ignite with a lighter. The construction is extremely simple and poses serious threats. While operating a manual fireplace it is easy to make a mistake, e.g. not notice spilled ethanol or add fuel to a not-fully extinguished flame. The fuel residues burning at the bottom of the fireplaces produce a flame that is practically invisible. You should also be careful as the fireplace can get extremely hot. Boiling ethanol tends to splash, creating a risk of injuries and fire.

Most accidents happen during manual refuelling. The Glö∂ R&D report titled Ethanol and Methanol Burn Risks in the Home Environment describes the case of a 28-year old Australian who suffered extensive injuries due to a sudden fire blast as the result of pouring fuel to a fireplace that seemed to have been extinguished. It appeared that there was a small and practically invisible flame smouldering at the fuel tank bottom. All the reported cases of burn injuries are related to manual fireplaces with an open  tank containing liquid fuel.

Automatic BEV ethanol fireplaces eliminate the risk

The bio-ethanol fuel is contained in a separate reservoir inside the fireplace from where it is pumped into the vapour accelerator. Warm bioethanol evaporates and escapes in the form of vapour through a perforated burner where it is ignited by a filament. The burning process takes place above the burner which guarantees that the flame has unlimited access to oxygen and is fully combusted. This complete combustion ensures that there is no odour or bad smell, which is very typical for manual fireplaces.

The BEV technology eliminates direct contact between the flame and the liquid fuel and allows to rapidly extinguish the fire by closing the vapour release. The automation of such devices made it possible to introduce electronic control. With the remote or integrated control panel you can start the fire, extinguish it or even regulate its height.

There are even higher-class devices that offer full control via a smartphone or Smart Home system.

Not all ethanol fireplaces are created equal

Some bio-ethanol fireplaces are wrongly described as automatic. In reality, most of them are not much different from manual devices. Adding a spark ignite or or a peristaltic pump does not make the combustion process automatic. This is because the fireplace construction is still based on the same container filled with burning ethanol.

Once it is hot, the device poses the same threats as the manual fireplace. You should then remember that a true automatic fireplace produces flames by burning ethanol vapours. For this reason, you should always verify what technological solutions the fireplace has.

In automatic BEV fireplaces the entire process of vapour combustion is under full control of electronic systems. If the burner temperature rises above a specific level, the flame height will be automatically lowered. The advanced processor can extinguish the fire immediately after any irregularities are detected, e.g. in case of a power failure, fuel spill or even an earthquake.

Automatic fires have yet another value – the full temperature control makes them safe to be installed in combustible materials, like wood or drywall. This makes it a perfect solution for settings with increased safety requirements, such as public spaces, hotels and even yachts.

Automatic fire opens new possibilities

As we’ve discovered, it is the applied technology and the quality of the combustion process that makes a bio-ethanol fireplace safe. You should absolutely avoid devices that you must refill manually and those in which the flame is burning directly on the surface of the fuel.

Although the automatic bio-ethanol fire is a relatively new invention, it has already gained wide popularity among architects and interior designers.

In these times of increased ecological awareness and the state of the natural environment, bio-ethanol fireplaces are a smart choice. They don’t emit smoke and pollute the air with particles. If you are considering buying a fireplace and don’t want to modify your house or apartment you should definitely consider choosing an automatic bio-ethanol fireplace.

When health and safety are at stake, it is important to take a moment and choose the proven and reliable solution!


Tags: bioethanol, desing, fireplace, home

Author: Maja Markovski

Maja Markovski

A 35-year-old female architect with a passion for innovative, sustainable design. I blend creativity and functionality to transform spaces into beautiful, practical environments.


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