Bio Ethanol Fireplaces

Can you replace your Electric or Gas fire with a Bio-Ethanol fireplace?

The constant rise in heating costs had us looking at ways we could replace our expensive electric fireplace with a "like-for-like" bio-ethanol fireplace - and we did it.

Why would I want to replace/convert my existing fire to Bio-Ethanol?

We've all been succumbing to the rise in both Electric and Gas fuel prices over the last 6 months.  It's not uncommon for already stretched households to look at alternative methods to heat their rooms.  Whether your house was built in the 1900s or the 2000s, it's more than likely that you have either a gas or electric fireplace in your living room that quite happily burns through your fuel budget.

Here at TidyX, we were in the exact same boat and began researching ways in which we could still remain warm, continue to provide a focal point for our living room and save money on our heating bills. 

We knew straight off the bat that Bio-Ethanol was not going to heat our entire 3-bedroom detached house, however as our Living Room is the main room we spent the majority of our time in, we wanted something that was not only stylish to look at - but affordable to heat.

What was once deemed as a "Stylish Fancy Bar Feature" has now been fully adapted into complete & standalone fireplaces with many people now choosing to completely replace their existing fireplaces with renewable bio-ethanol heat sources.

We replaced our Electric Fire with Bio-Ethanol

In this article, I will try my best to answer some of the most common questions relating to the new "trend" whilst also providing my first-hand experience (yes we fitted one - picture) and handy tips if you're new to the bio-ethanol heating revolution.

In this article, we address the question: "is it worth replacing my fireplace with bio-ethanol?"

Bio-Ethanol Fireplaces - Common Questions

What actually is Bio-Ethanol?

Bio-Ethanol is a renewable liquid that is technically alcohol.  It is created by fermenting sugar & starch of plant "by-products".  The liquid as my wife describes it "smells just like nail polish remover" is flammable and is lit using a match / plasma lighter to produce a clean flame without any harmful toxins during burning.

Is Bio-Ethanol good for the environment?

A study produced by Consumer Reports (source) shows that its introduction has actually reduced the dependence on oil, whilst also boating lower emissions when compared to fossil fuels.  As ethanol can be produced from waste materials (see above), we're able to utilize more of the resources we once disposed of.

Do I need a special fireplace to burn Bio-Ethanol Fuel?

Yes.  You cannot pour bio-ethanol fuel onto any old fireplace and set it alight.  Not only will the fuel be burnt incredibly fast but you also risk your own health and safety.  Specialised bio-ethanol fireplaces have the correct compartments for pouring fuel into to ensure a steady safe burn.

How long will 1L Bio-Ethanol burn for? (How long does it last?)

From our experience 1L (litre) of Bio-Ethanol will burn for 4 to 6 hours.  Most Bio-Ethanol stainless steel burners have a small metal flap that can be adjusted to increase or decrease the the amount of air flow.  Closing this to half open will increase the the burn time by nearly double at a cost of reduced heat.

If you're looking to heat your room quickly, start with the flap "open", and once you've reached the desired temperature close the flap by 50% to maintain the heat output.

Additions like Ceramic Wool can also increase the time it takes your 1L of bioethanol fuel burn time.

Can I modify my existing log burner to burn Bio-Ethanol fuel?

Yes! Whilst we were researching bio-ethanol fireplaces we stumbled across multiple households who decided to modify their log burners to take bio-ethanol fuel.  (see below).

Can I cook food on bio-ethanol fireplaces?

If you've read our cat litter as pellet fuel article, we do talk about using cat litter as a fuel for cooking.  Bio-Ethanol fires can also be used as a heat source for cooking - although not recommended.  The specific burners used for bio-ethanol must not get clogged with waste food / fat / grease - but holding a slice of bread over your fire is definitely not out of the question.

Benefits of using Bio-Ethanol Fireplaces

What are the benefits of switching to this renewable fuel source?

green leaves with water droplets on

Renewable Source of Energy

Bio-Ethanol (or just Ethanol) is produced by fermenting sugar & starch of plant "by-products" which reduces the reliance on fossil fuels such as Coal / Gas.

3 x plastic water bottles with blue lids

Clean and Safe Storage

Unlike Coal & Wood, Bio-Ethanol is purchased via 1 Litre or 5 Litre bottles which can be stored safely in cupboards ready for instant usage.

3d render of a golden piggy money bank

Keep your costs under control

As more people switch Bio-Ethanol fires, the overall costs are reducing. For example, when we first purchased a 1ltr bottle the prices were £8.00 per litre.  Our latest batch has reduced this to only £3.27 per litre.

More Advantages of Bio-Ethanol Fireplaces

If you still need convincing...

ash deposits left after a wood fire

Maintenance Free

Unlike Wood / Coal, Bio-Ethanol fireplaces do not require cleaning to remove old ash / tar.

large log burning on a wood fire

Clean Burning - no more smells

Compared to Wood / Coal fires, there are no harmful fumes which make clothing and furniture smell. 

mug with red scarp and a bowl of popcorn with open fire in the background

Portable heat source

Bio-Ethanol fires can be 100% free standing meaning you can place your burner in colder areas of the room.

Disadvantages of Bio-Ethanol Fireplaces

What are the negative aspects of Bio-Ethanol fireplaces?

large bio-ethanol fireplace with large flames

Limited Capacity

Most bio-ethanol fireplaces have a capacity of 1.5L meaning that you will only get on average 5-8 hours of burn time.

Bio-ethanol fires can (and should) not be "re-filled" until the fireplace has completely cooled.

woman holding hands to her face wearing white spotty gloves

Heat Output / Distribution

Unlike electric fireplaces which blow heat into the room using fans, we found that our 6m x 4m living room took about 30 minutes longer to heat up when compared to the previous electric fireplace we had prior.

empty plastic water bottles

Waste Plastic Bottles

Bio-ethanol fuel is supplied in plastic bottles which are obviously not great for the environment.

You can dispose of these bottles in your recycling bin for potential reuse.

bio ethanol bottles with a burner package product image

Convert your Log Burner to Bio Ethanol with a stainless steel ethanol burner

Adding a Bio Ethanol burner to your existing log burner

As mentioned earlier, you can easily convert your log burner into a bio-ethanol fireplace by adding a stainless steel bio-ethanol burner box inside your log burner without any modifications to your existing fireplace.

To achieve the maximum heat output we would suggest keeping the door open and the damper in the closed position to ensure heat is projected into the room instead of being wasted up the chimney.

The box is designed specifically to hold the bio-ethanol liquid fuel which can be lit using a match/plasma lighter.

Not only will the stainless steel box allow you to burn ethanol, but it can be easily removed (once cooled) if you want to burn logs again at a later date.

Fuel for Bio-Ethanol Fireplaces

Should you buy in bulk to save money?

single bio ethanol bottle 1L product image

1L (1,000ml) Fuel

Cost Per Litre: £8.00-£9.00

Odourless Fuel for Bio Ethanol.

✔ Burn Time: 4 - 6 hours

✔ No Smoke / Fumes

12 bottles of Bio-Ethanol Fuel in plastic bottles product image

12L (12,000ml) Fuel

Cost Per Litre: £3.80 - £4.00

1L Bottles are suitable for long-term storage.

✔ Burn Time: 48 - 72 hours

✔ No Smoke / Fumes

24 Litres of Bio-Ethanol Fuel product image

24L (24,000ml) Fuel

Cost Per Litre: £3.25 - £3.50 ⭐

Bulk Pricing reduces the cost per litre.

✔ Burn Time: 96 - 144 hours

✔ No Smoke / Fumes 

Our quick installation of a Bio Ethanol Fireplace

We replaced our Electric Fireplace with a Bio-Ethanol Fireplace

electric fire with wooden surround and marble hearth

Existing Electric Fireplace

Our electric fireplace worked great, however, we felt like we were never in control of our heating costs and like most just stopped using it.

We decided that replacing it with a "similar" style bio-ethanol fireplace would allow us to keep our finances under control.

hole after electric fire is removed

Electric fireplace removal

I was quite pleasantly surprised at how easy to remove our old electric fireplace was.

After removing the magnetic trim, 2 screws held the fireplace in place which once removed allowed me to pull the old unit out and disconnect it from the electric supply.

Bio Ethanol fireplace fitted into existing hole

New Bio Ethanol Fire Installed

The Ethanol fireplace unit was a like-for-like fit and to save time I used the existing screw holes in the marble to secure the new bio-ethanol fireplace into position.

The first thing we noticed was how the new fireplace did not let a draft in from the chimney flu - which instantly made our living room a few degrees warmer.

Helpful Tips when using Bio-Ethanol Fireplaces

wide bio-ethanol fireplace with large flames

Only Fill when you're about to light

Bio-Ethanol is essentially alcohol which will evaporate if left long enough.

Only fill the fire when you want to use it and close the slider when not in use.

bio ethanol fireplace with ceramic logs and decorative stones

Do not cover the Bio-Ethanol fire with objects

Ceramic logs (or other items) should not be placed over the opening of your ethanol fire.

We spoke with manufacturers of bio-ethanol fireplaces who all advised against this for safety concerns.

stainless steel bio ethanol fireplace insert with slider highlighted with red circle

Adjust the slider to prolong burn times

The stainless steel slider is designed to limit the burn time of your bio-ethanol fuel. 

We found setting the slider to 50% provides more than enough heat and prolongs burn time making it cheaper to run.

bulldog looking at an open fire in a garden

Naked Flame Safety

Unlike Log Burners and Electric fires, Bio-Ethanol fires are open flames which can often look very appealing to children and animals.  

Always ensure the ethanol fires are monitored to prevent any accidents.

ceramic wool with flames product photo

Ceramic Wool Sponge for Ethanol Fireplaces

Does Ceramic Wool improve Bio-Ethanol Duration?

If you've recently installed a Bio-Ethanol fireplace into your home, you might be wondering why your fuel burns too quickly, and if there is anything you can do to prolong the burn time.

Ceramic Wool is designed to fit inside your ethanol firebox and acts as a sponge to slowly release the bio-ethanol fuel for increased fuel efficiency.

The claims from product manufacturers do seem a little exaggerated with quotes such as "100% burn time increase", so we decided to try it.

The flame itself did seem more stable, and yes we found that 500ml of fuel lasted on average an extra 1 - 2 hours, not the 100% as advertised - however still worth it.