What Is an Ethanol Fireplace?

An ethanol fireplace, also known as a bioethanol fireplace or an alcohol fireplace, is a trendy and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional wood-burning and gas fireplaces. As the name suggests, an ethanol fireplace uses ethanol biofuel as its primary fuel source to produce a smokeless flame.

How Does an Ethanol Fireplace Work?

The basic working principle of an ethanol fireplace is quite simple. It consists of a metal or glass burner unit or basin filled with ethanol biofuel. The ethanol fuel is ignited to produce a flame. The flame is then contained inside the fireplace chamber which is vented for proper airflow. The chamber helps channel and control the flame for an appealing visual effect.

Ethanol fireplaces work by burning liquid bioethanol which gives off heat and a flame, but does not produce any smoke. The ethanol fuel is stored in a refillable reservoir or tank within or outside the fireplace unit. From there it is fed into the burner pan through a wick system or gravity feed.

The burner basin includes specially designed diffusion and combustion chambers that help regulate oxygen flow and allow for optimal combustion of the ethanol vapors. Once lit, the flame burns directly off the surface of the liquid fuel. A fan or ventilation system provides the oxygen for sustained burning. The heat and flame are then directed into the surrounding fireplace chamber.

Benefits of Ethanol Fireplaces

Ethanol fireplaces have grown in popularity in recent years and for good reason. Here are some of the benefits that make them an attractive option over conventional fireplaces:

Environmentally Friendly

Ethanol fireplaces burn clean without producing any smoke, soot or ash. This makes them highly eco-friendly and safe to use indoors. The ethanol biofuel is made from renewable plant materials like corn and sugar cane. When burned, it produces much lower emissions than wood or gas. The only byproducts are heat, water vapor and carbon dioxide.

Effortless Ambiance

With the flip of a switch or push of a button, an ethanol fireplace provides instant ambiance and warmth to any space. There is no need to manually start a wood fire or wait for gas pipes to be installed. Just fill the reservoir with ethanol and ignite to enjoy the fire.

Flexible and Portable

Ethanol fireplaces come in a wide array of styles, sizes and designs. There are freestanding models as well as wall-mounted ones. Their portability and smaller footprint allow them to adapt well to apartments, condos and other urban spaces where traditional fireplaces may not be suitable.

Cost Effective

While ethanol fireplaces have a higher upfront cost, they are inexpensive to operate in the long run. There is no need to continually purchase cords of firewood or pay gas bills in order to enjoy a fire. The bioethanol fuel is relatively affordable per use.

Thermostat Control

Many ethanol fireplace models allow you to adjust the flame height and heat output using a thermostat or remote control. This adds to their overall ease-of-use and safety. You can easily control the ambiance you desire.

Low Maintenance

Aside from occasionally refilling the ethanol reservoir, ethanol fireplaces are about as low maintenance as it gets. There is no ash or soot buildup to clean. The burner generally only needs wiping down periodically.

Types of Ethanol Fireplaces

There are a few main configurations and styles when it comes to ethanol fireplaces:

Freestanding Fireplaces

Freestanding or portable ethanol fireplaces come in a variety of shapes and materials from stainless steel to tempered glass. They contain the burner, chamber and fuel reservoir all in one movable unit. Many are compact enough to transition from indoors to outdoors.

Tabletop/Wall Mounted Fireplaces

As the name suggests, these compact fireplaces are designed to mount on a wall or sit on a tabletop or mantel. They add great ambiance without taking up much floor space and are easy to move and install.

Wall Inserts/Recessed Fireplaces

This style is built into a wall cavity like a traditional gas fireplace. The chamber containing the burner system and flame is inserted into the wall. An adjacent cavity houses the ethanol reservoir.

Decorative & Accessory Fireplaces

In addition to standalone units, ethanol fireplaces are also integrated into all kinds of decorative fixtures including candles, torches, lamps, bowls, urns and more. These accessory fireplaces add accent flames and warmth.

Outdoor Fireplaces

Outdoor fireplaces are designed to withstand the elements while adding ambiance to patios, decks and backyards. Models with weatherproof casings allow the fire to be enjoyed outdoors.

Ethanol Fuel for Fireplaces

The ethanol biofuel used in fireplaces is a renewable liquid alcohol fuel derived from agricultural feedstocks like corn, sugar cane or other plant materials. It is typically made up of around 90% ethanol alcohol with 10% added denaturants that make it unpalatable for drinking.

Here are some more facts about ethanol fireplace fuel:

  • It is a highly refined clear liquid that is poured directly into the fireplace burner reservoir.
  • Popular brand names include BioFlame, Fire & Wine, FireArts and Smart Flame.
  • It is sold in metal containers ranging from 1 liter up to 5 liters. 1 liter provides roughly 8 hours of burn time.
  • Pricing averages $3-5 per liter. It costs around $0.25-0.50/hour to operate an ethanol fireplace.
  • Ethanol fireplace fuel can be purchased online and shipped directly to your home. It is also available at some hardware stores, home goods stores and ethanol fireplace dealers.
  • Always use fuel made specifically for fireplaces. Do not substitute systems with isopropyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol, or materials not intended for burning.

Considerations When Choosing an Ethanol Fireplace

If you’re looking to buy an ethanol fireplace, here are some key factors and considerations:

Fuel Capacity

Consider the fuel reservoir capacity. The larger the reservoir, the less often you’ll need to refill it. For frequently used fireplaces, look for capacities of at least 5 liters.

Fire Burn Time

The fire burn time is how long the fireplace can produce flames before needing a refill. Average times are 2 to 12 hours. Choose a model with a burn time that best fits your usage needs.


Proper airflow is key to clean burning and preventing buildup of ethanol vapors. Look for fireplaces with good ventilation incorporated into the design. Many wall-mounted units require venting the existing wall cavity.

Safety Features

Select a model with adequate safety mechanisms like an auto shut-off and spill containment. This prevents accidental ethanol leaks and runoff.


Carefully measure the space intended for the fireplace. Be sure to select a fireplace size that properly fits the available floor or wall space while providing your desired flame effect.


Ethanol fireplace costs range from about $300 on the low end for a tabletop model to over $5,000 for an elaborate custom-built piece. Set a budget and find good value at your desired price point.


Ethanol fireplaces come in contemporary and classic designs. Choose a style that matches your home’s architecture and interior aesthetic. Glass fireplaces allow for full fire visualization.

Heat Output

Heat output can range from 3,000 to 15,000 BTUs. Pick an ethanol fireplace with BTUs appropriate for the room size you wish to heat.

By carefully considering these factors, you can select the ideal ethanol fireplace model to meet your heating and decor desires. Always follow the manufacturer guidelines for proper setup and safe operation.

Ethanol Fireplace Safety Tips

While ethanol fireplaces offer many advantages, they must still be used sensibly and according to the manufacturer’s specifications in order to ensure safety. Here are some key ethanol fireplace safety tips:

  • Only use commercial bioethanol fuel made specifically for fireplace use. Never try to burn gasoline, rubbing alcohol or other household materials.
  • Place the fireplace in a stable location away from furniture and curtains. Leave adequate clearance to combustibles.
  • Ensure the fireplace is properly ventilated and not obstructed. Ventilate the space during use.
  • Refill the reservoir only when the fireplace is cool and completely extinguished.
  • Avoid overfilling the burner basin with ethanol. Follow fill line guidance.
  • Keep children and pets well away from the fireplace. Install a safety screen if necessary.
  • Never leave an ethanol fireplace burning unattended or when away from home. Extinguish the flame before leaving.
  • Handle ethanol fuel carefully and store it securely in a sealed container when not in use.
  • Check that leak containment measures function properly to prevent ethanol spills.
  • Clean up any fuel spills immediately with an absorbent cloth and dispose of it safely. Avoid sources of ignition after a spill.
  • Maintain the fireplace burner as recommended by the manufacturer. Replace old wicks when needed.

By following basic precautions, an ethanol fireplace can provide cozy ambiance and warmth for your space in an eco-friendly way for years to come. But always make safety a priority.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ethanol Fireplaces

Here are answers to some common questions people have about ethanol fireplaces:

Are ethanol fireplaces safe for indoor use?

Yes, indoor ethanol fireplaces are considered quite safe when used as directed by the manufacturer. The flame burns without soot or smoke and gives off minimal emissions. Safety features help contain the fire and prevent accidental burns or leaks. Still, reasonable precautions should be taken, especially around children.

What happens if you spill ethanol fuel in an ethanol fireplace?

Ethanol vapors are highly flammable, so spilled fuel could easily reignite or spread flames where not intended. Always clean spills immediately with an absorbent cloth and allow all vapor to dissipate before relighting. Avoid ignition sources after a spill.

Do ethanol fireplaces produce odors?

No, high-quality ethanol fuel and a properly functioning ethanol fireplace should not emit any noticeable odors or fumes during use. Avoid inferior quality “biofuels” not made specifically for fireplace use.

How often do you need to refill an ethanol fireplace?

Refueling frequency depends on tank size and rate of burn. A typical 5-liter capacity reservoir lasts around 40 hours. With average use, an ethanol fireplace may need refilling every 2 to 4 weeks. Frequent use requires more frequent refueling.

What maintenance is required for an ethanol fireplace?

Minimal maintenance is needed beyond periodically refilling the tank. Occasional cleaning of the burner and fuel delivery system may be required. Repair or replace any worn wicks or other components over time.

Can an ethanol fireplace be used both indoors and outdoors?

Some ethanol fireplace models are dual-purpose and engineered for both indoor and outdoor use. Look for weatherproof, rust-resistant outdoor models with ventilation to allow airflow.

Are ethanol fireplaces a good heating source?

Ethanol fireplaces can help heat a room, but are generally not adequate as a sole home heating system. Smaller models produce 3,000 – 5,000 BTUs. Larger ethanol fireplaces provide upwards of 15,000 BTUs.

Can you convert an existing wood-burning fireplace to use ethanol?

Yes, an existing wood-burning fireplace can be converted into an ethanol-fueled fireplace with an ethanol burner insert and vent modifications. Professional installation is recommended. Building permits may be required.

Are ethanol fireplaces expensive to run?

Ethanol fireplaces have very low operating costs. Ethanol fuel prices average $3-5 per liter. A 5-liter reservoir running for 40 hours costs just $60-100 to fill. This is far cheaper than continually buying firewood.


Ethanol fireplaces provide an innovative, environmentally friendly way to add beautiful ambiance and warmth to any indoor or outdoor living space. They burn clean without smoke or ash and can be installed in a wide range of locations. With just the touch of a button, you can enjoy instant fire and heat.

From sleek tabletop units to imposing decorative fixtures, ethanol fireplaces come in styles suitable for any décor. Fueled by renewable ethanol biofuel, they are affordable to operate and require little maintenance. By following some common sense safety tips like proper ventilation and fuel storage, an ethanol fireplace can provide cozy warmth and mesmerizing flames for years to come. Just be sure to choose a well-engineered model that fits your space and heating needs.