There have been a number of innovations since the development of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Electric heat and propane have both proven popular means of providing heat. The recent development of another method is also proving popular. Biofuels are rapidly gaining traction, and ethanol fireplaces are becoming more common, especially in urban environments where traditional fireplaces are more difficult to maintain.
A Renewable Resource
You might be familiar with ethanol because of your gas tank. Most gas stations mix their cheaper fuels with 5% and 10% ethanol to keep prices down. Ethanol is a common form of alcohol, as it is the type of alcohol found in all alcoholic beverages. Derived from corn and sugar, it is highly flammable, which makes it an excellent source of fuel. It is also infinitely renewable, provided it is harvested sustainably, which makes it a green source of fuel.
One of the benefits of ethanol is that it produces very little waste as a byproduct. The only emission it produces is an insignificant amount of CO2 less than is produced by a human when they are breathing. Due to the lack of emissions, a chimney installation is not required for a ethanol fireplace, which significantly reduces the setup costs.
Built to Impress
Because biofuel fireplaces are not dependent upon a chimney, they are not hampered by the inherent design limitation of a chimney. Because they do not necessarily have to be stationary, they are available in a wide variety of innovative models, from a glass-paneled fireplace to traditional brick-lain aesthetics. There are even portable stoves built into a circular table. Thanks to the wide range of options, ethanol fireplaces are an excellent choice for forward-thinking interior designers.
There are other advantages to an ethanol fireplace. Traditional fireplaces cannot be automated. They require a constant supply of wood to be added, and even when wood is provided, the fires frequently need to be tended. The heat output of an ethanol fireplace can be up or down with a simple control, and many systems even have remote controls that allow the customer to regulate the heat and light output automatically. Since ethanol fireplaces do not require wood to burn, they are also cleaner to maintain than traditional fireplaces.
Affordable Installation and Operation
Depending on the type of ethanol fireplace you purchase, you may not need to pay for installation fees. Portable biofuel models do not require installation, as they can be placed anywhere in the room. Although wall-mounted fireplaces do require installation, they do not require a chimney like a wood-burning stove or to be framed into the wall as a traditional fireplace requires.
Wood fireplaces tend to expend a certain amount of heat through the chimney. Since there is no exhaust produced by biofuel, the heat loss is minimal, and more of the heat emitted from the stove will remain in the room.
Although some people enjoy buying a wood permit, sawing down trees and splitting wood themselves, an ethanol fireplace removes the hassle and effort such tasks require. For those who buy wood rather than split it themselves, an ethanol fireplace could prove a valuable investment and eliminate the need to split wood.
A Couple Disadvantages
Although ethanol fireplaces do not generate any smoke, they do produce carbon dioxide. While the levels produced are insignificant in and of themselves, poor ventilation and circulation in the fireplace could result in a build-up of carbon monoxide. Since carbon monoxide has no odor, this is a potential hazard, and an ethanol fireplace should not be used unless a carbon monoxide detector has been installed.
As silly as it may sound, there is a certain cozy quality that a wood-burning stove produces that simply cannot be reproduced, whether by electric heat, propane or biofuel. The comfort of an ethanol fireplace compared to a traditional one may not be a serious issue for most people, but those nostalgic for crackling wood may not enjoy it as much.