An ethanol fireplace is a fireplace for heating an indoor environment using bioethanol, a liquid fuel which can be installed without a chimney and automatic ethanol fireplaces fall among smart devices. The use cases of these automatic ethanol fireplaces are in luxury houses where winter is of short duration such as part of India, North America, Australia and so on.
Bioethanol is ethanol which is produced from biological substances. Denatured alcohol (also called methylated spirit or wood spirit) although cheap, contains poisonous substances and is often not suitable for this kind of device. The cost of bioethanol is prohibitive across the globe and home production of ethanol is tightly regulated by law. Ethanol is highly corrosive and the fuel for these devices is usually mixed with 15% gasoline. Gasoline fireplaces also are available as ventless versions. However, gasoline fireplaces tend to produce more CO2, than ethanol.
The attractive factor of these devices is that it does not require a chimney for a short duration (1-2 hours) as the combustion gases, such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, and fine and ultrafine particulate matter are emitted into the room are less compared to the other fuels. So these automatic ethanol fireplaces can be operated by a remote control device or from a smartphone in a manner quite similar to lighting an LED bulb. However, an open flame always carries some risks.
This fireplace-shaped stove is easy to install on the wall and does not need a chimney. Some models are portable and can be rotated 360 degrees, that is, they can be placed wherever you want. Some models are equipped with a fan, working with electricity. The units can be switched on and off from a smartphone and usually have sensors to automatically “stop” if the oxygen content of the room is low.
There are manual versions, which are cheap and the working principle is similar to that of the spirit lamps. They are not recommended to use a big unit since the smell of ethanol will disturb the room occupants.
How an Automatic Ethanol Fireplace Works
In the automatic version of the ethanol fireplace, the tank is separate from the burners. There is a coil which heats a portion of the liquid to create vapour and ignites it. So the start process is not instant. During the shutdown, the coil stops heating as well as the vapour is prevented to get into the burner by a mechanical system. The shutdown process is almost instantaneous. There are sensors to measure the heat, oxygen content and other parameters.
So, the automatic ethanol fireplaces are partially safe and mainly serve a decorative function. They are not as risky as traditional wood-driven fireplaces. However, playing with fire is never completely safe.