Growing up, I remember spending long evenings in the winter camped out around the fireplace at my grandparents’ house. I’d spend hours curled up by the fire reading, soaking in the heat and just enjoying watching the dancing of flames. But if you don’t already have a fireplace, installing one is all but impossible – at least a traditional one. If you love the look of natural fire, but don’t happen to have a chimney, or if you’re just looking for something a little cleaner burning, you might want to look into biofuel fireplaces.
Why Biofuel Fireplaces?
Unlike wood-burning fireplaces that require ventilation, or natural gas ones that require complex installation, biofuel fireplaces are completely self-contained. To light them, you simply fill the built in cups or trenches with liquid bio fuel and then ignite it. Depending on the size of the fireplace, they burn for several hours at a time and can heat a 600 square-foot room. Most importantly, the liquid is totally clean-burning. That means they don’t produce any smoke, ash, or toxins, and doesn’t need to be vented or cleaned.
What Is Biofuel?
So how does it work? It’s a similar principle to a Sterno chafing dish or a simple oil lamp. There’s a reservoir of flammable liquid that burns cleanly at a steady rate. We’re not talking lighter fluid here, that will all go up at once. Biofuel is a generic term for Ethanol or Methyl Alcohol, a form of fuel made from agricultural byproducts, primarily corn, sugar cane, beets, and sometimes potatoes. But unlike something you’d use to heat food or light a lamp, Ethanol burns slow, hot, and brightly. It’ll produce a similar amount of light and heat to an equivalent wood or gas burning fireplace. The biggest difference is that Ethanol is highly distilled and refined, which means it burns completely clean; the only byproducts are heat and steam.
Eco-Friendly Biofuel Fireplaces
Because the fuel is made entirely from renewable resources, and because it burns so cleanly, biofuel fireplaces are among the most eco-friendly heating sources available. That said, the mileage you’ll get from them varies depending on the size of the fireplace. Most produce an equivalent amount of heat to a space heater, or more for larger units. If you need to heat a single room, especially one that’s on the smallish and enclosed side, one of these babies is just about the greenest option out there.
How To Install Biofuel Fireplaces
Again depending on the brand, most biofuel fireplaces come fully assembled. Typically, once they’re out of their packaging, you simply have to set them in place and they’re ready to enjoy. A single filling of a larger fireplace can produce an entire evening worth of firelight and ambient heating. Because you can place them anywhere in the room, you get the maximum amount of heat with almost no waste.
That said, these aren’t your traditional fireplaces. While you get all the warmth and beauty of natural fire, the design is very, very different, emphasizing the modern look of glass and brushed metal over the homey cozy feel of brick or stone. The simplest wall-mountable boxes resemble a flat screen TV; freestanding models are a bit more dramatic, almost art pieces in their own right. Better still, the freestanding and tabletop models are both lightweight and totally self-contained, meaning you can move them around your home as needed.
Even better, you can use almost all modes both indoors and outside. So whether you want to set up small spots of light or create a fully heated living space on your patio for evening entertaining, you can – and never have to worry about smoke in your eyes! And because the fuel container is just a simple metal cup, and the flames die out once the liquid in the cup finishes combusting, you won’t ever have to worry about cleanup. You can just fill it and forget it until the next time you want to use it – even with long periods between uses.
Look But Don’t Touch!
The biggest drawback you should be aware of is that unlike traditional brick or stone fireplaces, the metal and glass surfaces of these fireplaces can get HOT. So make sure everyone – especially children – knows not to touch! If you love the look of natural flames but don’t have a fireplace – or even if you’re just looking for a cleaner burning alternative, a bio fuel powered one is a revolutionary alternative. Great for homes of any size, these really hit my favorite trifecta: beautiful, functional, and good for the environment.
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