Investing in a new fireplace may seem like a relatively straightforward task at first glance.
However, as many homeowners will be well aware, the number of different fireplace types available on the market is vast and continues to grow.
As traditional woodburning fireplaces decline in popularity due to pollution concerns and the introduction of new laws and restrictions, consumers are turning to models that run on a variety of alternative fuels.
To help you understand the differences between different fuel types and fireplace models, we’ve put together a handy guide to the pros and cons of gel fuel and gel fuel alternatives.
First things first: What are gel fuel fireplaces?
Gel fuel fireplaces are smokeless and run on a special alcohol-based gel. They come in many shapes and sizes and can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Typically, gel fuel is formulated using isopropyl alcohol and, sometimes, organic material is added to emulate the comforting crackle of a real wood-burning fireplace.
What are the advantages of using gel fuel?
Gel fuel comes with a range of advantages, many of which are also shared with biofuel alternatives (as we will discuss shortly). Primary benefits include:
1. Gel fuel fireplaces are vent-free
Gel fuel does not require a vent or chimney as it burns cleanly and does not produce any smoke or soot.
This means that most gel fuel fireplaces do not require extensive installation work, with some freestanding models even offering homeowners the freedom to move the fireplace between different rooms.
2. Gel fuel is easy to use
Gel fuel tends to come in small cans that can be easily pried open and placed inside the fireplace. All you need to do to get the fireplace going is to light the gel with a long lighter or match. The flame can be extinguished by carefully covering the can with its lid.
3. Gel fuel is environmentally friendly and does not harm human health
One of the most significant reasons why homeowners opt for gel fuel fireplaces and other alternatives to wood-burning fireplaces is that they do not produce harmful particulate matter or significant amounts of CO2.
It is now well-established that burning wood (particularly wet wood) releases toxins into the air that can be harmful to human health, causing anything from breathing difficulties and itchy eyes to serious long-term conditions such as cancer and diseases of the heart.
What’s more, traditional fireplaces contribute to global heating thanks to their CO2 emissions.
What are the disadvantages of using gel fuel?
1. The size of the flame cannot be controlled
One of the biggest issues surrounding gel fuel is that the flames it produces cannot be adjusted. Once the can is lit, you must leave it to burn or smother it. To produce a bigger flame, you must add more cans to the fireplace.
2. Gel fuel does not produce huge amounts of heat
Like a number of other alternative fuel types, gel fuel does not produce significant amounts of heat, so it is often necessary to turn on the central heating alongside gel fuel fireplaces.
Most homeowners, therefore, install gel fuel fireplaces for their aesthetic value rather than their heat efficiency. A bioethanol fireplace would be a more efficient alternative here.
3. Cans of gel fuel run down very quickly
A can of gel fuel will generally run out after around 2.5 hours of burning. This is a rather short period of time, particularly if you are busy running errands or entertaining guests.
Constantly refuelling your fireplace could become tiresome so, if you’re planning on using your fireplace for extensive periods of time, it would make sense to opt for a different fuel type.
Bioethanol vs. gel fuel
Bioethanol fuel, which is derived directly from plants and produced using fermentation methods, is similar to gel fuel in several ways, including:
- It is alcohol-based.
- It is considered a clean fuel as it is eco-friendly and does not produce any ash or soot.
- It is not generally used as a primary heat source, with most homeowners installing bioethanol fireplaces for their aesthetic and atmospheric value.
- It is easy to light and to extinguish.
- It does not require a vent or chimney and some bioethanol fireplace models can be freely moved around the home.
Despite these similarities, however, there are several ways in which bioethanol fuel may be considered superior to gel fuel.
Firstly, it produces stronger flames compared to gel fuel, creating a bright orange glow that may feel much warmer and more comforting than the latter’s smaller yellow flames.
Perhaps more importantly, the flames produced by liquid bioethanol can be adjusted simply by sliding the lid of the fireplace burner back and forth. This means that owners of bioethanol fireplaces have a greater degree of control over the look, feel and warmth of their flames.
Finally, bioethanol is not consumed as quickly as gel fuel, with most biofires lasting for five hours or more without needing to be refuelled.
Electric vs. gel fuel
Electric fireplaces are a popular option in modern homes, providing impressive flames that tend to be a little warmer than those produced by gel fuel. Electric fires are also easier to use than gel-fuelled varieties as they require the mere click of a button to be turned on.
However, they are not quite as atmospheric as gel varieties and do not produce real flames. In this way, therefore, traditionalists in search of the magic of a roaring flame may prefer to opt for gel or bioethanol fireplaces.
Traditional vs. gel fuel
As already discussed, traditional fireplaces are declining in popularity thanks to concerns surrounding their safety. The primary reason why people opt for wood-burning fireplaces is that they come with a certain kind of nostalgia, producing roaring flames and a homely smell that may evoke happy memories and feelings.
Others, meanwhile, continue to use traditional fireplaces simply because it is what they have done for many years.
In today’s technologically advanced age, however, there are few compelling arguments for continuing to burn wood. Thanks to the introduction of alternative fuels such as bioethanol, the fireplace market is much cleaner and ethically sound than it once was.
Check out our range of beautiful biofires
If you’re ready to invest in a new fireplace, why not take a look at our gorgeous range of bioethanol fireplace models? All of our fireplaces are sleek, safe and amazingly affordable. Get browsing today!