Bioethanol Fireplaces: Advantages and Disadvantages

Bioethanol fireplaces attract attention because they improve the aesthetics of the home and provide warmth in cold weather. Find out more about their advantages and disadvantages.
Bioethanol Fireplaces: Advantages and Disadvantages

Written by Jonatan Menguez

Last update: 29 March, 2023

There are many ways to achieve a warmer atmosphere in the home. For the months of intense cold, it’s common for people to dust off their gas or electric stoves or the classic wood-burning fireplaces. However, these days there are safer and more environmentally friendly options, such as bioethanol fireplaces.

These elements use plant-based fuel, thus reducing the emission of polluting gases. They also have other advantages over other heaters. For example, the speed with which they heat the environment or the little waste they generate.

Their use isn’t only an option for those who prefer to promote renewable energies; they’re also chosen for aesthetic, decorative, and functional reasons. However, like other home accessories, they have advantages and disadvantages. We’ll analyze them in detail below.

Bioethanol fireplaces features

At first glance, bioethanol fireplaces look like an ordinary fireplace; however, there are many differences. From the convenience of their installation, to the type of energy they use, there are several advantages.

Firstly, they work with a fuel derived from substances such as starch or cellulose. This is a type of ethyl alcohol of high purity, which is made from a biomass of vegetable origin containing sugars, such as sugar beet or sugar cane.

Crops, such as corn, wheat or barley, are also used, thanks to the cellulose contained in wood. These elements are subjected to a yeast fermentation process, which produces an alcohol that is then distilled.

The result is a renewable fuel. In fact, it’s the same fuel that is mixed with other types of naphtha for environmentally friendly vehicles. And, although its environmental side is one of the most important characteristics, it isn’t the only one. In general terms, they also stand out for the following:

  • They’re easy to install, without the need for external outlets, as they don’t produce smoke.
  • They’re safer in several aspects. As they don’t generate waste and don’t use firewood, it’s less likely that a fire will break out.
  • They have high carbon dioxide detectors and an automatic emergency shutdown system.

However, there are also some disadvantages in their use, such as their cost.

Bioethanol fireplaces.
The fuel used in bioethanol fireplaces is made from substances such as starch and cellulose.

Advantages of bioethanol fireplaces

Bioethanol fireplaces attract attention due to the design they bring to the home. They provide a warm and comfortable look in places such as living rooms. They also represent a more ecological alternative to classic fireplaces. Let’s see their main advantages.


There are several types of these fireplaces, but as they don’t consume electricity or generate smoke, they’re easy to install, unless you want to attach them to a wall. The important thing is that it doesn’t require any air outlet or ventilation duct, which makes it possible to place it in any room of the house.

Rapid heat

Depending on the size of the room, bioethanol fireplaces can achieve rapid space heating. In general, they take about 40 minutes to achieve this. This compares very favorably to other devices. However, the heat won’t spread to other rooms.

No ashes

Another great advantage is that they don’t generate any waste. Since they don’t use firewood, but durable materials – such as volcanic rock – there are no ash or dust residues. This is also favorable when it comes to cleaning, which makes them easy to maintain.


Due to their design, the type of materials and the fuel used, bioethanol fireplaces are among the least risky. And, although the use of fire is still present, their shutdown system and elevated carbon monoxide detection system provide even more safety.

Easily transportable

With the exception of wall-mounted models, which is a personal decision, these fireplaces can be moved to the desired environment. Types vary in size, so choosing one that fits the area is simple. There are 20-kilogram (44-pound) options, which adapt to any existing furniture.

Silence and smell

Another of its advantages is the low noise generated by the flames. This gives it a visual charm when watching the fire with the tranquility of silence. Furthermore, as they don’t produce smoke, they don’t give off strong odors either.

Even so, bioethanol generates an undesirable fragrance, which will depend on the purity of the product. If you have a quality of between 95 and 97% purity, you may not even notice it.

Design and aesthetics

As mentioned before, there’s a wide range of types, sizes, and prices. They range from basic, to those designed by interior specialists. Of course, their value will depend on the visual work involved. However, most models are created to contribute to the aesthetics of the environment.

Disadvantages of bioethanol fireplaces

The use of bioethanol fireplaces involves some disadvantages that must also be taken into account before proceeding with their installation.

Fuel cost and durability

Although these fireplaces vary in price, bioethanol is used in all of them use, and its cost can be prohibitive. On average, a 20-liter canister is enough for about 50 hours of use in the home.

Duration of heat

Due to its characteristics, the heat disappears quickly as soon as the fireplace is turned off. This is because it doesn’t generate elements that keep the heat in the air. Neither will the heat spread to other rooms in the house.

Intense odor

The fragrance generated by bioethanol isn’t pleasant and, depending on its purity and quality, will vary in intensity. However, it can be combined with an ambient aromatizer. In this way, the smell can be disguised.

Bad smells from a fire.
Despite being of very good quality, some bioethanol fireplaces may cause bad smells.

Safety distance

The installation, although simple, requires it to be a considerable distance from other elements. For example, open fireplaces require about 50 centimeters (20 inches) to the sides and 100 centimeters (40 inches) upwards. The closed ones, on the other hand, require 20 centimeters (8 inches) to the sides and 60 centimeters (24 inches) upwards. This can be a disadvantage if the area is small.


Despite all the environmental advantages mentioned for the use of bioethanol, some of the criticisms it receives claim that more and more forests are being cut down for its production, as well as the replacement of soils that were previously used for food production.

Starting up bioethanol fireplaces

If, after considering the options, you opt for bioethanol fireplaces, there are some precautions to be taken. The fuel mustn’t be spilled, as this increases the risk of fire. Ignition is simple, they have a burner to deposit the bioethanol in the amounts specified by each manufacturer.

A tip to carry this out carefully and without spilling, is to add it using a funnel, always making sure that the burner is turned off and cold. Finally, it must be carefully ignited with a match or a lighter, keeping a certain distance, as the initial contact may cause a small flame.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Castro-Martínez, Claudia, Beltrán-Arredondo, Laura Ivonne, Ortiz-Ojeda, Juan Carlos,  PRODUCCIÓN DE BIODIESEL Y BIOETANOL: ¿UNA ALTERNATIVA SUSTENTABLE A LA CRISIS ENERGÉTICA?. Ra Ximhai [Internet]. 2012;8(3b):93-100. Recuperado de:
  • İçöz, E., Mehmet Tuğrul, K., Saral, A., & İçöz, E. (2009). Research on ethanol production and use from sugar beet in Turkey. In Biomass and Bioenergy (Vol. 33, Issue 1, pp. 1–7). Elsevier BV.
  • Sánchez Riaño, A. et al. “Producción de Bioetanol a Partir de Subproductos Agroindustriales Lignocelulósicos.” Tumbaga 1.5 (2010): 61–91. Print.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.