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What is an Ethanol Fireplace?

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  • Written By: Geri Terzo
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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An ethanol fireplace is an environmentally friendly structure that is an alternative to more traditional sources of heat such as electric or wood-burning fireplaces. These fireplaces operate using ethanol, which is an alternative energy resource, and they are considered eco-friendly. The result is a clean-burning fireplace that, under ideal conditions, does not emit large amounts of harmful or dirty substances into the environment.

Similar to traditional heat sources, an ethanol fireplace is designed to generate heat and light in a room. In order to create those conditions, some fuel must be burned. A traditional fireplace might use wood or logs as a heat source. An ethanol fireplace, however, burns the renewable resource — ethanol. There are different types of ethanol, including sugar-based and corn-based substances. Unlike traditional wood-burning fireplaces, no smoke is created from an ethanol heat source, and as a result, a chimney or flue is not essential.

There are different types of ethanol fireplaces, although they are not without some common themes. For instance, an ethanol fireplace must contain a structure to contain the fire source, because real fire is created. Most structures include some enhancing features to make the product more appealing, such as sand and ceramic logs used mainly for appearance. Lastly, there must be a container for the ethanol that will be burned.

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Features of an ethanol fireplace are primarily tied to environmental benefits. Instead of releasing dirty smoke into the atmosphere, ethanol generates small doses of carbon into the air. Ethanol also is a renewable energy source. Wood logs used in traditional fireplaces are taken from forests, which interferes with the number of trees in the environment and the level of oxygen in the air. Since ethanol is made from sugar or corn, the process to grow these crops takes less time than it takes to plant and grow trees.

An ethanol fireplace is a ventless fireplace, and consequently, there are some risks surrounding these structures. For instance, when ethanol is burned, it emits some carbon dioxide into the air. Without proper ventilation or air circulation surrounding a fireplace, the ethanol might not become completely burned. As a result, carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that is highly dangerous, can be released into the air. Most ethanol fireplace makers suggest that the amount of carbon monoxide being released is negligible and that the levels produced are no higher than what a burning candle might produce.

If an ethanol fireplace is not functioning properly, this introduces another negative effect. Oxygen levels could decrease as carbon dioxide levels rise. As a result, there could be increased humidity in the room where the ethanol fireplace is located.

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