Bio Ethanol Fires - A Real Fire for Anywhere in Your Home

I have a feeling not many with be familiar with the term "bio ethanol fires" or "biofires", I know I'd never heard of them until my friend Nicole showed me how her's worked. A fire that produces no smoke, no residue, meaning no chimney or flue is required. It can be set up, in as little as 10 minutes, anywhere in your home. These are available in different styles and can even be placed outside. Sounds too good to be true right? Well you're in luck, this is a real thing, so read on to know everything about it. 

Why I wanted one?
What originally made me look into such a product was the fact that our open plan kitchen/diner gets actually freeeeeezing in the winter. Something we did not know when we bought the house last summer, it was one of the hottest summers on record after all. Fast forward to the middle of winter and we stopped eating dinner at the table, the kitchen door was firmly shut, I draught proofed the whole house and we learnt to layer up after a rocketing gas bill. Why does the kitchen/diner get so cold? Well it's 24 foot long, has only one radiator, a vaulted ceiling, 3 exterior walls that are all single brick in width and no insulation. I did see on the architect's designs that originally a log burner was planned, this got me thinking about Nicole's free standing log burner style fire. I didn't want to have a real log burner in here, the thought of it's flue sticking outside the back of the house would look rather odd. Also the fact we're soon getting one in the snug and well, I'm just not made of money. 

I mean, as I write this (have in mind I started this one evening before the crazy Easter weekend heatwave.) I'm sat on my blue eBay velvet sofa, feet up on my Home Bargains stool as my Imaginfires bio ethanol fireplace heats up the room. Can you tell I love to hunt around for money saving options? I've not yet gone for one of the free standing log burner styles, as first I wish to replace the world's ugliest fireplace in the master bedroom - the room we're tackling soon. For this I've gone for the Imaginfires Broadway suite which they kindly sent for me to try. Spoiler alert, I love it and I'm going to buy more of their fires for other rooms. I fully back this product as we do genuinely use it all the time, I'm so glad I didn't let it just sit in packaging. Honestly I'm impatient and well, really wanted to heat up the dining room! I mean look how great it looks in there too!
Who could benefit from them?
So many people; say you have an empty wall that needs some character, like above - just add in a bio fire. You have a closed off fireplace and would love a fire, but not financial cost of reopening it - this is a great alternative. You want to add heat into a room without paying thousands for a log burner and the installation that comes with that - this is a much cheaper alternative.

What are bio ethanol fireplaces and how do you use them?
These real flame fireplaces are fuelled by bio ethanol, other fuel cannot be used. The liquid is poured into the steel burner box which is held in the purposely made fireplace. This is then lit with a long lighter. At first the flames are blue, then after 10 or so minutes they become larger and orange. You can adjust the flame size by closing/opening the sliding mechanism with the metal closing tool provided. Fully close to extinguish the flame as this staves the fire of oxygen. It's really that easy to use! You can disguise the burner box with decorative logs and pebbles. Here's a link to where I bought my logs.
How else do I use mine?
Now this isn't recommended by Imaginfires, but I also use the burner box placed in my existing closed off fireplace. I saw burner boxes sold by other companies for this purpose, retailing around the £150+ mark. Imaginfires sell replacement ones for £79.99, the price can change, a few months ago it was £69.99. I just make sure the box is safely held by the grate in the cast iron insert and then just use the box as I would in the Broadway Suite. With the decorative logs too it really does look like a real wood burning fire as shown below. When placed in a Victorian bedroom fireplace, the box is a little big so I moved the grate forward a tad, making sure it was sturdy and didn't move. In a Victorian reception fireplace it fits perfectly. So if you were looking to do this, you could just buy the burner box. There are cheaper alternatives on places like Amazon and eBay but they don't look the same. These require replacement ceramic sponges which in the long run could be costly and wasteful.

How great does this look! So nice bringing life back to this fireplace. Not to mention bringing heat into the room. We managed to raise the temperature solely with this fire by 4 degrees during winter evenings!
What is bio ethanol made of? Is it sustainable and eco friendly? 
Bio ethanol is a virtually scentless (to me there is a faint alcohol smell) clear flammable liquid that burns at 98% efficiency. It is a renewable energy source made by a sugar fermentation process. The sugar comes from renewable crops like maize, corn, wheat and potatoes. It is a carbon neutral fuel source as it's only emissions are; heat, steam and carbon dioxide. The small amount of carbon dioxide emitted (similar to burning a few candles in a room) is absorbed by plants, creating a cycle of creation and combustion energy. You can buy scented bio ethanol but I just get normal because it's cheaper.

Why does it not need a flue or chimney?
They burn cleanly without giving off any smoke, soot or nasty residue, meaning you can use these anywhere in the house. If you do have a chimney you can still use these, ideally it's better to be placed in one closed off, as this will retain heat within the room.

What styles are there?
Below are examples of what's on Imaginfire's website, other places will offer other styles too, so look around to see what you'd prefer.
There's woodburner styles that are contemporary and some more Scandinavian. These are free standing, with some fitting into fireplaces with no inserts.
Wall mounted range from very contemporary styles to more traditional suites.
Free standing styles range from different contemporary shapes to woodburners bio fires and fire baskets.
Are they easy to install/set up?
For most freestanding styles it's as simple; putting it into place, adding the biofuel and lighting. No hassle, no cables, no building work, no mess. Done in around 10minutes.

For my suite it's recommended as a two person assembly, the insert is heavy! But as I'm impatient I did it on my own and I managed to do it all in under an hour. All I had to do was assemble the mantle which came in 4 parts, the safety glass was already in the insert so I just scooted it all into place and lit the fire. Now mine is meant to be wall mounted and we haven't done this, it's heavy enough to stand by itself, BUT if you have an pets or children then it's imperative that you do secure it, if it is pulled it would fall over and could easily cause serious injury. We haven't mounted it as sometime this year it will be moved to another room.

If you're putting a burner box into a cast iron insert, very simple to do, just make sure it's sturdy, won't move or fall over! You'll be good to go in as little as 10 minutes.
What's the heat output like?
Typically 2KW depending on the style, this is like an electric heater on medium. How warm they make the room will depend on your room size, if there's a draught etc. As I said earlier we increased the bedroom by 4 degrees solely with this fire. We also managed increasing our snug by 5-6 degrees over a number of hours! These fires aren't meant to replace your heating though, during the very cold days we use this along side our radiators. When it's milder we'll just use this fire for the room we're in. Outside use is weather dependent and more to as a focal point than an outside heater.

How long does the fire last?
They say that on average 1L will last between 3-4 hours. I've found ours last for longer and we always have the burner box fully open. This will depend on several factors, how fully open you have the box, the air supply in the room etc. If you had your fire outside the wind would make the fuel burn faster and so not last as long.
What are the running costs like?
I buy my bio fuel in bulk so that works out cheaper, last lot I bought were these 24x1L bottles for £49 and free delivery. Works out to £2.04 per litre and around 41-51p per hour.

Is there any maintenance?
We've used ours loads and there is some discolouration on the burner box, this can easily be removed with a damp sponge.

What's the price point?
Now this will depend on which style you are after and where you buy. The cheapest bio fires Imaginfires have are as little as £119.99 and as previously mentioned their burner boxes are £79.99.
Why I love them
The ability to add a fire into a room that's never had one before. Giving life to a closed off fireplace for a lot cheaper than reopening it. These points are what got me interested straight away.

Any added heat without a rocketing gas bill takes my interest, I'm really an adult now huh! It's proved really handy to just warm up a room instead of the whole house, especially during the evening in the lounge or our bedroom. It's great that you can move them around to which ever room you'd like, perfect for redecorating or just changing the feel of a room or adding a focal point. Once our master bedroom is finished the Broadway suite will go in there and I'm thinking of getting the woodburner style for the dining area. I'll also be getting two burner boxes for the guest and front reception cast iron inserts.

They are so easy to set up/use and don't cost a lot to run. Great for those who are more conscious of their carbon footprint over burning fossil fuels.

Are they safe? What precautions should be taken?
As with any flame, even from a simple candle, you always need to be safe. Here are some pointers:

- When you've fill up the firebox, make sure you've clean up any spilled biofuel with a damp cloth. Wait a few minutes before lighting, as there will be some fumes from pouring.
- As it's using oxygen make sure you have ample air, you can do this by opening the door or cracking open a window before use or from time to time during use to let in fresh air.
- DO NOT top up the firebox whilst it is lit or if the box is still hot! Wait for it to cool down for at least 30 minutes and is cool to the touch, otherwise there is risk of an explosion as you're using a flammable liquid. Always keep the fuel away from any fire source and store in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight.
- DO NOT blow on the flame to try and extinguish, this would increase the oxygen and make the flame larger!
- The decorative logs and pebbles must be placed at the sides of the opening, never over the flame. Make sure you can easily operate the close/opening mechanism before lighting too. DO NOT use real logs!
- If used outside make sure it's away from anything flammable and do not sure in adverse conditions.
- If like me you decide to use a burner box in your cast iron insert, make sure it's secure and held safely on the grate. Keep combustibles at a safe distance away from the flames, make sure if the insert has been painted, it's been done so with stove paint.
- For peace of mind you'll be happy to know it doesn't combust at a high enough heat to emit any carbon monoxide.

Watch the demos of how I use mine below, time stamps for references:
1:10 - Broadway suite demo 2:42 - Showing the burner box 3:35 - How bio fires work 4:00 - How to use a bio fire 4:49 - About bio ethanol fuel 5:39 - Heat output 6:27 - Using burner box in an existing fireplace insert 8:21 - Burner box in existing fireplace demo
So what are your thoughts on these? Had you heard of them before? Would you ever get one?

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