Biofuel fireplaces were not really on my radar until the last year or so. I have always loved traditional fireplaces and wood burners.
They are a great feature in a home and provide a real focal point in a living room, keeping the room warm and cosy.
Our house has a chimney and a fireplace, but the previous owners had removed the fireplace and replaced it with a metal hole in which they placed candles.
It was not a focal point and eventually became blocked up when we put our sofa in front of it.
We knew that we would be renovating the living room and turning it from a large L-shaped lounge diner to a dedicated living room by putting up a wall.
This meant that our current fireplace would no longer be central to the room and would look a bit odd.
I started researching alternative heating solutions and how we could add a fireplace without moving the chimney or having to put in costly measures to move the fireplace itself.
I found a lot of information so thought I’d write a quick guide to biofuel fireplaces.
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I’d seen a few of them pop up in people’s homes on Instagram, so I started to look into the benefits of biofuel fireplaces and how they would solve the problem of moving our living room fireplace.
I decided to create bookcases around the biofuel fireplace using IKEA Billy Bookcases and create a mantelpiece above, making it look like the real thing.
I wrote about my IKEA Billy Bookcase upcycle here.
What is Biofuel?
Biofuel or bioethanol fuel is a renewable energy source made by fermenting the sugar and starch components of plant by-products such as sugar cane, corn, or wheat.
Once fermented, it can be used to produce a very clean, smokeless flame and emit heat. As it is smokeless, it doesn’t generate any harmful gasses, sparks or soot.
You can also get scented bioethanol fuel, so not only is it better for air quality, it will make your home smell amazing too!
Bioethanol production is minimally harmful to the environment, unlike fossil fuels.
When biofuel is used for heating, it is very environmentally friendly as it only produces the same amount of CO2 emissions as burning a candle!
Advantages of biofuel fireplaces
As biofuel fireplaces do not produce smoke or harmful gasses, it does not need a chimney or flue. I was already sold on bioethanol fireplaces because of their eco-friendly credentials.
Realising we wouldn’t have to move our chimney or insert a flue into the living room meant that we would save £1000s but still have the same look!
Wood burners and open fires, especially, can release harmful smoke into the air and into your home if they are not properly ventilated.
Research from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) revealed that domestic woodburning was responsible for 17% of particulate air pollution in 2021.
Biofuel fireplaces produce such a minute amount of emissions, this is also another good reason to install one in your home.
Another advantage of a biofuel fireplace is that it can be placed wherever you like as it does not need a chimney.
This is ideal if your chimney has been blocked up or removed and is also a great alternative for new build houses which often lack the character of older properties.
Our Malvern fireplace from Imagin Fires also came with a faux flue. This attaches to the fireplace with magnets and is extendable so it looks like it is feeding into the wall.
Again, as this is not attached, you can put it wherever you like.
Biofuel fireplaces produce an orange flame (although you do have to let it burn for around 15 mins to heat up), which provides a lovely focal point in your living room and can make the room feel extremely cosy in the winter.
Safety of biofuel fireplaces
It is estimated that there are around 7,000 chimney fires a year in England, mainly due to using wet wood or infrequent sweeping and cleaning.
As biofuel fireplaces do not need a chimney, there are no chimney risks! Obviously 🙂
Also, as there are no damaging air particles from the flame, a bioethanol fireplace is better for people who suffer from allergies or other health conditions.
As with any fire, you will still need to protect it from small children and use a heat-proof screen. However, as there is no soot or sparks, it is generally safer.
How do you use a biofuel fireplace?
There are plenty of styles of biofuel fireplaces to choose from these days.
You could get a wood-burner style fireplace to fit in your living room or a contemporary wall-mounted bio fire to create a feature in a kitchen.
All fires come with a fuel box or “cassette” which you fill up with biofuel liquid. There is a slot or aperture on the stainless-steel cassette which you open and pour the fuel into and then set alight using a match.
Depending on how much you open the aperture will depend on how big your flame is. The wider the opening, the more biofuel you will burn.
It is estimated that 1 litre of fuel will last for approximately 3.5 hours and can produce around 3.5kw of heat. This will easily warm a room that is around 25m2.
For comparison, an averaged-sized wood burner can produce up to 5kw of heat.
To “turn off” the flame, you close the aperture by using a closing tool.
Disadvantages of biofuel fireplaces
When I recently built our cabinets in the living room around our biofuel fireplace, I popped a how-to up on my Instagram channel and TikTok.
I received quite a few comments from people questioning the actual eco-friendliness of biofuel.
Some people suggested that, as crops are grown for biofuel, this was taking up valuable land for use in food production.
The amount of arable land needed to grow the crops is huge and could see forests and other habitats destroyed to produce biofuel.
However, I still think this outweighs the advantages of not burning fossil fuels and the huge damage they do to our planet.
The cost of a biofuel fireplace and the fuel itself could also potentially put people off. You can get a decent-sized fireplace for around £600, taking into account that this is all you are paying for.
This was a huge saving for us when we wanted to install a central fireplace.
We were quoted around £5000 to move our chimney or put in an extended flue and this was not including the purchase of the wood burner itself.
£600 was a no-brainer for me.
The fuel can also seem expensive at first. Depending on where you buy your biofuel from, you can get it for as low as £8 for 2L.
If you have your biofuel fireplace burning 2 hours every evening, that works out to be around £64 a month.
We had our biofuel fireplace installed back in March this year and we found we only really needed it on for an hour as the room got extremely warm. So it could end up costing you around £32 a month.
Considering the frightening quotes we’re currently seeing for our energy bills this winter, I think this is an extremely economical way to heat a room.
As with wood burners, you will still need to use your central heating to heat other parts of the house.
Although, we found that all we needed to do was put the heating on for an hour whilst we got the kids to bed.
If it was still cold after that, we would put our bioethanol fireplace on for a little while to keep the living room warm in the evenings.
We will be using it a LOT this winter!
We had our Imagin Fires Malvern Black bioethanol fireplace installed back in March and I have already been extremely impressed with it.
It saved us a lot of money in renovation costs and looks just like a real wood burner.
It provides a lovely focal point in our living room, is easy to use and kicks out quite a lot of heat to keep our living room warm in the colder months.
Most importantly for me, it is a much more sustainable and eco friendly way to heat your home and could actually save you money as the energy crisis looms.
I hope you found some information useful in this guide to biofuel fireplaces 🙂 guide to biofuel fireplaces guide to biofuel fireplaces guide to biofuel fireplaces
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Hello, I’m interested in a biofuel fireplace/burner. But I’ve read a few people say they can smell a chemical smell when it’s burning. What’s your experience been now you’ve been using it for a while? Thanks
We haven’t had a problem at all. We got the scented biofuel so it actually smells really nice. Although it can be a bit much sometimes if you have the fire on for a few hours.
The only thing we did find is that it smelt a bit burnt once, but that’s because I didn’t mop up a spillage properly so it had burnt the cassette slightly. But it was easily rectified after cleaning.
I don’t think it’s any worse than the smell you get from a wood burner and it’s much cleaner! Hope that helps?