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Bioethanol Fires: An Alternative to Wood-Burning Stoves

Bioethanol Wood Burner Review

You guys know how much I love my wood burning stove in the dining room. It's aaaaaa-mazing. However, it was bloody darn expensive. We're talking four figures. There's the cost of the stove, the cost of the flue, the cost of all the little bits like a register plate and chimney cowel and then there's the cost of having it all fitted. Which is no easy DIY when it involves carrying a 9m length of steel flue all  the way up some ladders and onto your roof. Even for us, that was a stretch too far. The whole thing, was expensive.

However, there is a much much cheaper easier alternative - a bioethanol fire. Say what now, I hear you ask? Bioethanol. It's a kind of liquid that burns a smokeless fire. You don't need a chimney. You don't need a flue. You don't need a hearth. In fact, you don't to pay for any kind of installation. And yet, you still get the beauty of a real fire, heat and it even looks like a real wood burner, don't you think?!

What Is Bioethanol?
OK let's start at the beginning. Ethanol is a bi-product made from the fermentation of sugars from plants. It's considered a renewable fuel and is carbon neutral. It's much more environmentally friendly than its similar fuel alternatives, which makes it the greener choice and it also burns cleanly. Ethanol is essentially a fluid and it comes in a bottle.

ImaginFire Wood Burner Review

How Does It Work?
It's ever-so-complicated (not) - you pour the liquid into the 'firebox' inside the wood style burner. You leave it to soak up for a couple of minutes, then light a match and voila, fire.

how to use bioethanol fire
Lighting a bioethanol fire

Initially it burns a very low blue flame and then after a couple of minutes it gets a little stronger and gives out a much more orange flame, like any other real fire. There is honestly no smoke, no soot or ash; just fire. It means you don't have to clean the glass, you don't have ash falling out the door and you don't need a chimney or flue. But it is a real fire.

Bioethanol Fire
What does bioethanol fire look like?

You can adjust the output of the flame and heat by adjusting how open the firebox is. If you want to 'switch it off' so to speak, you just close it up. You don't need to wait for it to burn through and you don't need to constantly 'add fuel' (like you would with logs) which means you can leave the room and come back an hour later to it still being lit. It's fuss-free, doesn't require constant watching and it's completely safe and meets all European Standards for Fireplaces.

So, I was sent this stove from ImaginFires to try out and review for the blog, which I've been doing for the last few weeks. If you're interested in bioethanol fires - I highly recommend checking them out as they sell all kinds of bioethanol fires, from freestanding fire baskets, to victorian style fireplaces to even wood-burning stove ones, like the one I'm reviewing.

Main Benefits
Aside from being literally so easy to use (no kindling or faffing required!) - the main benefit in my eyes is the zero installation. Literally, you take it out the box, put it into position and can light it straight away. The fact that it can go absolutely anywhere is fab too. A corner in the kitchen, conservatory, bedroom - anywhere and on any floor type; you don't need a hearth, unlike an actual log burner. That means huge savings when compared to a real wood-burner, or even a gas or electric one. There's nothing more to spend, other than on the product itself - which by the way, at £399 for this particular model is rather affordable!

The fact you don't need a chimney also opens it up to being used in any house too, not just period ones. So if you have a new build without a chimney - no problem! And if you live in a smoke controlled area, that's also no problem - 'cos there ain't no smoke. It's much more environmentally friendly than typical wood-burning stoves too.

Alternative Wood Burner without flue

The fact that you get a real fire is amazing. It's not a simulation, it's completely real and has all the natural ambiance that we all love about fires. It's just as mesmerising to watch and feels just as romantic/cosy when lit. It's the real deal for a fraction of the price!

My only slight negative about it, is that burning bioethanol does a slightly different scent to burning logs and it's not quite odour-less either. That being said, there are scented ethanol options which I'd like to try out. And there's also faux logs to can use to simulate the effect of logs burning - again, I'd be pretty keen to try that out as well!

How Much Heat Does It Produce?
In terms of heat output, this particular stove burns at 3KW, which is higher output than most electric radiators or heaters. In comparison to a real log-burner, a small one would typically have an output of 5KW - so it's really not too far away from that. Obviously how well it heats a room will depend on different factors (room size, insulation etc) but we've been trialling it around different rooms in the house over the last few weeks to see just how well it can heat up a room, without central heating (which we don't have!).

Our smaller rooms were a great success and it literally made it nice and toasty within an hour of burning, even without central heating. Our giant kitchen-diner, not quite so much, although it's quite a sizeable room! And our medium-ish living room was a kind of middle-of-the-road meeting between the two. It definitely noticeably heated up the room, however due to our very draughty windows, I do think it had a bit of battle on some of the windier days. On non-windy days though, it was really fab! So my hope is once we've fixed the draught - it'll be almost as toasty as the smaller rooms all the time. Which would be amazing! Bioethanol fires definitely aren't designed to be a replacement for central heating - more of a top-up heat to a particular room.

Wood Burner without a flue

What About Running Costs?
We've been using half a bottle of ethanol each time we've lit a fire and it's lasted around 3.5hours each time, burning with the firebox fully open. A bottle of ethanol costs £2.50 so for each burn we've used £1.25 of fuel. A half-opened firebox would obviously burn for longer but provide a lesser heat output.  I think for 3.5hours of decent heat and the luxury of a real flame - £1.25 is pretty good going!

You can also get scented ethanol as I mentioned, which costs a little more - but provides a bit more of an aroma whilst it burns. There's a 'forest' scented one which I'm pretty keen to try out!

Cheap alternative to wood burner

Would I recommend?!
I honestly think it's fab - a really great affordable alternative to a real wood burner and one that honestly looks the part too. We'll be putting this into our chimney opening once we've patched it all back up. But the great thing? We've already been using it, just positioned in different corners of the room.

This stove is the Malvern Black and currently retails at £399 but there also cheaper/more expensive models available depending on what kind of style you're into (including fire baskets and full fireplaces too!). Bearing in mind, you don't need to pay for a hearth, or installation of a flue - you're saving yourself around £1500 buying a bioethanol fuel burner over a real wood burner. If that's not one of the most compelling reasons to choose this over a real wood-burner - I don't know what is.

I love it and I've already recommended it to people personally. What do you think to it? Would you consider a bioethanol stove?

*I received the stove featured in this post, in return for a review. All words and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands who support this blog!

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