Electric and Ethanol Fireplaces: Are they worth it?

by Greg on November 15, 2017


A fireplace is a beautiful addition to any home. Its flickering flame can add a romantic touch to your abode, and can help warm your body especially during cold days. Place it in a room’s focal point, and when the temperature drops, you can enjoy its warmth by gathering around the hearth with your family and friends.

Nowadays, there are so many wall fireplace options you can choose from that it becomes a challenge to find the right type of fireplace for your home. To help steer you in the right direction when deciding between an electric or ethanol fireplace, we have made a comprehensive guide showing the features of the two.

Ethanol Fireplaces

An ethanol fireplace is a stainless steel heating device that commonly comes with a round glass shield covering and a burner tray. Since its introduction in 2005, it has been growing in popularity around the world for its many important advantages. Currently, ethanol fireplaces are offered in various types including tabletop, wall mounted, and floor standing. They are also available in a variety of designs and sizes to meet the requirements of different consumers.

Ethanol wall fireplaces have flexible designs and do not require a flue or a chimney, making them relatively easier to install. As a result, owners can save on expensive installation costs commonly associated with traditional fireplace installation and avoid the dangers of gas poisoning. In addition, these flueless units burn cleanly and do not produce ashes or smoke while still producing a good amount of heat.

An additional advantage of ethanol fireplaces is that some models feature automatic safety shut-offs and fuel-filling capabilities that help avoid an overflow in the fuel. Some units also come with a remote control that allows customers to regulate the ignition, as well as control the extinguishing and refueling processes.

Heat Factor

The amount of heat produced by ethanol fireplaces is dependent on many factors. One of the main factors affecting BTU (British thermal unit) output is the size of the fireplace burner insert. Depending on the model of the unit, an ethanol fireplace unit can produce up to 12,000 BTUs if it carries around 3 liters of ethanol burners. It is also important to take note that ethanol fireplaces do not have fans built into the units to push out circulated heat.

Rather, an ethanol fireplace produces radiant heat so the objects in the direct pathway of the infrared waves absorb the energy the most. Once these objects heat up, a natural convection process will take place where heat is transferred to other parts of a room, making the entire space warm.

The advantage of this is that you can group different rooms in the house to have different temperatures at different times of the day. Or if you only have a particular area in the house that you frequently use, you can heat just that room.

While an ethanol fireplace does produce heat, it’s not specifically designed to heat an entire house like a traditional one.


An ethanol fireplace rarely requires much cleaning as it doesn’t emit any soot or ashes. But if you want to keep it looking good as new, a general cleaning of the unit can be done from time to time. Because many models of ethanol fireplaces are made with stainless steel, it can accumulate dirt over time.

To address this, simply use some steel polish to keep it looking brand new. The color of your unit’s stainless steel can turn black over time when not maintained well. Give your ethanol burner some love by regularly cleaning up any spilled ethanol and by applying stainless steel polish afterward.

Electric Fireplaces

An electric fireplace is an electricity-powered heater that offers the benefits of a traditional fireplace without all the work that’s involved. It is fast becoming a modern alternative to the mess of soot, ash and burning embers associated with maintaining a fireplace burning coal, wood, or natural gas.

There are many benefits to using electric fireplaces. During winter season, heating bills can skyrocket as you use your fireplace more frequently to get warm. With electric fireplaces, you can save energy and cut on the cost of heating bills, as they only cost pennies per hour to operate.

In addition to being budget-friendly, an electric fireplace provides instant heat once it is plugged into an electrical socket, so you can immediately feel the warmth. You also have the option to turn the heat down on the thermostat and still feel the warmth from the unit.

What makes electric fireplaces economical is the mechanics behind the appliance. None of the heat generated from the coils are wasted because they are pushed out 100 percent through the unit’s fan.

Heat Factor

There’s a common misconception that electric fireplaces do not produce heat, when the truth is they do. Although electric fireplaces are not designed to be a primary heat source, they can generate heat to take the chill off an area measuring 400 square feet.

Most electric fireplace models run on 120 volts to a maximum of 240 volts. They can produce a maximum of 5,000 BTUs when run on 120 volts, a maximum draw of 1500 watts, and 12.5 amps, while more heat is generated for models that are run on 240 volts. Because of this limited heat output, you never have to worry about overheating in certain areas of your home just to make a room a few degrees warmer. Unlike the glass on gas fireplaces, the surface of an electric fireplace does not get hot to the touch, so it’s a safer alternative especially when you have kids and pets at home.


One of the best things about owning an electric fireplace is that it requires virtually no maintenance. Since these modern fireplaces do not need chimneys and vents to operate, the possibility of ash and soot that will get stuck in your unit is eliminated. But if you want to get your unit operating smoothly in the long run, you can do some preventive maintenance to maintain its good condition.

You can start with inspecting and changing a few regular light bulbs every two to three years. This is to ensure that the clarity of the log set is maintained so that the glow of the bulbs will continue to mimic the motion of real fire. Once in a while, you also have to check the rotation pattern of your unit’s fan to determine whether it needs to be cleaned. Remember that the fan is the most important component of your unit when it comes to providing supplemental heat in an area, so make sure that it functions the way it should by cleaning any dust or lint buildup.

Both electric and ethanol fireplaces provide a great alternative to traditional fireplaces. Each has its own pros and cons that you need to consider when choosing which one you should get for your home. The pointers above were created to help point you in the right direction when deciding which one is best for your specific needs.

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