Gel Fire – Do Gel Fires heat and why are they different?
A gel fire is a fireplace very closely related to the ethanol fireplace. The idea is the same: You have a stainless steel container wherein the fuel (gel or bioethanol) is burned off in order to give nice vibrant flames. However, there is some clear differences that I will share with you in this article.
What is a Gel Fire?
A gel fire is much like an ethanol fireplace – it’s a ventless/flueless fireplace that creates no soot or ashes. The gel is purchased in tin cans which is used as a container for the fuel inside a fireplace. When lighting the fireplace, the label and lid is removed, and the gel fuel is lighted. If one gel-can doesn’t give a flame of the right size, one or two more can easily be added.
The flame size cannot be regulated, but the fire can easily be shut off by putting on a lid.
Do Gel Fires heat?
Yes they do – in fact the heat omitted from gel is almost identical to that of ethanol. However, much depends on the size of them flame – usually the flames are wider with ethanol, whereas gel requires adding more cans. So you can produce the same amount of heat, but bioethanol is more flexible as you only have one burner to deal with – and you can regulate the flame size easily with a lid that can decrease the size of the opening to the fuel.
How is Gel Fires different from Bioethanol Fireplaces?
The key difference is the fuel itself, and as a customer it can be difficult to understand the difference. Bioethanol is a liquid fuel where as gel fuel is (no surprise) in a gelatinous form and burned off in a tin can. Gel fuel is traditionally used outdoors as it can be more flammable and stable which is desirable when burning outside in the wind.
For United Kingdom, gel fireplaces has been around longer than bioethanol fireplaces, but the use is pretty much identical. Gel fires started as simply being a tin can which could be placed inside an existing fireplace and lit. The products emerged about 20 years ago, whereas bioethanol fireplaces came about in 2000 with more solid burners and wider flames.
The reason we don’t sell gel fires is quite simple: gel just doesnt offer the same possibilities as it is burned off in tin cans. For your convenience, we have listed some of the key differences below:
- Gel fuel is used and burned off in cans, whereas bioethanol is burned off in burners
- Flames from bioethanol fireplaces can be regulated – gel fires can’t
- Bioethanol fireplaces can contain more fuel and therefore burn longer than gel fires
- Bioethanol fireplaces has one long flame – gel fireplaces have several small cans
- Gel fuel can’t be used in bioethanol fireplaces
- Gel fuel requires some cleaning where bioethanol requires none
- Gel fuel cannot be integrated into a wall as easily as burnerkits
Verdict: Gel is not as flexible as ethanol
Overall gel fires are not as flexible as bioethanol fireplaces due to the fact that the flames cannot be regulated and because you need to place and light 2-3 cans of gel in order to get the same effect. Also, one important aspect is the burning time – gel fuel usually burns 3 hours whereas a bioethanol burnerkit can burn for 5-8 hours as the flamesize can be regulated.
Why I don’t prefer Gel Fires
I know that it might look like I have some hidden agenda, but to be honest, I’m just trying to pass my knowledge onto you so you can decide for yourself. That being said, there is a couple of clear reasons why I dont prefer gel and would never deal with it.
As the concept is “buy a can and light it” I have some concerns. We all know that tin cans with beans or similar get a rough treatment in the store. They are dropped and might get a dent. What happens if a gel can has a small dent and you still light it?. What happens if a customer lights 4-5 burners in a very small space generating excessive heat exposure to the cans? Can they withstand the heat?.
What happens when a customer refills the can several times, will the tin can tear and eventually break? – It definitely will. The cans are cheap, if they werent they wouldn’t sell. As a consequence, the material has to be cheap as well as simple to produce. Is this really in the best interest of the customer?.
So my conclusion is, I don’t prefer gel because of the way it is used. If it was utilized in burners as we know from bioethanol, I wouldn’t be as skeptical as I am today.
OK, but it can’t all be bad?
Maybe not – I have seen models where a can is placed inside a tray, but to be honest it is still not an ideal situation. We are dealing with fire – and if there is a risk that the primary fuel container will break down eventually, it is completely unacceptable to me.