Most people think of home fireplaces as being only for decoration. That’s an understandable sentiment; after all, ethanol fireplaces are great mood-setters, and there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting by the fireplace on a cold night. But as great and cozy as they are, ethanol fireplaces do come with some fire hazards.
Both new and existing owners of ethanol fireplaces should always be aware of how to safely operate them as well as the common hazards that can create major safety risks.
This article will cover the three major hazards that ethanol fireplace customers and salespeople should be aware of. Before we dive in, there’s one important point to keep in mind: bioethanol is not explosive, but it is very flammable. That means that the time you need to be the most cautious is when you’re lighting and filling your fireplace. Most accidents we see and hear about are caused by not filling the fireplace correctly.
We believe that safety begins with proper education. So, it’s important that any fireplace sales representative correctly educates customers on safe ways to fill and light their fireplace. But we know that it can be difficult to get that information because it could lower salespeople profits. Let’s not be ignorant…
Now, let’s look at the major hazards you’ll encounter with an ethanol fireplace.
There are three main types of hazards we tend to see: spilled fuel, fuelling an already hot fireplace, and overfilling the fireplace burner.
Let’s look at each hazard individually and steps to avoid it. Keep in mind that these are not the only potential hazards that an ethanol fireplace can pose. These are merely the most common dangers and mistakes that we see. You should always follow your fireplace’s operating instructions and be aware of the best way to care for it.
Because bioethanol behaves differently than water, spilling while fueling the fireplace is a common hazard with ethanol fireplaces. The danger comes if you light the fireplace after spilling fuel in or around it. Spilled fuel can cause an uncontrollable flame that will not explode, but can easily damage your fireplace. While I haven’t heard of any personal injuries as a result of spilled fuel, I am aware of an explosion-like flame that happened as a result of spilled fuel and a fireplace that had been designed using the out-dated cup system.
The best way to avoid spilling fuel is to use a funnel every time you fill your fireplace. If any fuel does get spilled, you should always clean it up immediately and then make sure you don’t have any ethanol left on your hands or lighter.
Fuelling A Hot Burner
If you find yourself itching for a little adventure, filling bioethanol into a hot fireplace is not the way to scratch that itch. When lighting bioethanol, you’re actually lighting the fumes. So if you pour bioethanol into a hot burner, you’re increasing the fuel’s evaporation, which means more fumes. You can see where this is going. As the fumes increase, so does the risk of a bursting flame and serious injury to you and your fireplace.
Before you refuel an ethanol fireplace, you should always close the lid and wait at least ten minutes before you dump any fuel in. When you are ready to refuel and confident that the fireplace is no longer hot, make sure to use a funnel to pour the bioethanol into the burner. You should also check for spills before you light the fireplace. Taking these steps will prevent burst flames caused by a hot fireplace or a fireplace that’s already lit.
There’s one important thing to keep in mind: as your fireplace runs low on fuel, the size of the flames will most likely go down. On a dark night, that can make the flame hard to spot. This is especially true if some wine has been enjoyed throughout the evening. You should always be absolutely sure that any flame in the fireplace is fully extinguished before you refuel. Neglecting to do so can cause a bursting flame and possibly ignite any fuel in the bottle. This is not a situation you want on your hands, especially if the wine is still taking hold of your faculties.
Overfilling the Burner
Overfilling is a common error that ethanol fireplace owners check. You should always check your fireplace’s instructions and adhere to the recommended fuel levels.
Quantities of fuel will vary based on the fireplace itself, but the typical recommendation is to fill the fireplace burner no more than half an inch from the top.
If you overfill the burner, it can cause an uncontrollable flame and make it more difficult to shut off the burner.
While your fireplace may be able to handle the extra heat, if the fireplace is knocked into, the fuel could spill out of the burner. The good news is that most fireplaces have a built-in spill tray to catch the fuel in a separate compartment. We’ve gone even further with our fireplaces: we build in a ceramic core that will bind fuel into the fireplace’s burner.
As an ethanol fireplace sales representative, there’s nothing I take more seriously than safety. I care about the safety of my customers, and it’s the only way to run a successful company.
If you ever feel unsure about how to safely operate or maintain your fireplace, never hesitate to get some guidance from your sales representative. This is especially important if you’re a first-time user. Learning and following safe operating procedures will not only ensure your own safety but will help keep your fireplace in good shape for many years.
The bottom line is: safe fueling is the most important part of fireplace use and maintenance. Following manufacturer guidelines and those laid out in this article are the best ways to minimize risk.
Remember: anything that uses a flame will involve a fire hazard, and it’s up to you to keep you and your family safe.