Gel fuel fireplaces have become a popular modern addition to homes, featuring an incredible variety of designs, sizes and shapes to suit any architectural needs, and unmatched installation convenience and environmental standards.
The most convenient aspect of the gel fireplace is that it is completely self contained. It needs no gas line or chimney, and thus can be installed anywhere in the home, including wall-mounted fireplace models that can add an uncommon accent to the room. As they require no electrical outlet or gas line, they can be moved from room to room whenever desired, or taken along when purchasing a new home.
The flames produced are not extremely hot, especially compared to gas or wood fires. Though the size and intensity of the flames can be varied by adding additional canisters, the lower temperatures mean the fireplaces can be used as a decorative addition, with homeowners enjoying a fire even on a summer evening.
Gel fireplaces are also significantly cheaper than gas or electric fireplace inserts, depending on the model. Gel fireplaces are available for a few hundred dollars, whereas many gas fireplaces cost several thousand dollars.
Gel Fireplace Fuel
Gel fireplaces use an ethanol based fuel, mixed with other materials to make it viscous, non-evaporative, and more difficult to spill. It produces no emissions, meaning it requires no open windows, chimneys or other venting system to operate, which is why they are often referred to as ventless fireplaces. This makes the system 100% efficient, as no heat is lost. Canisters or bottles are readily available online or in certain stores.
The level of the flames can be controlled by adding additional canisters, up to the level recommended by the manufacturer. A typical canister will last for 2 to 3 hours. Leading brands include Sunjel and Real Flame, with each canister costing $2 to $4, and more for the larger bottles.
Some gel fuel produces an ethanol scent, which can be avoided with scented gel or a scent stick if necessary.
Operating Costs of Gel Fireplaces
Gel fireplaces win on installation and portability, as they are the most easily portable fireplaces, though they are not necessarily the cheapest to operate. Electric fireplaces generally cost about 10 cents per hour or less to operate, whereas the gel fuel works out to $1 or $2 per hour, depending on the brand purchased and heat intensity desired. Gas fireplaces are also cheaper; gas prices can fluctuate, but typically cost less than a dollar per hour, often around 40 cents.
However, gel fireplaces are generally quite cheap, costing just a few hundred dollars. Compared to gas fireplace inserts, which can go for a few thousand, the gel fireplace will likely take years to become the more expensive option.
A $300 gel fireplace will burn about $1 more per hour than a gas fireplace, which may cost around $2,000. That $1700 savings means the gas fireplace will start to be the better investment after 1700 hours. If burned 3 hours per night for 4 months per year, it will be almost five years before the gel fireplace becomes the more expensive option overall. So for long-term home investment, or heavy use of the fireplace as a primary or significant heating option, the gas fireplace will eventually win, though for moderate use it is unlikely the gel fireplace will ever compare unfavorably to a gas fireplace (though they typically produce less heat, so in particularly cold areas the numbers might change).
However, electric fireplaces are the clear winner when it comes to cost, as they typically cost a few hundred dollars like the gel fireplaces, and their fuel is significantly cheaper. If costs savings are the primary concern, this is the best option.
For most people, however, the appeal of the gel fireplace is its portability, ease of installation, and typically modern design. They can be placed on a kitchen table, a wall, or any unusual location, without needing to plug in a cord. And incidentally, this makes them immune to power outages, the only drawback to an electric fireplace.
Deciding on a Gel Fuel Fireplace
As gel fireplaces are relatively cheap, easy to operate and install, and generally feature very modern designs, they have become popular options for modern homes. The clean-burning ethanol fuel is safe and reliable, produces a realistic flame, and can be enjoyed in any room in the house with no chimney installation difficulties.
Though not necessarily the best method for heating a home, gel fireplaces are usually enjoyed for their beauty, and can be quite enjoyable.