Electric and gel fuel fireplaces have become popular because they do not require a chimney or vent pipe like wood and pellet burning heaters. This allows for a quick and affordable installation in nearly any room of the home. However, these appliances still produce heat. Intense heat can catch paper, fabric and wood on fire if it is too close to the fireplace. Gel fuels also produce real flames, just like a wood-burning open fireplace. Take care to use your electric or gel fuel fireplaces correctly and enjoy the heat without the risk of a house fire.
Gel Fuel Precautions
Gel fuel is alcohol that has been mixed with thickening agents. These additives are also flammable, allowing the gel to burn up completely with almost no fumes or smoke produced. You have a fireplace that is designed to burn this type of fuel in order to use it safely. Gel fuel fireplaces feature special slots or holders to prevent the canister from tipping over while it burns. Setting a container in your wood or electric fireplace can lead to intense and quick spreading fires if the fuel spills.
Use only the appropriate number of cans in your fireplace. Each fireplace will come with a specific number of fuel cans that it can support. Adding more in an attempt to create more heat leads to increased emissions. Each can is rated by the EPA for carbon monoxide emissions, and the EPA recommends burning three cans or less at the same time. Extra fuel also heats up the body of the fireplace. Gel fuel devices are usually portable, and require just a few inches of clearance between the device and flammable materials. Excess fuel heats up the device enough that these clearances are no longer sufficient to prevent fire. Add another gel fuel fireplace if you desire more heat output or additional lighting.
Electric Fireplace Safety
Since there is no combustion and no flame, electric fireplaces are also free of smoke and ash. These devices are about as safe as electric space heaters when properly installed. Most devices are mounted in a wall to save space. Hire a professional to handle the installation. Depending on the design of the fireplace, additional fire-proof boards may be necessary to prevent heat from charring the wall around it. Improper installation can start a hidden fire inside the wall that damages your home's structure before you realize it is occurring.
There is no risk of coals jumping out and landing on flammable materials, but it is still a good practice to keep paper and fabric away from the fireplace. Direct contact will start a fire. Look for models that come with glass doors for the best fire protection. Turn off of the electric fireplace when you are not home or before you go to sleep each night. If you want to use the fireplace for continual heating, you will need to install a thermostat and close the glass doors before leaving it unattended for any length of time.
About the Author: Maria focuses on fire safety and prevention, along with writing about the proper use of fire safety equipment for homes and businesses.