Are Ethanol Fireplaces Safe? Scientific Research on the Topic

Recently, an article on Treehuggger was published by Lloyd Alter commenting on a recent Scientific Research Study published by Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research. The study concluded that ethanol fireplaces are a health hazard and should only be used in well-ventilated spaces. Here is an excerpt taken from Science Daily:

“These stoves do not feature any guided exhaust system whatsoever, so all combustible products are released directly into the environment.. …On a case-by-case basis, precisely how the course of that incineration runs really depends on the quality of the fuel and other factors – like the type of fuel, or the incineration temperature. As a rule, ethanol does not burn out completely. Rather, the incineration process results in CO2 – along with poisonous gases (like carbon monoxide, a respiratory toxin), organic compounds (like benzene, a carcinogen), and irritant gases (like nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde), as well as ultrafine combustion particles.”

-Dr Wensing, Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research

Holly and Martin Walton Ethanol Fireplace

The Walton Ethanol Fireplace by Holly & Martin, one of the most trusted manufacturers.

Here is the original article published by Science Daily and the original study by Franhofer-Gesselschaft.

So Why is this Misleading

“If ethanol runs out when filling the combustion chambers and it ignites, then the entire room could go up in flames.”

-Yes, if you spill ethanol and light the fire, it will burn. The same can be said about wood logs. If you dropped a wood log outside of your firebox and lit the fire, your whole house could “theoretically” burn down. Never refill an ethanol fireplace while the fire is lit. Always clean up any spills before lighting the fire.

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Beijing Bans Outdoor Grills to Curb Pollution

Take a walk through the downtown Beijing and you’ll find streets lined with popular eateries that serve skewered meats and cold dishes such as garlic cucumber salad and cold tofu skin. A new ban on outdoor grills is forcing many of these shops to close in an effort to combat dangerously high smog levels. Under new measures, even cold dishes, decorative, cakes, and raw seafood products are not allowed to be eaten outdoors.

Beginning May 1, 2014, a new law has been implemented to enforce the ban. Under the Interim Measures on Management of Summer Al Fresco Dining,” all outdoor grills must be moved indoors. The new law also restricts where outdoor dining can take place. Violating the outdoor grilling ban in will result in a fine of up to 20,000 yuan ($3,200).
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US Outdoor Grill Industry Projected to Grow 4% Year by Year

The US Outdoor Grill and Furniture Industry is a balking $6.2 Billion market. By 2017, the outdoor furniture and grill market will generate $7.5 Billion in revenue. After a rough economic downturn during the 2006 recession, the US economy has begun show signs of recovery.

Of these rebounding markets, the US Outdoor furniture Industry is expected to increase 4% per year through 2017. Patio heating products are projected to be the fastest growing market as a result of growing consumer demands in residential and commercial sectors.

Close up of patio heater

Data in this post stems from an industry report published by Freedonia Group, a leading international business research company based in Cleveland, Ohio. Each year, Freedonia publishes over 100 industry research studies to provide a detailed outlook on market forecasts an industry trends.
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EPA Moves to Place New Regulations on Wood Stoves

Just this week the Federal Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal to lower emissions and pollutants from residential wood stoves. Changes in the policy will affect a wide range of heaters including wood stoves, wood pellet stoves, fireplace inserts, masonry heaters, and forced-air wood furnaces. This is the first time that heating devices aside from normal wood stoves will be regulated by the EPA.

Current EPA policy certifies non-catalytic wood stoves that emit less than 7.5 grams of fine particle per hour. Standards would change in 2019 to force new stoves to emit just 1.3 grams per hour, a sizeable difference by any measurement. With 11.5 million U.S. homeowners using wood for heat, the affect of the policy will have a large affect on an industry that is projected to manufacture 85,695 wood stoves in the year 2015 alone. (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Fireplace emissions based on type of unit. Click to view larger image.

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Consumer Alert: CPSC Issues Recall on Outdoor Fireplace Manufactured in China

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently issued a recall on an outdoor fireplace that was manufactured in China. The item in question, the Clay Bowl Outdoor Fireplace, is part of CPSC Recall #14-022. In order to prevent serious harm or dangerous conditions, you can find contact information and suggested remedies if you have purchased one of these recalled fireplaces by reading below.

Product Description

Imported by Nantucket Distributing LLC, the Clay Bowl Outdoor Fireplace was sold in Christmas Tree Shops and And That! stores between July and October of this year. On the original packaging that the fireplace came in, you will be able to find a label with Model #CTFB215 listed on the box. In the case that you have thrown out your box, you can determine if your outdoor fireplace is part of this recall by its description.

Clay Outdoor Fireplace Recall

The Clay Outdoor Fireplace has been recalled due to concerns over burn hazards.

This outdoor unit features a black metal bowl that sits in a clay bowl. The clay bowl is nestled within a steel bowl frame that measures approximately 23 inches in diameter. The Clay Outdoor Fireplace has a domed lid that adds a safety feature to prevent burns and serious accidents. The model number should also be listed within the instruction manual that the product came with.
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