Blog: March 2016

Bio-ethanol fires: pretty as a picture but expensive to run
By Abby Trow. Photographs by Victoria Moore

We've been putting the Globus bioethanol fire from Imaginfires through its paces over the past few weeks...when it's been pretty chilly of an evening. And my partner, teenage sons and myself have become rather fond of it. 

The pluses

Perhaps the first thing to note is that contrary to expectation, the fire does heat up the sitting room when on 'full blast' so to speak (ie the aperture for flames is opened to its maximum).

You hear that they're these fires are really just for decoration and the heat they emit is pretty feeble, but we've found that if you close the sitting room door and put Globus to work, the room heats up nicely. ...Whether it would make a noticeable difference on a below zero day in the depths of an icy January (we didn't have any such days in January this year...), with no central heating on, I can't comment on; but on a fairly cool evening when the heating's gone off, the Globus does warm things up.

Easy to use

We chose to try a freestanding fire that happens to fit in our fireplace..the Globus is quite heavy but two people can move it around easily, so its portability is a plus. And these fires are super easy to use - you pour the bioethanol into the well (see the close up picture), put a match to it and flames appear..slowly at first but they get more vigorous after a few minutes. And to put the fire 'off', you use the metal tool to pull the metal cover over the well. 

Very pretty to look at

We liked the look of the Globus and think it's an attractive piece of metalwork in the fireplace, but when it's dark outside and the fire's on, it looks lovely - if you've not had the delights of a real fire in your home, a bioethanol offers you that comfort - but with no mess, and no smoke. 

Recyclable product

Being made entirely from steel, the fire will no doubt last for decades, and you only need to wipe it over with a damp cloth to keep clean. And I know that were it ever to go to the Islington recycling centre, it would be destined for the giant skip marked 'metal' and it would be melted down and made into ..well, perhaps a new fire.

The minuses

First and foremost, it's the cost of the bioethanol fuel that makes these fires a luxury product and which deters you from having the fire on too often. A litre bottle costs £5-£6 and you get 3-4 hours of dancing flames from that. So if you wanted to use the fire every evening during winter, well, you do the maths. So while the fires themselves are affordable - you can buy one for a few hundred pounds - if you're not feeling rich and you're naturally frugal you will be put off lighting it because of the cost of the fuel. In short, what could be a practical product becomes a luxury one because of the cost of running it. 

The other thing my elder son and I don't like is the odour from the bioethanol. It does have a slight smell - it reminds me of sweet silage sniffed from a distance. But it's not horrid and my partner and younger son say they don't notice the smell, so I guess it depends on how sensitive your olfactory senses are. 

To buy or not to buy?

I would say go for it...these fires offer those of us who live in flats the chance to enjoy real flames. The fires themselves are relatively inexpensive and attractive, and they do look lovely when lit. They're easy to use, they're mess free and the answer to the cost of the fuel is to accept that you don't light them too often. 

eco friendly, eco home