The Difference - Gel Fireplace Versus Ethanol Fireplace

The heat is on, the gel fireplace versus the ethanol fireplace. Similar in offerings, the gel fireplace and ethanol fireplace have one major difference the fuel that is used. You no longer have to burn wood or coal indoors or outdoors to enjoy the colors, sights, glow, and warmth of a controlled fire. Now ethanol in the form of liquid or gel are the latest choices to use for enjoying a fireplace.

Both the gel and the liquid are made from sustainable organic material, when burned the carbon monoxide disbursement is minimal. This makes burning both the Bioethanol and the Gel Fuel safe without a venting system or chimney. The chimney free fireplaces which burn either Bioethanol and the Gel Fuel release mostly carbon dioxide and water.  

Bioethanol and the Gel Fuel are considered clean burning, natural and sustainable. There are slight differences that should be noted before deciding whether to purchase an indoor or outdoor gel fireplace or ethanol fireplace.

Comparing The Difference - Gel Fuel and Ethanol Liquid

The decision must be made before purchasing, which fuel to use, gel or liquid. These fuels are not interchangeable. When an ethanol fireplace is purchased, liquid ethanol is the fuel that must be used. When a gel burning fireplace is bought, gel fuel must be used. Interchanging, mingling, mixing fuels will not work and will damage the fireplaces. It may also cause a volatile situation with a dangerous ignition. Do not mix liquid ethanol and gel fuel in containers or fireplace reservoirs.


Gel Fuel

Ethanol Liquid

What it is

Made using pure isopropyl alcohol. Water and Salt are added for thickness. Isopropyl is made by a chemical synthesis. Harder to find as the ethanol liquid units are beginning to dominate the market. Beginning to be considered an obsolete fuel source.

Considered a green fuel, it contains at least 96% pure ethanol. This form of alcohol is made by fermenting organic material. Dry-milled corn is the most prevalent material that is turned into ethanol although it can be made by the distillation of other grains, and organic materials including wood and wood by-products.

Burning By-Products

When consumed by fire the gel fuel burned in fireplaces, lanterns and other units releases water vapor and carbon dioxide. No smoke, soot, or ash to vent out. Near the end of the burn the thickness of the gel sticks to the reservoir and may cause unpleasant odors when burnt.

Water Vapor and Carbon dioxide. No venting required for the very minimal amount of carbon monoxide that is released during burning. Considered a clean burning fuel

Type of Fire Produced

The gel fuel thickness creates a flame that mimics its consistency. the flame appears thicker with less movement. The thicker flame is more wind resistant than most flames. It is a smaller yellow flame with a sturdy appearance

Burns more like a traditional gas, wood or coal fire with dancing loosely controlled flames which are kept in check by the controls on the units. Flames appear more natural with and orange-yellowish color and a loose free flowing structure.  

Emitted Heat

The gel creates a subtle warmth making the fire a four-season enjoyment event.

The gentle warmth can be enjoyed on summer nights, it will not change the temperature much on a winter night. It is a gently warming fire.

Flame Sounds

Because of the salt that is added to create the thick syrupy appearance of the gel, the flames produce a subtle crackling sound reminiscent of a wood fire.

A soundless fire, meaning that vigilance is necessary when in use. Double check to be sure the unit is off when not in use.

Lasting Time

A 13 oz can of Gel is estimated to last 2-3 hours. It is unit size dependent. Minor improvements in burn time because of new technologies.

It takes about a quart of liquid ethanol for a 5-hour fire depending on unit size and burning pot size. Major improvements in fuel efficiency technology.

Wait Before Relighting

Should the flame go out or be put out WAIT for gel to cool at least 45-60 minutes before relighting. HOT GEL is more volatile. DO NOT RELIGHT HOT.

Should the flame go out or be put out WAIT for reservoir liquid to cool at least 45-60 minutes before relighting. HOT LIQUID is VERY volatile. DO NOT RELIGHT HOT.


Gel Fuel and Ethanol Liquid have pros and cons that must be considered before deciding on a gel burning fireplace or a liquid ethanol burning fireplace. Remember the fuels are NOT interchangeable, select the unit for the fuel you want to use.