Bio-Ethanol Fires

Everywhere I go these days I see Bio-Ethanol Fires….. so are they a good idea for your new home?

Well all the publicity says they are a renewable resource that produces a ‘living flame’.  As Ethanol (we used to call it methylated spirits) burns cleanly with no toxic byproducts these heaters can be used in a room without a flue.

Well before you go down the Bio-Ethanol heater route here are some things to consider.

It’s Not a Main Heat Source

While a Bio Ethanol fire does give out heat, it’s not enough to heat out your house like a traditional Wood Heater. About the most you can expect is around 2 kW (the equivalent of a small fan heater).

Water Vapour

One of the combustion products is water. For each litre of fuel it produces almost 1/10th of a litre of water vapour. That can mean more condensation on the windows, and even mould in cold corners.

Oxygen Consumption

Although there are no fumes like a traditional fire it consumes the oxygen in the air. So make sure you get some fresh (colder) air into the room.


Some points about the Fire Risk:

  • You are storing a highly flammable liquid and pouring it in a heater in your living room.
  • You should never fill the heater while its burning or even when the burner is hot.
  • It is still a naked flame. Make sure children are kept well away from it.


Although there are some cheap Bio- Ethanol Heaters I wouldn’t feel all that safe with a cut price unit. If you get a quality heater you could be paying a lot of extra money for that flame effect.


Heating is just one of the topics included

in the Pre-Start/Selection Guide?



Wood can be the Most Expensive………..or the Cheapest heating available for your new home.

It all depends on your level of commitment.

Most Expensive

Buy firewood at the service station and burn it in an open fire and it could easily cost $20-$30 for a few hours in the evening.


Use a slow combustion wood heater,  collect and split your own wood, and it can be less than $10 for a week of continuous heat.

How Much Wood Do You Need?

From my experience of heating a 180sqm home I reckon about ten 6×4  trailer loads (around 10 cubic m) is enough for a typical winter.

Another way of looking at it is what a friend of mine says “All you need to heat a house is to pick up three logs every day of the year”. I would say that’s about right.

Low Cost Sources

  • Nature Strips, Free, I often see piles of branches outside suburban homes. Here is around three night of heat recently seen on a Nature Strip! Be careful some councils don’t approve of removing stuff left for council collection.
  • Friends, Free If you make it known you are willing to collect wood you can quite often get asked by friends take aware tree branches. WARNING Don’t offer to cut down trees, that should only be done by licenced, and insured, tree fellers
  • State Forests and Public Land, Free – $25/trailer. Each state has their rules in Victoria its free but  only at certain times of the year. In NSW it ranges from $8-$25 per cubic m.
  • Timber Companies, Free I often see skips of free firewood outside factories but be careful that you only pick up untreated wood. The fumes from burning treated wood can be extremely toxic.


See why Wood Heaters are Better than Open Fires


3 in 1 Bathroom Heaters or Separate Units?

In our current house we have got one of those 3 in 1 bathroom light/heater/extraction fan and I can’t say I am impressed. . . . It suffers from the Swiss Army Knife Syndrome…… doing lots of things, but none of them as well as a purpose designed tool.

It seems more sensible to me to have the fan directly above the shower and extract the steam at it’s source, rather than let it drift across the ceiling and then extract it.

As far as Lighting is concerned it’s easier to see yourself clearly in the mirror if the light is in the area between the mirror and you, rather than behind you. . . I think that ladies putting on make-up in the bathroom will agree!

For heating it doesn’t really bother me too much as I am a get in, do the business, get out person, but I don’t seem to get much heat from the heat lights. (One exception was in a bathroom with a low 2.1m ceiling)

A couple of low price alternatives are:

  1. Leave the door partially open overnight allows enough heat from the ducted heating to flow through to the bathroom in the morning.
  2. Switch the bathroom fan on a few minutes before your shower and it will pull the warm air into the bathroom.

If I really wanted heat in the bathroom I would prefer either:

  • A heated towel rail on a time switch. ( Warm towels…now that’s a luxury.)
  • Putting a heating duct into the bathroom.

Thinking about underfloor heating? . . . Check out this Link : Underfloor Heating


For more see Bathroms and Ensuites