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Our Bioethanol Fire – A clean burn and clean conscience

Bioethanol Fire

As an interior designer, there are several areas of home renovations that send shivers down my spine. And not the good shivers. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Curtains (I’ve spoken at length about how much I hate them)
  2. Bathrooms (hands down the hardest spaces to design and plan for)
  3. Fires and fireplaces

log burner pros and cons

When we moved into our home back in 2012, our living room was fitted with a log burner. It was by all accounts a really good one. But during our 6 years of owning it, I think it’s fair to say, we didn’t get on. It took oodles of time and effort to get it going and when it was going, it was fricking boiling. It was smokey. It gave me headaches. The last time we used it, it filled our living room with black smoke. It was then we found out we needed a new liner down the chimney. Cue about £1200 worth of work which we couldn’t afford, so this rather expensive stove became a pricey but rather useless ornament. Sometimes I lit a candle and plonked it inside. In essence is was a large, cast iron tea-light holder.

After sitting unused for a couple of years, we decided to sell it. It’s going to sound like I’m making the next bit up, but I promise I’m not. About two weeks before the log burner was due to be collected its new owner, I was contacted by ImaginFires to see if I wanted to review one of their Bioethanol fires.

Well I’d been curious about them for a while. I’d heard mixed reviews about the heat output etc, but having read just how easy they were to install….

  • take it out of the box
  • put it where you want (somewhere safe obv)
  • fill the fuel box with bioethanol
  • light it
  • chill out

… I was eager to have a gadge, especially as we had a freshly made space in the chimney breast.

They have lots of different styles and designs of stoves, so I spent some time reading up on them and checking dimensions. I finally chose the Malvern Black Bioethanol Fire which seemed about the right size and design for the room.

As bioethanol fires are smokeless they don’t need a flue or chimney, which means literally no installation necessary. At all. From unboxing to a lit fire, it took us about 40 minutes, and that’s only because we spent 10 minutes crushing boxes and packaging to go into the recycling. For me, and clients that yearn a real flame fire, but can’t afford the necessary building works to accommodate a stove or gas counterpart, then these are a fantastic alternative.

I was kindly sent a set of ceramic logs, a box of a dozen, 1 litre bottles of fuel and of course the Malvern Stove. A 1l bottle of bioethanol gives you about 3.5-4 hours of burn time, which is great to get started early evening and leave until bedtime as the darker nights set in.

A box of 12 bottles is £35, giving you up to 50 hours of burn time, meaning it costs about…

…. 70p an hour. Not bad eh? I can see us using this a lot of the winter months, especially over Chrimbo. Even better is that burning bioethanol is environmentally friendly, so a clean burn and a clean conscience.

The 3KW heat output is about the same as an electric heater set on medium (apparently? – I have no idea how warm/hot an electric fire is on medium?). It doesn’t blast out heat like our old log burner, so I wouldn’t recommend these as your only heat source in a room, but you can feel it. Definitely. Seeing and feeling the heat of the living flame (without a headache) really is rather lovely.

Initially, I was a little concerned about the steel stove feeling a bit lightweight compared to the old cast iron number we had previously. But actually upon arrival, I was impressed with the quality of finish. The only thing that gives it away a bit is the top where the vent is.

However, I’ve just spotted these on the ImaginFires website…

Black Flue

With an adjustable height option, this black flue anchors itself onto the top of the stove with the integrated magnets. Brilliant! Wish I’d flipping seen this before!

Close up of the fuel box and the ceramic logs – daytime


And in the evening

Time for a quick run down of the benefits of bioethanol fires taken from the ImaginFires website:

So there you have it. There are plenty of answers to FAQ and user videos on the ImaginFires website, so if I’ve not covered something here, chances you’ll find what you need over there.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on our new non-fuss fire. Are you one of those people out there that craves a real flame but can’t quite afford to shell out for all the building and installation costs? If so, definitely consider bioethanol!

*Sponsored Post – Thank you to ImaginFires for very kindly gifting the Malvern Stove, a set of ceramic logs and 12 bottles of fuel as part of this review post. All words, opinions and images are my own (unless stated) and I only ever work with brands I really rate and think you’d like too.*


  1. Anonymous says

    This looks great. I’d been thinking about one of these as an alternative to a flame effect electric fire, particularly as the designs available tend to be more contemporary. I was put off by reports that the fuel can give off an odour when burning. Did you find that?

    • Karen Knox says

      No not at all. We were sent the low odour fuel, and we had no problems at all.
      You get a very very slight odour as the fuel is burning out (last few ml of the fuel), but they recommend that you don’t burn the fuel box dry anyway. Hope that helps!

  2. Denise Hill says

    We’ve got one of these (from a different manufacturer) in our conservatory. We put it in for aesthetics more than anything as the room isn’t freezing like most conservatories (due to solid walls). It’s a big space but we find that we can really smell the fuel. We bought low odour but both me and my husband can smell it! I love how they look and it really is a great way of adding character to a room – just hope we can find a fuel that doesn’t give us a headache!

  3. Anonymous says

    Thanks, I’ll give it a try. The air vents on top of ours are pretty big too so am wondering if that’s not helping either. We’ve got a faux pipe but it’s not designed to sit over the vents. Really hoping we can solve it as it makes our downstairs look so cosy (and gives it a needed focal point).

    • Karen Knox says

      Maybe try the low odour fuel I linked to above and also update the pipe to the one I linked to in the blog post? That’s designed to sit over the vent… Might be worth a try!?

  4. Looks fab Karen. I must look into these as I want to replace our hiddeous electric fire. I’d love a log burner purely for aesthetics because we don’t need another heat source. This might be a good compromise.

    • Karen Knox says

      Yes – it’s a great alternative when you don’t need it as a primary heat source. So simple to set up and get going!

  5. Anonymous says

    Thanks for the reassurance about the odour. I’ve seen the comments about the vents but presumably they are necessary to provide oxygen for the flame? Also where does the heat come out? Sorry if these are silly questions!

    • Karen Knox says

      Heat seems to come out from all around, including out of the top too of course.

  6. This looks amazing! Hubby said he wanted a real fire but I said it was going to be too much hassle to get one install, now this is the solution!! Thanks.

  7. Jenny says

    We have a wood burning stove which we put in when we bought The Coldest House In The World. Yes, you have to get the chimney lined, and you have to get the chimney swept and serviced once a year. You have to buy logs and get them dumped outside your house and then bring them in with a wheelbarrow through your narrow terraced house in the depths of winter. And yes, they are expensive, we spent £3k on the stove and the chimney preparation. But I don’t regret a penny of it. It’s the best thing we ever did. It’s cosy and gorgeous, it soothes the soul on the darkest of days and you can control the heat very effectively but you have to learn how to do that. My husband is the Firestarter of the house and the expert on it all. They are a bit of a faff with the buying in of wood and whatnot but they are worth all the effort in my opinion. However, totally understand if people don’t have a fireplace or the money that these would be a good option. But if you can have a wood burner, have one is my advice. There is no substitute for the real thing.

  8. Marta Datkiewicz says

    This looks beautiful! Karen, do you mind sharing how big is your fireplace opening?

  9. Anonymous says

    Hi, I got very excited when I saw this. We removed our chimneys to create more space in our very petite 1930s bedrooms…knowing we were sacrificing the chance to put in a log burner downstairs (but me secretly hoping there would be a magic solution)
    How happy are you a couple of years on? Any issues? My builder hubby is still dubious. Partly his anti-plastic self is wincing at the fuel bottles… can you recycle them?

    • Karen Knox says

      Hi there, we don’t use it all that often… mainly to cosy up the darker/colder evenings over the winter. Even though we don’t use it all that much, I still really like having it as an option. And yes, you can recycle the bottles. Hope this helps!

  10. Sarah says

    Hi Karen, Loving your work!!
    Can I ask where you got your side cabinets from in your living room?

    • Karen Knox says

      Sorry Sarah, only just seen this. They’re from the old “Stride” range from John Lewis.

  11. Anonymous says

    We’ve just purchased the same pne that you have – rally pleased with it. Similar to you, we’ve placed ours in an old fireplace. However, as the vents are on top of the burner, the heat goes straight up. Can I ask what material you have used to board up yiur fireplace vent and whether it gets very hot from the heat of the burner?

  12. Rebecca says

    Hello, this is beautiful and the type of look we’re going for. May I ask what material the burner is sitting on? It’s beautiful and we’re interested in something similar. Thank you very much

    • Karen Knox says

      I honestly can’t remember. I managed to find out at some point (it was here when we moved in) but have since forgotten I’m afraid.

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