Gel fuel fireplaces use an alcohol-based fuel to produce flames with a minimal amount of fumes. These fireplaces do not require a chimney to exhaust smoke, allowing placement where traditional fireplaces are impractical.
The gel fuel for these fireplaces is available in small cans that normally burn for two to three hours. The user can snuff the flames and reseal the can for use later. The alcohol fuel for these fireplaces is similar to the alcohol burners used to keep food warm on a buffet line. As of 2015, the fuel typically costs under $5 per can and is available in bulk.
Gel fireplaces are available in freestanding units and models that attach to the wall. The freestanding fireplace is lightweight enough to move from one room to another and useful in locations where the fireplace owner does not want to make permanent changes to the property.
Some gel fireplaces are safe for outdoor use, but the owner should restrict their use to sheltered areas. Before using the fireplace outside, the owner should check with the manufacturer regarding safety.
While these units offer many advantages, they get extremely hot and can start fires. Owners should ensure the fireplace is in a stable location before starting the fire and attend the unit any time it is burning.