Go to the DIY-market in the morning, buy the fireplace, and that evening, enjoy the cozy warmth and homey atmosphere of your new ornamental hearth. The suppliers of ethanol fireplaces are doing a brisk business with the lightweight, easy-to-install ornamental stoves with no chimney. However, caution is warranted when operating these fireplaces, because ethanol is a fuel that, together with the air, forms a highly combustible atmospheric mixture. If ethanol runs out when filling the combustion chambers and it ignites, then the entire room could go up in flames.
On top of this, these decorative items conceal another potential risk: If the manufacturers are to be believed, the devices do not discharge any harmful combustible residues into the ambient atmosphere. A study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research WKI in Braunschweig indicates the opposite. "These stoves do not feature any guided exhaust system whatsoever, so all combustible products are released directly into the environment. Those are, for example, very fine combustion particles and gaseous compounds like formaldehyde and benzene. Hardly any data exists yet about the effect of ethanol stoves on air quality of interior spaces," explains Dr. Michael Wensing, chemist at WKI. The researcher and his colleagues have examined the level and nature of the released emissions. Likewise wood-burning stoves have also been on trial.
Tests in the Test Chamber
The ethanol fireplaces were tested inside a stainless steel, 48 m3 test chamber. In the process, the engineers took the DIN 4734-1 standard into account, defined the technical minimum standard for ethanol fireplaces, and ventilated the test chamber according to manufacturer instructions. Dr. Wensing's team examined four stoves and a total of eight liquid and gelatinous fuels. "In purely theoretical terms, ethanol and bioethanol completely burns up into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water. But under real conditions, things t
|Contact: Dr. Michael Wensing|