The last time I posted about this issue. People mentioned the lack of a real flame being a major drawback to the electric fireplace models. I have to say I agree, as a result I kept searching Craigslist for a deal on a gas insert. While I do think that I will eventually find something, I wanted to gather some opinions on another option. While perusing the vast and boundless interwebs I happened to come across these gel fireplace inserts. They provide both a real flame in addition to a reasonable amount of heat.
You can buy the entire operation for about $500.00 and they have a plethora of options to choose from in terms of mantle styles and finishes. But, If you know me well enough, by now, you’d know that I’d think that was too easy and still too expensive. You’d also know that the options they have are not Craftsman enough for me. So wait until you see this:
These are intended to be used in existing fireplaces and this one retails for around $180.00. With one of these I could modify my existing mantle to include a fire box with a top, sides and bottom made from a noncombustible material such as patio pavers or tile. I’d also add a tile hearth and screen for added protection and to complete a seamless illusion.
The flame burns from a small can of odorless alcohol gel fuel which is supposed to be environmentally friendly and clean burning. The cans are a little pricy, running about three dollars each. They claim to last about 3 hours each and you can use between one and two at a time. Each can of fuel burns at nearly 3,000 BTUs. So, if you burned two for three hours you’d gain 6,000 BTUs (comparable to many small space heaters) an hour for three hours setting you back about six dollars. looking at the reviews on Amazon it was very evident that people love these things. Many have five star reviews drawn from hundreds of commenters. The product is billed as being incredibly safe in terms of both fire safety and emissions.
If six dollars is too much, there are all kinds of videos on YouTube which outline simple ways to make your own gel at home inexpensively from isopropyl alcohol, vinegar and chalk dust or even hand sanitizer.
So now I leave my question to you. Should I persue the gas insert for the ease and convenience of instant on demand heat and flame? Or, do I look further into a gel fuel option for time to time ambiance and marginal heat benefits on chilly evenings or with company?