Gel Fuel Fireplaces: A Frugal Home Heating Alternative

gel fuel fireplaceYou’ve all heard the predictions about home heating costs going up this winter. Combined with the current state of our economy, the idea of paying more to heat your home might be enough to send some people over the edge. As a result, people are looking into alternative home heating solutions like space heaters, pellet stoves and yes – fireplaces. Not only can many of the home heating options available today save you money, but many of them are significantly better for the environment. Gel fuel fireplaces are one area of the market that has been growing in recently months, and for good reason! Let me break down some of the benefits to using gel fireplaces to heat your home this winter.

  • Save Money Up-front: Not only are most gel fuel fireplaces inexpensive to purchase, but they are also extremely easy to maintain, which translates into less money spent on repairs. Gel fireplaces are perfect if your home isn’t already equipped with a traditional fire place, or if you are looking for a much less expensive, lower maintenance home heating option. Free-standing gel fireplaces are also super easy to install yourself, with most taking no more than an hour or so. While you can purchase a recessed gel fuel fireplace insert to replace an existing fireplace, these free standing units are just as attractive and a lot easier to deal with.
  • Breathe Easier: Not only are gel fuel fireplaces easy to install and maintain, but they are vent-less and do not emit smoke, toxic fumes or odor. Highly heat and energy-efficient, gel fuel fireplaces comply with all of the industry’s safety standards; gel fuel itself is a cleaner burning fuel than traditional wood and gas stoves. Gelled alcohol fuel burns clear, smoke-free and a can last anywhere from 2.5 to 3 hours. And for added peace of mind, gel fireplaces are free of the dangers of harmful combustion of toxic products.
  • Stay Cozy and Warm: A majority of gel fireplaces produce an average heat output of about 3,000 BTU (British Thermal Units) which is actually comparable to many electric fireplaces on the market, perfect for heating a modestly sized room.
  • Complement your Home Decor: Available in a variety of finishes and styles, gel fuel fireplaces can blend in with any home decor. From modern to traditional, black, white or natural hardwood – you’re sure to find the gel fireplace that suits your style.  For even more versatility, opt for a portable fireplace.
  • Alternatives to Gel Fuel Fireplaces: As far as frugal home-heating options go, gel fuel fireplaces aren’t an end-all-be-all. Another viable option for you to consider is a pellet stove. If you’re dead set on having some kind of a fireplace, there are some recessed pellet fireplace inserts available, however pellet stoves are more commonly used. Instead of using gel fuel, gas or wood – pellet stoves burn pellets made from recycled sawdust, wood chips, bark, agricultural crop waste, recycled paper or other organic materials. Pellet stoves have a much higher combustion rate than wood stoves or gas fireplaces and are the cleanest of all solid fuel-burning heating appliances. Most pellet stoves have an average heat output of between 8,000 to 90,000 BTUs and are suitable for homes, apartments and condos. Unlike gel fuel fireplaces, however, most pellet stoves require electricity to power several internal fans. Pellet stoves may also cost more for you to in maintenance and repairs.

However you decide to heat your home this winter, just make sure that you read all of the installation instructions carefully and try and purchase a product with a good warranty. The last thing you want is to be stuck without heat when it’s cold outside!

Photo courtesy of CSN Fireplaces


  1. Given that home heating costs are often tied to the price of oil, I think that heating costs will be going down this year. Anyone using natural gas, heating oil, propane, etc. will likely see a decrease in costs compared to last year. Anyone using wood, coal, electricity, etc. – it’s hard to say what will happen.

  2. Interesting… I have been thinking about installing a fireplace in the upstairs bedroom suite, both for heating and to increase my property value. I hadn’t heard of gel fuel fireplaces. It will certainly be something to look into!

  3. My mom purchased an electric fireplace to replace her gas one last year, and it was the best thing she could’ve done. She has it in her family room, where she spends most of her time. She’s able to keep the thermostat at about 65 degrees all day, and only turns it up a bit when she goes to bed. She estimates that it probably saved her close to $500 last year alone, and the unit itself only cost her about $200.

  4. I have never heard of a Gel fuel fireplace. I have all Electric and was trying to find something for this winter when the electricity goes out, which it does once or twice every year.Thank you for this idea.

  5. I had never heard of the gels either – so this was interesting reading. At only 2.5-3 hrs per can? of gel, that won’t get you thru the night tho??

    Gotta say, I LUV my woodstove tho! So far, all my wood has been free for the hauling, and I hope to keep it that way…. You know firewood warms you twice – once in the cutting/gathering and once in the burning 🙂

    Speaking of which, it’s time to bring some more in 🙂

  6. Does anyone know if there is an odor with a gel stove? I am highly sensitive to scents, and that would be a huge factor in purchasing one.

  7. Wow! I don’t think I had heard of this before. Our house stays pretty warm, but I love to use space heaters in the common areas to help so we can turn the heat down a bit.

  8. How much does 3000BTUs heat? My wife found a 3-can insert that goes in an existing fireplace that comes with 24 cans for under $200. A replace case of 24 costs $79. That means that’s almost $10 for 2.5 hours of 9000BTUs. If you use it once a day, you’ll need a new case before the the week is up. And once the fire is out, I can’t imagine that the room will stay warm for very long afterward.

    I think we’re going to take the advice for another article and cook more with the oven during the winter and offset our increased gas prices with leftovers.

    I do see, however, how it will be good to have if the power goes out in the winter again.

  9. I have considered purchasing gel cans for a back-up when the electricity is off (heat pump). I would use it in a 300 sq. ft area with standard ceilings. Does anyone know to how figure the BTU’s and number of cans needed for a 3 day emergency? The needed temperature is 52-64F.


  10. By this calculation, (1) 3000 BTU can of gel fuel will heat approximately 88-132 sq ft. So a single can could heat a 8×10 room for 2.5 hours I guess. That’s great if the power went out. But I really don’t want to pay $80/case a week for these things on a regular basis.

  11. I have two gel fireplaces, and I love them. However, no way are they economical. The cans last 2 1/2 hours (tops) and cost $3.00 a piece. And actually, they put out 3000 btu’s per can, so if you burn 3 cans, you’ll get 9000 btu’s.

  12. No matter what anyone says (especially the “Frugal Dad”), gel fuel fireplaces are for AMBIANCE — they will NOT noticeably warm a room or give off enough heat to offset the price of the gel cans. Even if you follow the recipe and make your own, they won’t. It is deceptive and unethical to advise people that they will…even more so when you consider that a cash-strapped parent might be considering whether or not this is a viable alternative to paying a $200/mo. natural gas bill.

    I mean, really, Frugal Dad, why don’t you just set up a scam that promised to have one delivered if they wire you the money? Or, better yet, tell them that you a the king of gel can city and need their money to pay for the legal fees barring the release of your gel can inheritance?

    This is NOT a home heating alternative. Not in any way. Not at ALL!!!

    This is decorative and offers a little ambiance. To claim otherwise is deceptive and unconscionable.

    • Instead of gel fuel, we burn 71% isopropyl alcohol. Puts off a tremendous amount of heat…in fact, it heats an otherwise very cold dining room in our house from 54 to 72 degrees in less than hour.

  13. I have one in my living room and it works great. I actually too the metal box about of the frame and installed it in a wall in my condo. It really does warm a room for a few hours. I keep it very cool in my place (I Live in the northeast) If its 63 by the time I have this fireplace one for an hour or two it will go up to 70 with out me turning up the heater.

  14. We received a gel fireplace for Christmas and really do love it. It’s main purpose is for “ambience”. The gel cans are expensive and we are attempting to make our own; still experimenting with difference recipes and some are more successful than others. Our home (like a lot of people)does not have a built-in wood or gas fireplace, so that’s not even a consideration when the electricity goes out in the dead of winter. It’s -13 degrees here in Kansas and our gel heating fireplace could keep us from freezing to death in such an emergency!!

  15. We received our Gel fireplace today. Though we plan to only use it during power outages, we gave it a 3 canister burn (9000BTUs)just to try it out. We mounted it on the wall in our livingroom. Prior to lighting it I turned our electric heat pump down to 69 degrees and it was 70 in our 10×15 livingroom. Two hours later the heat pump had not kicked on once and it was 77 in our livingroom with the thermostat being on the opposite side of the room from the fireplace. As for burn time on the canisters: one lasted 2 hours 45 minutes, the other two went 2 hours 53 minutes. The brand we had purchased suggested a 2 1/2 to 3 hour burn time. Call me impressed and slightly more relieved if we have another 14 hour power outage like we did earlier this winter.

  16. i have a request to supply gel for stoves in South Africa to thousands of homes. who can help me?

  17. We bought 2 fireplaces and use the home made gel in them. They do add ambience and comfort but they also add warmth to each of the rooms that we have them in. We didn’t expect them to heat the rooms and that is not what we bought them for but our electric bill has gone down some from last year at this time. Loving our added coziness!