Gel Fuel and How to Make it
Gel Fuel -- Gel Fires
Gel fuel is a relatively new substance, and its possibilities are really intriguing to me, especially since it's so easy to learn how to make gel fuel. Gel fuel is an alcohol-based product that doesn't give off smoke or odor, or at least no odors that are toxic or noxious. It's primary use is in fireplaces, but it has uses in catering or any other indoor event where odorless fire could be helpful. The applications for gel fuel are pretty amazing. When I first heard about it I was excited to try it out. And being a nerd at heart, I wanted to learn how to make gel fuel and see how it compared with the real stuff, which I've written a section about below. But the greatest thing about gel fuel is that you're able to install a fireplace that doesn't need a vent? Check out the pictures below.
Best and Cheapest Gel Fuel
Gel fuel can be fairly expensive, especially for the top brands. Below, I've left you a video and links to the supplies for how to make gel fuel yourself, but if you're not interested in that and just want a good gel fuel at a cheap price, I've left you two products below. One is to individual cans of gel fuel that burn for three hours each, and another is to an interesting product called pourable gel fuel, which you can use to refill your cans of gel fuel. Pourable gel fuel is actually quite a bit cheaper due to the fact that you're refilling your old canisters and that it doesn't generally seem to burn for quite as long. But for the cost, it can't be beat.
How to Make Gel Fuel
Before we talk about how to make gel fuel, I was recently informed by my friend Greg that burning 91% isopropyl alcohol lasts almost as long as the gel fuel solution itself. It's true that it's a bit more dangerous because of the viscosity of liquid isopropyl alcohol, but for the ease, it might be worth it. So if you don't want to go through the hassle of making gel fuel, check out just burning 91% isopropyl alcohol. Just be careful!!!
One of the best things about gel fuel is its simplicity. Gel fuel can be made safely at home and ready for use. Just like wax candles, gel fuel can be created in large quantities for those who don't want to spend the coin. It's combustible property is the isopropyl alcohol content, also known as rubbing alcohol. It generally sells for about $1 per quart so it's very economical. You'll also need a thickening agent to turn the rubbing alcohol into a gel. There's some debate on what the best thing to use for this is. Some have said that soy wax will do the trick. But more people seem to like a substance called calcium acetate, which can actually also be made at home pretty easily from common household items. Watch the video to see how.
How to Make Gel Fuel Video
Gel Fuel Supplies From the Video
99% isopropyl alcohol, if you can't find it in the grocery store.
Here's the text explanation from the video. If you take normal chalk in powder form, and take approximately 4 parts grocery store white vinegar to 1 part chalk and mix them together, the result will be that the chalk, which is calcium carbonate, and the vinegar, which is acetic acid, will combine to create carbon dioxide, which will evaporate away, and calcium acetate, which will be left over.
In the above video, I used 1/2 a cup of white vinegar, 1/8 cup of chalk, and mixed them together thoroughly. After that, I let 1/2 to 2/3rds of the water evaporate away through heating it in the oven at 200 degrees for about 3 hours. Then, taking the rest of the mixture, I measured how much isopropyl alcohol I would need to add in order to make the solution 9 parts isopropyl alcohol to 1 part calcium acetate/water. Once you have it measured out, adding the alcohol will cause the solution to quickly begin to gel on its own. Stir the solution to mix all of the alcohol with the calcium acetate and water mixture.
The total compound must be 90% alcohol or else it won't burn very well. Depending on whether you bought your calcium acetate or made it at home, you'll either have to add water or not. If you have dry calcium acetate, you'll need to combine 2 parts water to every 3 parts calcium acetate and stir them until the substance is dissolved. But either way, as long as the final substance is 90% rubbing alcohol, it should burn great. And just like that, you have your own gel fuel! One extra tip. If you want the gel fuel to crackle just like a normal wood fire, you have to add something to it that will pop when the fire gets to it. Oil and water work very well for this. If you take 1 tsp of oil and 2 tsp of water for each soup can and mix it into the gel, it will make the fire occasionally crackle and pop when it comes across those small pockets of oil and water. It's pretty neat.
Ventless Fireplaces for Gel Fuel
Gel Fuel for Ventless Fireplaces
That first fireplace is pretty neat isn't is? All made possible by gel fuel. I think we're all suckers for a good fire every now and again, especially on a cold night where indoor coziness is required. Gel fuel even crackles like a normal wood burning fire. And one little container of gel fuel burns for about 3 hours. The cool part is, as you can see from the first picture, installing a fireplace for gel fuel doesn't even require demolition or installation to the house. If you get creative, you can build a modern fireplace in a lot of different ways. The greatest thing about ventless fireplaces is that they can be freestanding. There are companies online that sell freestanding ventless fireplaces that sit against the wall and give off the appearance that they're actually a part of the wall itself. These require no installation or demolition whatsoever, and still give off the beauty of a regular fireplace.
But I think the main reason why I like gel fuel is because of the added value it can bring to a home. I'm soon to be in the market for a fixer-uper condo. When I buy it, I'll not only be replacing all the old, rundown aspects, I'll be looking for cheap ways of installing new features to up the property value. And you can be very sure that if it doesn't already have a fireplace, I'll be installing a ventless fireplace for gel fuel use.