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I would also like to know where to buy calcium acetate. It's absolutely freezing cold tonight in my attic loft in frigid Minnesota. But I'm staying nice and warm with my gel fuel fireplace. I'm experimenting with 70% isopropol alcohol because I'm out of gel fuel. I have the carbon monoxide detector plugged in right above the fireplace and it's reading 0. The flames look better than the gel fuel and 2 cans are putting off plenty of heat. Whenever I use the fireplace I crack a window - and this freezing night is no exception. For me a little fresh air ventilation is mandatory. I threw some scented candle pieces into the cans with the alcohol and I'm getting a nice crackle and I always burn a little Cedar or Pine wood incense to add to the effect. So cozy. Sigh........


Does anyone know if it makes any difference if you use lined or unlined empty replacement pint cans? The local hardware store has both, slightly different prices, but definitely cheaper than having them shipped. Since the fuel is quite expensive I'd like to extend the refill bottles of fuel. I burn lots of candles in clear containers for ambiance between fires. Not quite the same, but very cost effective!!


for Marion, I bought several things from and they are awesome. They are an online store and I have never needed to phone them. Everything is done in writing ( better anyways) but they ship so fast!




i found calcium acetate at 500 g for 49.23, you can order online. i have not tried this yet as i am pleased with the 70% alcohol burn.
i have been burning the 70% alcohol and it is great, no headaches, no noticeable odor. i also burn scented candles and that may mask any minimal odor fron the alcohol, no problems with getting it started/lit, better flame than the gel fuel, much less expensive, and easily obtained at stores.


I also have been experimenting w/ different recipes for gel fuel--trying to determin the 'organic material' that causes the gelling and am wondering if it is some type of dessicant--silica gel or calcium chloride. haven't tried yet, any thoughts?


Well people after having my gel fuel fireplace for three years I
read it all and bought most of the brands of gel fuel. I have tried the do it yourself mixtures too. I have a smoke and co2 detectors very close to the fireplace and only once did the smoke detector go off. I got a large flame and it lasted one hour only because i used,which is better,a used sterno can.It's only half the size of the gel fuel can. The size and shape of the can is the secret. You may have to fill it more often unless you can find a large sterno can. The sterno can has a wide lip at the opening which cuts back on the oxygen entering the can so it slows the consumption of the 91% alcohol.
I use 91% because after reading that the hotter the flame the less co2s are. I burns off most of the bad stuff you put into the air. I have asthma and we use this in our basement family room
and I have had NO problems. If I could find a can the size as the gel fuel cans I'm sure they would last 2+ hours. The 70% alcohol worked but the flame was low and more blue. It also made alittle smell once in a while which set off the smoke alarm. I hope this was helpful to all. As with any bussiness you will talk down anything that's taking away your sales. As for the cost. It's much cheaper.


Does anyone know anything about ethanol fireplaces, and more specifically, do they actually provide heat? Do they also sometimes cause headaches since they are not vented? I saw a wall-mounted ethanol fireplace on HGTV's Divine Design, and then did a search online. There are several companies that make them, and they seem ideal for apartments and condos, but I've never seen one.


The following website has gel in a bottle for a very low price. A case of 12 bottles @ 30oz each will fill up 27 empty cans (12 bottles x 30oz= 360 oz, divided by 13oz(empty can) = 27 times you can light your fire)
Sunjel Alcohol Fuel Refill - 30 oz. Bottle
Price: $5.29


As far as the ethanol fireplaces I don't know how much heat they produce but the fuel is around $10 a liter, 1 liter burns for 2-5 hours. Another site says the heat output is 12,000 to 16,000 BTU of Heat. 1 Quart will burn 1.5 to 3 hours (here a quart is just under $10). My fireplace holds 3 cans, if I put about 10 ounces of isopropyl alcohol in each that is $1.56 for a 2 hour fire.
At the northlineexpress website each bottle is $5.29 so that is 17 cents an ounce (plus shipping unless your order is over $100) Menards carries real flame for under 19 cents an ounce.


Here is my experience. I started burning 70% IPA in a soup can. Then I switched to 91% IPA ($1.24) and in the soup can it lasted 2 hours. Then I compared burning 91% IPA in the Pint size paint container (same as Sunjel) which holds 32oz of IPA versus the soup can 16 oz. I found the soup can again burned for 2 hours and the pint can burned for 3.5 hours. That was interesting. For kicks, I poured the 91% IPA into a glass container. I wanted to see the level of the IPA and the flame as the level of the IPA goes down. I thought, since it burns clean, it would not blacken the glass container. Not the case. The inside of the glass was all black. It cleaned off but wasn't as I was hoping. Anyone have any experience with glass?

Mel Klinge

I purchased a gel fuel fireplace a couple of years ago when the fuel was around $55.00 a case. The gel fuel concept was a great idea to start with and it' shame that the makers have taken to price gouging. i think they are going to kill the market.
I have not read every post on this web site so maybe this is old news, but I found this formula once somewhere on the Web. I have not tried it myself but it look promising.
Make Your Own Gelled Alcohol Fuel - Canned Heat

Extreme do it yourselfers can make their own gelled fuel at home with by mixing alcohol and calcium acetate (C4H6CaO4).

The following instructions and measurements are from the Montville High School Science Departmental.

1. Add 25g of crushed chalk or egg shells (calcium carbonate-CaCO3) to 100ml of vinegar (water and acetic acid - CH3CO2H) and stir for about 5 minutes.
This should produce carbon dioxide (CO2), calcium acetate (C4H6CaO4) and water (H2O) plus leave you with some left over chalk (CaCO3). If you are guessing on how much chalk to add, just make sure that there is a little extra after 5 minutes of stirring.

2. Remove the excess chalk by filtering your mix through some filter paper (coffee filter or napkin can be used). Set a funnel in a jar, place your filter in it and pour your suspension through it.

3. Mark the level of your solution in its container and allow your solution to evaporate off about half that volume to remove the excess water.
Place your solution in an oven set on low heat or place it out in the sun to dry. If you went to far - just add the missing water.
Note - if you like, you can dry out your solution completely and store the remaining dried calcium acetate for future use.

4. If your solution isn't already in the container you want your gel in, then pour it in there now.

5. Add 30ml of alcohol (ethanol, methanol, or isopropanol) to your solution and watch the gel form. Do not stir.

6.Once the reaction in complete, pour off any extra fuel.


Has anyone used denatured alcohol? How do you light the alcohol?


I purchased a gel fireplace just before Christmas and I love it. I have found a good and relatively inexpensive source for gel fuel. Go to and search for "hearth fuel". It is about $35 for 4 one gallon bottles. (The caned fuel is $80 for a case and that equates to about 1.5 gallons.) I use this to refill the cans. This uses an ethanol alcohol instead of Isopropyl so it doesn't have such a strong odor when you open the container. The flame isn't as yellow as some of the canned fuel but otherwise burns the same, it crackles and has about a 2-3 hour burn time. I have been using this for over a month with no problems and my carbon monoxide detector constantly reads 0 parts per million. Hope this helps everyone.


To Mel
I just purchased a case for 67 bucks. That is not a bad increase from a couple of years ago. Again the Sunjel brand is the only fuel gel on the market which is ULC approved. They do extensive studys on the safety of the environment with their brand. Along with making sure it is safe for the consumer. There is a big safety question mark when people brew up their own batches because they are so cheap. I have said it before to people that if you can't afford to run it properly then maybe you made a bad decision to purchase it.


I just tried burning 91% IPA over the weekend...worked wonderfully and turns out to be about a third of the price of the gel fuel. In fact, the flames actually looked more real and seemed to burn oven hotter (the hotter part is a maybe, but they definitiely looked much better the gel fuels I have tried). The only draw-back is that the 91% IPA seemed to give off more moisture/humidity than the gel fuels I have tried. Anyone else notice this? I have not tried 70% IPA yet, as I feel this will give off even more moisture.


Does anyone know of a resource to purchase %70 isopropyl alcohol in gallon containers? It only runs
$6.80 per gallon at Walmart but you have to buy
it by the quart and I thought gallon containers would
be easier. I did run across it at a Tractor Supply but
the gallon container was over $12!

Gary McLellan

To the lady that asked about gel vs electric fireplaces, here's the stats...electric is typically 1500 watts, producing 5000 btu's. It costs about 20 cents an hour to use, much less if you only use the "flame effect". Electric does not produce as realistic a flame as gel (no crackling), but, they are much more realistic then they were a few years ago. They are also odorless. Gel fireplaces create a much truer sensation of burning wood (minus the wood smell. It takes 2 cans of gel to get 5000 btu's, and even if you pay only $2.00 a can, it will cost $1.18 more per hour to equal the heat of an electric fireplace. So, for pure ambiance, gel wins. For cost of use, electric is much cheaper. IMHO, both are viable options, if a real fireplace isn't.


i am trying to get gel fuel shipped to hawaii. does any one knwo the chemical name for it or better yet the UN number and packing group?



well, the gel fireplace arrived yesterday! so, i've been reading this website at length. i've put 70% alcohol in an old soup can and it worked!! i'm going to try to mix 70% alcohol with the sunjel to see if it lasts longer.

but, i live alone in my own condo, so for me, the 70% alcohol isn't a problem. i'll save the sunjel for special events...

also, i've noticed the 70% alcohol burns slower than the 91%, but the 91% burns brighter and hotter...i put the 91% and the sunjel in the same fireplace and noticed the 91% alcohol burned more like a REAL fire...but i haven't tried the candle wax yet...i'll keep you posted.


Real Flame Premium Fireplace Gel Fuel - 24 pk 13oz
Sams Club (online)
$56 plus shipping


Can gel fuel cans be used in a fake fireplace? Any special fireproofing needed?


To Mrs. Fig-

Using the gallons of ethanol sounds cheaper, but are the flames warm? This is my alternate heat source.



To Karen: yes, you need a fireproof box -- they come with ventless fireplaces, I don't know if you can buy them separately. The fire gets quite hot and there is a little bit of black soot.


First off, hi kids, interesting blog. Let's start by NOT being afraid of 70% or any ISP alcohol. ALL the gel fuels list this as their main component...It's jellied alcohol just like napalm was jellied avgas, only this comes without a war. Also for those of us that have houses in CA less than 10 years old they're required to use gas only fireplaces so we've gotten over the need for a crackle. Want to make a really cool flamey thing for any room in the house? You can sort of start with what's sold on the internet but extremely overpriced so do it your self. Take a tapered outdoor pot about 10" in diameter at the top. It can be glazed, flowered, plain whatever as long as it's baked pottery. Find a food product witha 20-240z capacity, eat it and save the can. Remove the label and spray paint it black both inside and out. Place it in the middle of your pot (you may have to raise it so it's even with the top of your ceramic pot (sand works great). Now fill the space between the two with sand, pebbles, marbles, glass rocks, etc. This inside can should be about 4" in diameter. Now eat something in a 150z. can, chili, soup, corn, whatever, and this is your burner and easily replaceable. Place it in the center of the other can. At a garden store they sell 8" steel or iron pot rings that mount to the wallwith the ring about 5-6' away from the wall itself...plenty safe. Mount one to the wall, especially under a mirror is great, stick your thingywhtzits inside, fill the inner can with fuel and bingo! A mini fireplace thing that's pretty unique. If you insist on overpaying for some of the stuff on line, I recommend Crackling Flame, totally oderless compared to Sungel. I mix in a gallon disposable water jug about 1 can to 128 oz. of 70% alcohol, shaken really good. Next time we'll talk about the $400.00 wall mount fireplace they sell on ebay.

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