At Bio Fires we take safety of our devices really seriously. We started trading in 2002 and being on the market for so many years we have seen a complete evolution of the whole industry - from the very early gel fires (people trying to burn gel fuel in baked beans' tins!) to the more modern and more advanced bio ethanol fuel structures with electronic parts and remote control, available now for commercial use or high end projects.
In the simplest and non-formal terms our approach to safety can be described by saying: "we will never sell a fireplace that we would not be comfortable using in our own homes". However, we understand that this may not be enough to reassure you about the safety of our fires in the face of a developing industry and increased awarness of associated risk. So how does this translate into a more formal and legal language?
The most important point with regards to bio fuel fireplaces is that they produce a REAL FLAME, requiring extra care and attention, understanding of the product and strict following of the instructions. There are no shortcuts here!
All of our products are tested in laboratories for safety of use and most of them have been tested by TÜV Rheinland - the leading international body for the certification of safety and quality for products, services and management systems.
There are currently no safety standards regarding bio ethanol fireplaces in the UK. However, due to the popularity of the fireplaces running on bio ethanol fuel, it is only a matter of time before new regulations and legal requirements will be created to govern the safety of the general public and protect consumers from companies exploiting the gap in the legislation and products that may be dangerous. The most important aspect of the safety of a bio ethanol fireplace is that the product is clearly labelled, clearly described and tested, so that the end user knows how to handle the device safely.
At present in Europe, there are two standards established for safe use of bio ethanol fires: French Norm - AFNOR Ethanol Fireplace Standard NF D35-386 and German Standard DIN 4734-1. In April 2015, a Final Draft of the European Standard for Fireplaces for Liquid Fuels (FprEN 16647:2015 E) was submitted to CEN (European Committee for Standardization) members for a formal vote. This document is not yet a European Standard, it is only distributed for reviews and comments and it may take quite a while before the final version is passed. Once the European Standard gets approved and comes into effect, it will have to be addressed by national legislation of each member country which would apply it as a national standard without any alteration - there are also strict procedures to follow for the national legislation bodies before the standard becomes official in a particular country.
Currently, there is no CE marking available for bio ethanol fireplaces.
[CE marking is a mandatory legal conformity requirement for all products sold within the European Union that fall within the scope of a CE marking directive. By affixing a CE marking to a product and signing the Declaration of Conformity, a product supplier is declaring to the EU authorities that the requirements of all applicable directives have been met. Depending on the directive, involvement of a European Union ‘Notified Body’ may be mandatory for certain types of products.]
At the heart of all standards and norms established for safe production and usage of bio fuel fireplaces (whether fully established or in progress) there are several key points which are worth considering when sourcing your Bio Fire from any manufacturer:
- Safe construction of the actual burner and the whole fireplace (i.e. solid welding of the burner, safety tray for accidental overfilling, the material inside the burner to absorb fuel - if any - should be fixed and specifically suited and tested for thermal strain, firebox - which encases the burner - must be made of non-combustible and thermally protected materials, which are materials classified A2-s1d0 by EN 13501-1, the burner should have a clear indication of maximum fuel level, etc.)
- If the unit features any electronic parts, they must conform with separate standards for electronic devices and be equipped with a relevant CE marking
- The free standing units must be stable (i.e. not wobbly or prone to be knocked off easily).
- The wall hanging units must be secured on the wall by screws rather than loose brackets to prevent unintentional moving / knocking
- The fires should be rigid enough to withhold stability, slight tilting, impact and stress tests
- The fire should be producing no more than 4.5kW of heat and the single burner should not exceed 3L capacity for simple structure tanks
- There are strict guidance rules regarding CO2 emissions and minimum room size requirement (even though no extra ventilation is required, the flame still produces some CO2 and takes oxygen from the air, so by placing a large fireplace in a small room you are depriving yourself of the necessary oxygen supply; this could be potentially dangerous)
- There should be clear hazard warning signs on the unit
- The fire must be safe to use in accordance with supplied detailed user instructions
- User instructions should detail any possible dangerous situation, advise on how to handle them and list all the precautions which the user is obliged to obey when operating the fireplace. In particular, huge importance is put on labelling and warning customers NOT TO REFILL A BURNING OR HOT FIREPLACE.
At Bio Fires, we are actively engaged in closely monitoring all of the national and international regulations regarding fireplaces running on bio ethanol fuel and we are constantly looking at ways of improving our products wherever they can be improved. A vast majority of our products already follow the general guidance laid out in the final draft of the European Standard (still in progress) and we are working to implement the slight adjustments to be - according to our abilities - in line with what is considered a safe bio ethanol fireplace.
A large part of the norms created for bio fuel fires is aimed to stop the dangerous practice of unsupervised engineering of complex electronic devices running on bio ethanol fuel. The simplest structure fireplaces, when manufactured in a safe environment and laboratory tested, are often the most reliable when used according to the instructions.
The manufacturers of bio ethanol fireplaces will be expected to take greater care in inspecting their production as well as labelling the products themselves and making sure that the instructions manual provides all the necessary safety precautions. At present, the lack of regulation is leaving a lot of these things completely at the manufacturer's discretion, so you may often find that very cheap and mass-produced products do not call for the much needed care and attention when using the fireplaces or burners. When buying fires from an unknown source, it is often impossible to get in touch with the sellers in case you have any concerns. Do make sure that you buy your fireplace from a reputable company which provides some aftercare and is easily contactable during working hours.
The costs of testing and certification for bio ethanol fireplaces - as for any other products - is very expensive, so as a result of the new EU regulations regarding liquid fuel fireplaces you may observe that the prices of fires will go up quite significantly. Before the EU regulations will become a part of national legislation in the UK, there may be quite a lot of concerns and doubts and confusion regarding bio fuel fireplaces. We may also expect some sensational stories about accidents and supposed dangers of using bio fires. We are sure that tabloids and online media will not miss an opportunity to turn any genuine accident into a drama. Watch out for this and do not let the media deprive you of your own common sense and well-informed opinions.
Of course, bio fires are real fires, if you put your hand in the flame - it will burn you, if you place a tabletop burner next to the net curtain on your windowsill - it will cause a fire and this could be very dangerous, similarly to a situation of causing life threatening danger if you smoke a cigarette while filling your car with petrol. There are numerous dangerous items in our everyday life and as long as we use them according to the instructions and with common sense - no problems occur. Accidents resulting from the end user's negligence or lack of consideration are bound to happen with nearly all electrical and most mechanical devices which we use in our daily life.
What the EU regulations are aiming to change is to limit the situation where accidents are happening due to lack of customer information and simple precautions - like graphic emblems on the actual fireplace. We are in the business of bringing a cosy flame into our customers' households and, as such, it is in our highest interest to support and work with any official body enhancing the safety of bio ethanol fireplaces and - as a result - creating a pleasant, fear-free experience for our buyers.