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Bio-ethanol fireplace for emergency cooking and heating ?
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adam2
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Location: North Somerset

PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2019 6:49 pm    Post subject: Bio-ethanol fireplace for emergency cooking and heating ? Reply with quote

Many vendors are offering decorative heating appliances that burn ethanol fuel indoors.
This fuel burns very cleanly and requires no flue.

I can not recommend regular use of such appliances, the running cost is greater than electricity, moisture is added to the air, and there must be some fire risk. I am also very doubtful about the environmental costs of producing this fuel and would not wish to use it regularly.

Might however be worth considering as an emergency heat source or means of cooking.
Whilst times are normal, the fuel may be purchased on line and stored against any future emergency.

Various designs of appliance are available, some resemble a solid fuel stove, others resemble an open fire. The later is probably best if cooking is required.
Heat output is stated to be about 2Kw, and is adjustable to a degree.

This might be a useful doom prep for premises without a chimney, or rented property.
Some tenancy agreements prohibit LPG or paraffin appliances, but don't mention bio-ethanol.
Proper care should be taken in storing and handling the fuel.
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Lurkalot



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PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2019 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've seen these discussed elsewhere. Certainly better than the tealights and flowerpots idea that was doing the rounds a while back. . It's not something i've looked into in any great detail as we have a woodburner and a plentiful supply of fuel but one thing did interest me and that is the home production of the fuel. As i say i didn't look too deeply and thus didn't verify this but from what i read it's legal to brew alcohol at home ( i've got several demijohns bubbling away as we speak) but illegal to distill for consumption or use as a road fuel but evidently legal for use in an alcohol stove. Of course energy has to be put in to distill but...
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adam2
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2019 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I cant recommend the regular use of bioethanol for heating as it is more expensive than electricity and therefore a bit pointless when electricity is available.

Well worth considering however for emergencies.

The home production of fermented drinks such as beer, wine, or cider, is legal provided that the product is not sold.
The home production of distilled spirits, whether for drinking or for fuel is against the law in the UK and most other places.
Apart from the illegality, home production of ethanol fuel is unlikely to make sense. Some fuel is used in the initial fermentation and significant fuel is used to heat a still. It would in most circumstances be more sensible, and certainly be a lot simpler to use this fuel directly for heating or cooking.

After TEOTWAWKI, producing distilled spirits for drinking might be tempting, but is still unlikely to be viable for heating or cooking.

Ethanol sold for purposes other than drinking must be rendered non potable, since otherwise it would be a source of very cheap vodka.
Ethanol intended for fuel often has a little petrol added as this renders it undrinkable without impairing the burning properties.
Petrol, or some similar material also results in the mixture burning with a yellow flame. Yellow flames are more attractive for domestic heating and are also safer due to being visible.
Pure ethanol burns with a blue flame that is almost invisible in well lit surroundings.
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Little John



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PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2019 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stills do not use significant amounts of fuel. If they did, the water would evaporate off with the ethanol. I know this cos I... erm... have a mate who distills his own moonshine.
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Lurkalot



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From what i read if we are talking legality then an individual can produce up to 2500 litres of bio fuel or rather bio diesel from vegetable oil for use in road vehicles or heating systems. That same figure crops up for the amount of alcohol that can be distilled but there it gets a bit more of a grey area to me as it can't be legally used as a road fuel or for consumption. There also doesn't seem to be any limit on the amount that can be stored as there is with petrol as far as i can see.
I tend to agree with adam in that alcohol stoves are not a serious option where cheaper electricity is available . Useful as a short term emergency fuel or for camping trips and the like. I've never tried distilling so can't comment on the amount of fuel used in that process although i do wonder if solar stills could be utilised to make the process more efficient.
Having seen the field adjacent to myself grown with maize which went for biofuel i do have worries about the whole food for fuel thing. For a doom prep i also have doubts that alcohol would have a role as fuel . Useful for bartering but far to complicated a process just to burn when trees could be chopped down and burnt instead.
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kenneal - lagger
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 3:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lurkalot wrote:
.........Having seen the field adjacent to myself grown with maize which went for biofuel i do have worries about the whole food for fuel thing. .......


When the US first went for ethanol as a road fuel a few years ago the price of corn in Mexico jumped considerably apparently. Didn't go down well there.
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adam2
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree, and would not wish to regularly use bioethanol fuel due to the environmental and food supply concerns.
I would worry less about a "one off" purchase of perhaps 50 liters as an emergency stash, and the use of say 1 liter a year for test or practice purposes.
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Little John



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lurkalot wrote:
From what i read if we are talking legality then an individual can produce up to 2500 litres of bio fuel or rather bio diesel from vegetable oil for use in road vehicles or heating systems. That same figure crops up for the amount of alcohol that can be distilled but there it gets a bit more of a grey area to me as it can't be legally used as a road fuel or for consumption. There also doesn't seem to be any limit on the amount that can be stored as there is with petrol as far as i can see.
I tend to agree with adam in that alcohol stoves are not a serious option where cheaper electricity is available . Useful as a short term emergency fuel or for camping trips and the like. I've never tried distilling so can't comment on the amount of fuel used in that process although i do wonder if solar stills could be utilised to make the process more efficient.
Having seen the field adjacent to myself grown with maize which went for biofuel i do have worries about the whole food for fuel thing. For a doom prep i also have doubts that alcohol would have a role as fuel . Useful for bartering but far to complicated a process just to burn when trees could be chopped down and burnt instead.
I would think it highly likely you could run a still on renewable power. The heat required is not that high. I don;t know what the actual specific number involved are. But, I can tell you that... my mate... uses a single flat, electric freestanding hotplate of the kind you often see campers using. It is set on the very lowest heat setting. But, with a thermostat connected to the still to cut off the power to the hotplate as soon as the required operating temperature of the still's contents is reached. Once the required temperature is reached, the hotplate spends more time off than it does on during the process of distilling.
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adam2
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The hotplate is probably in the region of 1000 watts, or an average of a few hundred watts as it cycles on and off.
I doubt that the ethanol produced contains much more energy than that consumed by the hotplate.
Rather pointless as a source of fuel in most circumstances, but worth considering if you have a surplus of renewable energy at times and want a stock of ethanol for some need that cant be satisfied otherwise.

I strongly advise against home ethanol distillation for fear of both prosecution and explosions.
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Little John



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

adam2 wrote:
The hotplate is probably in the region of 1000 watts, or an average of a few hundred watts as it cycles on and off.
I doubt that the ethanol produced contains much more energy than that consumed by the hotplate.
Rather pointless as a source of fuel in most circumstances, but worth considering if you have a surplus of renewable energy at times and want a stock of ethanol for some need that cant be satisfied otherwise.

I strongly advise against home ethanol distillation for fear of both prosecution and explosions.
My mate does not produce it to put it in the car

Last edited by Little John on Sun Nov 24, 2019 8:37 pm; edited 1 time in total
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adam2
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am very doubtful indeed about the legality of ethanol distillation for use in a car.

AFAIK it is the distillation itself that is illegal, whether for use in a vehicle or for any other purpose.

It is possible to obtain a licence to distill potable spirits or fuel, the conditions are strict and cant be realistically be satisfied in a private home.
Conditions include giving HM customs and excise keys to the premises in order that they may inspect without notice at any hour of day or night.

For non potable spirits such as motor fuel, there are strict regulations regarding adulterating the product (often with naphtha or petrol) to render it non drinkable. Certain parts of the machinery and processing have to be locked or sealed to prevent any ethanol being diverted as cheap vodka before the adulteration.
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Little John



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry Adam. My post should have read that my mate does NOT distill it for the car. He makes moonshine. And, on that, the economics are exceptionally favorable. Especially so given that he freeze fractionates it in a domestic freezer to around 30% ABV before he even needs to distill it in the usual way.
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clv101
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been wondering about using bio-fuels (ethanol or bio-diesel) in a generator for emergency or short term electricity supply. Can a regular small petrol or diesel generator run on ethanol or bio-diesel? Can that fuel be bought locally? What are the storage issues? Can it be made at home?

We get 100% of our electricity from solar PV. Which 95% of the time is absolutely fine, but occasionally there's a long spell of thick/low cloud over winter that knocks our generation down to under 1kWh a day. After a few days like that it would be nice to recharge the batteries, say ~2kW for 5 hours, with a generator running on a low carbon fuel, ideally locally or domestically produced.

Anyone know of this being done?
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vtsnowedin



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Straight ethanol needs different carburation then a petrol engine. You would not be able to switch fuels without modifying the engine. With old style it was a matter of changing the jets and needle valves but I'm not sure what you would have to do to presently produced small engines.
For bio diesel you have to of course have a diesel engine which few small generators have. The exception being the work generators on construction sites which run night lights and message boards. Even the message boards are now mostly solar powered but there are a lot of one cylinder diesel generators still out there in use. Another problem you will have with bio-diesel derived from animal fats and vegetable oil is that in cold temperatures where you would need it most it tends to gel up much faster then straight diesel.
That reminds me I need to go get five gallons of Kerosene to add to my tractors tank before the next cold spell. That will thin the diesel in the tank so it will not gel up down to 20 below F.
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woodburner



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

clv101 wrote:
I've been wondering about using bio-fuels (ethanol or bio-diesel) in a generator for emergency or short term electricity supply. Can a regular small petrol or diesel generator run on ethanol or bio-diesel? Can that fuel be bought locally? What are the storage issues? Can it be made at home?

We get 100% of our electricity from solar PV. Which 95% of the time is absolutely fine, but occasionally there's a long spell of thick/low cloud over winter that knocks our generation down to under 1kWh a day. After a few days like that it would be nice to recharge the batteries, say ~2kW for 5 hours, with a generator running on a low carbon fuel, ideally locally or domestically produced.

Anyone know of this being done?


Figures from about 10 years ago, in the UK, 50% of rape oil went for “bio-diesel”, an area the size of Yorkshire of the wheat crop went for “bio-ethanol”. The best figures of EROEI at the time was around 1.1:1. A huge amount of land being used to effect a 10% saving (at best). Hardly justifies a position of “low carbon” fuel. Or perhaps palm oil - the well reputed eco-saviour - should be added to the mix. But how was the fuel produced? Maybe from natural gas? better to convert a petrol powered generator to LNG. Methanol made mostly from natural gas.
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