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Decorative alcohol fuelled devices (ethanol burners)

Decorative alcohol fuelled burners, sometimes called ethanol burners, have caused a number of serious burns injuries in Australia.

Ethanol burners, like those pictured below, are designed for domestic use and produce a flame using alcohol as fuel. The devices are primarily used for decoration, although larger models also may provide heating.

There are three common types of ethanol burners, including:

  • table top devices (small, inexpensive devices designed to sit on a table)
  • freestanding devices (larger, heavier and generally more expensive than table top devices)
  • fixed devices, often referred to as ‘fireplaces’ (require installation in a fixed position, and are usually wall-mounted or recessed).

Mandatory safety standard

A new mandatory safety standard, which will prevent the sale of unsafe ethanol burners, commences on 15 October 2017.

Until then, the existing national interim ban continues to apply. Between now and 14 October 2017, suppliers have the option of complying with either the mandatory safety standard or the national interim ban.

The mandatory standard requires ethanol burners to:

  • be a permanent fixture or have a dry weight of at least 8 kilograms and a footprint of at least 900 square centimetres
  • meet the stability test set out in the European standard (available from the SAI Global website)
  • come with a fuel container with a flame arrester or an automatic fuel pump system
  • carry a prescribed warning.

The mandatory safety standard differs from the national interim ban in that the standard:

  • deletes the 4.5 kilowatts test
  • includes the stability test set out in the European standard
  • requires all devices to be supplied with a flame arrester (or a fuel pump)
  • varies the warnings to also refer to deaths.

Sale of ethanol burners

Retailers and suppliers are not permitted to sell ethanol burners, unless they meet the requirements in the mandatory safety standard or the national interim ban. From 15 October 2017, only devices that meet the mandatory safety standard may be sold.

Devices that do not comply they must not be sold, and must be removed from both store shelves and online stores.

Consumers are entitled to a refund for products which:

  • do not meet mandatory safety standards, or
  • were covered by the national interim ban.

Banned ethanol burners can not be resold privately.

Safety advice

If you own an ethanol burner which does not meet mandatory safety standards, we strongly recommend you stop using it.

A safety video, Don’t fuel the fire, shows how easily ethanol burners can go from decorative to dangerous.

When using any ethanol burner, even one covered by the mandatory safety standard, it is vital you follow these safety tips.

Setting up the burner

  • Strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use before setting up and lighting the burner.
  • Keep the instructions in a safe place and within reach.
  • Put the burner on a solid and level surface where it will not be accidentally kicked or bumped.
  • Keep the flame away from combustible materials such as clothes or curtains.
  • Make sure the burner is away from drafts or breeze from open windows and doors or fans.
  • Have an appropriate fire extinguisher nearby.

Using the burner safely

  • Never light a burner that has not been fully assembled.
  • Always use the fuel recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Use a kitchen lighter or long barbecue match to light the burner.
  • Never leave the product unattended while in use, especially if there are children or pets around.
  • Always maintain a safe distance of at least one metre from the burner while it is on.
  • Extinguish the flame when leaving a room or before going to sleep.
  • Make sure the flame is out and the burner has had plenty of time to cool before attempting to move or refuel it.
  • Use a funnel when refilling to prevent spills. If a spill occurs before lighting, wipe it up immediately with paper towel, wash the area with water and wash your hands. Don’t use the burner until all fumes and traces of fuel have left the room.
  • Store fuel in a separate room to the burner.
  • Never throw anything combustible at the burner or into the flame.
  • Never use the burner for cooking.
  • In the case of a fire, use a powder extinguisher or fire blanket to smother the fire. Never use water on an ethanol fire. Water could spread the fire.

Some models have an open flame which can be difficult to see, particularly in daylight, and this creates a risk that someone may think the flame is extinguished and try to refuel or move the device while the flame is still lit.

Community consultation

The Commonwealth Government recently consulted on a long term solution to unsafe decorative alcohol-fuelled devices. The consultation period closed on 21 May 2017. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission are currently preparing advice for the Commonwealth Minister.

Complain or report

Please click on the links below for other types of query or complaint:

Complain about a business

Report an unsafe product

Report a scam

Information for suppliers and retailers

Following a safety warning notice (PDF, 105KB) being issued in 2014, and subsequent investigation (PDF, 250KB), a guide for suppliers (PDF, 150KB) was released.

Last updated
25 January 2018
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