Portable ethanol burners (Decorative alcohol fuelled burners)

This page is for: 
Consumer

Decorative alcohol fuelled burners 

Certain decorative alcohol fuelled devices are the subject of a national interim product safety ban for 60 days from 17 March 2017. The ban applies to all tabletop devices and to certain freestanding devices that do not have specified safety features and warnings.

Portable decorative ethanol burners have been banned for sale in Western Australia and other Australian states and territories since 21 December 2016. 

The ban excludes burners which:

  • require installation in a fixed position (e.g. fireplaces),
  • have a power output of more than 4.5kW, or
  • are used for warming food.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has now reviewed the incident data and after consultation with suppliers has proceeded with a national interim ban.

The ban also excludes freestanding devices with a dry weight of at least eight kilograms, a footprint of at least 900 square centimetres and are:

  • designed to reduce the risk that they will be refuelled when lit by having a fuel tank that must be removed for refuelling and permanently display this warning:
    • WARNING
      Filling an alcohol fuelled device while lit has caused severe burns. You must remove the fuel tank from the device before refilling.
      When refilling first check the flame is extinguished and that the device is cool.

and/or

  • supplied with a fuel container that incorporates a flame arrestor to protect the user if they attempt to refuel the device while it is still lit and permanently display this warning:
    • WARNING
      Filling an alcohol fuelled device while lit has caused severe burns.  When refilling only use containers with a flame arrestor.
      When refilling first check the flame is extinguished and that the device is cool. 

The action follows more than 100 reported injuries and 115 fire incidents since 2010. In October 2016, a 28 year old Perth woman suffered serious burns to her face and upper body after an ethanol burner exploded in the backyard of a Safety Bay home. This was closely followed by two people being injured on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in an ethanol burner accident.

These burners are especially dangerous when they are being re-fuelled. When the fuel is low, the flame can appear blue or clear, making it difficult to see. Re-fuelling when a flame is present or the device is still warm can lead to an explosion.  There is also a risk of the burner being knocked over by children or pets and causing serious burns to people nearby as well as damage to property.

The national interim ban applies to devices designed for domestic use producing a flame using alcohol as fuel. The burners are primarily decorative but are also sold for heating and display purposes.  The fuel is typically ethanol in liquid or (less commonly) gel form.  The most common form is methylated spirits (ethanol and around 10 per cent methanol) which may also be marketed as bio-ethanol or eco-fuel. 

Caution is still strongly recommended in the use of ethanol fireplaces that require installation in a fixed position.

Retailers and online traders based in WA must not offer the banned products for sale, whether in store or online. There are tough penalties for selling banned products with individuals facing a maximum fine of $220,000 and corporations facing a maximum fine of $1.1 million

Consumers who have an ethanol-fuelled burner in their home should stop using it immediately.  In most cases, if these products are determined to be unsafe and are permanently banned, they will be able to be returned to the retailer for a full refund. Please see the FAQs below, which will be updated when new information is available.

Dr Fiona Wood explaining the dangers for ethanol burners. 

Share this page:

Last modified: