Determining the Duration of Gel Fuel for Your Fire Feature: A Comprehensive Guide

The duration of gel fuel can last up to 3 hours for 13-15oz cans and 1 ½ hours for 7oz cans when used indoors or outdoors without wind, rain, or snow.

To preserve the fuel, you can put out the flame and reattach the lid to save as much gel as possible.

The cans can be stored for up to a year before starting to lose their potency.

Gel fuel is a popular invention that has been around for decades.

This type of fuel is used in specially designed fireplaces that fit the cans the fuel comes in.

However, a case of 12 cans of gel fuel can cost up to $70, which makes it quite expensive.

Before investing in this type of fuel, it would be helpful to know more about its effectiveness and how long it would last.

To learn more about this convenient source of heat in a can, continue reading below to find out the maximum temperature a can can reach and if cans have an expiration date.

A close up of alcohol gel fuel burning underneath the pot measuring the duration of gel fuel.

Related Reading: Investigating the Heating Power of Gel Fuel Fireplaces: Effective or Not

Duration of Gel Fuel

Gel fuel typically burns for a consistent duration of 3 hours per can.

However, the duration of the burn may vary depending on the brand you use.

For your convenience, I placed affiliate links on the gel fuel canisters highly recommended.

Real Flame, for example, burns for 3 hours per 13oz can while Terra Flame or Sun Jel burns for 3 hours per 15oz can. If you opt for the smaller 7oz cans, they will burn for approximately 1 ½ hours.

The amount of time that firewood takes to burn can vary, especially when used in nature.

In general, firewood burns for around 3 hours when used in a fireplace in a house with closed windows.

However, according to NavajoCode, their firewood can burn for up to 4 hours.

Related Reading: 13 Pros and Cons of Gel Fuel Fireplaces by Navajo Code

If you use gel fuel outdoors, the duration of the fuel may be affected by certain weather conditions such as strong winds, rain, or snow.

On such days, you may not be able to use the entire three hours reducing the duration of gel fuel.

Additionally, there is a risk of the fuel getting blown out, which can lead to problems that will be explained in detail in the “Can Gel Fuel be Relit” section.

How Hot Does Gel Fuel Burn?

As per the label on the Sun Jel fuel can, it burns at a rate of 3,000 British Thermal Units (BTU) per hour.

Although it may seem like a small amount, it is equivalent to the energy released by a single burning match.

It’s worth noting that 1 BTU is approximately the same amount of energy.

In comparison, a gas fireplace will provide between 8,500 – 60,000 BTUs in the same amount of time, and a wood-burning fireplace will produce energy between 20,000 – 40,000 BTUs.

Giordon Stark, a Ph.D. holder in Physics, has determined that it takes 800 kilojoules of energy to increase the temperature of a room with an area of 30 square meters (or 100 square feet) from 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in about 15 minutes. One kilojoule is equivalent to 1 BTU.

To clarify, if you want to increase the temperature of a room that is 100 square feet by 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you will only require one can of gel fuel.

Knowing the most efficient ways to use the fuel will help with the duration of gel fuel.

However, if you intend to heat a larger area or want to increase the temperature more quickly, you will need to use more cans.

When deciding on a fuel source, it’s essential to consider its cost.

Depending on your location, gas and wood options may be cheaper than other alternatives.

For example, if you burn gel fuel, you need to know that a case of 12 13oz cans costs $70.

If each can burn for three hours, continuously, it would cost you approximately $2 per hour.

Despite not having a chimney, the cans in a fuel-powered fireplace won’t lose any heat as opposed to a wood-burning fireplace.

This means that you don’t have to let the cans burn for as long as you would with wood since the heat isn’t escaping as rapidly.

These cans of fuel will undoubtedly provide all the heat you need to keep warm.

How Does Gel Fuel Work?

Gel fuel was invented around 30 years ago.

It works similarly to chafer fuel, which is cans filled with alcohol.

However, the main difference is that chafing liquid requires a wick to be lit, whereas the gel can be lit directly, allowing the alcohol to burn.

Typically, isopropyl alcohol or a combination of alcohols such as isopropyl and ethanol are used, along with a natural thickening agent.

How to use gel fuel.

  1. Remove the label of the can so that it doesn’t catch fire.
  2. Pop off the top.
  3. Either keep the fuel in one can or separate it into multiple can containers to put out more heat faster.
  4. Light the gel fuel.
  5. Smother the flame by dropping the lid onto the top and waiting.

Does Gel Fuel Expire?

Gel fuel has an expiration date, which is usually marked on the cans it comes in.

How long this can stay on the shelf also contributes to the duration of gel fuel.

It’s important to understand not only the duration the gel stays lit but also its shelf life.

Although the cans can still be used after a year in the right conditions, the gel inside will start to lose its consistency and may not burn as cleanly as before.

However, it will still burn.

When the gel has completely turned into a liquid, it has gone bad and should not be used.

You can optimize the shelf life of canned goods by storing them in a cool, dry place such as a basement, garage, or pantry.

Can You Relight Gel Fuel?

You can definitely re-light your gel fuel cans.

To make the most of the alcohol and keep it burning for longer, it’s important to snuff out the fire by putting the lid back on, instead of blowing it out.

You can also use tools that are specifically designed for snuffing out the cans in fireplaces – they’re called gel fuel snuffers.

After snuffing the fire, make sure to put the lid back on to prevent excess alcohol from escaping the can, which will help to extend the life of the gel fuel.

You should avoid blowing out the flame as melted, flaming gel can accidentally spill out of the container and ignite other flammable substances.

Gel Fuel Uses

Gel fuel was initially designed for use in vent-free fireplaces, as it doesn’t extinguish the flame and doesn’t require a connection to gas lines, which makes it possible to place your fireplace anywhere in your home.

However, fuel cans can also serve a variety of other purposes.

These cans make excellent fuel for chafing dishes, which are often used at events to keep food warm in metal trays.

They are popular among casinos, hotels, and caterers due to their odorless and residue-free burning properties.

I’m sure you can imagine that these cans are perfect for providing heat to van travelers and campers alike.

They are incredibly lightweight, usually weighing in at around 13oz or even 7oz, and don’t require any additional fuel.

They are particularly useful for heating tents, as long as you make sure to keep a flap open for oxygen to enter.

This is important for two reasons:

  1. Fires require oxygen to keep burning.
  2. Since fires require oxygen to burn, it is important to ensure a fresh supply of air to prevent hypoxemia when in an enclosed space.

Using canned fuel is incredibly useful for campers as it can be lit instantly without having to worry about the wind extinguishing the flame.

While it’s possible for the cans to be blown out, this should be avoided as it can make it difficult to relight the fuel.

However, when used for cooking, the flame can be protected for the most part with trays, cookware, and the camper’s own body.

In more everyday scenarios, these cans can actually make very decorative fire bowls and lanterns for outside parties and patios.


I mentioned what you need to know about the duration of gel fuel if you’re considering using it as a heating source.

Gel fuel can be a great source for your fire product giving you some flexibility when using the heating device.

There are a few differences in the duration of gel fuel according to the varying manufacturers. However, the overall numbers are negligible when comparing.

You can read the description of the canister cans for duration and costs.

Besides using gel fuel to heat your indoor or outdoor space, you can always use it to keep food hot while entertaining.

This should offer a great overall experience for you and your guests.

Enjoy living the outdoor life!!!