Relaxing in your backyard or on your deck by a glowing fire pit, feet propped up and a delicious beverage in your hand, is the perfect way to spend an evening any time of the year. If you don’t have a fire pit, why not consider a gas fire pit? Installing a gas fire pit adds ambiance to your outdoor decor and creates a cozy space for friends to gather.
In our 2018 Buyer’s Guide, we’ll explore why gas fire pits are so popular and help you decide if you should invest in a gas fire pit for your own backyard.
Interested in portable gas fire pits that won’t break the bank? Check out our 2018 Top 10 Portable Propane Gas Fire Pits Under $200
Gas Fire Pits vs. Wood Burning Fire Pits
As you’re considering whether to invest in a gas fire pit or a wood burning fire pit, the first thing to consider is whether you want a “campfire experience” where you experience the crackle and aroma of real wood. Here are a few things to consider when trying to decide which one’s right for you.
Gas or Wood Burning Fire Pit? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself
- Do you mind cleaning up leftover ashes and burned wood after a real wood burning fire?
- Do you mind the smoke smell that gets on your clothes and in your hair?
- Do you have the time it takes to get a wood fire going?
- Are you allergic to breathing in campfire smoke?
- Does smoke irritate your eyes?
- How good are you at starting a fire and keeping it going?
- Do you have access to real wood on your property?
- Do you mind spending the money to buy real wood?
- Do you have environmental concerns about the smoke emitted by a wood fire?
- Do you have enough space in your backyard for a wood burning fire pit?
If you love having a “campfire experience” with popping embers, crackling logs, the smell of burning wood, and the care it takes to keep the fire going, then a real wood burning fire pit could be just the thing to satisfy your outdoorsy experience and maybe a gas fire pit won’t fit the bill.
On the other hand, if it’s clear from answering the above questions that the real wood experience leaves you feeling overwhelmed, then check out the convenience gas fire pits have to offer.
Gas fire pits don’t require the clean up that real wood burning fire pits need. Clean and efficient, gas fire pits can be turned on and off easily with no mess. Attractive and decorative, gas fire pits add ambiance to any outdoor space. There are costs associated with gas fire pits including purchasing the fire pit, running a gas line, and the expense of the gas you use.
Gas Fire Pits – Pros and Cons
- Easy to light and turn off.
- No smoke or mess to clean up
- Attractive and decorative.
- No real wood aroma.
- Needs gas line and gas.
- More expensive.
Fire Pit Styles
Gas fire pits come in a variety of styles. From modern contemporary to traditional, there’s a gas fire pit to complement every type of outdoor decor. Brick and stone fire pits blend in nicely with natural landscapes while contemporary designs stand out and make a statement.
Grand Canyon Stainless
Types of Gas for Fire Pits
There are two types of gas for gas fire pits, natural gas and liquid propane. Deciding on which fuel to use is simply personal preference. There are aspects of each that could be attractive. Propane is portable so it easy to move around if you decide to change the location of your firepit. Natural gas, on the other hand, uses a gas line attached to your home so the location of your firepit would be permanent.
The cost of natural gas is cheaper than propane, sometimes by a lot and the convenience of having a natural gas line is a plus. With propane gas you have to go to the convenience store or gas station to refill your tank every time you run out. When it comes to efficiency, propane wins since it provides about 2,500 BTUs with the same volume of natural gas providing about 1,000 BTUs.
Natural gas burns cleaner than propane so there’s less soot but the flame may not be as bright
of a yellow color. Also a plus for natural gas, it’s lighter than air so it dissipates quickly which prevents accidental ignition.
Propane vs Natural Gas Fire Pits
So, which type of gas fire pit do you prefer, natural gas or propane? When looking at gas fire pits, one major thing to consider is whether to use propane or natural gas to fuel the fire. Unfortunately there isn’t a straight answer as to which type of gas is better to use but here are a few concerns that customers usually have…
Is one gas safer to use than the other?
Safety is of the utmost importance and gas can sometimes scare people off from using gas fire pits. When used properly, Natural Gas and Propane are totally safe and fire pit friendly. However, between the two gases, Propane is considered more dangerous because it is heavier. Meaning, as Natural Gas rises towards exits (because it is lighter than air), Propane sinks to the ground and collects, leaving the possibility of an explosion. The key is to constantly check for leaks and proper ventilation in the fire pit.
How do the gases differ in price and efficiency?
This question is tough because although Natural gas has been deemed the cheapest of the two gases, Propane has been coined the most efficient gas. Due to these conclusions, one could say that price and efficiency cancel one another out. If you really want to look into how to calculate the price of gas and how much a certain gas burns in an hour, Anderson Fireplace has a great article that lays out exactly how to answer those questions.
Is Propane or Natural Gas more convenient for my fire pit?
It really depends on your home and location of your fire pit. Natural Gas is the best option if you already have gas pipes connected to your home. This is because pipes are the most common way of receiving Natural Gas. If you use Natural Gas, remember that your pit will be stationary because it will be connected to the pipes in your home. Propane is a better choice if you plan to move your fire pit around the deck or yard because it comes in free tanks rather than connected pipe lines. The only downside to the tanks is that refilling them can become a real chore.
Which gas will produce the hottest fire?
Again, this is a question where both gases get the job done, it is just up to your discretion on which to use. Propane is known to burn at hotter temperatures than Natural Gas, however, it doesn’t let as much gas out as Natural Gas does. Therefore, if more Natural Gas is available, the heat of both fires should equal out.
I have a Natural Gas fire pit right now but would like to change to a Natural Gas pit (or vise versa), is that possible?
After researching and learning about the different types of fire pit gases, some people decide that they do want to change the type of gas they use. The only question is, is that even an option? In most cases yes but you need to be sure to read the manual for your fire pit before purchasing or changing anything. There are many kits online that provide the proper and safe tools for the project as well as videos that provide tutorials for how to switch the fire pit.
Check out this video:
- If I want to switch my propane outdoor fire pit to natural gas (or vise versa) could I use the same tools/ methods as you do in the video?
- “You can, however you’ll want to go conservative with the orifice bores because usually BTU ratings are inaccurate and the true equivalency is not accurate as well when it comes down to doing a conversion. I stay away from doing fire pits for this very reason, and you’re likely better off replacing the pit altogether. If you still decide to pursue a conversion, you’ll need to swap the regulator as well. If you subscribe to my channel, you’ll be able to view my video on fuel regulators. Bottom line is that fire pits and gas barbeque log conversions are a huge liability.”
Before you begin your gas fire pit project, make sure the site where your fire pit will be is away from any flammable materials. Even though gas doesn’t emit sparks and embers, the heat generated can melt non-heat resistant surfaces such as plastic.
It’s important to remember that propane does not have color or odor. It’s important to have an air mixer valve and use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid propane from filling the base of your fire pit exploding.
DIY Gas Fire Pits
The easiest way to build a gas fire pit is to purchase a DIY kit with all the materials included to do the project. Most of these type kits have a bowl shaped metal portion that you can install right into the fire pit enclosure. The enclosure can be made from stone, concrete blocks or pavers, or bricks.
Powder coated steel frames sometimes come with a gas fire pit DIY kit. You can buy cement board to attach to the frame and finish off the project by using brick or stone. You can install the burner and add filler such as lava rocks or fire glass pieces. Fire glass add a decorative touch and can be ordered in a variety of colors. The glass holds in and releases heat so more heat is generated than with the lava rocks.
Be sure to only use materials specially designed for use in your gas fire pit. For example, never use regular river rocks or stones since they could explode under high heat conditions, especially if they are holding any water. Make sure your burner works with whatever filler you choose according to manufacturer’s instructions. Whether you choose lava rocks, fire glass, porcelain fireballs or metal logs, find out if they are safe to use with your burner.
The burner on the fire pit is super important to understand. Burners look like a metal tube with holes in it that release the gas and create flames. The holes should be drilled and staggered to create a more natural looking fire. These burners come in many forms such as circular, square, ring-shaped and are made of materials that resist rust like aluminum or stainless steel.
Burner pans often come in DIY kits and are attached to the burner. These burner pans can be rectangular, square, trough-shaped, circular as well as many other varieties.
All gas fire pit burners have a control valve. This valve lets you control how much gas will flow to the burner. You might have other controls such as a safety pilot light an ignition switch, and an air mixer valve. Your gas fire pit could be match-lit, remote control lit or manually lit.
Propane fueled fire pits offer portability since the tank is attached similar to gas a grill. Burners sometimes have a conversion kit so you can switch over from liquid propane to natural gas or go from natural gas to propane. It’s a good idea to hire a professional to install the conversion parts.
Fire Pit Tables
Fire glass provides a sleek look for your fire pit. This type glass does a great job of distributing heat and it looks nice as well. Fire glass retains heat better than other types of fillers partly because of its smaller size. This is important because as the glass heats up, the flame reacts with the glass and produces a fire that’s warmer than with other fillers. Since the fire glass won’t melt or lose its color with the high heat of a fire, it’s a perfect choice especially since it’s so visually appealing. The small glass pieces come in a variety of colors so you can purchase a color to complement your outdoor space and decor. The flames reflect off the glass and gives off a pleasing aesthetic. Fire glass is perfect for any outdoor environment and provides a warm ambiance as soon as the fire is started. If you’re looking for a gas fire pit filler that has a modern look, give fire glass a try.
Lava rocks provide a natural look for your gas fireplace. Porous and filled with holes, these rocks come from natural lava. They are a great choice for a gas fire pit filler because they are lightweight and have a natural look. Most lava rocks come in earth tones and colors range from greys and tans to reddish tones. Some even come in dark blueish green. These type rocks provide less heat than fire glass but are usually the cheaper choice. They are larger than fire glass so they easily fill space which makes them visually appealing. Because of their ability to take up the entire space in the burner, the lava rocks provide a good medium for the fire and heat to be distributed evenly throughout the fire pit. Consider lava rocks if you’re looking for an inexpensive natural looking filler.
Creating the Best Outdoor Space for Your Gas Fire Pit
Your fire pit is ready to fire up, but what about the surrounding area? Whether it sits on a wooden deck or in a lush green yard, your fire pit area need a bit of consideration. Before family and friends can gather for an evening of fire pit fun, you need to think about where they’ll sit and what type atmosphere you want to create.
String Lights and Fire Pit Furniture
When deciding what style furniture you want to surround your fire pit, consider how much space you have as well as your home’s design. Then work around elements you already have. For example, if you have a stone wall, it might dictate the color of the furniture you choose. Think about whether your home is contemporary has more of a cottage vibe. Do you prefer chairs with cushions or more casual adirondack chairs? Add some ambiance with outdoor string lights and you have an instant party space.
Photo: David Tsay
Photo: Peter Frank Edwards
Our Favorites – Top Rated Fire Pit Furniture