backyard basics What Is The Best Fuel For Fire Pits? (2023)
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What Is The Best Fuel For Fire Pits? (2023)

While you may find pizza ovens designed to work with multiple fuel types, fire pits are usually designed to work with one specific fuel type. For this reason, when you ask what type of fuel is best for fire pits, you may be asking which kind of fire pit is best. There is nothing better than roasting marshmallows and hot dogs on a chilly night. Taking the time to pick the right fire pit for your outdoor space is wise and will be rewarding.

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Best Fuel For Fire Pits

Life gets a little crazy sometimes, so it is crucial to find ways to unwind. There may be no better way to relax than surrounding a fire pit with family and friends on a Friday evening. Still, fire pits vary quite a bit, so it is essential to consider the best fuel for fire pits and what type of fire pit might best fit your lifestyle.

Choosing the best fuel for your fire pit will go a long way toward helping to

keep your fire pit going.

What Is The Best Fuel For Fire Pits?

While you may find backyard pizza ovens designed to work with multiple fuel types, fire pits are usually designed to work with one specific fuel type. For this reason, when you ask what type of fuel is best for fire pits, you may be asking which kind of fire pit is best.

There is

nothing better than roasting marshmallows and hot dogs on a chilly night. Taking the time to pick the right fire pit for your outdoor space is wise and will be rewarding.


5 Common Fire Pit Fuels

If you are new to the fire pit game, you may be surprised to learn that there are so many different types of fire pits. You've probably seen a gas fire pit, and most people gravitate toward wood fire pits; but you might be overwhelmed to learn the differences between an ethanol fire pit, a natural gas fire pit, and a propane fire pit.

1. Wood Burning Fire Pits

As you might expect, wood-burning fire pits are among the most popular products on our list. There are plenty of wood-burning fire pits available online, and you can also pick one up at your local hardware store.

We appreciate a good wood-burning fire pit because it is the most authentic experience. As far as backyards go, a wood-burning fire pit is closest to a traditional campfire. When it's time to break out the marshmallows and the hot dogs, there is no better experience than roasting over wood fires.

Learning how to properly light a wood fire pit will go a long way toward making your experience more enjoyable. Most frustration with fire pits stem from having trouble getting the fire started, and from there being too much smoke.

Some people also use charcoal in their fire pits when they plan to cook over the fire, but lighting charcoal is tricky, and wood provides a better flavor profile. We recommend that you stick with wood.

Smokeless Fire Pits Available

One of the downsides to traditional wood fire pits is that they can generate a lot of smoke. Still, brands such Breeo and Solo Stove have developed technology that enables a smokeless fire experience. The smokeless fire pits built by Breeo and Solo Stove have similar technology and several differentiating features.

The basic technology works because these fire pits feature a double-wall construction. Air is pulled into the bottom of the fire pit and heated as it flows through the walls. As it comes out of the top vent holes (inside the burn chamber), the hot air mixes with the smoke and creates secondary combustion that burns off the smoke.

For this reason, smokeless fire pits are very efficient and can get very hot. Solo Stove takes this one step further with the addition of a grate that allows ash to fall away from the fire. Ash creates smoke when it burns, so this further reduces smoke.

Breeo differentiates itself as a brand focused on outdoor grilling. You can buy the Outpost attachment, a grill grate that attaches to the fire pit, but you can also buy a Breeo with a built-in sear plate. And if you really want to do so, you can even add a kettle hook and kettle above the Outpost.

Both Breeo and Solo Stove make impressive smokeless fire pits, so take your time in deciding which brand is right for you.

Works Differently Than Smokeless Fuels

Smokeless fuels are not required for smokeless fire pits, and using a smokeless fuel does not make your fire pit a smokeless fire pit. That terminology is intended for the fire pit models that burn off excess smoke through secondary combustion.

When people refer to smokeless fuel, they often refer to ethanol fuel used by ethanol fire pits. More on this below, but for now, just know that ethanol fire pit fuel has to be used with a specific type of fire pit. The benefit is that it burns cleaner, but the downside is that you don't get that real firewood authenticity.

2. Wood Pellet Fire Pits

While wood pellet fire pits aren't as popular as traditional wood-burning fire pits, a few brands focus almost entirely on wood pellet pits. At first, this might seem odd, but a wood-burning fire pit has its limitation.

Firewood logs are usually relatively long, so unless you buy logs that are precisely cut down to size for a small fire pit, there is a chance that you won't be able to use traditional firewood. Chunkwood might work, but wood chunks usually burn faster than logs.

Wood chunks are available at your local big-box hardware store and are most frequently used for smokers. Even though wood chunks are intended for smokers, they also work well for small burn chambers.

Convenient Portability

On the other hand, if you appreciate the aroma and appeal of a wood fire but can't find wood that is small enough, using a wood pellet fire pit might be the best fuel for you. Since wood pellets are much smaller than even wood chunks, they easily fit in even the smallest burn chambers.

If you imagine yourself surrounding a fire down on the beach, you need a pit and fuel easy to carry with you. Wood pellet fire pits are small and portable, as are the wood pellets. Plus, the wood pellets are easy to pour into the burn chamber.

While wood pellets don't offer the most authentic experience, we understand the appeal for specific situations.


3. Propane Fire Pits

The apparent downside to purchasing a propane fire pit is that you have to have a propane tank on hand, and the tank will have to be connected to the fire pit via a hose. For this reason, you will see one of two things with propane tanks.

  1. Propane fire pits often have a large base designed almost like a cabinet. That cabinet is large enough to hide the fire pit, but it is also bulky. Sometimes the base is intended to serve as a tabletop space, but it is still hard to hide the bulk.

  2. Other fire pits go the opposite direction, with a minimalist base and a visible hose running to the fire pit. This takes care of the bulky base problem, but it is slightly unsightly and kills the relaxing, naturalist vibe.

More Control Over The Flames

On the other hand, there are a few benefits to using propane fire pit fuel. For one, you don't have to purchase wood. Secondly, there is no clean-up involved with a wood fire. A wood fire is authentic, but cleaning up ash can be painful.

Still, the biggest reason to choose propane fuel over wood fuel is that it is much easier to control the intensity of the fire when all you have to do is turn a knob. You can hit maximum heat without worrying how many logs to throw on the fire.

The enhanced control is why propane fire pits are increasingly popular.

4. Natural Gas Fire Pits

Propane fire pits are more efficient than natural gas fire pits at providing heat output (frequently referred to in BTUs), but that doesn't necessarily mean that propane fire pit fuel is always better than natural gas.

While natural gas fire pits and propane fire pits burn cleaner than a wood fire (and result in less smoke), natural gas burns cleaner than propane. As a result, there is less soot build-up over time.

Where propane may have an advantage is in color. Because natural gas burns so cleanly, the flame is not as colorful as it might be from other fuel sources.

Which Is Better: Natural Gas or Propane Fire Pits?

Natural gas fire pits require that a natural gas line run from the main structure to the fire pit's location. For this reason, propane fuel is more frequently used. You can pick up a propane tank at nearly any hardware store and many gas stations.

If you are designing a high-end backyard, particularly during your house's initial construction, natural gas is the easiest option. Like propane fire pits, you can control the fire's intensity with a turn of a knob. Unlike propane, you don't even have to worry about a tank. A natural gas line feeds directly to your fire.

Natural gas is considered a clean-burning fuel, as it produces substantially less carbon dioxide than oil or coal, but it is not the most eco-friendly option.


5. Ethanol Fire Pits

While wood fires are authentic and the closest backyard experience that you can get to a campfire, wood fires are also tough on the environment. For this reason, some government entities and environmental advocates have pushed for finding more sustainable alternatives.

Ethanol fire pits, also called bioethanol fire pits, are the most eco-friendly option. Bioethanol is a renewable energy source derived from common crops, including corn, rice, and sugar cane. The renewable nature of how ethanol is made is just one of the factors contributing to its environmentally friendly nature.

Clean Burning Bio-Fuel

Smoke isn't good for the environment, but ethanol fire pits don't generate smoke and therefore are considered environmentally friendly. While burning natural gas is cleaner than burning wood, natural gas is still a fossil fuel that is dependent on the oil and gas industry.

Bioethanol is a different fuel source altogether, as bio ethanol doesn't emit smoke or any harmful toxic fumes. All of this makes bioethanol the most eco-friendly fire pit fuel, and if used in mass, it could cut down on greenhouse emissions such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide.

Which Is Better: Bioethanol or Natural Gas Fire Pits

Bioethanol fire pits are cleaner burning, easier to install and produce a more vibrant flame than natural gas fire pits. Natural gas fire pits will require a fixed gas line and an electrical connection, while you can find ethanol fire pits sold as freestanding pieces.

Not only do the ethanol fire pits not require any utility connections, but the flame put off from burning bio ethanol is a vibrant orange color.

If you are looking for a truly relaxing ambiance after a long day of work, a bioethanol fire pit will give you peace of mind and a beautiful warmth.


Best Wood For Wood-Burning Fire Pit

If you choose to stick with a wood-burning fire pit, it is important to note that some firewood will offer a more pleasant burning experience than other firewoods.

The key is to find dried or seasoned hardwoods with low moisture content. The heat output will occur quicker and more consistently with dried woods, as green wood is very difficult to burn.

Hickory, Oak & Mesquite

Even among hardwoods, there are differences to consider. For example, did you know that fruitwoods such as apple wood and cherry wood give off a slightly sweet aroma? Smokers often use fruitwoods to add a sweet taste to their meats.

Hickory, oak, and mesquite hardwoods offer a more subtle and earthy aroma. Kiln-dried logs from these trees will offer the best overall ambiance and experience, as they also burn at high temperatures.

Some Fire Pits Are Too Small For Logs

Depending on the size of your burn chamber, you may have trouble finding logs that will fit inside your fire pit. Certainly, some units are pretty big and will fit nearly any firewood, but other burn chambers are much smaller.

As noted above, you could opt for a fire pit that works with wood pellets or use wood chunks that are more frequently used for smoking meat.

Online brands such as Cutting Edge Firewood sell specialty-length firewood, including firewood designed for pizza ovens and cooking wood splits. This is likely the most expensive option, but one that might be worth considering if you have a big event planned or if you anticipate cooking with your fire pit.


Recommended Fuel For Fire Pits

There are few things better than spending an evening near the warmth of beautiful fire pit flames. Deciding which type of fuel to use is a big first step. A few other fuels, such as gel fuel, are not directly noted above, but we are confident that the options below may be the best fuels for nearly any situation.

Wood fire pits offer an unmatched experience. If you appreciate the raw authenticity of a warm, wood fire, we recommend considering a smokeless fire pit. Solo Stove and Breeo are the most well-known brands selling smokeless fire pits.

On the other hand, if you are concerned about the environmental impact associated with your fire pit, then we recommend you purchase an ethanol product. Ethanol fire pits are the most environmentally friendly option, produce a beautiful flame, are easy to install, produce little-to-no odor, and require little cleanup or maintenance.

We also recommend that you take time to learn how to properly put out your fire pit so that you don't damage the pit. Start with the right fuel, learn how to properly light your fire, and take the time to put it out correctly. Thats how you preserve your fire pit over the long run.

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