Gas Fire Pit Buyer's Guide
- Family roasting hot dogs over flames in a chimenea
Looking for an outdoor fire feature that is stylish, safe, and convenient? Gas fire pits are a popular choice because they offer beautiful flames without the extra work and mess of a wood-burning fire pit. Instead of tending a smoky fire, flip a switch and enjoy the atmosphere of a fire pit without the stress.
In this article, we rounded up the different types of gas fire pits so you could compare them all in one place. You'll find information on the different styles, ignition systems, fuel options, and burner shapes. We've also included an overview of the installation, shipping, maintenance, and top manufacturers.
What Are Gas Fire Pits?
Gas fire pits are outdoor fire features that use liquid propane or natural gas as fuel. In this category, we also include a variety of shapes and styles including chimineas and fire tables. There is also a range of ignition styles from a simple match lit to high tech electronic features.
Types of Gas Fire Pits
There are a number of different styles that qualify as gas fire pits. Definitions can get a bit loose when it comes to defining fire pit styles. Here is a look at the different types we carry and a brief description of each category.
- Chimeneas – A gas-burning version of a traditional chimenea. In this category, they are almost always manufactured from stamped steel and contain a circular or square burner to create a tall flame within the enclosure. Logs are the most common type of media.
- Firehouse chimenea
- Fire Bowls – The term "bowl" can be misleading since not all fire bowls are round. Instead, anything that is marketed as a bowl will have some sort of downward taper or a radius. They may be round, square, or rectangular, but some sort of taper or radius is always present.
- Fire Tables – These are fire pits that have what we will call "significant" surface area to accommodate drinks or other items. To qualify as a fire table in our definition, the item must have a surface that is at a comfortable level for sitting or standing and be able to accommodate plates at a reasonable distance from the fire. Standing height tables are informally called "chat height" or "bar height" tables. The lower models are commonly called "dining height" tables.
- Fire Urn – This is a product similar to a bowl, but features the classic urn (vase) shape that has a much narrower footprint. They tend to be taller than a fire pit and most fire tables.
- Black fire urn fire pit
- Fire Column – These are similar to an urn in footprint, but tend to be even taller and make more of a statement without using a pedestal or base to elevate them (as is often used for an urn).
- Standard Fire Pit – Outdoor gas fire features that do not fall into one of the above categories fall into this one. While these products may have some aspects of products in another category, they are usually shorter than any of the above products. If they are styled like a table, they are too short or narrow to truly function like one.
- Water and Fire Features – In addition to the main gas fire pit types, there is a bonus category that incorporates water. These water and fire products can be totally self-contained like this AFD fire fall with water flowing over the back wall behind the fire.
- Water fire pit bowl
For a self-contained feature that looks more like a fountain, check out Hearth Product Controls fire and water insert.
You can also opt for a model like this hammered copper fire and water bowl where the water feature draws from and spills into a pool or pond.
Why Choose a Gas Fire Pit Over a Wood Burning Fire Pit?
The simple answer? Convenience. It's hard to beat beautiful flames that can turn off and on with the push of a button. The extra control over flame pattern and height is a safety bonus and allows for a wide variety of styles.
Gas appliances (both indoor and outdoor) continue to be a popular choice for fire features. Here's a quick rundown of the pros and cons:
- Easy to operate. No need to coax and tend the fire.
- Turns off instantly. When you're done enjoying the fire, simply switch it off.
- Control over flame height. Many models are pre-programmed or allow you to adjust the flame height for safety and preference.
- Vast selection of designs and styles.
- Multiple ignition options including remote or smart device controls.
- Gas models tend to be more expensive than wood-burning pits.
- Natural gas models require a gas line hookup.
- Gas models without a safety pilot light could leak gas unnoticed if the valve is left open.
Fire pits are (not surprisingly) built with heavy-duty, fire-resistant material. Some common options include steel, cast iron, and textured concrete. Another popular option is Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC). GFRC is durable like concrete, but comes in many colors and can be finished to look like natural stone.
- Gas fire bowl
The metal options range from classic hammered textures to dramatic finishes like this Ohio Flame Fire Chalice.
The majority of gas fire pits are available in either natural gas or propane fuel options. Some models must be specified when ordering, but many of them offer a conversion kit. Propane-only models are typically "set up and go" fire pits that are lightweight enough to pick up and move around with ease.
There are significant differences in how fuel is supplied, based on the fuel option chosen.
A natural gas fire pit requires installing a gas line to supply the unit. BTU output of the fire pit must be taken into consideration, as well as the distance from the fueling source to the fire pit. Longer runs of pipe and higher BTU will require a larger pipe diameter.
Natural gas is only an option if the home itself is supplied with natural gas. The gas line supplying the fire pit must be tied into the gas line from the house. Ideally, it will tie into the gas line as close to the meter as possible. This helps to prevent issues with supply to other gas appliances in the house, especially if the gas line is only marginally sized from the meter.
If the gas line feeding the home is already oversized for the home, this is not as much of an issue. There are standardized charts that provide the maximum BTU flow by distance and pipe diameter. The cumulative BTU input of each gas appliance on the system should be taken into account when determining where to connect the gas line to the fire pit.
For more information about gas line routing and connecting appliances, check out our article on natural gas fire pits.
Many fire pits come in propane fuel options or can be converted to burn propane. A few product lines are designed exclusively for propane, operating on a 5 to 20-pound cylinder. Many fire pit tables and some larger fire pits and urns contain a storage area for the fuel cylinder to conceal it next to the burner.
Other models that do not have this storage option will need to have the cylinder located nearby in a separate enclosure. Some of the manufacturers offer matching tank enclosures.
Fire pits that offer tank storage have a limited burn time. It is typical to get approximately 6 ½ hours of operation from a 65K BTU fire pit burner from a 20-pound propane cylinder.
Many consumers find this perfectly adequate if the fire pit use is only occasional, but others will wish to upsize to a larger tank. A ventilated enclosure can be built nearby to hold a 40 pound or larger cylinder, extending the run time of the fire pit.
If the home relies on propane as a fuel source for other appliances, it is possible to tie into the gas line infrastructure, much the same as with natural gas. Gas line length and location should be given the same considerations as with natural gas.
Average Fuel Cost
So what does it actually cost to use these gas-fueled appliances? The fuel burned depends on how high the output is. A fire pit with high BTU uses up more gas than one with low BTU. Gas prices also fluctuate and vary depending on your region. However, here's an estimate of what you could expect at fuel prices.
Natural Gas Calculation
A typical range for lower output models is 65K to 100K BTUs per hour. It turns out that BTU is a pretty small unit as far as cost is concerned. Instead, natural gas is often priced per therm. A therm is equal to 100,000 BTUs. Here's the basic formula:
- Natural Gas Fuel Cost = (hours of operation) x (BTUs per hour/100,000) x (price per therm)
The price per therm of natural gas varies by region, but let's use an example of $1.20 per therm. Here's the formula:
- Natural Gas Fuel Cost = (1 hour of operation) x (65,000 BTUs per hour/100,000) x ($1.20 per therm)
The result is $0.78 per hour for a low output fire pit burning natural gas.
Propane Gas Calculation
Now let's look at what propane would cost for a similarly low output appliance. Propane is often priced by the gallon and there are 91,502 BTUs per gallon of propane. Here's the formula we can use:
- Propane Fuel Cost = (hours of operation) x (BTUs per hour) x (price per gallon/91,502 BTUs)
Like natural gas, the price of propane fluctuates, but in February 2020 the average U.S. price per gallon was $1.98. Our formula looks like this:
- Propane Fuel Cost = (1 hour of operation) x (65,000 BTUs/hour) x ($1.98/91,502 BTUs)
The result is $1.41 per hour for a low output fire pit burning propane.
Fuel Costs For Higher Output Models
We can use the same formulas for higher output fire pits. A typical range for these high output models is 300K to 400K. If we plug 350K into our formulas as an example, we get $4.20 per hour for natural gas and $7.57 per hour for propane.
Obviously, these numbers are just examples and do not take into account how efficient your appliance is, etc. It's simply a helpful ballpark for determining how much you will spend on fuel costs.
Burner Shapes, Sizes, Styles, and Materials
Gas burners determine the pattern of the flames in your fire pit. Typically the shape of the burner mirrors the shape of the fire pit itself. Round and Penta burners work well for bowls and rings. Linear and H-shaped burners are more suited to longer, rectangular fire pits.
- Gas fire pit burner
The burner material must be durable and heat resistant. Common options include black (mild) steel, stainless steel, or brass. Mild steel is the cheapest but is not as durable as stainless steel or brass. Brass is the most expensive but is also the most durable when it comes to withstanding heat and corrosion.
There are three main ignition options for gas fire pits: manual, push button, and electronic. Manual ignition is the most basic and involves opening the gas valve and lighting the gas with a match. Push-button ignition uses a pilot valve to ignite the flames. Electronic ignition uses electricity to ignite the gas flames.
As the name implies, this burner system is lit using a match or lighter. It does not have an ignition aid, so it must be lit manually each time. Typically the flame height can be adjusted by turning the gas valve and adjusting the flow of gas.
While the system is reliable and easy to use, there are some drawbacks. For example, it is more dangerous if the gas is accidentally left on since the gas can escape without being lit by a pilot flame.
The simplicity also means it cannot be linked to remote control (although you can integrate timers to control the shutoff.)
One other possible drawback is that manual ignition fire features are not allowed in all areas. As always, check your local codes before purchasing a new fire appliance.
Push Button Ignition
- Push-button ignition fire pit insert
This type of fire pit uses a spark igniter or glow lighter to ignite the flames. In addition to the gas valve, igniter, and burner, many push-button ignition systems feature a safety pilot valve. This valve is a safety measure that shuts off the flow of gas if there is no flame. This prevents gas from leaking out unnoticed.
Push-button ignition systems often include a hidden battery. When the button is pushed, an igniter is triggered to spark and ignite the flames. Some models have a dial to adjust flame height, while others only have an on/off switch.
Many push-button systems include a burner pan and igniter box to protect the spark electrode or glow element. The burner pan provides a mounting point for the ignition assembly. This system is manual operation only and does not allow for the use of a remote or switch.
- HPC fire pit control app for smartphone
The characteristics of electronic ignition systems vary by brand. In general, the system builds on the automation of the push-button ignition system by adding a fully electronic gas valve and igniter.
Depending on the brand and model, the igniter may be a spark type, hot wire, or hot surface ignition. The valve will have a control board that controls the operation of the igniter and detects the presence of heat once the burner has lit.
Electronic ignition systems can be on/off only or include high/low flame variability. These systems are also offered in various voltages, including 120 volts, 24 volts, and 12 volts. The lower voltage systems are designed to meet the code requirements for a fire feature located near a pool or other water feature.
Because they are more sophisticated, this type of burner is the most expensive. It will be packaged with a burner pan, igniter assembly, igniter box, gas valve, and ignition system. These systems typically offer control options like remote control or Bluetooth connectivity.
We know you're looking for a fire pit that is built to last. Here are a few of our top picks for manufacturers of outdoor gas fire features. Whether you're looking for a simple fire pit, a bar height fire table, or a dramatic fire and water fountain, these quality brands have you covered.
- Bobe Water and Fire (pronounced BOW-BAY) is dedicated to fire and water features. Whether you just want a fire or are hoping to combine fire and water, Bobe is the place to find beautiful focal points.
- Endless Summer carries a large selection of liquid propane (LP) outdoor fire pits. Their models come in a wide range of styles and are designed to conceal a propane tank.
- Firegear specializes in outdoor fire features. They've been in business for over 15 years and combine quality products with excellent customer support.
- American Fyre Designs is also well known for its outdoor fire models. Many of their fire pits and urns are constructed from GFRC which provides durability with a variety of finishes.
- DesigningFire manufactures Oriflamme fire tables. The Oriflamme collection features propane-fueled fire tables that come with multiple options for customization of the top, base, burner and fire media.
Installation for gas fire pits varies depending on the size of the model and the type of fuel used. If you are using natural gas, you will need to run a gas line to the desired location for your fire pit. Electric models also require the proper electrical source and wiring.
Propane models tend to be more portable, especially if they run off of smaller propane tanks.
Most gas fire pits come preassembled, so installation is relatively straightforward as long as you have the right gas or electrical hookups in place. Please note that if you do not have proper hookups in place, it's best to hire a professional to install the needed equipment.
If you need a gas line installed, hire a plumber. If you need electrical work done, hire an electrician. It is not wise to attempt these tasks on your own without the proper credentials.
Keep in mind that many models are quite heavy and will need multiple people to lift and move into place.
Care and Maintenance
- Fire pit cover
Gas appliances require routine inspections to make sure that all of the lines, valves, and other components are working safely. The other major factor in caring for your gas fire pit is weather protection. Consider investing in a cover to keep rain and debris from collecting in the bowl and damaging the burner.
And as always, read and follow the manufacturer's instructions for use and maintenance of your specific model.
Most gas fire pits are large and preassembled. This means they will likely ship via LTL freight instead of a package carrier like FedEx or UPS. The freight company will call to schedule a delivery that works for your schedule. They may also require more than one person available in order to accept the delivery.
When you receive the shipment, check immediately for any damaged or missing parts. Do not sign off on the delivery unless you are sure that everything is in order. If you do find anything wrong, contact the manufacturer right away.
Gas fire pits are a wonderful way to enjoy an outdoor fire in a variety of ways. The safety, flame height control, aesthetics, and convenience make gas fire features an excellent addition to your outdoor space.
Do you have any questions about gas fire pits or other outdoor fire features? Reach out to us and one of our NFI Certified Specialists will be glad to help!
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Gas Fire Pits Q&A with the NFI Certified Specialists* Please Note: All customer questions are answered by our NFI Certified Specialists free of charge!
from Dartmouth, MA asked:
June 7, 2020
Can I cover the burner (but not ignitor) with the lava rocks that were provided as shown in the picture?
Yes, the lava rock can go over the burner as pictured.Â Â
on June 8, 2020
from Arnold, MO asked:
May 18, 2020
Can you cook on a gas fire pit or roast marshmallows?
It is not recommended to do so, as food residue and melted byproduct could damage the burner assembly.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on May 19, 2020
from Riverton, UT asked:
April 4, 2020
We have a natural gas hook up valve on an outside wall of our home for our barbeque grill. We want to add a firepit to our patio. Can we simultaneously use the one valve for both the grill and the firepit? Are there adapters to allow this?
We do not carry any adaptors that would serve two different gas systems. The application you describe would require expertise from a locally-licensed plumber who would consider the Btu input of all natural gas systems in your home, the Btu input of any fire pit you are considering, in addition to the location of the new appliance to determine the proper diameter of supply pipe to install in order to provide the required Btus for the fire pit and all gas-consuming appliances in your home.Â
on April 6, 2020