Natural Gas Firepit Buyer's Guide
- Prism Hardscapes natural gas fire pit
What comes to mind when you think of natural gas appliances? Perhaps you think of stoves or indoor fireplaces, but there is so much more! Natural gas fire pits let you enjoy the ease and safety of natural gas flames in an outdoor setting.
Adding a gas fire pit is a great way to liven up your space and create a gathering spot for friends and family. Not only is natural gas convenient, but the gas fire pits also come in multiple sizes and styles to fit your needs.
Read on to learn more about natural gas fire pits, including the different styles available and the main differences between natural gas and propane fire pits.
What Are Natural Gas Fire Pits?
Natural gas fire pits are connected to a natural gas line and burn natural gas to create their lovely flames. Although there are many similarities between natural gas and propane fire pits, there are important differences in how they function.
- Blue and yellow natural gas pipes
Natural gas is a fossil fuel that comes from the decay of organic matter and is found in places like coal beds and oil wells. Compared to all the other fossil fuels (including coal and oil), natural gas is the cleanest burning. It is mostly made up of methane.
On its own, natural gas has no smell, which would make it difficult to detect if it leaked. As a safety measure, an odor (that strong smell we associate with natural gas) is purposefully added to help make leaks more noticeable.
Another feature of natural gas is that, unlike propane that tends to pool beneath the air, natural gas rises and dissipates more easily. This makes it a little safer because it is less likely to form concentrated pockets of gas that could ignite.
Which Is Better: Propane or Natural Gas?
So which fuel should you use? The answer depends on how you want to use your fire pit and what you prioritize. The main factors in making the decision are fuel availability, installation requirements, cost, appearance, and convenience. We'll break down the comparisons.
First, it depends on fuel availability. If your house is not already hooked up to a natural gas line, we can almost guarantee you that it will never be cost-effective to have one installed just for a backyard fire pit. Some places don't have access to natural gas lines at all. At that point, finding a fire pit that runs off a liquid propane tank is probably your best option.
Now let's consider installation. Because natural gas fire pits need to be fed by a natural gas line, their installation is more permanent. You can't just decide to move the fire pit to the other end of the yard without paying to have a new gas line run. Propane, on the other hand, is very portable. Not only can you move propane fire pits around the yard, but you can also pack them up and take them to a vacation home.
- Natural gas line on the side of the house
The installation also affects cost. Unless you already have a hookup installed, you'll need to have a professional run a new line to supply your fire pit. We recommend getting a quote for how much it will cost to run the new natural gas line before ordering your fire pit. If the location is near the gas lines that supply the house, the installation will likely be cheaper and easier than having to route a new line a long way.
Once you pay to have the fuel source installed, natural gas tends to be significantly cheaper to burn than propane gas. Even though propane is more efficient (i.e. it takes less propane per hour to run the fire pit), natural gas prices tend to make it less expensive overall. This is especially true in certain parts of the country, so it's helpful to look up your local natural gas prices for comparison.
Natural gas and liquid propane produce slightly different flames when they burn. Natural gas is a bit cleaner, so there is less soot. (Both natural gas and propane gas create far less soot than wood burning fire pits.) The downfall of the cleaner burn of natural gas is that the flame is not quite as vibrant in color as a propane flame. Many people would be hard-pressed to tell the difference without careful comparison, but if the color of the flame or the amount of soot is important to you, it's good to keep in mind.
There's also the issue of the propane tank. Most people don't get a fire pit so that they can display a bulky white metal propane tank in the yard. Some fire pits are designed to hide the propane tank within the unit. If you don't have that option, you're stuck with trying to find a way to enclose the propane tank both for safety and aesthetic reasons.
Finally, there is the issue of convenience. This really comes down to a personal preference of what matters the most to you. Liquid propane is convenient in the sense that it's easy to install and portable. The downside is that you have to keep refilling the tanks in order to use your fire pit. Natural gas always has a steady supply, so you use however much you want, whenever you want. There's no need to worry about how full the tank is or go to the trouble of storing and refilling tanks.
Styles of Natural Gas Fire Pits
Many gas fire pits come with the option of either natural gas or propane gas fuel. It's important to specify which one you want since there can be slight differences such as the width of the burner holes. Below are some examples of the different styles you can find.
Keep in mind that it's usually pretty simple to convert a propane model into a natural gas model and vice versa. You'll need to follow all of the manufacturer's recommendations, but many companies sell conversion kits for you to switch between propane and natural gas.
- Natural gas chimenea
Chimeneas – The classic chimenea shape features a round, pot-bellied firebox with a chimney coming out the top. They are often perched on legs or a stand. While traditional chimeneas were made from terra cotta, gas-burning ones are almost always made from stamped steel. They contain a circular or square burner that creates tall flames within the enclosure.
Fire Bowls – The category of fire bowl is rather broad. Fire bowls don't have to be round. In addition to round shapes, they can be square or rectangular as long as they have some sort of taper or radius that resembles a bowl shape.
- Prism Hardscapes round natural gas fire pit
Fire Tables – Fire tables have a surface area to accommodate drinks or food. They come in two different heights: a lower height for sitting and bar height for standing. The fire feature is incorporated in the middle of the fire table and usually features low flames.
Fire Urns – These are similar to bowls, except that they are much narrower and shaped more like an urn (hence the name) or vase.
Water and Fire – One really fun option is to combine a fire feature and a water feature into one stunning focal point. These fire pits incorporate a water feature either as a self-contained unit or as part of your pool or pond.
Standard Fire Pits – This is a catch-all category for shapes that don't fall into one of the specialty categories above. The standard pits tend to be shorter, including ones that are styled like a table, but too low to actually function like one.
It's also possible to buy just the burner assembly and incorporate a natural gas burner into a fire pit that you already own or plan to build. Please keep in mind that this is not something to take lightly since the proper materials and installation for gas-burning appliances are critical for safety. We recommend seeking professional advice if you have an idea for a DIY fire pit.
What Are Natural Gas Fire Pits Made From?
Natural gas fire pits are built with sturdy material like steel, cast iron, textured concrete, and GFRC. GFRC stands for Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete and has the durability of concrete in a wide variety of colors and finishes. It can even be made to look like natural stone. These fire-resistant materials help ensure the longevity of the fire pit.
- Glass fiber reinforced concrete
The burners come in different shapes depending on the style of the fire pit. Longer burners like linear or H-shape work well for long, narrow fire pits. The round and penta burners are common for fire bowls or fire tables.
The burner material is typically steel or sometimes brass. The brass is more expensive than the stainless steel or black (mild) steel, but it is also the most durable. Stainless steel is a good option because it has more longevity than black steel, but is still cheaper than brass.
Natural gas fire pits come with different ignition options. The simplest option is a match-lit ignition. Push-button ignition and electronic ignition are more complex but provide an added convenience. Here is a quick overview of the different ignition choices.
With match-lit gas fire pits, you simply light the stream of gas with a long match or long-stemmed lighter. The appeal to this type of ignition is that its simplicity makes it cheaper and less likely to break.
The downsides are that there are no built-in safety features to detect if the gas nozzle is still on. If the flame goes out while the gas is on, the gas continues to flow out. You should also check with your local codes and regulations since match-lit appliances are not allowed in all areas.
Push Button Ignition
Push-button ignition is a step up from match-lit. It uses a spark igniter that ignites the flames when you turn it on and push a button. Many of them also feature a safety pilot light that shuts off the flow of gas if no flame is detected. This is intended to prevent gas from leaking out unnoticed if the flame happens to go out.
Electronic ignition is similar to push-button ignition except that it adds an extra layer of technology. The gas valve and igniter are fully electronic, so you can easily control the unit with buttons, remotes, or even on your smart device.
The extra complexity makes them more expensive, and you also need to connect the fire pit to an electrical source.
Ready to start browsing the style options available? Here is a list of some of our top recommended manufacturers for natural gas outdoor fire pits. You'll find a wide range of model options including fire tables, water and fire features, fire bowls, and more.
- Bobe Water and Fire natural gas fire pit near a swimming pool
Bobe Water and Fire – Bobe (pronounced BOW-bay) specializes in fire and water features to bring that extra drama and beauty to your outdoor space. Their models include features with just fire or models with fire and water combined.
American Fyre Designs – American Fyre Designs is a great place to find outdoor gas fire pits. Their selection includes several models made from GFRC.
Prism Hardscapes – Prism Hardscapes puts an emphasis on their hand-crafted patinas that give a unique artisan quality to each piece. They offer several shapes, sizes, and finishes for their gas fire features.
- Prism Hardscapes fire bowl fire pit
Hearth Product Controls – HPC fire offers a range of fire and fire/water features in a variety of styles. Their commercial-grade outdoor fire pits have CSA-certified technology for quality and excellent performance.
How To Maintain Your Natural Gas Fire Pit?
As with any fire feature, the first priority with natural gas fire pits is to read the manufacturer's instructions and manual. Fire pits also last much longer if they are protected from water and debris. We recommend investing in a cover to keep your fire pit dry and clean when it is not in use.
- Metal fire pit cover
Periodically check the gas valve and burner to make sure nothing is blocked and everything is working properly. A professional inspection of the gas line and other gas components is also important to make sure everything stays safe and in good working order. It's best to have these inspections yearly, but it is especially important to have everything checked if you wish to hook up to an old existing gas line.
Most natural gas fire pits are delivered in one piece, so they are quite large and heavy. As a result, they ship via LTL freight instead of normal parcel posts. The shipping company will call to schedule a delivery time that works for you. Often, more than one person is required to accept the delivery.
- Freight truck
Before you sign off on the delivery, look for any damaged or missing parts. It's important that you do this before you sign because signing off on the delivery means the shipping company is no longer liable for any damages. Contact the manufacturer right away if you notice anything amiss.
- Prism Hardscapes natural gas fire bowl
Natural gas is an excellent fuel option for outdoor fire pits because it is relatively inexpensive, clean-burning, and convenient. If you already have gas lines hooked up to your home, it is definitely worth considering using natural gas as a fuel for your fire feature. It's hard to beat safety and convenience.
And as always, please reach out to us with any questions you might have! Our NFI Certified Technicians are available and happy to assist you.
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