Fire pits are great additions to a large backyard; many people enjoy sitting around them to share stories, songs, and conversations worth bonding over. However, the only downfall is that you can smell the smoke and ash even a week later, which can be quite bothersome. Many also wonder if they’re following the proper fire pit rules. Fortunately, there are smokeless fire pits, which have the same allure of a bonfire, but without the odor.
Besides a reduction in odor, there are many benefits to owning a smokeless fire pit, including:
- Fuel efficiency
- Easy cleanup
- Better for your health
- Does not bother neighbors
- Designed to fit your style
While traditional fire pits require large amounts of fuel and continuously produce smoke, a smokeless fire pit lets you enjoy all the benefits of sitting by the fire, without the disadvantages that generally come with standard fire pits.
The Benefits of a Smokeless Fire Pit
Despite their name, smokeless fire pits aren’t 100% smoke-free, but they are pretty close. The reason they are called smokeless is that they are engineered in a way that the airflow feeding the fire mixes with the rising smoke. The smoke is then burned off, so it never reaches your nose or your clothes. You can thank physics and chemistry for that.
Being “smokeless,” they are an excellent option for smaller patios, grand backyards, and everything in between. Since they aren’t built into the ground, you can even take them with you to the beach or a friend’s festivities.
A few other benefits of smokeless fire pits include:
Humans know the smell of a burning fire, and for many, it provides comfort and nostalgia. That recognizable scent comes from what is released by the flames through a chemical process called combustion.
For a fire to burn, it needs three things:
- Fuel (wood, gas, fabric, etc.)
As the fuel burns, the chemical compounds making up the fuel are broken apart and mix with compounds in the air. As they mix, they join together, producing new compounds. These new compounds are what make smoke.
Some of them are visible, such as carbon particles, while others are only fragrant. The compounds we smell and associate with smoke are appropriately called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Fuels that burn more efficiently, such as dry, seasoned wood, reduce the number of PAHs released. Inefficient fuels such as moist, “green” wood produce more PAHs.
So, when it comes to smokeless fire pits, they are engineered to direct the flow of oxygen into the fire, making it burn hotter. The hotter it is, the more efficiently it can burn, and the less likely smoke-producing compounds will form. Less smoke means less of an odor.
Greater Fuel Efficiency
Most people think of cars when they see the term “fuel efficiency,” but the idea behind it applies to both gas-powered cars and fires. The only difference is that wood or coal is used as the fuel source for fires rather than gasoline.
Like with cars, the more efficient your fire is, the less fuel it needs to burn. As previously mentioned, a smokeless fire pit directs oxygen into the fire, which increases the combustion and allows it to burn hotter with less fuel.
Better fuel efficiency also saves you money. You might have to pay more initially for a smokeless fire pit (For example, the cost of a smokeless fire pit starts at around $250 and goes up from there. A traditional patio fire pit can be as low as $50.). But in the long run, you will save money by having a fire pit that’s fuel-efficient.
To have a fire of like temperature, the traditional fire pit will need more wood than its smokeless counterpart. With a typical bundle of firewood ranging from $5-$10, over time the fuel cost of the traditional fire pit will soar above the price paid for the more expensive smokeless fire pit.
It’s Better for Your Health
People can’t survive when breathing too much smoke from a fire; the flames consume the oxygen our lungs need. While the risk of dying by smoke is significantly decreased when sitting by a controlled fire, there are still consequences to breathing in the fumes.
The smoke a fire gives off has a mixture of toxins harmful to our health; these include:
As we breathe in these chemicals, we put our heart and lung health at risk. For many people, the occasional face full of smoke will sting your eyes and make you cough, but you will quickly recover. For others, even the slightest exposure to smoke can be severe. People who are more susceptible to the risks of inhaling smoke are:
- Older adults
- Babies and children
- Anyone with heart or lung problems including asthma and COPD
A smokeless firepit is a great way to let your high-risk friends and family enjoy being around a fire.
It’s Better for the Environment
When wood is burned, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere. Trees take in CO2 to perform photosynthesis and release oxygen (O2); humans breathe the opposite, taking in O2 and releasing CO2. Without trees and other plants, humans and animals wouldn’t be able to survive.
When forests are logged, there are fewer living trees to take in the CO2. Increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is a cause of climate change.
(To learn about the connection between carbon, plants, and people, watch this:
Besides the release of CO2, when you light up a stack of wood, those chemicals that are bad for your health contribute to air pollution. It makes breathing hard for people and wildlife. The chemicals and particles in the air can get into water sources, polluting them as well.
A smokeless fire pit burns less wood per bonfire session than a traditional fire pit. When less firewood is purchased, the demand for it decreases, and fewer trees need to be logged. Less logging leads to more living trees that can take in the CO2 that is released, keeping the levels in the atmosphere stable.
Since a smokeless fire pit eliminates most of the smoke, air quality is also not affected, and the local squirrels and chickadees will breathe easily.
Note: You can also take an extra step towards being an environmentally- friendly fire enthusiast by sourcing sustainable wood. Organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council create standards for responsible forest management, including replanting forests and prohibiting the use of chemicals. When purchasing firewood, look for the FSC certification, you can enjoy your fire, even more, knowing trees were planted to replace the logs used for toasting your marshmallows.
What is left over after your fire has died out is a pile of ash and charcoal. When it comes time to pack your firepit away for the winter or if it needs a cleaning, no one wants to deal with the stinky mess. Thanks again to efficiency, with a smokeless fire pit, that mess is going to be much smaller.
Since the fuel, wood, is burning more efficiently, there are fewer particulates left over for you to clean up. Although you still won’t have anyone jumping up and down ready to volunteer to be the firepit cleaner, it will definitely be less of a nasty task.
Since smokeless fire pits are made of metal, once the ashes are removed, cleaning is easy:
- Fill a bucket with hot soapy water.
- Scrub the inside and out with a soft cloth.
- Rinse out the soap.
- Dry thoroughly. (If left wet, your fire pit can rust.)
Traditional fire pits are quick to fill up with unburned charcoal and piles of ashes, so cleaning it out can be required after each use. Your smokeless fire pit, on the other hand, can handle about six fires, each lasting 2-3 hours before it needs to be cleaned.
They Are Wind-Resistant
As we mentioned, a fire needs oxygen to burn. When you fan a flame, you are helping by:
- Driving oxygen into the combustion process
- Increasing evaporation, allowing the fire to burn more efficiently
- Helping the fire spread to areas with available fuel
However, too much wind can turn your fire into a nightmare, especially when it comes to keeping it controlled. Whether it’s smoke always blowing into your face or the scare of embers raining down on your head, wind can make fire less enjoyable to sit around.
With traditional fire pits, fires are usually nestled at the bottom, where there are walls to keep the wind at bay. However, if the wind is out in the open, it can flare up or die down as the wind blows. In smokeless fire pits, that air is instead forced through an engineered channel, softening its impact on the fire. As a result, the fire burns more consistently and is easier to control.
It Doesn’t Bother Your Neighbors
On a warm summer night, when their windows are wide open, your neighbors will not be thrilled to have their house filled with the smells of your fire. While inviting them to join the fun may help lessen the neighborly tension, it’s still not polite to smoke them out.
Being considerate of your neighbors has countless benefits, including not having the fire department interrupt you during the punchline of your best joke.
A smokeless fire pit reduces how much smoke is wafting through your air. This will make your neighbors very appreciative and foster a better relationship. Of course, with smokeless fire pits, you can still always invite them over to enjoy a s’more.
They Can Be Designed to Fit Your Style
A classic log cabin style campfire certainly has its place, but not on your patio. Smokeless fire pits come in a variety of styles and sizes so that you can match one to your décor. No matter what your taste in design is, you can find a fire pit that works for your space.
A few stylish options to select from include:
- Tiki: 25-inch diameter – stainless steel with weatherproof powder-coated exterior
- Titan: 24-inch diameter – corten steel weathers for a rustic look
- SoloStove: 19.5-inch diameter – 304 stainless steel
If you are into DIY, then you can always build a fire pit yourself. The Dakota fire hole is an inground smokeless fire pit that you can make yourself. Step-by-step instructions are available from Instructables.
They Can Reach Cooking Temperatures
If you are a fan of flame-seared steaks or simply like to cook outdoors, then a smokeless fire pit is the way to go. With a traditional fire pit, you have to pile on the wood, and it never quite gets hot enough.
However, with smokeless fire pits, because of all that fuel efficiency, your fire can really heat up. In addition, if you want to expand your outdoor culinary experience, you’re in luck. Many brands of smokeless fire pits have available attachments such as:
- Grill Racks
With all these available accessories, your fire pit can be used for barbequing, grilling, and more.
Whether you are a fan of that steakhouse sear or prefer fire-roasted veggies, you can cook it all. Fine Cooking is your guide to backyard barbequing recipes. Your neighbors will undoubtedly want an invitation with those aromas in the air.
Less to Worry About
A campfire, or a patio fire, brings people together. Instead of spending the whole time battling the smoke, moving seats, and worrying about flying sparks, a smokeless fire pit lets you focus on what matters. Whether it’s date night for two or a graduation celebration, more attention can be spent on the people around the fire, rather than the fire itself.
Using a Smokeless Fire Pit
A smokeless fire pit is an excellent addition to any outdoor space. When setting up, be sure to keep safety in mind. A few tips for enjoying your smokeless fire pit safely are:
- Check-in with your local fire department. Different places have different regulations about having fires on your property. Knowing the rules and guidelines can save you from an embarrassing situation.
- Place the fire pit at least 10 feet from buildings. Even with fewer embers soaring through the air, it is best to keep your fire pit away from houses, garages, and sheds.
- Place the fire pit on level ground. This might require some pre-fire prep but can keep your wonderful evening from turning into a nightmare. Consider installing a sandpit or pavers to level out the ground; it also adds to the ambiance.
- Prune back vegetation. Clear the space around and above your fire pit of branches, bushes, or piles of wood. When your fire is roaring hot, you could accidentally set the landscaping ablaze.
- Keep the fire pit uncovered. Since these fire pits really heat up, any roof or covering overhead can be damaged or ignite.
To maximize the fun and minimize the risk, educate yourself on fire pit safety before striking a match.
Your smokeless fire pit is going to be more fuel-efficient than a traditional one, but you can optimize this efficiency by choosing the best wood. Firewood comes from trees, and not all trees are the same. Trees can be sorted into two categories:
- Softwood – typically coniferous trees such as pine, fir, or cedar
- Hardwood – typically deciduous trees such as oak, maple, and ash
Hardwoods tend to burn for longer because they are dense, so there is more fuel per log. Softwoods catch easier and burn brighter, but don’t last as long. Once the wood has been chopped it is left to “season”:
- Seasoned – wood that has been left to dry for 1+ years and only contains about 20% water
- Unseasoned/Green – wood that contains 20 to 50% water such as fresh-cut wood
The dryer the wood, the hotter the fire will burn. The ideal firewood combo is going to be a well-season hardwood that is started with seasoned softwood kindling.
Depending on where you live, you might not have a wide selection of firewood to choose from, and that’s okay. Even with a less-seasoned softwood, your smokeless fire pit will still burn bright.
Unlike a beach fire or a stone fire pit, there is little maintenance that comes with a smokeless fire pit.
Since a metal fire pit, even one with weather-coating, can rust, taking proper care of your fire pit is essential. Invest in a cover if you plan on using your pit all year, or tuck it in storage once the rainy season starts.
Despite ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, a smokeless fire pit is alight with benefits: Not only is that decrease in smoke good for your health, the environment, and your wallet, but it can burn bright all year and will always be the source of memorable times.