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What is the Best Fuel for a Fire Pit? (Find Out Here!)

Propane, natural gas, ethanol facility and rum fire pits are great options for people who love the convenience and look of a fire pit. But what is the best fuel to use? How do you know which type of fuel is right for your fire pit, and the best way to use it?

For as long as you have been alive, you have probably heard that wood is the best way to get the fire started in a fire pit. While that might be a great source of fuel, you might be wondering if other alternatives might be even better. In reality, there are quite a few different fuel sources that you can use to get the maximum benefit out of your fire pit. 

While wood is the most commonly talked about fuel source when getting a fire pit going, there are ways of providing the necessary fuel that may be a bit better for the environment. Sources such as propane and natural gas are typically much cleaner, but there are others as well. 

While the choice of fuel is important in terms of getting a great fire going in your pit, there are other considerations to take into account as well. Continue reading to learn more about the best types of fuel for a fire pit and how this can impact the overall quality of the food that you end up cooking. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Wood as a Fuel Source?

Many people prefer to use wood as a fuel source for their pit because of its classic look. It just feels and smells right. It is a lot cheaper when compared to other fuel sources. At the same time, wood-based fire pits can emit toxic smoke and can become quite messy and difficult to clean. 

You might never have thought about it before, but there are certain benefits associated with using wood as a fuel source in your fire pit. These benefits might very well lead you to determine for yourself that wood is the best type of fuel to use on many occasions. Consider the following four benefits of wood as a fuel source and then decide what you think:

  • It just looks right – When you think of what a fire pit is supposed to look like, your mind probably gravitates toward the wood. It has that classic look about it that cannot be denied. When you use wood as a fuel source in your fire pit, you will feel like you are doing the right thing because it looks so right. 
  • It feels right – It seems as if every movie ever made where someone is starting a fire outside involves wood. It feels right. You cut it, carry it, and spread it appropriately over the pit itself. Wood has a distinctive feel to it that makes you feel as if you are starting the fire yourself. 
  • It smells right – We associate a certain smell with a fire coming out of a fire pit. That smell involves wood. If you use any other fuel source to start the fire, you will lose that smell. Wood can even have certain aromas depending on the type of wood. Examples are ash and beech. Regardless, you will know right away by the smell whether the wood is being used in a fire pit or not. 
A wood with smoke.
Wood can even have certain aromas depending on the type of wood.
  • It is one of the more affordable available fuel sources – In many areas of the country, wood seems to be available everywhere. Some people live out in the woods where there is a free and seemingly unlimited supply of wood. Even if you buy wood that has already been chopped up for you, the expense is typically minor when compared to other major sources of fuel used in a fire pit. 

While those four benefits are certainly worth noting, there are some disadvantages associated with using wood in your fire pit as well. Read on to learn about four of the more commonly cited drawbacks to wood as a source of fuel. 

  • Wood fires are harder to keep going – If you have ever attended to a wood fire pit, you are well aware of the fact that you must constantly work to keep the fire burning. It is very easy for a fire fueled by wood to die out. To avoid this, someone needs to pretty much be constantly attending to the fire to keep it going. This does not provide the type of rest and relaxation that you might be looking for from your fire pit. 
  • Wood fire pits must be cleaned regularly – A great deal of debris and ash results when burning wood in a fire pit. If you have ever seen the aftermath of such a fire, you know the type of cleanup that is involved. The fire pit will need to be completely cleaned before it can be used again. This type of regular cleaning can really take the enjoyment out of the fire pit rather quickly. 
Marshmallows with fire.
The fire pit will need to be completely cleaned before it can be used again.
  • Wood burns off potentially toxic smoke – Burning wood can also be harmful to the environment. Beyond that, it creates a pollution hazard in your immediate vicinity. The toxic smoke that results can be harmful to people and pets, particularly the very young and the elderly. This is something that must be taken into consideration as you decide on the fuel source to use in your fire pit. 
  • Wood fire pits can become a fire hazard – It is also difficult to completely put out a wood fire. Just when you think it has been completely extinguished, a few sparks may ignite that catch you completely by surprise. If you leave such a fire pit unattended, it could result in a fire hazard. This creates an uneasy feeling that once again detracts from the enjoyment you should be getting out of your fire pit in the first place. 

It is important to consider the pros and cons when looking at any fuel source for use in your fire pit. While wood may be a viable option, there are enough other options to consider that you might decide to look elsewhere. 

7 Other Fuel Sources for a Fire Pit

Wood is not your only option when it comes to fuel for your fire pit. While it might be convenient, it is probably not the best way to go about starting a fire. Here are seven other fuel sources that you can consider using the next time you set out to use your fire pit. 

Natural Gas

When it comes to clean-burning fuel, it does not get much better than natural gas. This is an environmentally friendly option when it comes to fueling your fire pit. It is easy to control the flow of fuel, so the fire starts quickly and then finishes just as fast. There is also no toxic smoke to breathe, which is beneficial for young people and the elderly. 

There are just a few drawbacks to note when using natural gas. You will not get the classic smell and look out of your fire pit when using natural gas. It is also more expensive to set up, and you will need to have some sort of pipeline installed and available to use. Because of that, not everyone will be able to use natural gas as a fuel source for their fire pit. 

Propane

Many people feel that propane is the same as natural gas, but there are some key differences. To begin, you will get your propane from a tank as opposed to an actual gas pipeline. This makes it portable and easier to use as a fuel source for your fire pit. Where propane is similar to natural gas in that it is also a cleaner-burning fuel and does not adversely impact pollution levels. 

A propane tank.
It should be noted that propane is more expensive than natural gas.

It should be noted that propane is more expensive than natural gas. You will also want to have a spare tank always available in case the one you are using happens to go empty right in the middle of your family bonfire. There are also some safety precautions that you need to take when using propane, so you will want to keep children away from the tank at all times. 

Bioethanol

While you may have never considered bioethanol as a fuel source for your fire pit, it is actually growing in popularity for this specific reason. It has the benefit of being a clean-burning fuel like natural gas and propane, but it is also a renewable form of energy as well. This makes it the ideal choice for individuals who are environmentally conscious and want to do their part to keep the air around them clean. 

Fire pits using bioethanol are very easy to use. You can install them in a matter of minutes. The fuel cans are lightweight, meaning they are much easier to carry around than propane tanks. There is no pipeline to worry about either. It is also free of particulates, and there are very few safety hazards to take into consideration when bioethanol is burned properly. 

Gel Fuel

Another option to fuel your fire pit is to use gel fuel. These are 13oz cans, each one of which can provide as much as 2 ½ hours of flames. They are clean-burning and incredibly easy to use. In fact, you can look online and find many videos detailing how you can use gel fuel in your fire pit. It is essentially isopropyl alcohol, and it more than gets the job done. 

Starting the fire is easy. You just put the can directly in the fire pit and peel the label off. You then open the top of the can, find the gel, and set it on fire. It is a smoke-free fire that does not churn out any soot or ash. You can even find some gel fuel that adds organic matter to the mix, resulting in that famous popping sound that you get with a wood fire. 

Charcoal

Most people are familiar with charcoal being used in a fire pit. It has been a source of fuel for many years. Some people love it, while others would prefer not to use it. Keep in mind that not all charcoal is the same. While some are incredibly messy and give off a lot of smoke, others such as pressed charcoal are both smoke and odor-free. 

A charcoal.
It has been a source of fuel for many years.

If you would like to replicate a certain smell from your firepit, certain types of charcoal have an aroma attached to them. Hickory is probably the most popular. There is also lump charcoal. This is a blackened and charred form of wood that burns incredibly hot but has a flame that is free of chemicals. 

Smokeless Fuel

You might not have heard of this fuel source, but it is growing in popularity in certain areas of the world. A smoke fuel is mixed with a low grade of sulfur coal. The sulfur content should be lower than two percent in order to be classified as smokeless. The coal is also comprised of a combined formula of petcoke and anthracite. 

A binding agent is used to turn the coal into a smokeless briquette. So manufacturers will turn these into ovals as well. This form of fuel is really useful in crowded urban areas where a lot of cooking is done outside. This prevents the smoke impact other people, and it protects the environment at the same time. 

Wood Briquettes

Wood briquettes are an alternative to natural wood. As a fuel source, it is quite effective at getting a fire started without the smoke and many of the pollutants typically associated with wood. Wood briquettes are signified by having less than 10% moisture. Since smoke is produced in high volumes when moisture is about 20%, many people are turning to wood briquettes instead. 

A wood briquettes.
it is quite effective at getting a fire started without the smoke.

Wood briquettes are also very easy to handle and use in a fire pit. There isn’t any need to worry about: 

  • Gas
  • Tanks
  • Canisters 

Just set them up, light them, and then watch the fire get started. Having no smoke is going to really make you happier in the end as well. 

Wrap-Up 

Now that you know the best types of fuel for a fire pit, you can analyze your own situation and determine which one you should start using. A lot of it depends on the location of your fire pit, and what types of fuel are easily accessible to you. If you are concerned about the environment, staying away from wood is the way to go. 

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