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How Do Smokeless Fire Pits Work?

Choosing between a fire pit and a smokeless fire pit like we are? It’s a difficult choice as many people don’t perhaps trust that smokeless fire pits actually work.

Due to their unique design and combustion mechanism which results in a high-temperature output, smokeless fire pits work very well in minimizing the amount of smoke and odor they produce. However, bear in mind that no fire pit is ever 100% smoke-free.

Let’s dive down into the subject of smokeless fire pits in more detail, and discover how they work and what this means not only for smoke output, but also for heat, cooking, and safety in your backyard…

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How do smokeless fire pits work?

Do Smokeless Fire Pits Actually Work?

Yes they do. The combustion mechanism and high-temperature output make smokeless fire pits a highly efficient and virtually smoke-free burner. 

Compared to conventional types, you get more heat output from the same amount of fuel. The double-wall system also helps maximize heat efficiency— a perfect warmth machine and heat source for open-fire cooking in your backyard.

Although the fire is wood-based, the fire pit’s quality of fuel and ground-breaking design make it smokeless. There is minimal smoke emission as the fire burns down to total ash gathering on a collection tray. You won’t smell like the fire pit afterward, and cleaning is easier.

Whether it’s keeping your hands warm during a cold autumn night, or searing a few steaks at a barbeque in your backyard, you are assured of great performance with a clean, smoke-free fire environment.

You can buy smokeless fire pits online at various big name stores, but it’s also possible to build a DIY smokeless fire pit at home. There are numerous articles, demos, and tutorials you can follow to create a fire pit that’s smokeless, fully functional, and safe for use.

All in all, we can confidently say that smokeless fire pits do actually work.

How Do Smokeless Fire Pits Work? 

The science behind a smokeless fire pit is ingenious. It is based on the ‘fire triangle’ idea. According to smokeless fire pit manufacturers, good fires combine three elements: sufficient oxygen, ample heat, and quality fuel. Once the trio-factor is achieved, the fire can generate enough heat to become smokeless.

So, how do these artificial wonders work? To better understand why these fantastic fire gadgets are referred to as smokeless, let’s take an in-depth look at how design and functionality come together to achieve smokeless fire. 

Smokeless fire pits allow you to enjoy a bonfire without the stress of dealing with smoke. However, keep your expectations in check. When we talk of smokeless, we don’t mean that it’s completely smoke-free. There is a bit of smoke produced as the fuel burns. However, the amount is negligible. You will hardly notice it, and your hair won’t get that musty smoke smell.

When you light up the fuel (low moisture wood is best), it is normal to smoke. But this only happens in the beginning. After about 10 – 20 minutes of burning, the combustible material is converted to heat energy via secondary combustion.

The design features a unique airflow system at the base of the fire pit. This ensures there is enough oxygen for primary combustion. 

At the same time, double-walled convection draws air up through the walls, burning the smoke as it exits the fire pit. This is secondary combustion. The outcome is a smokeless fire pit.

After placing the firewood or wood pellets in the pit and setting it ablaze, the air around the logs combines with heat from the expanding fire to bring about primary combustion. 

As wood burns, the fire builds up. This differs from traditional fire pits due to the increase in airflow. Fires need oxygen for combustion, and when it is starved of air, the fuel fails to burn completely, turning into dense smoke and soot.

Smokeless fire pit

Then comes secondary combustion. This is where the magic happens. The walls heat up as the fire burns, and the hot air trapped between the two walls becomes less dense and begins to rise. The hot air then escapes the wall cavity via a series of holes along the rim of the smokeless fire pit. 

The heated, compressed oxygen reacts with the smoke produced during primary combustion, causing it to reburn. Thus, a smokeless fire that you can enjoy no matter the occasion.

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What Fuel Can I Burn in a Fire Pit That is Smokeless?

Most smokeless fire pits burn wood. Opt for a kiln-dried or seasoned hardwood for the best burn: the less moisture in the wood, the cleaner the fire. Some models take wood pellets, which are generally made from recycled hardwood, and (provided they’re stored correctly) are super-dry.

As well as smokeless fire pits and low-smoke hardwood logs and pellets, you can also get “smokeless fuels”. Some fire pits and stoves run on fuels such as propane or bioethanol, which clearly will be smoke-free. However, if you want a “proper” fire, you can pick up a bag of smokeless coal.

Does Smokeless Coal Work in a Fire Pit?

Yes, smokeless coal can be burned in some types of fire pit: you’ll need to have a pit with a thick metal base and a grid for airflow from beneath. 

Smokeless coal tends to be used more in the UK and Europe, so it’s not always cheap to buy over here. However, it’s increasing in popularity, so keep an eye on those prices.

Most smokeless coal is made from anthracite dust, which is reformed into pellets. It burns at a high temperature (which is why it’s not suitable for many wood burners) but without releasing thick smoke.

Can I Use a Fire Pit in a Smokeless Zone?

Check with your local authority, HOA, or campsite before setting up a fire pit in a no-burn zone. It may be that you’re allowed to burn a smokeless fuel (like smokeless coal). 

Some smokeless zone regulations allow for a bit of smoke at the start of the fire (it’s hard for find kindling that doesn’t give off any smoke). If in doubt, and the pit’s for your own yard, opt for a propane model instead.

Can You Use a Smokeless Fire Pit Inside?

The simple answer is: no. Never use an outdoor heating product indoors, as burning fuel gives off invisible and dangerous gasses as well as visible smoke.

Do Smokeless Fire Pits Give Off Heat?

The secondary combustion design features a double wall to enhance heat emission as you enjoy a smoke-free fire. 

There is significant heat output as the fuel burns to heat the air between the pit’s walls. As the heated air escapes, heat is emitted, which is great for chilly nights in your backyard or at a beach camp.

Moisture-low fuel like wood pellets and firewood burn faster and can generate heat of up to 1000℉. 

Most manufacturers have developed their products to give off quite a bit of heat (enough to keep a family warm under the starry summer night). Even with a group of five people around a pit, do not be surprized if you find yourself backing away bit by bit.

Be your own judge. Visit your local hardware store and inquire about smokeless fire pits. There are several brand names you might recognize. If you’re lucky, they will have a sample model on-site and a skilled employee to demonstrate how it works.

Do Smokeless Fire Pits Smell?

The concept of low smoke, less smell applies. The smokeless fire pit is engineered to produce more heat and warmth while using less fuel. You get to enjoy the allure of a bonfire but without the odor. This is how it happens…

The engineering design of the smokeless fire pits enhances airflow, which feeds the fire and fuses with the rising smoke. The smoke never reaches your clothes or nose as it is burned off in the secondary combustion process. There are compounds known as PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that emit the smell of smoke from a wood fire.

If you use the right smoke fire product, you’ll achieve fuel efficiency with low smoke output. Opt for wood that has dried properly. The more moisture content, the higher the number of PAHs. Enjoy a backyard night fire without your hair smelling like the aftermath of a California wildfire.

The smell of a burning fire can get irritating. Plus, some people are adversely affected by smoke. Perhaps you have an asthmatic child or an elderly parent who enjoys the outdoors, but smoke triggers episodes of labored breathing. 

A smokeless fire pit is a perfect solution to this problem. When there is minimal smoke, there is less odor.

Smokeless fire pits

Can You Cook On a Smokeless Fire Pit?

Of course you can! It would defeat the whole purpose of having a smokeless fire pit if you could not utilize the heat for cooking. Smokeless fire pits designs from some American manufacturers emit up to 30% higher flames – perfect for cooking and grilling.

There are compact designs that are lightweight and portable, making them perfect for camping trips, tailgating, and backyard bonfires. 

If you’re outdoorsy and love cooking over an open flame, you can get a smokeless fire pit with a grill-top or sear plate for the perfect backyard barbeque.

So, yes you can enjoy a smokeless fire while at the same time using it for cooking your favorite food. 

Are Smokeless Fire Pits Safer?

Safety begins with design, thus smokeless fire pits are safer than an open fire. The pit in the middle ensures the fire remains contained in one place

The risk of the fire spreading or burning out of control is almost eliminated. The smoke-free feature also helps contain the fire within the burn chamber, enhancing safety.

Also, there are innovative designs that feature adjusting dials. You can adjust the flame’s characteristics by manipulating these controls. This is handy for times when the fire is too hot and is giving off intense heat.

Smokeless fire pits maintain air quality too as they do not pollute the environment. Meaning both you and the environment are less exposed to harmful byproducts like carbon dioxide.

Can You Put a Smokeless Fire Pit On a Deck?

Yes, you can put your smokeless fire pit on the deck. In many ways, you simply treat a smokeless pit as you do a conventional one, which means yes, it can go on the deck, provided that the deck is protected.

You’re not going to get the sparks from a smokeless pit, so the main threat to your decking is heat. So, look out for pits that come on stands (you may need to purchase these separately), and to make extra-sure that the heat isn’t causing any damage, use a tough heat-proof barrier. You can buy these online and in most homeware stores.

Do Smokeless Fire Pits Keep Mosquitoes Away?

And now for the less good news about smokeless pits: they don’t keep the mosquitoes away. Most buzzy little insects don’t like smoke so will keep away from your outdoor fire. A smokeless fire pit simply doesn’t have the same repelling powers.

How can you enjoy sitting around your smokeless fire without getting bitten? There are other ways to keep the mosquitoes away. Try burning citronella candles or planting natural repellents like lavender around your decking. Here’s a neat and easy way to make your own citronella candles, using herbs from your yard: a bit of smoke, but not much.

You can also help to make your garden less attractive to mosquitos by reducing their potential breeding areas. Make sure there’s no stagnant water in your yard, so keep any water features, ponds, or water butts clean.

Conclusion: How Does a Smokeless Fire Pit Work?

We’re seriously considering replacing our conventional fire pit with a smokeless model – as when we’ve had friends and family sitting around the fire in the past – even just a small gust of wind can blow a great billow of smoke into someone’s face. Not nice when you’re tucking into your hot dog!

Smokeless fire pits are growing in popularity, so there is an increasing amount of choice available from both big name stores such as Lowes and Home Depot, and also through the fire pit manufacturers themselves (often via exclusive retail outlets).

Now our research has proved they definitely do work in minimizing smoke and odor – it’s time for our family to choose the exact model we want to buy. 🙂

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Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >