Propane vs. Natural Gas Fire Pits — Everything You Need to Know
Propane vs. natural gas fire pits is a match that needs to be discussed in great detail.
Whether you use natural gas or propane, gas fire pits come with many advantages — the heat stays consistent, they’re easier to use, and they’re much safer than a wood fire pit.
Gone are the days of gathering wood for your fire. With the elimination of wood comes the elimination of smoke, red hot embers, and ash.
It’s important to know how gas fire pits work. Here’s a breakdown to illustrate how easy a gas fire pit is to use.
How Gas Fire Pits Work and Why You’ll Want One
Within the housing of some gas fire pits is a portable propane tank or a gas line that’s attached to the house. However, many propane fire tables have external propane tanks.
In this case, the propane tank will be on the side of the fire pit. For these, you’ll need a cover for the tank that matches the fire pit. There are also some propane fire pits that have internal storage.
Above the housing, you’ll find one or more burners that come up from a bowl. You then turn on the gas flow, which ignites the burners.
Gas fire pits are a great addition to any home. You’ll quickly become the most popular spot on the block.
Family and friends will always look forward to gathering at your home, and you’ll make some of the best memories of your life.
Imagine enjoying quiet nights with your significant other while sipping wine or telling ghost stories to kids on Halloween. Imagine long games of charades with friends. The possibilities are endless.
You may think “What’s the big difference between propane vs. natural gas fire pits? Aren’t they practically the same thing?”
They are not!
When you decide to get a gas fire pit, you will want to have all the facts in order to make a choice between natural gas and propane. Let’s take a closer look at both options.
Here’s everything you need to know about propane vs. natural gas fire pits.
The Pros and Cons of Propane
Alongside the propane vs. natural gas fire pit match, there's another one — the propane vs wood fire pit match is not even close.
With propane, there’s hardly any installation since all you have to do is hook a propane tank up to the fire pit. You don’t have to put in a great deal of effort to light the fire.
Once your propane tank is connected, all you have to do is release some valves and you’ve got yourself a fire going! You’ll have complete control over how much propane is being used. You’ll also be able to adjust your flame size along with its warmth.
Many propane tanks are small, which makes it easy to move your gas fire pit from place to place if need be.
If you’d rather your gas fire pit stay in one place, you can use larger propane tanks where a gas line can be run underground that connects to your gas fire pit.
In today’s world, saving money is a valid concern. Propane is rather inexpensive to buy.
On top of that, the installation/building of propane fire pits is less expensive than ones that use natural gas exclusively.
It’s also important to know just how much gas a fire pit uses. In order to understand this better, you need to know about BTUs. BTUs stand for British Thermal Units.
A BTU is a unit of measurement for how much heat is needed to raise the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Some brands will use the measurement kilowatt to measure heat output, but you can easily find the BTU equivalent with this calculator. Essentially BTUs means more flame which equals… you guessed it, more heat!
Propane burns at 2,500 BTUs. which makes it more efficient than natural gas. For the same volume natural gas uses 1,000 to 1,500 BTUs. We'll cover BTUs more in depth later in this article.
When looking at propane vs a wood fire pit, it's important to consider the fact that with propane you are going to have less to clean up.
It’s just like cooking a meal; if something makes the cleanup easier you’ll probably do more of it.
When weighing the pros and cons of a propane fire pit, it’s important to note that in the future you can sell it easily if you want to.
They hold their value which means any friend of yours looking for a used propane fire pit may be happy to take yours off your hands.
There are some drawbacks to having a propane fire pit. If you think you’ll use your propane fire pit often, then you’ll be making refill trips regularly.
Depending on how much you use your propane fire pit, you may find yourself making more trips than you’d like.
If you are maxing out your flame level, a 20lb tank of propane will be used in about 4 hours. At a more moderate level, the propane will last around 8 hours.
So, you’ll need to consider how much flame output you’ll use at a time. This could mean using your propane fire pit for shorter periods of time.
With a natural gas fire pit, you’ll never have to make refill trips.
You also need to consider that, generally, portable propane fire pits may require more maintenance since they may not be as rugged as a permanent fire pit.
The Pros and Cons of Natural Gas
If you want a fire pit that’s a permanent fixture at your home, then natural gas is the way to go.
However, it will require the installation of a permanent gas line. If you don’t already have one, then you’ll have to hire a professional to do the job. This can be somewhat costly.
Natural gas fire pits are connected to your houses’ gas line. You won’t be able to move it around at all (because if you did, you’d have to have to get a professional out to help you move it and reconnect it!)
However, the installation is worth it since it means access to an unlimited supply of gas — natural gas is cheaper than propane.
As a result of this unlimited supply of gas, you’ll get both bigger and warmer fires.
If you want to look at things from a more ecological standpoint, natural gas is friendlier than propane.
Since it’s cleaner, the emission of toxins is greatly reduced during burning. The CO and CO2 amount that is produced by natural gas is relatively low as well.
Natural gas is mainly made up of methane. That means the likelihood of accidental ignition is small.
Natural gas fire pits are extremely durable. You can expect them to remain in great condition for years to come.
Let’s look at natural gas vs. propane flame color. Since natural gas is cleaner, it’s going to produce yellow flames that are not as bright as the yellow flames produced by propane.
Natural gas fire pits will produce a clearer flame that is hard to see during the day.
So if impressing your guests with blazing flames is important to you then natural gas may not be the way to go.
When looking at propane vs. natural gas fire pits, it’s important to look at how your money will be spent.
A downside to natural gas fire pits is that although it’s cheaper than propane, the installation of a natural gas fire pit will be more expensive.
As stated above, a natural gas fire pit isn’t portable
Even though it’s cleaner, it’s important to consider that natural gas has 2.5 fewer BTUs than propane, which means it’s less efficient, so if you are looking for a more portable option then propane is the way to go.
What about safety? Are natural gas fire pits safe and if so, are they safer than propane fire pits? The answer is yes they are safe.
In fact, propane and natural gas fire pits are safe. However, when deciding to go with natural gas you have to get a professional to help you with the installation as it is piped.
Fire Pits Add Value to Your Home
According to this study, gas fire pits can add some serious value to your home. You could get over 50% ROI.
According to the American Society of Landscape Architects list, fire pits are an extremely popular element of any backyard setup. They seem to be more popular than dining areas, seating, or even lighting.
However, it’s more likely that a natural gas fire pit will add more property value than propane.
It’s important to know your community's guidelines when it comes to outdoor fire pits.
First, check with your homeowners’ association and local fire department. Make sure your community doesn’t have a ban on open fires as these can include fire pits.
Then there are communities that allow for both propane and natural gas fire pits as long as all instructions and recommendations from the manufacturer are followed.
Your insurance agent can also be helpful on this matter. You need to know if you’re in an area that is at higher risk for wildfires.
If that be the case, you may be required to let your insurance company know. Your agent can let you know of any impact that your fire pit may have on your coverage.
What Does BTU mean?
BTUs were mentioned earlier, but here’s a more in-depth look at them. If you are looking for more flame then you’ll want more BTUs. This logically means more warmth as well.
As far as flame color is concerned, there are a number of factors that play into it.
How much gas is mixed with primary air before burning will affect your flame height and color. If there is more primary air then you can expect to see blue flame color.
It will be a shorter flame but also a cleaner warmer flame. The way you get more primary air is by opening the air shutter more at the location of the orifice.
So, if you want less primary air then you guessed it...close the air shutter more. When you do this your flame will become very yellow. It will be taller as well. Make sure you don’t close the air shutter too much as it can lead to more CO2 being generated.
Propane vs. Natural Gas Fire Pit Safety
In general gas fire pits are safe but make sure you use a dry-chemical fire extinguisher instead of water. Make sure you know how to use a fire extinguisher and that it gets inspected regularly.
It’s true that gas fire pits are cleaner than wood fire pits, but you still need to examine the pit before you use it.
Look out for any debris or leaves that may have fallen. To best avoid this it’s important to cover your fire pit when it’s not being used. Luckily, most of the fire pits we sell offer free weatherproof covers
Don’t leave the gas on when your fire pit isn’t being used. This may seem obvious but it’s important to be aware of.
Always check to see if you’ve turned the gas line off. This way you can make sure there isn’t a dangerous gas leak.
Keep children and animals a minimum of 3 feet away from the fire pit at all times.
Even if it’s not in use it’s good to lay this ground rule. Residual heat can cause damage just by a child putting their hand too close or a dog sniffing too close.
Be mindful of any strong winds that may be in your area and make sure your fire pit is at least 10 feet away from your house or any structure. Make sure to trim any branches that may cause a risk as well.
Gas Fire Pits Are the Way to Go
Whether you choose to use propane or natural gas fire pits, gas fire pits are the way to go.
Many people ask if they can use natural gas on a propane fire pit. The great thing about most of our fire pits is that you can use both propane and natural gas.
If you want to determine how much gas these fire pits use, you’ll have to look for BTU usage on your gas bill as it varies.
Take a look at all our gas fire pits — there are dozens of options to choose from to fit your needs, and you won’t have to worry about propane vs natural gas fire pits because you can get both.
Want to save time searching for the best options? Make sure to check out our Best Propane Fire Pits blog and our Best Natural Gas Fire Pits post to see our top recommendations for each.