Propane Fire Pit FAQs

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Thinking of getting a propane fire pit? They’re definitely convenient, and can be a good alternative to wood burning for several reasons – in fact, sometimes they’re even better! We put together these propane fire pit FAQs to answer all your questions.

When buying a propane fire pit keep in mind that you’ll also need to pick up a propane tank. These can be bought and filled at most gas stations. How much you’ll be refilling will depend on the capacity of your propane tank and the type of fire pit you have. 

Running it on high you should get 4-6 hours of steady fuel, but a lower setting could last 6-10 hours. If you want to do the math yourself, a 20lb propane tank has enough fuel for 432,000 BTUs of heat.

Can You Roast Marshmallows on a Propane Fire Pit?

Yes! Propane fire pits give off plenty of fire and heat to roast your marshmallows. Even a small, single burner fire pit will have more than enough flame to roast at least one marshmallow at once.

The biggest issue with marshmallows on a propane fire pit is potential mess. As long as they stay attached to your sticks you’ll be fine, but anyone who’s lost a marshmallow into the firepit knows that they sometimes don’t cooperate while cooking.

Marshmallow falling on your propane burner shouldn’t hurt anything, but it will be a mess to clean up. 

Can You Cook Over a Propane Fire Pit?

Can and should are too different things, but yes you definitely can cook over a propane fire pit. Just like with the marshmallow, cooking other types of food can lead to a messy situation that’s much harder to clean up than when you’re burning wood.

Anything that can be roasted on a stick like hot dogs, bannock, breads wrapped around the stick, etc. should be easy to roast on most propane fire pits.

If you have a grate on top of your propane fire pit then you have even more cooking options. Basically anything that would normally be cooked on a wood burning fire pit grate can be cooked on here. 

Once again, keep clean up in mind. Anything wrapped in foil or cooked in a pan/pot are fine, but something that has juices dripping through the grate and into the fire pit element (like meat) should be avoided. 

Can a Propane Fire Pit Be Used Indoors?

No, as a rule you shouldn’t use a propane fire pit or any propane heater indoors.

First of all, propane produces carbon monoxide when it burns. The gas is odorless, so it’s impossible to know whether or not you have safe levels in an enclosed space unless you have a carbon monoxide detector.

Even with proper ventilation, though, it’s not a great idea to have an open flame in your home. Another issue is if the propane is left on by accident – one small spark in the area could cause a fire or explosion. 

The last thing to consider is whether or not it was made for indoor or outdoor use. There are propane heaters and fireplaces that are made specifically for indoor use. 

It’s not impossible to create an indoor fire pit – but you’ll want to talk to a professional so you can do it safely.

Can a Propane Fire Pit Be Used on a Deck?

Propane fire pits are great because you can use them on decks and balconies. They don’t take up as much space as a wood burning fire pit, and need a lot less maintenance.

Unlike wood burning fire pits, gas flames don’t send sparks flying around the area so they’re a lot less likely to damage your deck.

Can a Propane Fire Pit Be Used on a Wooden Deck?

Yes, definitely! Just make sure that you’re cautious with the open flame, especially if your deck is older and the wood is dry.

To keep things even safer, though, you can use a tabletop fire pit (or one built into a table), or purchase a safety heat shield to go below your fire pit. 

Can Any Propane Fire Pit Be Converted to Natural Gas?

It depends on the make of the fire pit. Most of the time you can convert a propane fire pit to natural gas using a natural gas conversion kit. If there is one available for your fire pit then you shouldn’t have any problems converting it.

You’ll also need a natural gas supply already running to your home and a natural gas hook up available outside. If you already have a line for a BBQ or other outdoor kitchen it will make things easier, but unless you have a free gas hook up you’ll need to run additional lines to your fire pit.

There are a lot of benefits to converting your propane fire pit to natural gas: it’s more convenient (no refilling propane tanks) and less expensive than running propane. But those benefits can be outweighed but the cost to install natural gas lines. 

If you’re buying a propane fire pit now with hopes to convert it in the future make sure you check that it can be converted before buying.

Can a Propane Fire Pit Be Used on a Covered Patio?

Yes! Just make sure you have enough overhead clearance. This varies from place to place, but is usually about 6 ½ feet.

If anything, propane fire pits are the ideal choice if you want a heat source on a covered patio, gazebo or pergola because they’re so safe and low maintenance.

Are Propane Fire Pits Legal?

Almost always. Propane fire pits are generally allowed in most places around the world without any special permits or licensing. Some areas have specifically bylaws or HOA rules surrounding them, though, so definitely check with your local laws before picking one up.

If you live in a dry area that sometimes has fire bans, it’s hit and miss whether or not propane fire pits are included in these rules. 

Some areas require permits for a fire pit, so in that case operating one would be illegal. 

Are Propane Fire Pits Safe?

Yes, they are one of the safest ways to enjoy a backyard fire. Unlike wood burning heat, propane fire pits don’t create sparks or a lot of smoke so you can use them in almost any outdoor environment.

They’re also safer than wood because you have more control over your heat source. Putting out a propane fire pit is as easy as turning off the propane tank. Without the fuel source, your flame will go out right away.

Here’s a few tips to make your propane fire pit more safe:

  • Keep debris and flammable items away from the open flame
  • Always keep a water source (a charged water hose is great) nearby to extinguish flames
  • Have a class B fire extinguisher on hand in case of a propane fire
  • Use your propane fire pit in a well ventilated area to avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide
  • Always follow the safety instructions that come with your fire pit
  • Supervise kids and pets around any heat source, especially an open flame
  • Consider a glass guard around the flame as an extra precaution

Is Cooking on a Propane Fire Pit Safe?

Earlier we talked about cooking on your fire pit, but since a propane fire pit gives off carbon monoxide when burned you might be wondering if it’s safe to eat that food at all. Yes, cooking on a propane fire pit is perfectly safe.

Since propane is commonly used for BBQs as a fuel source it’s also perfectly safe to eat food that’s been heated over a propane fire pit. On its own, propane isn’t very toxic to the body because we can’t absorb it.

When burned, propane is alkaline. That means it burns clean. Oh, and carbon monoxide is only dangerous if you breathe it in – if any were to get on food it’s completely harmless.

Are Propane Fire Pits Warm?

They can be but it depends on what kind of propane fire pit you get. Heat is usually measured in BTUs, or British thermal units. On the most basic terms, the higher the BTU rating, the more heat your fire pit will give off.

Some of this is common sense – a small tabletop flame is going to add some warmth for everyone sitting around the table but it won’t heat your whole patio.

When working in a small, enclosed space a lower BTU count is fine. For example, a typical indoor space heater tops out at just over 5,000 BTUs. But outdoor heat is very inefficient, so you’ll need about 10x that, at least 50,000 BTUs, to feel warm. 

Even that is radial heat, though. Which means that the heat goes in all directions and you’ll feel warmer as you get close to it. If you’re buying a fire pit just for heat there are better options out there to stay warm, like a patio heater.

On the flipside, if you’re in a warmer climate and want ambience you can drop down to 40 or even 30,000 BTUs so you’re not too hot.

Look for a fire pit with adjustable heat settings so you can turn the temperature up and down depending on the weather. 

Why Does My Propane Fire Pit Smell?

Chemical Smell

There’s a few reasons for a smelly propane fire pit. First of all, new fire pits generally have some residues from the manufacturing process that can smell at first. This will usually go away after you use the fire pit for a bit.

Rocks and Sand

The lava rocks and river rocks you see inside most fire pits can also smell when heated up. Silica sand, which is also a common material used in fire pits, can have a smell too depending on its purity.

If the smell of rocks or sand bothers you, there’s a product called “fire glass” that you can use in their place. Not only do they have less of an odor, they add to the ambience because the flame reflects off the glass. 

Burning Smell

Another common smell, especially if you use your fire pit often, is a burning scent. Check to make sure nothing is dirty or dusty. You should also inspect the entire fire pit to make sure no part has been burning or melting.

The culprit is usually something (food, a leaf, etc) that’s fallen into the flame but sometimes a burning smell can indicate a problem with the fire pit too.

If You Can Smell Propane

If you can smell propane then there’s a problem. Usually it means that there’s a leak or all the propane isn’t being burned for some reason.

A little bit of propane smell when you first ignite the fire pit is normal. The same goes for the occasional “puff” of propane scnet. 

But if a propane odor lingers after the fire pit is lit or it smells very strong, stop using your fire pit immediately. 

Before you call in a professional you can check to make sure the propane is hooked up properly and there’s no damage on the lines or your propane tank. If that doesn’t fix it, reach out to the manufacturer or consult a repair person.

Key Takeaways

Propane fire pits are easy to maintain, stylish, and safe to operate in most outdoor environments. Set up is simple – all you need is your fire pit and a propane tank. Since both are portable, you can move your fire pit anywhere in the yard or set it up on a deck.

Depending on your needs, you can find fire pits that will give off a lot of heat, provide ambiance, or entertain guests sitting around a table. Unlike wood heat, you don’t have to worry about sparks and smoke. 

Food can be cooked on a propane fire pit with a grate, and it’s safe to roast marshmallows on one too. Just be careful not to drop anything in the flame! The heat can usually be adjusted on the fire pit, too, which makes cooking easier.

Hopefully these propane fire pit FAQs have answered your questions about propane fire pits. 

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