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It’s hard to deny: using gas for your outdoor fires is too convenient to ignore. That said, nobody could blame you if you just can’t bring to say goodbye to the classic sight of logs keeping you warm. And you don’t have to!, as long as you choose the right type of log. That’s why we’re here: to help you choose the best kind of logs you can use for your gas fire pit, so that you truly get the best of both worlds.
What Kind of Logs To Use For an Outdoor Gas Fire Pit? Anything but Real Wood.
We just said logs, and now we’re saying no to wood. We will make sense before long, but first, let’s explain why wood should never be placed into a gas fire pit.
1. Too Hot
Have you heard of British Thermal Units, or BTUs? One BTU is equivalent to the energy required to raise the temperature of 1lb of water by 1°F, and it is the unit most frequently used to measure heat output. Propane ranks around 100,000 BTUs per gallon; this is the sort of heat your gas fire pit is designed to endure. Wood, on the other hand, will vary in heat output by species, but it will always be over 10 million BTUs per cord (and some may go as far as 35 million). This sort of heat may damage—even crack— your fire pit.
2. Who Wants Clogged Burners?
Ash will get into the burners of your gas fire pit all too easily. This will lead to, at first, uneven flame, and inefficient heat. Eventually your gas fire pit might be rendered useless.
3. One Blaze, Double the Hazards
This is fire we’re talking about. Be it a grill, fire pit, stove or campfire, the first rule is to never let it out of your sight. If you combine wood and gas, then you will be forced to watch for (aside from cracking components), fire getting too big to control, gas leaks, and so on—essentially, the dangers associated with both kinds of fuel, all at the same time.
4. Noxious Emissions
Though less relevant when it comes to fire pits (as they are out in the open), it’s still important to point out in case anyone would like to try mixing fuels at their indoors fireplace. Wood fire creates much thicker smoke than a gas fireplace is designed to ventilate; this excess will concentrate in your home. Aside from the darker particles, which may irritate airways and eyes, there’s the risk of poisoning by carbon monoxide, which can be harder to avoid since this gas has no scent or color.
Enter the Gas Logs
Confounding though the word combination may be, the term is legit. It’s not wood, of course; rather, it is an item intended to mimic the look of wood logs, without actually burning or (quite importantly) creating ashes. Since they don’t actually combust, there is no loss while your fire is going, so you can use them pretty much indefinitely. Gas logs are made of ceramic or cement, and some even feature a steel bar in the middle, to reinforce their structure and prevent them from cracking under extreme heat.
Gas logs are either cast from real wood pieces, or produced from carefully detailed molds. The paint is the final touch, usually done by hand, including some charred-looking parts in certain cases; depending on where they are (closer to the burner, usually), the logs take on a bright red color at the bottom which can only enhance their looks and realism.
The Homey Sort
Some gas logs sets are specifically designed for using indoors, in tandem with a fireplace; they come with their own burner and valves, and require professional installation, as well as a periodic inspection for any cracks that might develop. However complex they may sound, they are worth using, for reasons that we will get into further down. Gas logs for use in fire places come in two versions:
This type of gas logs is best if you want a realistic fire; many sets even feature a bottom layer that looks like embers, which makes it look closer to a fire that has been going on for a while. These require for you to keep your chimney’s damper open at all times, to let out the resulting hot air, gas and other residues from combustion. This makes them less adept at keeping your space warm, as a good amount of heat goes out through the chimney along with the emissions.
This type is designed to burn so hot, almost the entirety of your fuel is appropriately consumed, and you will even see a blue flame, as is usual with most things that burn gas. This flame is not as tall or colorful as that provided by a vented set, but it has the advantage of emitting far less than its counterpart does, which means you can use it, for example, in a fire place whose chimney has been blocked. Given their design, the resulting heat is cycled back into the room, with hardly any loss; this makes a ventless set much better at keeping you warm, even if it won’t look as realistic.
In summary: if what you want is ambiance, and you’re not worried about warming up your space (perhaps you already have a heater for that), then vented is your way to go, as long as you have a damper to let the resulting emissions out. On the other hand, if you don’t have anywhere to vent out, or you want this to be your main source of heat, then ventless is the better choice.
The Smaller, Decorative, Fire Pit Sort
As we mentioned in the previous section, certain gas logs alternatives are intended for indoors use only, and require professional installation. That said—and in case you were wondering if you would have to heavily modify your appliance—, you don’t have to go to such lengths to enjoy these logs in your fire pit. Some sets provide only the logs, and they are intended for a wide variety of flame sources: fire pits that burn gas or methanol, ordinary or electric fireplaces, you name it. Given the variety in the market, it is fairly easy to find the look (by species) that better suits your fancy, or the ideal size for the dimensions of your appliance.
What Makes Them Better
Depending on their size and craftsmanship, a set of gas logs for your fire pit (i.e. that doesn’t require any installation) may set you back between 70 and 200 dollars. This may feel like too big an investment; here’s why it’s worth it.
We mean this in more than one sense. Since gas logs are not actually burning, there is nothing to scoop up between fires; no brushing the bottom, vacuuming ashes, and securely disposing of them (yes, it’s a whole thing). There are very little emissions, too, when compared to a wood fire; what this means for you is, no smell on your clothes, no itchy eyes, and no potential irritation of your airways and lungs. Furthermore, there is no pollution released into the area, as opposed to the smoke from a wood fire.
You don’t have to worry about stocking and replenishing gas logs—not nearly as often as it is with firewood, anyway. Furthermore, the purely decorative sets that are used on fire pits don’t require any maintenance, beyond periodically checking them for the odd crack or loose fragment.
The Look You Want
When you are dealing with real firewood, you can’t just choose any species you think looks pretty; you have to consider how well it burns, whether it is dry enough, and some other factors; and some pieces may not be very good looking. Gas logs are meticulously crafted for looks, and they come in a variety of species. You can choose the color you want, without worrying about it failing to complement the rest of your space.
In Closing: The Best of Both Worlds
Clean burning? Check. Time-honored ambiance? Check. It may feel like a hefty disbursement, but it feels less so when we keep in mind that a cord of wood can cost $300 on average, and you have to shoulder that cost roughly every winter, whereas one set of gas logs will last several years. You get the looks and the heat, at only a fraction of the cost and emissions. All in all, it’s quite a good deal.