Fire pits are a popular choice amongst many people to adorn their outdoor spaces with something that not only provides warmth, but creates a beautiful intimate atmosphere that friends and family can enjoy on a chilly evening.
However, just as any product or device that generates heat, there are a number of safety precautions, a number of considerations to keep in mind in order to ensure you’re not only able to enjoy what that product has to offer, but that you also close the door to potential health hazards and accidents. One of these considerations includes proper ventilation.
Most fire pits need a ventilation system in order to ensure proper circulation of heat throughout the space they’re placed in and to optimize their heat output. Stick around and gather some necessary information and tidbits regarding properly ventilating your fire pit – it will help!
Understanding the Science behind Fire Ventilation:
Delving into a little bit of basic chemistry around the topic so you get an idea why ventilation is important, let us revise some of the elementary concepts regarding what makes a fire.
A fire not only needs fuel and a heat source in order to work, but also enough oxygen. Air contains 21 percent oxygen and a 16 percent of oxygen content is required in order to make a fire.
“Ventilation is the process of allowing enough oxygen content to enter a fire so it can keep going. Without enough oxygen content, a fire can die out quickly, as the combustion process slows down and eventually, comes down to a halt.“
Dangers of Insufficient Ventilation in a Fire Pit
Most fire pits require you to place them in a wide-open, empty space away from all sorts of flammable materials, such as vegetation, trees, fabrics, wooden structures and so on.
Insufficient ventilation by not placing your fire pit adequately away from these materials can lead to dangerous fire hazards depending on the flammability of the materials. Certain materials like plastic release a lot of toxic fumes along with smoke and other by-products in the air when burnt.
Apart from that, most gas-powered fire pits can lead to deadly explosions preceded by gas leaks if enough ventilation is not provided. Deaths by gas explosions are common and are often caused by improper maintenance of the gas valves and other parts.
Apart from that, using porous and wet rocks traps water at the bottom of the fire pits and leads to explosions when overheated.
How Do I Tell if my Fire Pit Needs Air Vents?
Now that we’ve covered the basic scientific reasons why fire pits need ventilation, and also the dangers of not providing it, let us discuss whether your fire pit has enough ventilation or not.
Simply put, if your fire pit lacks ventilation, you’ll find that the fire repeatedly ends up going out and does not burn for as many hours as it normally would. Especially in the case of stone fire pits, the lack of sufficient amount of air holes is what leads to insufficient ventilation.
There are different kinds of fire pits, and each requires a different kind of maintenance to provide proper ventilation. But generally, there are three things to keep in mind despite what type of fire pit you’re using:
1) Quality of Construction: It’s always a good idea to get your fire pit installed and constructed by a professional who’s sensible regarding the various nuances and specifications to keep in mind while installing the fire pit at your particular place.
Incorrect setting of the fuel woods, tinder, etc. can lead to improper ventilation, so a DIY approach isn’t the best idea if you’re new to installing a fire pit.
2) Lack of Enough Air Holes/Vents: Improper setting of the air holes and the insufficient amount of air holes can lead to heat getting trapped in the enclosure of your fire pit as it wouldn’t have enough outlets to safely escape from.
3) Clogged Air Holes/Vents: Additionally, clogging of the air holes and vents by ash or other materials can mar your fire pit’s ventilation system. Make sure you regularly maintain and clean the vents to prevent this from happening.
Safety Tip: If you’re using a propane or natural gas fire pit and you ever notice an odor similar to that of rotten eggs, attend to your fire pit immediately as this is a sign of a gas leak caused by insufficient ventilation. If not checked in time, this can lead to a deadly gas explosion.
Can You Block the Air Vents by Accident?
You can definitely end up blocking the air vents by accident if you’re lighting your fire pit regularly and neglecting the overall cleanliness of the air vents. Ash, dirt and debris may get stuck in the vents which would obviously negate the whole purpose of the vents. Clean the intake vents using nails and check if it’s plugged.
Additionally, if you’re using the wrong materials for the air holes, such as PVC pipes, not only you’ll end up marring the overall ventilation but also paving way for unwanted accidents as plastic melts and releases toxic chemicals along with smoke.
Apart from maintaining the vents, it’s also important that after every use of your fire pit, you clean the bottom of excess ashes and dirt. Not doing so will block the flow of oxygen, leading to lack of ventilation.
The cover you use for your fire pit also matters, as a solid one will prevent the smoke from escaping the fire pit. It’s better to use a meshed material for the spark screen instead of a solid one, so there are passages for the smoke to go out from.
Methods of Providing Ventilation to Your Fire Pit
There are various ways you can provide enough ventilation to your fire pit, given below:
1) Cross-ventilation: Cross-ventilation basically means that you provide air vents on two opposite sides of the fire pit. The use of multiple vents allows enough passages and outlets for the gas or smoke to escape out of. You don’t want the heat to get trapped on one side of the fire pit’s bottom leading to uneven ventilation and heat consistency.
2) Placing Your Fire Pit in an Open, Empty Space: Based on the manufacturer’s instructions or the instruction manual, place your fire pit at an appropriate distance from all sorts of flammable materials. If you’re making your own, DIY fire pit though, a good rule of thumb is to place them at least 10 feet away from your house.
Consider both horizontal and vertical distances in this case. They must not be placed near overhanging tree branches. Also avoid placing them on wooden floors. They should either be placed on natural grass or on a concrete surface.
3) Considering Smokeless Fire Pits: Smokeless fire pits aren’t exactly ‘smokeless’ but they release far less smoke in the atmosphere as compared to your typical gas-powered fire pits by virtue of their smart construction.
Smokeless fire pits are basically dug a few inches in the ground, followed by digging a tunnel of sorts leading to another hole from where the smoke escapes. The tunnel in this case is the main ventilation system, and what’s even better is that since these fire pits are already in the ground you don’t need to worry about maintaining their bottoms.
Ventilation in Different Types of Fire Pits:
Let us discuss some of the common types of fire pits and whether you need to ventilate them or not.
1) Stone Fire Pits: Stone fire pits need a proper ventilation system, which is commonly achieved by leaving out empty spaces between the bricks at even distances. It is normally recommended to keep these empty spaces at 2 inches in size, and spaced 24 to 36 inches apart around the base of the fire pit.
2) In-ground Fire Pits: Similar to stone fire pits, in-ground fire pits require ventilation. It’s recommended to dig them at least 6 to 12 inches under the ground. Also add a thorough layer of sand in order to prevent root fires.
3) Outdoor Fire Pits: Most store-bought gasoline fire pits already have a ventilation system engineered in their design. The only thing you need to be considerate about is placing them at a safe distance from all flammable objects and to be wary of any gas leaks which are caused by clogged connections and valves.
4) Electric Fire Pits: Interestingly, electric fire pits do not require a ventilation system, as they don’t produce a natural flame and so, no smoke is produced either. No combustion process is involved.
“With the exception of electric fire pits, it is safe to conclude that all fire pits require a good ventilation system in order to prevent ugly health hazards and accidents from showing up.“
When it comes to anything related to fire, make sure you practice extra precaution so you keep yourself and the others in your surrounding safe, and can enjoy the benefits of your product to its fullest potential.
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All the best
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