Home » Do Smokeless Fire Pits Work: Here’s What To Really Expect

Do Smokeless Fire Pits Work: Here’s What To Really Expect

There’s nothing quite as nice as sitting in the backyard with friends and family around a real wood fire.  Right up until the wind starts to swirl and everyone starts playing musical chairs to avoid getting blasted by eye-watering smoke.

If you are tired of smokey backyard fires that stink up your clothes while raining down ash and soot, then you’ve probably considered a smokeless fire pit.  That’s quite a claim though.  A smoke free fire pit that burns real wood seems impossible.  Until you see it for yourself, it’s normal to wonder if a smokeless fire pit actually works.

Smokeless fire pits do work.  With a double wall design made to boost oxygen flow, smokeless fire pits can generate much higher temperatures than a standard fire pit.  As a result, any residual smoke fully combusts before escaping the flames which creates an almost smoke free fire. 

Anxious to ditch smokey fires and get a smokeless fire pit instead?  You’re not alone.  But before you make the purchase, there are a few caveats you need to know about.  Read on and I’ll divulge what you can really expect from a smokeless fire pit.

How do smokeless fire pits work

The recipe for fire is simple.  Heat, fuel and oxygen are the only three ingredients you need.  Most fire pits fail to maintain the right ratio of ingredients which ends up causing a lot of smoke.  And the primary culprit behind all that smoke is a lack of oxygen.

Smokeless pits work by maintaining a constant source of oxygen resulting in a much hotter fire.  They do this by utilizing a double wall design that pulls air from the bottom and superheats it as it flows up and out strategically placed vents at the top of the pit.  This superheated air mixes with residual smoke, generating a secondary combustion cycle.  

Ultimately, this dual combustion system is what results in significantly less smoke.  Notice, I said less smoke not zero smoke.  You’ll need to temper your expectations a little bit.  Smokeless fire pits get their name because they “smoke less” than a standard fire pit.  They do produce a small amount of smoke but way less than any other fires I’ve sat around.

Do smokeless fire pits radiate heat

Most of us fire pit aficionados love feeling the warm radiant heat that a wood burning fire throws off.  Get a blazing fire going and you instantly feel the heat.  

Despite burning super hot, smokeless fire pits send most of their heat blasting straight up toward the sky.  A lot less heat radiates from the sides towards those gathered around the fire.  This is most likely because of the double wall design.  

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s still a fair bit of heat generated from the sides of a smokeless fire pit.  Just not quite as much as you would expect.  Especially, compared to a traditional fire pit.  Often you need to be much closer to smokeless fire pits to stay warm.  Most smokeless fire pits have a heating radius of 3-4 feet.  Beyond that, you’ll be reaching for a blanket.  The sides are still scorching hot though, so don’t touch.

For some, it’s a little bit of a let down so keep that in mind.  However, there are ways to boost up the heating power of a smokeless pit.  Depending on the make and model, there are stands that elevate the fire pit off the ground.  In doing so, heat from the bottom actually adds some warmth to your feet and legs while sitting by the fire. 

Do smokeless fire pits use more wood

Every last scrap of wood is reduced to fine ash in a smokeless fire pit.  Yet, that high efficiency burn comes at a price.  While smokeless pits efficiently extract every BTU from a log, they are not good at making a pile of wood last.

Those extra hot flames in a smokeless fire pit mean you’ll burn through a lot more wood than a similar sized standard fire pit.  It’s not necessarily a deal breaker for everyone but it is still something to consider.  

Why is my smokeless fire pit smoking

Nothing dashes your high expectations of a smokeless fire pit like a big plume of smoke emanating from it.  I guess that means they don’t actually work, right?  Well, not quite.

Your smokeless fire pit is probably smoking because something is disrupting the flow of oxygen or reducing the internal temperature of the combustion chamber which prevents a smoke free burn.

There are 3 main reasons why your smokeless fire pit is smoking.  And I hate to break it to you but they all involve user error.  Therefore, before you toss your smokeless fire pit out for scrap, take a look to see if the following problems apply to you.

Problem #1 

Your wood is wet or not properly seasoned.  Steam and water vapor released while burning wet wood prevents a smokeless fire pit from reaching a high enough temperature to initiate the secondary burn that consumes smoke.  Burn only well seasoned, dry wood.

Problem #2

Ash build-up is blocking air flow.  Smokeless fire pits are not exactly maintenance free.  The area where the logs sit while they burn is specially designed to maximize air flow.  Accumulated ash eventually blocks the air flow and lowers the burning temperature.  Clean out ash from your smokeless pit regularly to avoid increased smoke output.

Problem #3

Improperly built fire.  There is always going to be more smoke during the first 30 minutes while your smokeless fire pit ramps up to operating temperature.  However, reaching that smoke free point quickly depends on a good bed of coals during start up.  Skip that step and you’ll have to suffer through way more smoke.  Always start your fire with small, dry material and work up in size as the fire grows.  Don’t jump the gun by tossing in big logs before that bed of coals is well nurtured.   

Are smokeless fire pits safer

All fire pits have some element of danger.  After all, you’re trying to contain fire.  

However, smokeless fire pits tends to be much safer than other types of wood burning fire pits.  Very little smoke pollutes the air and virtually zero flammable embers or ash escape the pit.

Smokeless fire pits are a much better option for health and fire safety, which makes them particularly enjoyable in densely populated urban areas.  Keep in mind that burn ban restrictions usually still apply to smokeless fire pits.  

Can you use a smokeless fire pit on a deck

Their compact size and portability make smokeless fire pits a great option for small urban backyards.  They are certainly self-contained but that doesn’t mean you can just put them anywhere.  

Since smokeless fire pits burn at high temperatures, the pit itself gets extremely hot.  For that reason, it is never a good idea to place a smokeless fire pit on a deck or any other combustible surface.  

In my experience, the bottom surface of smokeless fire pits reach temperatures up to 800°F.  Temperatures that high will instantly kill grass, char wood decking and even fracture the surface of a concrete patio.  

The best way to enjoy your fire pit without causing damage is to use concrete pavers.  A layer of gravel or rocks in the yard also works great.  

Some smokeless fire pits come with stands that provide extra clearance allowing for safer use on multiple surfaces.  You should still use caution.  Fire pit stands might help you avoid burning the surface on which you place it but there is often still enough heat to cause discoloring.  Especially, on a wood surface like a deck.

Best smokeless fire pits that truly work

There are plenty of smokeless fire pits to choose from.  However, a proven track record of exceptional quality and a truly smokeless function that lives up to your expectations is what really matters.  

You can find smokeless fire pits to match any budget but only a couple fire pits are of sufficient quality to warrant my attention.  Take a look at my two favorite brands of smokeless fire pits.  These are the ones that are a cut above the rest and truly work in any backyard.

Breeo X Series 19 Smokeless Fire Pit

  • Outside Dimensions – 22.13” wide X 14.75” high
  • Inside Dimensions – 18.5” wide X 11.38” high
  • Weight – 54 pounds
  • Material – Legs/Rim: Stainless Steel, Fire Ring: 304 Stainless Steel or Corten Steel
  • Use – Backyard fire pit for gatherings or cooking
  • Price – $349

The Breeo X Series 19 inch smokeless fire pit is more than just a centerpiece for everyone to sit around.  It is a full blown campfire experience that incorporates sophisticated style with the versatility to produce delicious fire cooked meals.  

Choose from 304 stainless steel or the more rustic look of weathered Corten steel.  Either way, you get a perfectly engineered design that optimizes air flow for a truly low smoke burn.  Its robust construction will last a lifetime of burning.  Plus, add on the optional SearPlate and the Outpost grilling system for the ultimate in backyard cooking.  

Solo Stove Bonfire Smokeless Fire Pit

  • Dimensions – 19.5” wide X 14” high
  • Weight – 20 pounds
  • Material – 304 stainless steel
  • Use – Portable fire pit for camping or backyard gatherings
  • Price – $299

Solo Stove smokeless fire pits are the number one brand for a reason.  Its minimalist design allows for the ultimate in portability.  Weighing in at a compact 20 pounds, it’s ready for any backyard or outdoor adventure.  Not to mention, every fire pit is made from 304 stainless steel that handles any abuse while maintaining its rugged good looks.  

Of all the smokeless fire pits I’ve seen, the Solo Stove definitely earns its top spot for a truly smoke free burn.  A 360° air flow system leads to better efficiency and a more complete burn.  It’s a great fire pit for sitting around and enjoying the beautiful flames or roasting marshmallows with your family.  As an added bonus, get the optional stand for safe burning on any surface, including a wood deck.

DIY smokeless fire pit

Not everyone likes the idea of shelling out a few hundred dollars for a fancy smokeless fire pit.  Luckily, there are some great do-it-yourself smokeless pit designs that work nearly as well and at only a fraction of the cost.  

You’ll need some basic materials like landscaping stones, a steel ring insert, a few household tools and a little ingenuity.  Other than that, anyone can create a cleaner burning fire pit right in their backyard.  

Don’t take my word for it though.  Check out this video to see how easy it really is.  

Final thoughts

Now, more than ever, the ability to create a gathering place for close family and friends is a must.  One of the simplest ways to enjoy your home’s outdoor space is by adding a fire pit as a focal point.  But if the idea of smoke keeps you from wanting one, then give a smokeless fire pit a try.  They really do work!