Editors’ Note: We reviewed this article in February 2023, and still stand behind these expert recommendations. We’ll continue to evaluate this list on a monthly basis to make sure the models below represent the best gas fire pits available now.
The act of sitting around a fire has been an important part of our society since, well, the harnessing of fire. But unlike our ancestors, today’s flames aren’t dependent upon wood. Gas fire pits, which use either propane or natural gas, have become a hot commodity in recent years.
Best Gas Fire Pits
The Experts: James Fitzgerald is a home improvement freelance writer with over a decade of experience in a variety of trades. During his time as a maintenance technician, he installed gas fire pits to add ambiance and warmth on chilly Pacific Northwest nights at multiple facilities. As a lover of all things outdoors, he has personally enjoyed the alluring atmosphere that gas fire pits contribute to practically any outdoor space, especially as wood-burning fire pits become increasingly less common due to their inherent fire risk. We also consulted Patrick Schatz, who is a mechanical engineer with Hearth Products Controls, a provider of high-end gas fire pits.
Why You Should Choose a Gas Fire Pit
Patrick Schatz of Hearth Products Controls thinks people are turning to gas fire pits over wood because of the ease of use. “You don’t have to gather wood,” he says. “You don’t have to clean out the ash. And gas fires burn clean, so there’s no smoke, which can be the most annoying part of a fire.”
Gas fire pits are also considered an appliance so they can be placed closer to existing structures, whereas wood fire pits often have to be 25 feet away from homes or decks. But that ease of use comes with a price—literally. Gas fire pits are often much more expensive than their wood counterparts. And even the most robust gas flames are not as warm as a wood fire. But if you’re looking for a no-hassle fire to provide ambiance and some warmth in your backyard or on your patio, gas might be your best option.
Key Factors to Consider
The first factor to consider when choosing a gas fire pit is the space you’re looking to fill. There are fire pits in many shapes and sizes, including tiny tabletop flames and massive concrete installations meant to anchor a backyard. If you’re hoping to provide warmth, choose a large fire pit with a BTU output of 50,000 or higher. Although some smaller options aren’t as warm, they can create a cozy atmosphere for one or two people.
Many fire pits today run on 20-pound propane tanks, but some require natural gas, delivered via a connection to your home line. A few can be configured for either gas source. “Natural gas is typically a better choice if you have access to it, but you’ll need a plumbing professional to install it,” Schatz says, adding that natural gas is the top choice because there are no tanks to hide or refill. It’s also significantly cheaper than propane once the line is installed. Factor that installation into your budget, though; running a gas line to a fire pit costs around $25 per linear foot. On the other hand, hooking up a fire pit to a 20-pound propane tank is no different than attaching a tank to your gas grill, and propane burns more efficiently than natural gas. Propane fire pits might also require some light assembly. In our experience, the process is typically less complicated than putting together a grill.
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The ignition system of your fire pit is also worth considering. There are basically two kinds of ignition systems: match-lit and push-button. A match-lit system requires you to turn on the gas and then hover a lit match over the gas output. It is typically less expensive and more reliable than a push-button system, though holding a lit match over flammable gas does make some people nervous. A push-button system creates a spark next to the gas outlet to ignite the flame. Typically, these buttons are powered by a battery, which you’ll occasionally have to replace. Permanent gas fire pit installations often use a push-button ignition system that’s powered by a permanent electric supply.
Schatz says safety should also be a top concern and that any permanent natural gas fire pit you choose should have features like flame detection sensors and automatic gas shutoff valves. You can also look for propane fire pits that adhere to CSA (Canadian Standards Association), ANSI (American National Standards Institute), or UL (Underwriters Laboratory) safety standards. And finally, pay attention to the materials the fire pit is built with, particularly the burner mechanism that houses and produces the flame. “That should be made from stainless steel, which is going to be more durable than other materials,” Schatz says.
How We Evaluated
When evaluating gas fire pits, we took into account a range of styles and functions to accommodate as many needs and preferences as possible. So whether you desire a certain appearance (such as a wood, stone, or bronze finish), prefer a certain type of fire pit (a table, column, or bowl, for example), or want to heat a large or small space, you can find the ideal solution for your outdoor living area among our recommendations. We relied on Schatz’s advice for material and safety considerations and researched other articles on gas fire pits from credible websites such as The Family Handyman and Bob Villa. Finally, we took into account customer reviews from online retailers like Amazon and Home Depot.