As the popularity of the wood fire pit has increased, we take a look as to whether its functionality extends beyond cooking and its obvious aesthetic values.
Whilst the heat it produces will be sufficient to grill that steak which has been making your mouth water the heat is direct when cooking. During those fall evenings, as the sun starts to diminish, will your wood fire pit yield enough heat for social gatherings to remain outside. We find out!
Wood fire pits have the potential to generate higher heats than the propane or natural gas alternative. The overall heat is dependent on many factors which include the type of wood, the size of the firepit and what ventilation is present to aid burning.
- What is a Wood Fire Pit?
- What Do you use a Wood Fire Pit For?
- How Much Heat do you get from a Fire Pit?
What is a Wood Fire Pit?
A wood fire pit is essentially the traditional campfire taken to the next level. Rather than just popping your wood on the ground and lighting it, a fire pit generally consists of either raised sides or is elevated from the ground. This helps with oxygen circulation or containing heat more effectively for a better, hotter burn.
What Do you use a Wood Fire Pit For?
Fire pits have long been popular for outdoor cooking or as an outdoor heat source. However, during the global Covid-19 pandemic many people moved to outdoor socialising and needed a way to provide heat and light to prolong evenings.
The popularity of fire pits has effectively exploded since with some people undertaking complicated self-constructed pits while other opt for varying level of sophistication and cost in pre-made fire pits.
How Much Heat do you get from a Fire Pit?
This question is a little complex to answer as a number of factors determine the amount of heat generated from your firepit. Firstly, overall size is a big indication, a small fire pit that only fits two logs will give off less heat than a larger pit which can accommodate more of the fuel source (wood).
The other biggest indicator of heat production is the type of fuel being burnt. When comparing fire pit specifications, you may see the term BTU used to described potential heat production. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and is a measurement that calculates heat by comparing it to the amount of energy required to raise the temperate of one pound of water by one single Fahrenheit degree.
Don’t worry if this is hurting your head, on a base level the higher the BTU value, the more heat that is expelled.
For general context a household oven on max will generate in the region of 17,000 BTUs. A pretty toasty heat from an outdoor firepit would be in the region of 60,000 BTUs but some can be fed fuel to reach significantly higher heats.
Wood is one of the most popular fire pit fuels but the amount of heat that can be generated from a wood-based fire pit can vary widely as not all wood is created equal. Seasoned or aged wood will create more heat than green or fresh wood. This is why people cut their firewood in advance to allow it to dry out completely.
To complicate matters further even the type of wood will make a difference. For example, Oak produces more BTUs than Walnut. In fact, there are BTU values for all variety of woods available with a quick internet search.
The reason that wood is a favored fire pit fuel however is the option to continue to increase the heat further by adding additional fuel. Effectively you can continue to stack your fire pit to ever increase the flame and ultimately the heat. By comparison a gas or propane fire pit will have a maximum setting after which you cannot safely turn it any higher.
Propane fed fire pits are a popular second option after wood. Propane is more expensive than natural gas, however, many like the convenience of the removable propane cannisters and ability to move the fire pit as a result.
A small propane fire pit will give out approximately 30,000 BT’s but if you are wanting to sit out in colder climates you may consider a bigger model which will pump out 50,000 to 60,000 BTUs. Remember though, the bigger the pit the more propane you will need to buy.
Natural gas fire pits will generate similar heat to a propane model. However, will need to be fed directly from a dedicated gas line. This means the location of the fire pit will be permanent.
This does lead to cost savings over propane models and makes sense if you are going for a larger fire pit as part of landscape gardening renovations or design.
What Fire Pit Gives off the Most Heat?
Due to the ability to stack a wood fire pit high with good quality wood, this version can achieve a bigger flame than gas or propane counterparts and essentially generate a higher maximum heat.
The key to a super toasty wood fire pit is good quality, high heat producing wood and a large area to accommodate as much fuel as possible. Our research for recommendations has identified the Solo Stove Yukon Large Outdoor Firepit available on Amazon as a contender for the hottest wood burning firepit.
The large size allows for maximum fuel input and the double walled design ensures oxygen circulation and a superhot burn temperature. Perfect for keeping multiple people toasty on a crisp evening.
Fire Pit Heat Radius
Many people get a fire pit for the sole purpose of sitting socialising round it. We do know that a firepit can get seriously hot and that people are unlikely to sit right beside it without loosing some eyebrows.
It is important to take into consideration how far your guests will be sitting from the fire pit, remembering the larger the pit the further away they will be from each other across the centre.
There is no exact science to measuring how far away people should sit as factors like personal heat tolerance and wind direction can impact how close someone can sit to a fire. We have tried to give rough guidance below to help with planning your pit.
As we know from above, wood fire pits can burn hotter than gas/propane versions and as such people may want to sit a bit further back to bask in that ember glow.
As a general rule most people will seek to sit at least 2′ from a well fuelled wooden fire pit. However, if you utilise a heat deflector (a piece of metal you can place over your pit to radiate heat outwards rather than upwards) this will increase the heat and mean people may move back further.
Equally the larger the pit, the further people will move back. For example people may tolerate sitting fairly close to a campfire but would need to stand much further back from a bonfire!
Gas and propane fire pits have the advantage of adjustable flame size, which in turn regulates the heat output. Many “in table” gas/propane firepits are designed for people to be as little as one foot away from the live flame.
Generally people will be able to sit closer to a gas/propane fire pit as they have the added benefit of no smoke, ash or popping embers.
How to get More Heat from a Wood Fire Pit
Ever since cave men first discovered burning wood for heat and warmth humans have been perfecting how to make flames hotter and burn longer.
More and/or Better Wood
If your fire pit can accommodate more logs then this will generate more heat. Likewise selecting an aged firewood with a high energy store, such as hardwoods like maple, oak, ash. Most fruit trees will also burn hotter and longer.
Fire needs a good supply of oxygen to burn at its hottest and brightest. Raising your wood from the floor of the pit in a grate or using a firepit that is designed to suck air in as it burns is a way to maximise flame height and heat output.
Stack your Wood Just Right
Sticking with the theme of ventilation, just throwing your wood on in a pile is going to make it harder for fire to penetrate the centre of your fuel and burn evenly. Stacking wood in a staggered fashion ensures air circulates and that you get a full even burn.
Best Natural Gas Fire Pit for Heat
If a wood fire pit is just not suitable for you or you intend to have a fixed permanent fire pit that you can light with the flick of a switch then you may wish to consider a natural gas firepit.
The Elementi Natural Gas Fire Table has a respectable 4.5/5 stars on Amazon and it’s large size and flame height which generates a toasty 45,000 BTU will ensure enough heat for family and friends to huddle round as the night air bites.
Best Propane Fire Pit for Heat
For those who still want a fire pit that lights with the flick of a switch but want no avoid the need to install a dedicated gas line, a propane-based option is for you.
The Ciays Proprane Fire Pit is a sizeable 32 inch in diameter and will generate a good radiant heat at 50,0000 BTU. There are nearly 1000 reviews of this product on Amazon with a respectable average of 4.5/5. You would be hard pressed to pick better.