Open fire pits produce about a pound of smoke pollution per fire. That’s a lot more than you might expect. In fact, a single open pit fire puts out more pollution than a fireplace or tobacco smoke.
90 percent of that pollution is smaller than one micron. Using a smokeless fire pit can help cut that down. Are smokeless fire pits really smokeless? I’ll explain how they work so you can make an informed choice.
Smokeless fire pits are not completely smokeless, however due to their unique shape and smaller top opening design, they are more efficient and burns wood at a much slower rate. Having a smaller top opening traps smoke and burns it a second time, using most of the remaining particulate matter and it allows less air inside which forces the wood to burn slower.
Are Smokeless Fire Pits Actually Smokeless
Smokeless free pits may not be completely smokeless, but how do they have so much less smoke? I’ll explain the mechanics.
You might be surprised at the simple and innovative, and highly functional design of these pits.
Unlike old-fashioned fire pits, the smokeless fire pit is made to hold most of the fire and all of the smoke inside a chamber.
There is an outside layer and an inside container that usually has an overhanging lip. The lip makes the top opening smaller.
Having a smaller top opening serves two purposes. First, it traps smoke and burns it a second time, using most of the remaining particulate matter.
Second, it lets less air inside, which forces the wood to burn more slowly. A slower burn means less wasted material flying away in the smoke.
How Are Smokeless Fire Pits Smokeless
To understand how smokeless fire pits are smokeless, we have to go back and look at the evolution of how we build fires.
Our ancestors built fires right on top of the ground. While it’s not a great system, people still do this thoughtlessly today.
The problem with a flat-ground fire is that it is harder to control. Your wood burns up faster, and the ash and burning wood can roll away easily, plus it produces a ton of smoke.
However, you get a lot of heat immediately at the expense of a lot of wasted material. In short, you need a barrier. People solved this problem by making a ring of stones around their flat-ground fires.
While this worked better than laying burning sticks on the ground, it still wasn’t the best way to contain the fire and save on wood.
Since our ancestors couldn’t run down to the shop and get another log for the fire, it cost a lot of energy to bring wood home to camp. People needed a better solution.
By digging down a little bit, the logs didn’t roll, and it helped hold the fire.
Additionally, according to The Critical Condition, “The earliest fire pits were merely holes dug in the ground and were most likely used to reduce the visibility of the flame to predators or rival tribes in the surrounding area.”
Over many generations, people slowly added to this idea by lining the fire pit with sand or stone and building up the barrier until some fire pits had walls.
Doing this once meant that your fire was safer forever, or at least while you lived in the same place. Plus, it had the added benefit of storing heat in the pit itself to radiate out even after the more significant part of the blaze died down.
Once early humans reached the agricultural stage, we started building more permanent structures, and with them, we made advancements in fireplaces.
The idea of a contained fire that didn’t roll anywhere and directed its heat into the home was pure genius. In a sense, a fireplace is just another form of a fire pit, but it is usually elevated instead of dug down in.
A fireplace is walled on three sides. Fireplace smoke rises along with a large portion of the heat thanks to thermodynamics.
The rest of the heat gets directed out into the room. The raised-up fire pit also parleyed into other portable cooking devices like rolling grills.
Fire has more applications when you don’t need the earth nearby to be warm so you can sleep on it.
With the smokeless fire pit, you don’t need to generate vast amounts of heat or light, so containing the fire and double burning the smoke to reduce wasted material became possible.
It wasn’t until we reached the point where the fire could be a form of entertainment rather than a basic life necessity that this was a realistic goal. Smokeless fire pits are better for entertaining than cooking.
A smokeless fire pit is ‘smokeless’ because you sacrifice a lot of the heat by containing the fire inside a double chamber instead of letting it out.
While they still put off a fair amount of heat, enough to burn yourself, but it’s nowhere as much as a wasteful open pit fire.
Can You Make A Fire Pit Smokeless
You can build a DIY smokeless fire pit. However, converting an existing fire pit into a smokeless version would require more advanced tools and knowledge than the average DIY dynamo possesses.
The Dakota Fire Hole is the most straightforward self-made smokeless fire pit.
A Dakota Fire Hole requires soft earth to dig in. The nice thing about this style is that most people can accomplish it with a basic hand tool in an hour or so.
You dig your pit wider at the base with a narrow opening above ground. Then you need to add a diagonal air vent to feed your fire.
This is the first and still most accessible form humans ever used to make (nearly) smokeless fire pits. If you need a step-by-step tutorial, I recommend starting with this video.
Best Smokeless Fire Pit
There are a lot of good smokeless fire pits available. All of them will keep you warm and give you a low-smoke fire that burns well with less mess and risk.
I’ve tried plenty of them out over the years. Sometimes the differences between one product and the next are minimal, but the best smokeless fire pit you can get this year is truly unique and award-winning.
I recommend the TIKI Brand Stainless Steel Low Smoke Fire Pit from Amazon. The black, weatherproof, powder-coated outside looks great in any yard.
Not only does this twenty-five-inch fire pit has a patented internal airflow system that creates a better, safer fire with less ash and smoke, but you’ll appreciate the ash pan on the bottom when it’s time to clean up.
CNET rated this the best overall fire pit of 2021, and it won an Edison Award the same year because of its innovative design.
Best of all, you get a pack of wood, a cloth cover to keep it clean when it’s cooled down, a stand, and a quick start guide.
- SMOKELESS FIRE PIT: With a heat radius of 4 feet and an internal airflow system to reduce excessive smoke and ash for a cozy bonfire experience
- ACCESSORIES PROVIDED: Includes a stand; a weather-resistant cover; and a wood pack
- EASY FIRE: The included wood pack makes starting the fire easy; and grants approximately 30 minutes of burn time alone
- OUTDOOR READY: Fire pit is constructed with 16-gauge stainless steel and a weatherproof powder-coated black finish to protect it against rain or other elements
- PATIO-SIZED: This convenient fire pit has a 25-inch outside diameter with an approximately 16-inch depth and internal diameter; measuring 24.75" x 24.75" x 18.75"
Last update on 2023-03-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Helpful Tips To Know If Smokeless Fire Pits Are Really Smokeless
Sadly, the old saying about ‘no smoke without fire’ is also true in reverse. However, that doesn’t mean you have to have massive quantities of bad-for-you smoke to enjoy some roasted marshmallows on a col evening.
Here are some helpful tips to know if smokeless fire pits are really smokeless.
- Smoke from fires can be deadly. Because the particles are mostly smaller than one micron, they can get into your lungs and contribute to cancer and serious breathing problems. Plus, open fire pit smoke is terrible for asthmatics, pets, kids, and the environment.
- Smokeless firewood is not the same as a smokeless fire pit. Unfortunately, most of the time, it’s a bad idea to combine the two. However, suppose you already have a traditional fire pit. In that case, swapping out your old-fashioned smoky wood logs for a cleaner-burning alternative will still help the environment and your health.
- A smokeless fire pit typically has an outside bowl and an inner container for the fire that is deeper and narrower than a traditional open-pit design. Since the bowl isn’t wide and the airflow is more controlled, the fire inside burns differently.
Although smokeless fire pits aren’t truly smokeless, they cut down the amount of smoke. Because of their design and shape, the wood burns more slowly and puts off far less pollution and particulate matter, which is excellent for the environment.
Better still, they produce plenty of heat and provide all the benefits of a regular fire pit. Choosing this style is great for limited spaces and beneficial for your lungs because you aren’t inhaling the byproduct of common open-air fire.