Fire Pit Burners
Unravel the mystery of fire pit burners with our back-to-basics guide, complete with practical tips for gas-fueled fire pits.
Ever try to understand a fire pit burner? Unless you’re familiar with gas-fired devices and their burner assemblies, you probably don’t know the ins and outs of a burner. While you can always hire a professional to install a fire pit burner in your custom fire pit, it’s helpful to understand the basics of this key component.
A fire pit burner is used to conduct the flaming fuel in a gas fire pit. The gas source may be liquid propane or natural gas. Many homeowners choose liquid propane because they’re adding a fire pit to existing outdoor living areas, and tapping into the home’s natural gas line isn’t ideal prohibitive for various reasons, like ripping up a patio
Fire pit burners come in various shapes and sizes, including rings, rectangles, squares, and stars. Circular or square shapes may have double or triple burner rings, which creates more flames in your fire pit. Burners feature heat- and rust-resistant metals, such as stainless steel or aluminum.
A burner resembles a metal tube with holes in it that allow the burning propane to escape and create the flames in a fire pit. These holes may be punched or drilled, which is the better choice. Holes should be staggered along the length of the burner to give a more uniform flame that resembles a natural wood-burning fire.
A base plate is placed beneath a fire pit burner to keep propane from sinking into your fire pit. The plate may or may not be attached to the burner. Some DIY kits feature a burner that’s attached to a burner pan, which can be made from steel or aluminum. The pan holds the burner, along with a medium that provides a backdrop to the flames, such as lava rock or fire glass.
Burner pans come in a variety of shapes, including circles, squares and rectangles or troughs. Look for pans that have a v-shaped bottom, which is usually an option with trough-type pans. The v-shape means you use less media to fill the pan and create the base for the fire.
The base of a fire pit burner has a control valve, which regulates fuel flow to the burner. Other controls include an air mixer valve, thermocouple, ignition switch, and/or safety pilot light. These controls are usually contained in a separate box. If you’re building your own fire pit, keep controls accessible, because you might need to service them at some point. Fire pit burners may be match-lit, have electronic ignition, use a remote control, or be manually ignited by flipping and/or holding a switch.
Propane is odorless and colorless, but does contain an additional oil compound to give it that distinct odor. If you burn straight propane, the flame produces soot. You eliminate sootby blending air with propane. That’s why the air mixer valve is important. Be sure to locate the air mixer valve according to manufacturer instructions, or you risk allowing the base of your fire pit to fill with propane, essentially creating a bomb.
Most fire pit burners specify what type of media they’ll operate safely with. Make sure you purchase a burner that works with your media of choice, whether it’s fire glass, lava rock, porcelain fire balls, or metal logs. Fire pit burners also usually offer a conversion kit, allowing you to burn either liquid propane or natural gas. Hire a professional to install these parts.
If you’re buying a manufactured gas fire pit, you’ll have minimal assembly, and many of these details won’t affect you. But if you want to create a basic DIY or custom fire pit, understanding fire pit burners is vital for success. Top-notch companies that sell fire pit burners will work with you to help you create a custom fire pit. Some even build fire pit burners to suit your design.