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Natural Gas or Propane Fire Pits? Which is Better

Outdoor fire features are a great way to bring social value and interest to your backyard. Not only are they visually interesting, but they create natural gathering spaces. If you’re looking to make a fire pit a permanent installation in your space, but aren’t interested in the hassles of traditional wood burning fire pits, you have two options: Natural Gas Fire Pits, or Propane Fire Pits.

Both of these options use no wood in their burning process. This allows you to enjoy an all-night camp fire without the annoyance of smoke. Additionally, if you aren’t a fan of smelling like a bonfire, gas is the way to go.

However, there are significant differences between natural gas fire pits and propane fire pits. These differences make for a separate list of pros and cons. Deciding between the two can seem complicated, but knowing the benefits and drawbacks of each will help you make the best choice for your lifestyle.

Natural Gas Fire Pit

What is a natural gas fire pit? A natural gas fire pit is a fire pit that derives its fuel source from natural gas. The mechanics for installing a natural gas fire pit are similar to that of installing a gas burning stove in your kitchen. A hard pipe hookup is constructed that runs from your fire feature to the natural gas pipes on your property.

The fireplace is then activated by turning a switch or knob to release the gas, and igniting the flame. The result is a clean, bright, warm campfire the whole family can enjoy without any visible mechanics.

Pros of a Natural Gas Fire Pit

Convenience

Many of the pros of installing a natural gas fire pit come back to its convenience. Natural gas gives you the benefit of extremely simple ignition. A fire can be stopped or started in seconds, with just the flip of a switch or turn of a knob.

Because the fuel is linked directly through underground pipes, you will never run out of it. This means no last minute trips to the store, or time caps on a late night fire. Stories can be told for hours without any worries of running low on fuel.

Affordable

Finally, many will note that as a fuel source, natural gas is actually cheaper. In some areas, it can be as low as one sixth the cost of propane. This makes it a popular choice for many businesses. Fire pits you see at many outdoor breweries or restaurants are almost always burning natural gas.

Natural gas is also a popular choice for many large, upscale backyard living spaces. Those who already have gas connections installed for their outdoor kitchen may see it as a logical procession. Both features can be hooked to the same line.

Safety

In many ways, natural gas can be a safer fuel source than propane. Because the line is contained underground, there is little risk of ignition. Additionally, natural gas is lighter than air. This means it dissipates quickly in open air or outdoor situations. This makes it a safer option than some propane tanks.

If you’re looking for a cleaner burn, natural gas is a great choice. The exceptionally clean burn of natural gas means you reduce the amount of soot produced, but the resulting flame is also less bright in color.

Cons of a Natural Gas Fire Pit

While natural gas fire pits are great solutions for many homes, they aren’t perfect for everyone. There are a handful of significant things to consider before giving a natural gas pit the green light.

Permanence

One of the largest drawbacks to natural gas fire pits are their permanence. Once they are installed, they are immovable. This means that they often need to be incorporated into an initial backyard design or renovation. Adding a natural gas fire pit is possible, but it is a lot of work for a feature that may seem out of place.

Once the installation is complete, you better love it! Changing a fire pit after it is put in is quite a chore. Natural gas lines must be taken out the same as they are put in. This means any revisions to your fire pit are likely to be costly and inconvenient.

Complicated Installation

Another notable drawback of natural gas fire pits is the complicated installation process. As mentioned, these pits must be hooked up directly to natural gas lines. This means another lines connecting it to your existing hook up must be installed. This is a permanent project that is hard to undo. Once the plumbing is done, your layout cannot be reconfigured. Depending on the positioning of your fire pit, installation processes and hose lengths may vary.

Expense

While natural gas itself is cheaper than propane, the actual fire pit is likely not. Due to involved installation and cost of building the feature, your final price tag is likely to climb quickly.

The process of running a new line or adding a quick connect box can be expensive. Not to mention the cost of paying the contractors, designers, and the cost of time and labor. At the end of the day, the upfront cost of a natural gas fire pit can be a notable deterrent.

Propane Fire Pit

A propane fire pit is another gas burning fire pit option. Unlike natural gas however, these fire pits are fueled by attached propane tanks. Different designs have differing attachment styles, however a propane tank is always present.

To use a propane fire pit, the valves must be opened and the fire must be lit manually. The result is an odorless, smokeless fire that can burn for hours, just like natural gas.

Pros of a Propane Fire Pit

There are many areas where propane fire pits shine. For some households, they may be a more logical option for the space.

Portable

One of the largest drawbacks to natural gas pits are their permanence and immobility. Propane fire pits solve this problem. Because they are not wired in, you are free to move them around your space. The only limit to where you can position these fire pits in the amount of space, safety, and weight of the unit.

This is appealing to families looking to routinely change the configuration of their living space. Keep your fire pit in your backyard, or take it with you camping. Stow it in the winter, or bring it with you when you move house. After investing in a portable fire pit, it is yours to take or leave wherever you go.

No Installation

Whereas natural gas requires notable installation efforts, propane does not. There is nearly no installation required for propane fire pits beyond attaching the tank and positioning them. If you are not looking to disrupt your current space, this can be a huge benefit.

Lack of installation and design also means considerable upfront savings. Instead of paying for labor, design, and installation, you are simply paying for the product. Even top of the lines propane pits are likely to run you less than a full natural gas installation.

Efficiency and Brightness

If you’re on the hunt for the brightness and warmth of a wood fire, propane may be the better choice. At the same volume, propane boasts a higher BTU. This means a brighter flame and hotter fire. If you like to enjoy a bonfire late into the fall or winter season, this could be an appealing factor.

That said, natural gas features can be graded similarly to many propane pits. They may just require a higher volume of gas to produce the same effect. This is something to discuss with your contractor prior to installation.

Cons of a Propane Fire Pit

Aesthetics

If you’re looking for a completely seamless integration of a fire pit into your home, propane is not the best choice. Even the most aesthetically appealing pits will come with a hose and tank attached. These less attractive features will always be visible in some capacity. Attempting to hide them can be a hassle.

Furthermore, many thinking of adding a fire pit want this pit to serve as a focal point. Natural gas pits make this easier to achieve. When something has been specially designed to fit into your space, it looks more intentional. This can create an overall more aesthetically appealing fire pit you can enjoy for as long as you inhabit your home.

Propane is Expensive

As mentioned, natural gas is often chosen by businesses because it is a more affordable fuel. For those who are using their fire pit every night, this matters. Regularly repurchasing large propane tanks can add up in costs. Upfront prices of propane pits are lower than a full natural gas install. However, several years or repurchasing tanks can change this.

Over time, you may realize you have spent more money repurchasing propane tanks than you would have on a natural gas feature. At the end of the day, you should try to determine how often you will use your fire pit. If it’s a daily staple in your family life, going for the natural gas option may be less of a headache in the long run.

Tank Size and Refilling

Propane fire pits are convenient in mobility, but are not more convenient all-round. One of the biggest benefits of natural gas is that it never needs to be refilled. Propane, however, must be constantly replenished. There is little worse than running out of fuel mid-campfire. For this reason, many choose to spend more on larger propane tanks. However, this can cause issues in itself.

Larger tanks are more of an eyesore, and are more constantly in need of refilling. They are harder to hide, are heavy to move and transport. Additionally, having a large amount of propane gas on your property can be a safety concern. If ignited, these tanks can explode and cause large amounts of damage.

What Makes Sense In Your Space?

As with all major features, it’s important to know how you plan to use your fire pit. Families envisioning a fire pit as a nightly or weekly gathering space may have use for an integrated pit. In this case, natural gas can provide the seamlessness and convenience you need.

However, those who use their fire pit infrequently or can’t afford to spend money on a pricey install could opt for propane. This will offer more flexibility and the option to take the fire pit with you if your family moves house.

No matter which option you choose, you’re investing in bringing family and friends together. From roasting marshmallows, to telling stories, a backyard fire pit is the perfect way to bring a classic campfire to your own backyard.

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