There are a few downsides to any party or social gathering around a fire pit. Perhaps the most prevalent problem is the excess smoke you end up having all over the place. Having a smokeless fire pit, either you made it or purchased it, will offer many health benefits.
Just to name a few: It will obviously keep the fire smoke-free, clean and high in heat output and will contribute to a healthier and cleaner environment. We’ll get to the bottom of the problem and show you what you can do to cut down on fire pit smoke before you kick start your next bonfire party, so let’s get right into it!
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Common causes of heavy fire pit smoke
Wood smoke is produced primarily by the combustion of particular compounds found in hardwoods such as oak, hickory, and ash, as well as softwoods such as pine, fir, and spruce. When these chemicals are inefficiently heated, smoke is produced, which is then released into the air around your fire pit.
Now, these chemical compounds are normally burned off fast in an efficient, well-controlled, hot fire before smoke can accumulate in any meaningful way. However, these are the most common factors why you end up with a lot of smoke:
1. Using green or improperly seasoned firewood
Seasoned wood is defined as firewood with a moisture level of 30% or less, which has also been kiln-dried. When you use dry wood that has been properly seasoned with the right moisture content, it will burn more efficiently, which means it will not produce a lot of smoke.
Freshly cut wood, often known as green wood, contains mainly water, and that water will prevent the wood from burning properly. That is why you are going to end up with a smoky mess all around.
The bottom line is that using the proper wood at the right moisture level is vital for reducing the smoke.
2. Debris buildup in your fire pit
Old and perhaps damp ash, embers, and other debris that has accumulated in your fire pits from recent burns could stifle the ignition of your present fire. This can lead to a fire pit that not only won’t start well but will also produce a lot of smoke as you literally re-burn all of this debris.
3. High pitch softwood
Pine, juniper, balsam, spruce, and other softwoods can burn extremely hot for short periods of time, making them a good fire starter. However, when these high pitch types of wood are burned, they can produce a lot of smoke. That is why split softwoods aren’t usually the ideal option for your primary source of firewood.
4. Improper wood stacking in the fire pit
Good air circulation is essential for a quick-starting, long-burning fire. Throwing a few logs and some kindling into your stainless steel or portable fire pit is not your best bet here, leaving you with smouldering smoke rather than a roaring fire.
5. Household waste
Certain types of treated cardboard produce a lot of smoke when burned. Not only will you have to deal with the smoke, but you may also be exposed to toxins that are potentially harmful to you. Throwing a week’s worth of papers and other waste in the fire ring will only make things worse.
6. Burning green pine cones, tree bark, pine needles, and other materials
Collecting detritus from the forest for use as kindling, tinder, and other purposes is sometimes necessary. Pine needles, pinecones, tree bark, and other debris are examples of this.
If you do use these items to start a fire, make sure nothing you collect has any green substance on it and that everything is clean and dry. If this material hasn’t had the chance to dry out, it will smoke in your fire pit like crazy.
How to make your fire pit smokeless
For the best results, there are certain steps that you should take. Have a look!
1. Use well-seasoned firewood
Seasoned firewood has a good moisture level as it has been stored for at least a year after cutting. When you burn unseasoned wood, you’ll get a lot more smoke.
We always recommend that you check the moisture content of your firewood before burning it, and it’s extremely easy to do. There are many devices available in the market that will automatically show you what the moisture level of your type of wood is at the touch of a button.
2. Make sure to store your firewood properly
Once you buy yours, you’ll need to store it properly. Make sure that the wood is at least 15 centimetres off the ground and that it is also dry with enough airflow on all four sides. You can always build your own log store with our easy guide.
3. Avoid burning rubbish
Although this may seem to be common sense, you would be amazed at how many people would dump rubbish in their fire pit. Now, we’re not talking about your rubbish bag, which we assume you wouldn’t throw in your fire pit in the first place.
We’re talking about cardboard, paper, carton boxes and other items that you may have stacked in your house for a long period of time. Not only may such items emit a foul odour, but they can also block airflow, affecting the fire’s complete combustion and resulting in extra smoke. It’s always best to keep garden waste bags near your pit to come in handy when needed.
4. Clean your fire pit after each use
One of the most important aspects of preventing your fire pit from smoking excessively, especially if you cook on it, is to keep it clean.
Any residue that sticks to your fire pit might cause a dirty flame, which can produce a lot of smoke and make it difficult to start a fire. Simply get a wire brush and clean your fire pit on a regular basis to eliminate any residue.
5. Maintain a good airflow
Your fire pit uses high temperatures and adequate airflow to achieve the desired result that you want. To have a decent fire, you’ll need three things, which are commonly referred to as fire triangles. Heat is the first component, followed by fuel, and finally oxygen.
No fire will burn in an effective way if there is not enough air, as it will simply smoulder and produce more smoke in your outdoor living area due to lack of oxygen.
Simply ensure that your firewood and fire are properly positioned to improve the passage of air. The best way to go about this is to build a teepee or log cabin, which allows for constant circulation around the fire.
6. Do not burn debris
Debris in the form of leaves, twigs, and other garden materials can be tempting to throw in your backyard fire pit, just like rubbish. If you’ve ever been sitting in your garden in the summer and seen or smelled loads of smoke coming from a neighbour’s garden, well, this is why.
When leaves, twigs, and garden waste are burned, they usually emit a large amount of smoke. If you put this in your fire pit, you’ll immediately realise that you’ve made a mistake.
Health risks of fire pit smoke
You might find yourself wondering why this is an important home improvement project. Here’s a couple of things that you need to keep in mind:
- Smoke poses a significant danger to both human and animal health.
- Wood smoke contains carbon dioxide, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and formaldehyde, which harm our respiratory organs and cause serious breathing problems.
- Wood smoke also contains microscopic particles that can irritate the nasal canal, induce eye burning, and create other problems.
- Smoke also contributes to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as well as polluting nature’s ecosystem.
What is the best type of wood for a smoke-free fire pit?
Seasoned hardwood is the ideal wood for a fire pit. There are many other types of hardwood that you may use now, with oak being the most common, but there is also a range of other woods that can be burned. Some of the best woods to work with are listed below:
- One of the greatest woods to burn in the UK is ash. It produces very low smoke but plenty of heat and a lovely flame. Due to ash dieback, however, ash is in short supply now.
- Oak is unquestionably one of the greatest woods to burn in a fire pit. It burns slowly with less smoke than other woods and produces a lot of heat as well as a magnificent flame.
- Although the flame is underwhelming, applewood burns slowly with acceptable heat and has a beautiful fruity fragrance.
- Cherry produces a large amount of heat, has a pleasant aroma, and burns slowly, so it will stay a long time in your wood-burning fire pit.
- Beech is a fantastic firewood source that burns cleanly. The only disadvantage of beech is that it takes longer to be seasoned than other woods due to its higher moisture content.
- Another long-lasting wood that can be used in an outdoor fire pit is cedar. It also has a good double flame and generates a lot of heat.
- Pearwood is similar to apple wood in that it burns slowly and produces adequate heat. It also has a wonderful aroma, albeit the flames aren’t as impressive as other woods.
- Sycamore is one of the best types of fuel sources. It has a good flame, burns well, and produces a modest amount of heat.
- Wood pellets are generally considered a good fuel, as they generate a lot of heat but burn fast.
- Alternatively, you can go with the charcoal method and burn coal instead of firewood, but only as a last resort.
By following these tips, you should be able to have the best smokeless fire pit possible. As a general rule of thumb, always keep your fire pit clean, dry, and waste-free to make the most out of it the next time you use it!