Are you constantly dealing with annoying excess smoke every time you get a backyard fire going?
Before you go through another season of irritating fire pit smoke blowing into the faces of everyone at the party, check out the advantages a smokeless wood-burning fire pit has over its conventional wood-burning rivals.
So…what are these smokeless fire pit advantages I’m talking about?
- Reduced irritation to the eyes and respiratory system from fire pit smoke
- Elimination of excess fire pit smoke from impacting neighbors and others nearby, particularly when homes are in close proximity
- Hotter fire pit fires for greater warmth felt by those seated or standing nearby
- Higher fire pit fuel efficiency, meaning longer fires using less wood
- Significantly reduced amounts of leftover ash and other wood residues to dispose of
What’s a Smokeless Fire Pit? A smokeless fire pit is essentially a fire pit that utilizes structural and/or mechanical features that channel airflow in a manner that provides a more efficient and complete combustion process. Smoke is a byproduct of poor combustion, regardless of the fuel source.
In firewood, the presence of excess moisture in freshly cut wood (a.k.a. green or unseasoned wood), or in wood that has become damp over a period of time after cutting, is the typical culprit when it’s burned. One thing to note though; even though these types of fire pits are billed as smokeless, many manufacturers will state openly that their fire pits are not completely smokeless, as it’s impossible to guarantee. With that said, the amount of smoke emitted is typically negligible and unnoticeable in an open-air situation.
Nerd alert: Typically, the technical term for fuel-burning equipment that performs in this manner is a top-lit updraft gasifier stove or TLUD for short. Three of the models I’ll mention later fall into this category.
Now that you know some of the advantages of smokeless fire pits, how they work, and what typically causes firewood smoke, to begin with, we can dive into the specifics of each of these benefits.
Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have some expertise on what makes this particular type of fire pit unique and why they are quickly growing in popularity. Let’s get going!Shop Solo Stove’s Fall Event and Take Over 25% Off Fire Pits! Offer Valid Now!
Less Irritation to the Eyes and Lungs from Fire Pit Smoke
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, smoke generated by the burning of wood contains benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), with all considered “toxic harmful air pollutants.”
Not exactly things you want to be breathing in large quantities.
They go on to state that it’s the particulate matter in smoke that presents a greater risk to health, specifically to those with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung-related conditions.
Being out in the open, with the ability to move out of the way of smoke helps, but who wants to keep moving around constantly to keep from breathing excess fire pit smoke?
For those who are sensitive to smoke or have any of the conditions mentioned above, it might not take much to cause a flare-up.
I’m not mentioning this to frighten anyone, but to emphasize the key feature of efficient and complete combustion provided by these types of fire pits.
Smokeless fire pits typically use a “two-stage” process that first burns the main fuel source (i.e. split firewood, kindling, tinder, etc.), then re-burns the resulting smoke before it escapes, reducing the amount to almost unnoticeable levels while generating more heat.
Elimination Of Excess Fire Pit Smoke and Its Impact on Neighbors
Fire pit users are commonly concerned with the impact their fire pit smoke has on their neighbors. Sometimes, it even a reason why some people don’t use them.
Someone living next door might have a condition that is exacerbated by smoke as mentioned before, or they might just plain not like it.
If you are a regular fire pit user, smoke from a conventional wood-burning fire pit may become a source of contention with your neighbors, especially if you live in a community where the homes are closer together.
In certain situations, local ordinances, HOA covenants or similar residential restrictions, may give your neighbors leverage if they’re not ok with the smoke coming from your yard.
Inviting them over might help, but I digress.
Hotter Fire Pit Fires
This one is pretty simple, with more efficient combustion you not only get less smoke but more heat.
As I mentioned, when less than optimal wood is used in a conventional fire pit, excess smoke it typically produced which is then expelled into the surrounding air, vice being burned off.
Further, when excess smoke is present you know your firewood is not burning to its natural potential, which means less heat. No smoke, more heat, you get the idea.
Any residual smoke generated by a smokeless fire pit goes through that second burning stage which eliminates it while creating even more heat.
Higher Fire Pit Fuel Efficiency
Again, going back to the topic of a more thorough combustion process, the resulting efficiency maximizes the firewood’s natural heat potential meaning little wood is wasted.
The bottom line being, you won’t have to sit there and constantly feed wood into these types of fire pits to keep the fire going and with the amount of heat you want.
An interesting aside to this capability and a testament to how well these types of fire pits work is the smokeless fire pit’s ability to effectively burn high-moisture content, i.e. unseasoned, newly-chopped firewood once it has been lit.
The smokeless benefits are present in this situation as well. Good luck trying that with a conventional wood-burning fire pit.
Significantly Reduced Amounts Of Leftover Ash/Wood Residue
Continuing with the pattern here; the complete burn that takes place in a smokeless fire pit uses up almost every part of the firewood fuel added, leaving little behind to dispose of.
What is left is usually no more than a cup or two or more of very fine ash, not the usual chunky ash mixed with embers and unburned wood that remains after a conventional fire pit burn.
This makes clean up a lot easier and neater when the time comes to empty out the fire pit.
Smokeless Fire Pits Available
In addition to being among the most popular smokeless fire pits, both companies offer a substantial variety of sizes and brand-specific accessories.
Both brands are well-regarded in the fire pit niche, receiving consistently high accolades from the outdoor recreation press and ordinary users alike.
There is a third brand, Flame Genie, that produces smokeless fire pits that fall in the TLUD category like the Breeo and SoloStove options but are designed to use wood pellets exclusively.
For this reason, I’m not a fan. I can get firewood anytime during the day and night; I can’t say the same about wood pellets.
I can see the benefit though for light fire pit users who don’t have a lot of room or desire to stockpile firewood.
This list isn’t entirely inclusive of all smokeless fire pit options available to consumers. There are other brands that claim the smokeless mantle but reviews are pretty mixed at this point so I haven’t included them.
Conclusion: Smokeless Fire Pit Advantages
With the increase in fire pit demand in recent years, some manufacturers have recognized the need to innovate to separate themselves from the competition.
And they’ve done it by incorporating a pretty simple airflow enhancing design that greatly reduces a downside that normally turns many off from using fire pits.
In ensuring a good burn (that results in less smoke), the use of top-lit gasifier (TLUD) technology isn’t revolutionary by any means, but using it in recreational fire pits is a relatively new thing.
Simple airflow physics, no moving parts that break and need to be replaced, greater all-around efficiency, and far less annoying and unhealthy smoke than your run-of-the-mill conventional backyard fire pit, are all pretty good selling points for this segment of the backyard fire pit market.
For more, check out my review of our pick for the best portable smokeless fire pit here.
Thanks for reading and good luck with the fire pit option you are currently using or are in the market for.
All the best and be safe.
What is the best smokeless fire pit for cooking?
Of the options mentioned in the article, Breeo is probably the farthest out in front of the pack with regards to grilling. They manufacture their own adjustable grill rack that is an additional option for use with their basic Double Flame model.
Solo Stove does not manufacture or recommend using a rack or grate to grill over their Ranger, Bonfire or Yukon fire pits. However, they say that grilling food on handheld skewers is fine.
Flame Genie, like Solo Stove, does not manufacture grilling racks or grates for their fire pits. On Amazon, a representative from the manufacturer endorsed using a tripod cooking system for use with their fire pits. Important Note: Make sure the wood pellets you use are declared “food-safe” by the manufacturer if you intend to cook food with a Flame Genie.
The winner here is Breeo as they encourage grilling by providing and promoting the gear to get it done. I’d be cautious with improvising a cooking/grilling apparatus for the other two brands as neither company manufactures or promotes openly using their fire pits for grilling other than with skewers. This may be due to inherent incompatibility issues with their design and grilling. Who knows? I’ll keep a lookout for the answer.
What firewood smokes the least?
In general dense hardwoods such as oak and hickory, when properly seasoned (i.e. dried) are very low-smoke options. And by seasoning I mean 20% or less wood moisture content. These two firewood types are also among the hottest burning choices as well.
Softwoods like pine and cedar are less dense, have a naturally high moisture content, and contain a certain amount of pitch (a.k.a. resin). These features all contribute to a fast, hot burn, with a high potential for smoking.
Softwoods are ideal when used with hardwoods to get a fire started, but the smoke issue and the fact that they burn down fast make them a less-than-desirable main fuel source. For more tips and insights on firewood and my personal wood choices, check out our article Best Burning Firewood for Your Fire Pit.