Is A Smokeless Fire Pit Really Smokeless? – How It Works

photo of solo fire pit

A smokeless fire pit? I thought the saying where there is smoke, there is fire. That’s what I was taught in school at least. So what does a “smokeless fire pit” do, and how does it work?

A smokeless fire pit is more a marketing term than a scientific fact. Today I will be going over how smokeless fire pits actually work, and some tips on getting the most from your fire pit.

Smokeless fire pits are not exactly smokeless. They do produce smoke, just MUCH less than a traditional fire pit. They create the illusion of being smokeless by increasing the oxygen to the flame which allows for more complete combustion.

Smokeless Fire Pits: The Science

So you are intrigued, that’s good! The way smokeless fire pits work really lights a fire under me too! So first, let’s talk about what smoke is. Smoke is a byproduct of incomplete combustion that consists of lots of chemicals (mostly soot, tar, and ash). These chemicals mix with carbon dioxide and water vapor to create smoke. Put simply, when there is not enough oxygen to completely burn the fuel, you get smoke! (Source: Science Learn)

Smokeless fire pits work, in the consumer sense, through the use of a unique double-wall design. Wood-fired heat creates airflow from holes at the outer bottom of the fire pit, in between the wall, and out of the inner top of the fire pit. increasing the amount of oxygen to the fire pit and causing the smoke to burn off before it escapes, allowing for complete combustion. This is the reason you often see flames coming out of the top holes of a smokeless fire pit, that’s where the oxygen is flowing in!

photo of complete combustion
Source: Breeo

The Environment Thanks You

Smokeless fire pits effectively reduce the amount of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, which is the by-product of incomplete combustion. Specifically, BioLite’s CampStove touts a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions.

To learn more about outdoor air pollution and the dangers of carbon emissions, here is a well-written article on the subject by the World Health Organization.

Wood burning fire pits, even smokeless fire pits still produce particulate pollution into the air, if you are looking for something that does not emit this particulate matter then a natural gas or propane-fueled fire pit may be a better option for you.

The Best Smokeless Fire Pit Experience

The double wall, secondary combustion chamber puts in a lot of work to give you a “smokeless” experience, however, there are a few things you can do to ensure you have the best possible results during your burns.

  • Choose the right firewood (low moisture)
  • Do not overfill your fire pit
  • stack your firewood the right way

The Dryer The Firewood The Better

This is probably the number one tip to keeping your fire pit experience as smokeless as possible, just use the right type of firewood. You can’t take a stroll into the woods, chop down the biggest tree, and throw it in the firepit and expect a respectable blaze. Well, you can, but you won’t get the desired results. A properly seasoned firewood has always given me the best experience.

Choosing A Low Moisture Firewood

Not all firewood is made the same. Some are better fire starters and some are better for long burns. The best types of firewood have a moisture content of 30 percent or lower. The lower the moisture content, the better it is to burn. If you chop your own firewood, it is best to let it sit for a few months or even a few years, depending on the type of wood, and keep it out of the elements like snow and rain. Wood moisture level meters can be found for about 30 dollars, here is a great little moisture meter on Amazon.

How To Choose The Best Firewood Without A Moisture Meter

  • Look: Check for cracking and loose bark.
  • Listen: Grab 2 pieces and bang them against each other- You are looking for a hollow sound. Wet wood creates a dull thud.
  • Smell: Split the wood and take a whiff. A pleasant, sappy aroma is a warning sign that it it too wet.

Keep Your Firewood Below The Secondary Combustion Holes

The secondary combustion holes found on the inner lip of modern smokeless fire pits are the key to it’s smokeless design. Remember, that’s where the extra oxygen is being introduced. Any firewood placed above it may cause smoking. You may have seen marketing images of firewood placed above that point, this is merely a marketing choice. I’m one of those people where I often skip the instruction manual, so I had to learn this the hard way!

Stacking Your Firewood

This is a universal tip. Smokeless, and traditional fire pits alike will benefit from a proper firewood stack. Throwing some logs on top with newspaper to start it is what I remember doing as a teen. If I knew then what I know now I would of been a lot warmer , a lot quicker. Air flow is once again king here.

  1. In a clean fire pit start with a base layer of sand. The sand is there for heat distribution. A layer of sand about and inch thick on the base layer of your fire pit evenly distributes the heat and helps prevent hotspots from occurring. this increases the life span of your fire pit
  2. Create a layer of softwood on top of the sand, These include woods like pine, juniper, and spruce. These burn hot and they burn fast, which make them great fire starters. They are high in sap so they generally smoke more that your hardwoods, so use them sparingly.
  3. On top of that you can put your main fuel source. These are hardwoods like white oak, ash, and maple. There are many types of hardwoods great for “smokeless” fires but these are the most common. Consider using a tee-pee or log cabin stack, while not necessary, these stacks allow for even more airflow.
photo of teepee campfire

Safety Tip: You should never use pressure treated wood in your fire pits. This wood is considered hazardous waste by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Burning this wood may result in toxic ash depending on the chemicals used.

Final Thoughts

Smokeless fire pits, are a great invention which employ generations old knowledge in an attractive package. If you’re not able to dig into your yard, have artificial grass, or just want some stellar heat and ambiance then use the tips outlined above and gather ’round that fire!

Related Questions

Are smokeless fire pits easy to clean?

Smokeless fire pits are easier to clean than traditional fire pits. The double-wall design allows for complete combustion, which burns the firewood efficiently. The results are typically a small pile of fine ash, that is easily shoveled out. Then you can scrub it down using a sponge and stainless steel cleaner.

Can smokeless fire pits be used indoors?

I personally would not use a smokeless fire pit indoors. while the amount of smoke is minimal it is still there. I am not entirely comfortable with the idea of the particles emitted from the fire pit, especially around my kids. That being said, there are fire pits specifically made for indoor use. Ventilation and safety are key here.

Are smokeless fire pits portable?

Smokeless fire pits come in all sizes, ranging from just 15 pounds to over 100 pounds. Generally speaking, smokeless fire pits can be carried and packed into the car or SUV for a camping trip or to a friends house!

Whats is pressure-treated wood?

Pressure-treated wood, also known as pressure-treated lumber, is a wood that has been subjected to high pressure to force a chemical solution into it in order to make it resistant to rot and termites. Toxic forms of these woods can contain arsenic in order to achieve this rot resistance.

Michael Carpenter

Hi, I'm Mike. I grew up in North Carolina having a blast on trampolines, go-karts, and just sitting on the porch with my friends. I have since moved to Las Vegas with my wife, 2 children, and 3 dogs. When I'm not chasing the kids around the house, I am probably chasing them around the backyard!

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