What Is a Fire Pit Burner & What Size Is Right for You?

Discover what a fire pit burner is, how it works, and how to determine the right size for your fire pit!

WHY DOES IT MATTER WHAT KIND OF BURNER YOU HAVE?

If you're concerned about flame size and presentation, gas usage, or heat output, then you'll want to research the different burner options available to find one that fits your needs.

If you're building a DIY fire pit, you'll need to make sure you get the right size burner and pan to fit the fire pit and that the flame presentation will meet your expectations.

WHAT IS A BURNER?

Burners are the main components used to burn the gas in a gas fire pit. They are typically made out of durable metal, like stainless steel and brass, into a hollow form with holes on the top.

Outdoor Plus Half Moon Burner

An even distribution of holes across this burner's surface creates consistent, natural-looking flames.

The holes are punched or drilled across the burner's surface, which allows the gas to exit in a way that creates a realistic looking fire.

Warming Trends Crossfire Brass Burner

Warming Trends CROSSFIRE brass burners feature Venturi Jet Technology to create super-charged flames!

Some burners, however, use specially designed nozzles instead of punched or drilled holes to distribute the gas. This can often result in a taller, more intense flame.

HOW DOES A BURNER WORK?

When the gas intake valve is opened, gas will flow from the source through the burner and out of the burner's holes to the surface.

Gas Source

The source of the gas is either going to come from the natural gas source or main trunk, or it's going to come from a liquid propane tank. The liquid propane tank can either be a large, permanent tank or a small, portable 20 lb. tank.

In most cases, if propane gas is used, an air mixer will be installed just before the burner to introduce more air to the fuel before combustion. Liquid propane is a rich gas and without the air mixer, it'll cause excess sooting and poor flame presentation.

INSTALLATION CONCERNS

Gas Line

If you're installing a permanent gas line, it's very important that you avoid using corrugated pipe. Corrugated pipe is of lower quality and can be easily damaged. It also causes excessive whistling, which cannot be remedied.

If considerations aren't made for the pipe size and burner capacity (BTU's) prior to purchase, you could end up with low flames and poor burner performance.

Whether you're using an existing gas line or plan on installing a new gas line, your plumber will need to know the BTU capacity of the burner to make sure the line can supply the adequate amount of gas needed for the burner to work optimally.

If the existing gas line can't, then the plumber may need to modify it in order to accommodate the new supply.

Clearances

If you plan on installing your fire pit on a combustible deck or patio, or under a gazebo, awning or covered patio, then you'll need to check the manufacturer's requirements for clearance to combustibles.

HPC Burner Clearance Requirements

This excerpt from an HPC burner clearly states the minimum required clearances to combustibles.

The clearance requirements will determine how close you can place your fire pit to a combustible surface or combustible materials, such as an overhang, trees, and more.

Ignition

If you're considering using an automatic ignition system with your gas fire pit, then you may need to have an electrical line run to the fire pit area.

Some automatic ignitions are battery operated and won't require a permanent source of electricity, but most automatic ignitions, like AWEIS (All Weather Electronic Ignition System) systems, require a permanent power source and special considerations prior to installation.

WHAT IS A BURNER PAN?

Pans are solid metal pieces that sit directly underneath the burner and hold the media, like lava rock, fire glass, and gas logs. They create a separation of the burner and media from the open cavity below.

Some burners have a pan attached to them, while others require the pan to be purchased separately.

Flat Pan and Bowl Pan Shapes

A flat pan sits on top of the fire pit, whereas a bowl pan is recessed into the surface.

Pans come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and either sit on top of the fire pit or are recessed into it. They are typically made out of stainless steel or aluminum since these materials can withstand constant exposure to intense heat, and resist rust and corrosion.

INSTALLATION CONCERNS

Any fire pit that uses liquid propane will need to have a pan under the burner. Fire pits that run on natural gas don't require a pan, but they are beneficial.

For installation, you'll need to ensure that there's at least 2-3" of clearance from the edge of the burner area to the finishing materials. This clearance allows for the regular expansion and contraction of the pan as it heats and cools. It also prevents your finishing material from cracking due to high heat exposure.

Water can pool in the pan and flood the burner through its holes without proper drainage, so to prevent this from happening, pans will typically have drainage holes. If water does get into the burner, then it can leak into the gas line.

Warming Trends Burner Pan

Warming Trends' initials cleverly act as the water drainage holes in this round pan.

Any water in your gas line will need to be purged by a licensed gas professional. You can save yourself both time and money by using a burner cover when the fire pit is not in use.

HOW MANY BURNER OPTIONS ARE THERE?

Lots!

Burners come in many different shapes, sizes, styles, and unique configurations. They can have a single ring or multiple rings and can be customized to fit almost any desired flame presentation.

Shapes and styles available include: Round, Linear, Square, Rectangle, Penta, Star, Spoke, Spur, H-burner, Switchback, Half-moon ring, U-burner, T-burner, and Fish Eye.

HOW DO YOU CONTROL THE BURNER?

There are a few different ignition systems for burners and ways to control the gas flow. Ignition systems include match lit (manual), automatic, and push button.

The gas flow can be controlled by a key valve, control knob, remote control, switch, or with a smart control, like an app on your mobile phone.

Check out our deep dive on gas fire pits to learn all about the different control types and ignition systems available!

HOW TO PICK OUT A BURNER

  • Determine the size and shape of the fire pit that will fit in your outdoor space
  • Determine the heat output, flame size, and presentation you want
  • Choose your fuel type - natural gas or liquid propane
  • Determine which ignition system will be the best fit for you - manual, push button, or autoignition
  • Pick out your favorite media (gas logs, lava rock, fire glass, etc.)
  • Select a few burners that fit the size and shape of your fire pit
  • Read the manufacturer requirements and consult the owner's manual to make sure the burners are compatible with your chosen fuel type, media, heat output, and flame presentation
  • Narrow down the list until you've found the best burner to suit your needs

SAFETY TIPS

  • For the safest option, look for a burner that is UL approved and CSA tested. This will ensure the burner has undergone rigorous testing to verify it's a reliable and safe heating appliance.
  • Read the owner's manual thoroughly before installing or using the burner.
  • Follow the recommendations in the installation manual for the proper amount of media to use. You only need a thin layer of media to cover the burner. Using too much will cause carbon buildup on the burner and surrounding media, resulting in a sooty appearance.
  • If there is a spark ignition in your fire pit, don't cover it with the media. Leave enough space around it so it can light properly.
  • Clean out the ignition and burner area regularly to prevent bugs, dirt, and debris from building up.
  • Have your gas line, gas connections, fittings, burner, and fire pit inspected annually by a licensed gas professional to make sure they are in good working order.

WE'RE HERE TO HELP

Do you still have questions about what type of burner you need? Call us at (800) 919-1904 to speak with one of our NFI Certified specialists today!

MORE RESOURCES:

Still deciding between propane and natural gas? Read the benefits of each here!

What's the best surface for your fire pit? Find out the 6 things you need to consider before installing a fire pit on your deck!

Thinking about installing a fire pit under your covered patio? Here's what you need to know!