wood vs gas fire pit what's better for heat

What Type of Fire Pit Gives Off the Most Heat?

In Buyers Guide by Jamie

When we venture further into Autumn and eventually into Winter, many of us find ourselves staying indoors more often. But being outside can bring something really special out of us—even as the weather gets chillier. With the right outdoor fire pit, it can be so easy to get back outside and spend beautiful evenings with friends and family in warmth, comfort, and safety.

The best fire pits for heat are wood-burning fire pits that are built low to the ground and feature openings in the sides. Wood burns hotter than gas making it the better choice when searching for a source of heat.

Fire pits serve a number of purposes, but one of the most important to consider is heat output and efficiency. Once you find your favorite looking designs, you will want to compare how they will keep you, your family, and your guests warm. Because if you can find the best fire pit for your budget and for your space, you can enjoy time outside and keep sharing stories and cherished memories year-round.

Best fire pit design for heat?

When considering which fire pit to get and figuring out what will be best for heat, one of the most important things to remember is that hot air rises.

With that in mind, a fire pit that burns higher off the ground will heat open space (and the bodies around it) less efficiently. However, if the space has a tarp or ceiling above, this will not be as much of a concern. With more open spaces, a lower-profile design will allow hot air to spread and rise toward you. Open or vented sides also allow heat to radiate outward from the super-hot coals on the bottom of the fire.

Two other features—size and material—are highly complementary. In many cases, depending on the type of fuel and how the fire itself is built, a larger fire can burn hotter and radiate heat over a greater distance than a smaller fire. However, depending on the fuel source and the material of the fire pit, a larger fire pit will not always be better.

A small fire pit burning at its highest capacity can allow a material like steel to store and radiate heat itself. In other words, the material can contribute to the overall heat of the space if the fire takes up all the space in the fire pit. Meanwhile, using a larger fire pit without taking up all the space can decrease efficiency as well as overall heat output because the material will not be radiating heat as much.

Gas Vs Wood Fire Pit – Which is Better for heat?

With almost any design, fire pits generally use one of two distinct fuel sources: wood and gas.

Wood not only provides the iconic look and feel that people have adored about fire pits for—well, as long as fire has been around—but it also burns hotter. So if you’re looking for the highest heat output, wood will be the way to go. The super-hot coals from wood fires are also perfect for some outdoor baking and other fire-side food experimentation.

However, wood fires can be difficult to start, they will create much more smoke, and they will leave more of a mess behind with ash and such. You also have to think about buying (or cutting) wood as well as storing it in a place where it will be kept safe and dry. Another drawback comes with the inconsistency of wood. Maybe you build a really hot fire to start, but the heat output can fluctuate dramatically and can take more energy to maintain. This can all contribute to a fun, even educational fire-building experience, but it is also more involved and can require much more of your energy.

While gas does not burn as hot, it provides a bit more convenience. First, gas fuel makes starting a fire as easy as flipping a switch—literally. Once the gas tank is connected, most gas-fueled fire pits operate with an on/off switch. With some designs, the switch may even allow for multiple levels of gas output, so you can easily control brightness, heat output, and how much money you are spending on fuel.

For function, it is far easier to keep a gas fire pit clean. Additionally, one propane tank (or two if you want a back-up) takes up much less space and they are more simple to store compared to wood. They are also very easy to exchange or refill at most any hardware store. However, in most cases, gas is more expensive than wood. So depending on how often you want to use your fire pit, you will want to weigh some of the long-term costs with the fuel source you choose. But with the ease of a gas-fueled fire pit, hosting guests by the fire can become super simple and super sleek.

If you are having a hard time deciding, just focus on how you want to use the fire pit. Do you want something easy? Or do you want something a bit more functional and interactive? Fortunately, there are a variety of designs and concepts for both sources of fuel, so you can easily figure out the fire pit that best fits your needs without sacrificing your favorite aesthetic.

Best Wood Burning Fire Pit for Heat?

Pleasant Hearth Martin Extra Deep Wood Burning Fire Pit

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This beautiful design from Pleasant Hearth perfectly lives up to their brand name. Its elegant style combines highly functional and efficient features with a lovely aesthetic for an ideal addition to a variety of outdoor spaces.

With an extra-deep pit and vented sides, you can have a low-burning fire that radiates heat upward and outward. But with the added depth, you can pile the wood higher for a powerful fire that can heat quite a large open space. And the relatively moderate width of the fire pit ensures that the fire will heat the frame, which contributes to more efficient heat radiation.

This fire pit also comes with special features that can make your experience simpler, safer, and more dynamic. The wire mesh top provides protection from sparks without sacrificing heat. And the taller walls ensure that the fire will be contained to the confines of the fire pit. For an added bonus, this fire pit comes with a chrome cooking grill for an easily accessible outdoor cooking experience.

If you want to put in the work for the comfort of high heat output and high efficiency, this elegant hearth provides a lovely option for an inviting and comfortable space.

Pros: Cons:
  • Highly spacious for high heat output and high efficiency
  • Comes with a mesh covering for extra safety
  • Features a grill top for easy cooking
  • Beautiful design
  • Can be difficult to clean

Best Gas Fire Pit for Heat?

Outland Firebowl 883 Mega Outdoor Propane Gas Fire Pit

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Outland’s propane-fueled fire pit provides a simple look with a highly efficient design. With a low profile, durable steel material, and simple look, this fire pit can fit a variety of spaces and circumstances. However, keep in mind this particular size of the model is a bit heavy, so you will want to account for that as you transport it.

As far as design goes, the location of the heating filament is ideal to make sure the steel frame complements the overall heat output. This increases efficiency and ensures you and others by the fire will definitely feel the heat. Plus, you can sit closer to the pit without having to worry about any smoke in your face. Another great feature of this fire pit is the adjustable heat output. This can be a really difficult feature of wood-burning fires. But with the ease of turning a knob, you can fine-tune the heat output of the fire for your particular setting.

Additionally, gas fuel means there are no sparks and, therefore, the heat burns a bit more safely. However, there are also important safety measures to consider with propane tanks and burning gas. Not only can propane tank take away from a nice sleek aesthetic, but it can also become a tripping hazard, which is very important to remember. However, it makes for a slightly simpler experience as far as creating fire goes and is much easier to maintain than a wood-burning design.

If you are looking for simplicity combined with great heat output, this durable gas-powered design can doubtlessly provide the heat and comfort you need for a lovely outdoor experience.

Pros: Cons:
  • Easy to start and maintain
  • Adjustable output
  • No smoke
  • No sparks – extra safe to prevent forest fires
  • Need a propane tank nearby
  • The hose can be a tripping hazard

Do fire pits really keep you warm? Outdoor Heating Additions

If you are worried about heat, remember that fires have been keeping people warm in some of the harshest conditions for thousands of years. With the right conditions, a hot fire can be all you need for a simply lovely setting. In other cases, you may need a few extra pieces to stay safe and comfortable check out these options you can have along with a fire pit.

Outdoor Heaters

If you are looking to keep a particular outdoor space highly comfortable for your family or for guests, a space heater can go a long way. There are many options to choose from, some of which are small and compact while others are larger and heat a larger area.

Highland Pyramid Patio Propane Heater

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Highland provides a choice that is elegant and beautiful, while also highly functional and durable. Bronze coloring makes it suitable for almost any design scheme. Its slender design makes it fit a variety of spaces; however, it is very tall and you will want to be sure you have enough clearance above it and at its sides. As far as heat goes, it burns propane for a very simple and effective heat source.

Depending on the space you are trying to heat, you may also consider a hanging space heater. With many options, once again you can find one that best fits your needs. The best thing about a heater that mounts on the wall or the ceiling is it can be more out of the way, so you can stay warm and may even forget where it is coming from.

Check out our best outdoor hanging heaters list by clicking here.

Heavy Duty Blankets

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Space heaters may not always be the best option to stay warm outdoors. If the area for your fire pit is more open, there may be nothing better than the simplicity of a cozy, warm blanket. For example, this fleece blanket from SuitedNomad can provide amazing warmth. It is also easy to clean and super easy to store and transport. In addition to a fire, a blanket like this can provide the perfect way to huddle up and stay comfortable outdoors.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a fire pit for outdoor heat can be a challenging task. I hope this detailed guide on what type of fire pit gives off the most heat has helped you with your decision making process. From a low stance fire pit to burning wood, you now understand what type of fire pit can provide you and your family a warm outdoor experience.

Good luck finding the perfect outdoor heat source!