Languid evenings spent outdoors around an open fire are a treat until we get smoked into some weird version of musical chairs. If you’ve shrieked in dismay at how bonfire smoke seems to smother you? You’re not alone.
Thanks to science and a few clever industrial designers, there’s a solution to this smoky bonfire problem – a smokeless fire pit! With our tips and DIY smokeless fire pit design top, it’s super easy to build one yourself.
Smokeless fire pits are wildly popular right now, with several off-the-shelf models selling like hot cakes on Amazon, but they are pricey. The good news is you can build a smokeless fire pit for your garden at a fraction of the price of commercial fire pits, with minimal DIY skills.
Read on to learn how!
- How to Build a Smokeless Fire Pit
- How Does a Smokeless Fire Pit Work?
- How Are Portable Smokeless Fire Pits Designed?
- Making a DIY Smokeless Fire Pit – Where to Start
- Smokeless Fire Pits FAQs
- Best Smokeless and Low-Smoke Fire Pits!
How to Build a Smokeless Fire Pit
Learning how smokeless fire pits work is the first step to building one. So – before we get into the DIY part of this article, let’s understand how a smokeless fire pit works! How is it different from traditional fire pits?
Then we’ll scope out a couple of commercial fire pits for price and design pointers. And afterward, we’ll investigate DIY smokeless fire pit designs you can implement.
How Does a Smokeless Fire Pit Work?
A smokeless fire pit has a hollow shell with several inner and outer vent holes that enable two-stage combustion. The primary burn occurs at the base of the fire, while the secondary burn occurs at the top of the fire, where heated air escapes the shell cavity and ignites the wood smoke.
Here are the vital components of a smokeless fire pit.
- Smoke is the result of incomplete combustion. In the case of a regular fire pit, (primary combustion) smoke gets released from wood that has insufficient flame/heat to consume 100% of its fuel content.
- Wood smoke is fuel, a combustible gas.
- A smokeless fire pit supplies the fire with jets of heated air (hot oxygen) at the top of the fire to ignite and clean-burn any smoke.
- Smokeless fire pits have exterior vent holes at their base that allow air to pass into the fire pit for primary combustion and into the cavity between the chamber walls for secondary combustion.
The air cavity between the chamber walls of the smokeless fire pit heats as the fledgling fire gets hotter.
Convection currents force the heated air in the cavity up and out of the upper vent holes, giving the flames in the combustion chamber an extra shot of oxygen to burn away the smoke released by the primary burn.
To create an effective secondary burn? Heated air must enter the combustion chamber, which requires a thermodynamic design that optimizes convection currents.
- A good smokeless fire pit will have a dual-skin sealed cavity with no leak points other than its designated vent holes.
- The term smokeless used by commercial fire pit makers is misleading. A smokeless fire pit will emit smoke when the fire starts.
- The smokeless phase, which is a significant reduction in smoke, only begins once the air between the chamber walls of the fire pit reaches the flashpoint of the smoke – between 550 – 700 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the wood used as fuel.
- Heating a smokeless fire pit to a point where effective secondary combustion (and smoke elimination) occurs could take up to 30 minutes.
That’s the science bit done. Now, let’s get to the building part, starting with the commercial portable smokeless fire pit.
Read More – Starting a Backyard Fire Pit! The Easy Way!
How Are Portable Smokeless Fire Pits Designed?
Commercial portable smokeless fire pits get made from steel with the combustion chamber elevated on legs or a pedestal. Large models for logwood burning are around 36-inch in diameter and allow the fitment of a grill for cooking. Smaller portable smokeless fire pits use wood pellets for fuel.
Factory-built smokeless fire pits vary in price but expect to pay $500 – $1,500 for a model suitable for an outdoor bonfire experience.
The two hot-sellers right now are:
- The Breeo 27-inch X Series Smokeless Fire Pit is a low-cost option.
- The Solo Stove 27-inch Yukon smokeless fire pit is the more premium choice.
No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot to pay for putting an end to bonfire chair shifting!
The high cost is why we will learn what we can from the professionals and then DIY.
- A smokeless fire pit needs lots of air coming in at the base of the fire.
- The fire should elevate off the combustion chamber’s base (AKA the fire bowl) – and allow optimum airflow and oxygenation.
- The upper vent holes must be small and plentiful.
- You can grill on a smokeless fire pit.
Now let’s don our DIY gloves and head down to the workshop to make a smokeless fire pit.
Making a DIY Smokeless Fire Pit – Where to Start
The first decision you need to make is whether you want a fixed or portable smokeless fire pit. A fixed fire pit can sink into the ground or be flush with the surface, as with a portable fire pit. You can build either type using simple designs, DIY tools, and a few handy-dandy accessories.
Let’s look at the three DIY smokeless fire pit design options.
DIY Smokeless Fire Pit Design Options
- DIY Portable Smokeless Fire Pit
- DIY Sunken Smokeless Fire Pit
- DIY Flush Fixed Smokeless Fire Pit
Each of these options has its advantages and drawbacks. They are as follows.
- Portable smokeless fire pits are usually lightweight steel. Portable smokeless fire pits are versatile as far as bonfire location is concerned. But they won’t have the excellent heat retention properties of rock, bricks, pavers, and concrete.
- A sunken smokeless fire pit provides ground-level heat but will require a fair amount of digging and laying of ventilation piping. Creating a sealed thermodynamic cavity will be difficult.
- A flush and fixed smokeless fire pit are relatively easy to install. But, smokeless firepits also require crafty bricklaying to ensure an ample air supply to the fire.
So – which of these DIY smokeless fire pit design options do we recommend?
1. Building a Portable DIY Smokeless Fire Pit Design
The easiest way to build a portable smokeless fire pit is to repurpose an old 55-gallon steel oil drum. By cutting the drum into two cylinders, you’ll have the beginnings of a double-wall smokeless fire pit. The drum’s sheet metal can be welded or riveted together and sealed with gasket material.
Here’s what you’ll need to convert the oil drum into a portable smokeless fire pit.
- An angle grinder
- A jigsaw with a steel-cutting blade
- A drill
- A one-inch step bit
- A one-eighth-of-an-inch drill bit (for steel)
- A rivet gun
- A steel vice
- A hammer
- A ratchet strap
- 2 x G-clamps
- Steel one-eighth-of-an-inch rivets
- Gasket rope
- Gasket cement
- Heat resistant paint
- Gloves and safety glasses
How to Build a DIY Smokeless Fire Pit in 8 Steps
- Take a 55-gallon steel drum (a food-grade oil drum with a sealed lid) and cut it laterally into two halves (making the bottom half four inches higher than the top half).
- You now have two stout barrels, each with sealed ends.
- Now the inversion takes place! The bottom half of the barrel will become the outer shell and top of the smokeless fire pit once its base gets removed to create the opening for the fire pit, and four legs get fashioned to create the base vent for primary and secondary combustion.
- What was the sealed lid of the barrel will become the base of the portable fire pit.
- With the lid removed, the top section of the barrel converts into the inner wall of the fire pit.
- Cutting the top half of the barrel down its length and overlapping the steel edges by three-quarters of an inch (and riveting them together) will effectively reduce the barrel’s diameter to create an ideal thermodynamic cavity between the inner and outer wall of the fire pit.
- The new smaller barrel goes inside the larger barrel. It gets riveted and sealed beneath the lip of what was once the bottom of the oil drum.
- A series of one-half-inch holes go into the upper rim of the smaller barrel/inner wall. These holes will supply the heated air for secondary combustion.
It sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Take a look at this inspiring oil drum smokeless fire pit, and learn the fundamental design principles seen in the video above.
The integrity of a thermodynamic cavity (with no leaks other than its designated vents) is essential for any smokeless fire pit to be effective.
- Like water, the air takes the path of least resistance. If you need air to work for you, you need to direct its movement.
- DIY smokeless fire pits that use bricks, stone, concrete, or raw earth to create the outer wall of the convection cavity fight a losing battle against air leaks.
It’s much easier to seal steel than myriad rocks, stones, or bricks.
You can create a sunken smokeless fire pit with this steel oil drum design.
2. How to Build a Sunken Smokeless Fire Pit
Start by digging a hole and feeding air to the base of the oil drum smokeless fire pit using underground-to-surface piping or ducting.
3. How to Build a Flush Smokeless Fire Pit
Build a flush smokeless fire pit by cladding your oil drum smokeless fire pit with any rustic fireproof material you fancy (be it rock, pavers, or bricks) without battling to create a sustained airtight finish with masonry products.
Smokeless Fire Pits FAQs
The good news is that people have been building smokeless fire pits for hundreds of years.
The bad news is that it’s still tricky for new homesteaders and campers to pull off successfully – especially if you don’t have much experience building tall fires!
So we’re answering the most prominent smokeless fireplace and smokeless fire pit questions.
We hope these help you erect a massive fire. Without smoke!
Complete combustion is the best way to create a smokeless fireplace or fire pit. A fire pit is made smokeless by introducing a secondary combustion stage to the fire pit, where hot air rises through a convection cavity, feeding into the upper part of the fire pit. From there, it burns off smoke from unburned wood.
Complete combustion makes a smokeless fire pit smokeless. A secondary burn or combustion process using super-heated air ignites smoke released from the incomplete burning of wood particles.
Yes. Some of them! When built according to the principles of two-stage combustion, smokeless fire pits can be insanely effective in reducing smoke from burning wood. Fires with complete combustion result in a fire that’s extremely hot, bright, and (almost) smokeless.
A smokeless fire pit will reduce the smell of burning wood and limit the odors typical of an outdoor fire from clinging to skin and clothing.
Smokeless fire pits burn at higher temperatures than conventional bonfires and release more heat energy due to improved oxygenation of the fire pit. They burn tremendously efficiently – which means massive heat radiation – and less ash. Perfect!
Yes! DIY smokeless fire pits work when the convection cavity between the inner and outer walls of the fire pit has no other air holes than its designated air vents.
Since smokeless fire pits don’t create as much smoke as traditional fire pits, they are generally considered safer. Smokeless fire pits also don’t produce as much ash – bonus!
To a certain extent, yes, smokeless fire pits could keep mosquitoes away. However, this is mainly due to the heat. Since smokeless fire pits produce minimal smoke, they won’t work as well as traditional fire pits. Adding different herbs to your burning fuel will help reduce the number of mosquitoes hanging out in your backyard.
Best Smokeless and Low-Smoke Fire Pits!
Building a fire pit on your own is a lot of work – and we know that the cost of supplies keeps going up!
So we’re also sharing the best smokeless fire pits and kits we could find on Amazon.
We think that sometimes, buying a smokeless fire pit may be easier than building one yourself.
We scoured dozens of models and read the reviews to help weed out the ones that don’t work – and don’t deliver the best value.
Our results are below – and we hope these make your spring and summer nights more enjoyable.
And – more smokeless!
Want a smokeless fire pit of industrial-grade stainless steel that lasts? Here’s one of our favorites made in the USA! It’s from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Breeo X. It handles softwood, kindling, and logs without worry and produces warm flame – without smoke. The Breeo X has a diameter of 27.5-inches, a height of 14.75 inches, and weighs 62 pounds.
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The Yukon Solo Stove promotes clean secondary combustion and a beautiful flame with low smoke. It’s also durable and waterproof. You can insert logs, woody debris, and large sticks without fuss. The stove has a 27-inch diameter, a height of 19.8-inches, and it weighs approximately 40.3 pounds.
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The Cuisinart smokeless fire pit is our favorite if you want a chic-looking fire pit for your backyard. The interior is stainless steel, and it’s also rust-resistant. It has double walls and adequate vents for maximum airflow, and it burns hot. Any kindling, softwood, or hardwood logs burn nicely. The fire pit also has an ashtray base – so you can clean ashes without stress.
PAID LINK – We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.11/27/2023 11:26 am GMT
If you want a mid-range smokeless fire pit from a reliable brand, then it’s tough to beat this low-smoke fire pit from TIKI. The stainless-steel fire pit produces plenty of heat and bright flame while sparing you the thick smoke. It has a heat radius of four feet and a 16-inch internal diameter. It uses firewood as fuel. You can also use TIKI brand wood packs – which burn for about 30 minutes.
PAID LINK – We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.11/27/2023 04:17 am GMT
Attempting to make a smokeless fire pit with an outer wall made of organic material isn’t the best way to achieve the desired smoke-free effect.
Commercial steel smokeless fire pits work well due to the ideal thermodynamic specifications built into the convection cavity. Use the oil drum method and freestyle your outdoor cladding solution to create your perfect smokeless fire pit experience!
Relaxing by a campfire in your backyard is one of the best parts of spring – and summer.
But the smoke is a headache!
We hope our guide helps you to relax and unwind by the fire.
Thanks again for reading.
Have a great day!