Do Propane Fire Pits Smell Bad? (2022)

Propane fire pits can add a pleasant ambiance to your backyard or patio. However, a concern for some gas fire pit buyers is knowing the smell of propane is less than pleasant and wondering if that will be an issue when using them.

How likely are you to smell that gassy smell if you buy and/or install a propane fire pit?

Nobody wants a backyard that smells like rotten eggs when trying to relax in front of a warm fire. So if you are in the market for a new gas fire pit, getting to the bottom of this may be your priority.

So…do propane fire pits smell? They shouldn’t. Propane is clean-burning, meaning that you shouldn’t smell much of anything from the flame. If you smell anything more than the occasional whiff of gas, you should turn off the flame immediately and have the unit serviced before turning it on again. That smell could be indicative of a potentially dangerous gas leak.

There are a few smells that may emit from a propane fire pit. While none of them should be particularly intense, let’s run through what your nose can expect when using a propane gas fire pit.

The Smell of Propane Gas

Rotten eggs…raw sewage…a swamp. You get the picture. These are just a few of the ways that people describe the smell of propane. It’s not a pleasant smell. However, if your fire pit is installed correctly and safely, you shouldn’t smell much of it all.

Propane is the fuel that powers your fire pit. It’s a fuel source that burns clean. This means that it leaves behind almost no contaminants or particulates after burning. There isn’t anything to smell; it’s all burned away.

If Your Fire Pit Smells Like Propane Something’s Wrong

If you can smell propane while the fire pit is running, this means that there’s propane that isn’t being burned, likely from a leak. If this leaked propane comes into contact with the open flame, it can cause an explosion.

You may smell the occasional puff of propane, and this is nothing to worry about. Sometimes a little bit of gas will sneak past the flame without getting burned and make its way to your nostrils.

However, if the smell is strong and sustained, don’t take chances. Switch it off and call a repair person.

Some experts even recommend avoiding the use of electricity or landlines on the same property as these could potentially generate a spark. A propane explosion could damage your property and injure people at your home.

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Be careful. These types of incidents are infrequent, but you don’t want to be the unlucky exception.

Don’t let safety concerns be the reason you steer clear of a propane fire pit. As long as you’re careful and trust your nose, you won’t have anything to worry about.

The Smells of Setup

Depending on the materials used in your fire pit. You may need to allow the fire pit to burn for an extended period as a part of the installation.

This is especially true if you are using fake wood or certain types of paint inside the pit. A long burn allows the heat necessary for these products to cure fully. You may need to allow a new fire pit to burn for three hours or more.

During this process, you may smell some unpleasant chemical odors. This is nothing to be alarmed about. It is merely a part of the installation process.

The smell may occur on the first few uses but will quickly go away and should not return.

Some Materials Smell More than Others

There are a few different materials that people will line the bottom of their fire pits with. Necessarily, these materials are heat resistant and won’t break down or look bad after prolonged exposure to heat. Some of these materials include:

  • Lava rock
  • Glass
  • Silica Sand
  • River rock

Some fire pit owners complain that they notice scents coming off lava rock or river rock when heated. The smell of silica sand will vary depending on its purity.

If you are sensitive to these types of smells, you may want to consider glass as a material for filling your pit.

Take a look at my article Why Use Lava Rock for a Fire Pit? for more.

Other Smells

The reality is that almost anything will give off some amount of odor when heated. This means that you can have smells coming off of the container, the piping, the fill material—anything close enough to the heat source.

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This creates an almost limitless number of factors for smells. Most of these smells will be subtle, and your fire pit will be outdoors. Smells will need to pack a certain punch to be detectable.

If there is an odor and you’ve ruled out the things we’ve discussed previously, try removing everything close enough to the pit to be heated up and replace them one at a time to see if you can identify what is causing the smell.

A Burnt Smell Means You Need to Dust

If you smell a burnt or smoky smell coming from your fire pit, it likely means that it needs some cleaning. Over time, dust and debris can build up on and around the heating apparatus. When the unit turns on, this buildup burns away, creating that smoky scent.

If you smell something burning, it’s time to do some dusting.

  • Wait until the fire pit has completely cooled
  • Use a dusting rag to wipe all the surfaces where dust could accumulate
  • Pay special attention to ventilation ducts or valves
  • Replace any vents or grates that you may have removed during dusting

This may seem trivial, and while it isn’t generally urgent, the burning dust and debris create heat. Over time, this heat can eventually damage parts of your fire pit, which may cost you to fix.

Save yourself some time, money, and effort by regularly cleaning your fire pit—especially if you smell smoke.

Propane vs. Wood Burning Fire Pits

While propane fire pits generally don’t smell bad, they also don’t really smell much at all. This comes into stark contrast with traditional wood-burning fire pits which carry that unmistakable (but great in my humble opinion) campfire smell. There are a few differences between the two styles worth taking into consideration.

Smell

In this category, it’s hard to declare an absolute winner. Some people may really enjoy being able to enjoy a fire without their clothes, their hair, and their bodies smelling like smoke for days. Sitting around a propane fire pit feels clean, but with that cleanliness comes certain sterility.

The lack of smoke may make the fire seem fake. Without the smell, the flame doesn’t have the same presence or provide the full atmosphere of a wood-burning fire pit. Some absolutely love the smell of a campfire. Others are happy to enjoy a fire without the smell.

Smoke

Wood burning fire pits are going to naturally smoke at times – on some occasions more than others depending on a variety of factors including the dryness and type of firewood you are using, more on that here (insert Fire Pit Smoke Article link).

And on some occasions, you may be playing a constant game of musical chairs as the wind shifts direction. With a clean-burning propane fire pit, smoke virtually becomes a non-issue.

Cooking

If you enjoy the smell of hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, seafood, or any other traditional grill favorites, then a wood-burning fire pit is always going to be your best bet.

Wood-burning fire pits with an add-on grilling grate make them an excellent choice for cooking outdoors. With fewer “moving parts,” they are more adaptable to messes and much easier to clean the day after the party.

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Your options of cooking on a propane grill are going to be limited to items that produce little mess like marshmallows and hot dogs on a stick.

Regular grilling over a propane fire pit will produce excess residue (moisture, fat, scraps of food) from the cooking process can find their way onto your propane fire pit media (lava rock, glass, etc.).

This residue will produce excess smoke then and there and when you light your fire pit the next time. Also, this residue could lead to blocked in your gas fire pit’s burner ports, which can result in issues getting your fire pit started and burning right. You can cook, you just have to keep it simple.

For more on this subject, take a look at my article Can You Roast Marshmallows on a Propane Fire Pit?

Conclusion: Do Propane Fire Pits Smell Bad?

No, propane fire pits do not smell bad.

However, If you are smelling propane, something’s wrong. If you are smelling gas, make sure to shut off your gas fire pit and turn off the propane at the source.

Consult your owner’s manual and/or installer (if you had yours installed) to begin troubleshooting the problem.

As I mentioned earlier, you may experience certain smells during the fire pit’s break-in period, Still, they most likely won’t be unpleasant and will pass with continued use.

These smells are most likely from paints and other chemical additives being used during the manufacturing process being heated for the first time.

Finally, keep your fire pit clean and free of dirt, duct, food particles, and anything else that may produce unwanted smells when burned.

Good luck, and thanks for reading! – BT

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Can propane fire pits get wet?

Modern gas fire pits are generally designed to resist a certain amount of exposure to rain, humidity, and other moisture. However, you will extend the life and enhance the performance of your fire pit if you keep it covered when not in use.

Doing so will minimize the amount of dirt/dust settling on the fire pit’s media (lava rock, fire glass, firerock, etc.) and components (burner, burner tray, etc.), allow the fire pit media to dry adequately (very important), keep unwanted pests from making a home in your fire pit, and minimize rusting.

Be aware that fire pit lava rocks can rupture if exposed to high-heat conditions when still wet. Allow these fire pit rocks time to adequately dry before use.

See my article Do Gas Fire Pits Need to Be Covered? for more on the subject.

How long does a tank of propane last in a fire pit?

The amount of time a propane tank will last depends on how high you set your fire pit’s flame and frequency of use.

With that said, plan for a typical 20 lb. propane tank (the size you’ll typically see used with gas grills) to last anywhere from 5-10 hours, assuming a high to medium setting, respectively.

Fire pits on the lowest setting can last to about 14-16 hours depending on the fire pit’s design, size, etc.

Are propane fire pits safe on decks?

The short answer is yes, under certain conditions.

Table and column-type gas fire pits are made to operate on a variety of surfaces where the burner element, the primary heat source, has a good amount of distance between it and the surface of the deck.

Models with a lower profile may present an issue with regard to the heat and the potential for damage to the deck. Consult with your gas fire pit’s manufacturer regarding the use of a heat-resistant barrier to protect the deck.

Portable fire pits will sit closer to the deck’s surface and may present a higher risk of heat-related damage to surfaces. I recommend using a fire pit barrier each time you use a portable fire pit on a deck.

There are many options in the retail market, either online or at your local hardware store. A somewhat less expensive option is to temporarily use landscaping pavers in a square configuration under your propane fire pit. This should be more than adequate to protect your deck from heat damage.

If you have a deck made of composite materials (Trex, Fiberon, TimberTech, etc.), this risk of damage is a little higher in my opinion. These materials will soften and warp under certain heat conditions.

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With the damage risk comes a high replacement cost. Make sure whatever barrier you use is robust enough to protect your deck.

For more on the subject, check out my article The Ultimate Guide To Using a Fire Pit On Decking.

Do Propane Fire Pits Smell Bad? (1)

FAQs

Can you make a propane fire pit smell like wood? ›

Sprinkle cedar wood fragrance oil near your fireplace, or pour it into a small votive holder, to emit a wood scent.

Do outdoor propane heaters smell? ›

Natural gas and propane burn cleaner, producing no smoke or odor, so they may feel more environmentally friendly. However, they are not environmentally neutral—like any electric, propane, or natural gas device, they still consume energy and potentially produce carbon dioxide.

What does burning propane smell like? ›

Your nose is your first defense against a propane gas leak because propane manufacturers add a chemical to propane to make it smell like rotten eggs (on its own, propane gas is actually odorless).

Does propane actually smell? ›

Propane gas has no odor. Propane companies add a harmless chemical called mercaptan to give it its distinctive “rotten egg” smell. All propane pipeline gas in Connecticut is odorized. If you smell gas near an appliance , it may be just a pilot light that has gone out or a burner valve that is open slightly.

Should a propane fire pit smell? ›

So…do propane fire pits smell? They shouldn't. Propane is clean-burning, meaning that you shouldn't smell much of anything from the flame. If you smell anything more than the occasional whiff of gas, you should turn off the flame immediately and have the unit serviced before turning it on again.

How long can you run a propane fire pit? ›

The average gas fire pit will last from 3 to 6 hours on a 20 lb. propane tank. Depending on your fire pit BTU rating a tank can last you as long as 9 hours, or as little as 1-1/2 hours. A 20 pound propane tank contains approximately 430,000 BTU's.

Is it normal to smell propane with a propane heater? ›

Propane and natural gas are naturally odorless, so an odor is added that smells like rotten eggs or rotting in general. This makes it easier to detect in case of a leak. If you smell this, you could have propane or gas leaking into your home.

Can you get carbon monoxide poisoning from a propane heater? ›

However, if you will be heating a room inside a home or other building, choose an electric space heater instead, because propane heaters can pose a carbon monoxide hazard when used without adequate ventilation.

Do outdoor propane heaters give off carbon monoxide? ›

Patio heaters do produce carbon monoxide, and they don't face as many regulations as indoor heaters. That means they can produce enough carbon monoxide to suffocate you or lead to death. If a patio heater uses propane gas, that also poses a health risk.

How long does it take for propane smell to go away? ›

Because it takes an hour or two for the gas to dissipate – the safety recommendations are to never turn on any electric device or spark a flame (i.e. light a candle or cigarette) if you are in a house with a possible gas leak. It's also the reason to leave the house until it has been cleared by the first responders.

Is propane toxic to breathe? ›

Breathing in or swallowing propane can be harmful. Propane takes the place of oxygen in the lungs. This makes breathing difficult or impossible.

How do you get rid of propane smell? ›

What to Do If You Smell Propane Gas
  1. No Flames or Sparks – Immediately put out all smoking material and other open flames. ...
  2. Leave the Area Immediately – Get everyone out of the building or area where you suspect gas is leaking.
  3. Shut Off Gas – Turn off the main gas supply valve on your tank if it is safe to do so.
Dec 2, 2020

Why does my propane fireplace stink? ›

The interior surfaces of your gas fireplace gather household dust, pet dander, hair, and skin cells. It's the same thing that happens the first time you turn on the furnace every year. This dust accumulation is difficult to remove. So when all that dust starts to burn off of this dust produces a very unpleasant odor.

What happens when you smell propane? ›

If You Smell Gas In Your House…

Flames or sparks from these sources can trigger an explosion or a fire. Leave the area immediately! If you smell propane inside, get yourself and your family out of the home as quickly as possible.

Can a propane leak make you sick? ›

A high concentration can displace oxygen in the air. If less oxygen is available to breathe, symptoms such as rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, clumsiness, emotional upsets and fatigue can result. As less oxygen becomes available, nausea and vomiting, collapse, convulsions, coma and death can occur.

How far should propane fire pit be from house? ›

Place your fire pit at a safe distance (10-25 feet) from any flammable structures or surfaces. This includes your house, trees, shed, vehicle, neighbors' property, and wood deck, among other things. Keep your fire pit away from overhanging branches.

How much clearance do you need above a propane fire pit? ›

When placing your gas fire pit, our clearance to combustibles is as follows: 2 feet from the edge of burner. 8 inches below the burner. 6 feet above the burner.

Is a propane fire pit safe indoors? ›

In general, propane fire pits are not suitable for indoor use. The primary reason for this is that propane fire pits need plenty of ventilation in order to avoid the build-up of dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide.

How long will a 20lb propane tank last on a fire pit? ›

For the Fire Pit, a 20# propane tank will last approximately 4 to 4 ½ hours at a continuous burn at the maximum output. The tank will last approximately 8-9 hours at a moderate gas output.

Can a propane fire pit stay outside in the winter? ›

The short answer to this question is yes. The durability of your fire pit ultimately varies by manufacturer. You will want to make sure the burner and structure of the gas fire pit table uses the best technology and materials, such as concrete and steel.

How many hours does a 20lb propane tank last? ›

As a rule of thumb, a medium-sized grill on high heat will use approximately two pounds of fuel per meal. Following this rule, a 20lb propane tank will provide 18-20 hours of cooking time on a medium grill. A larger grill can burn through 20lbs of propane in as little as 10 hours.

How can you tell if your propane tank is leaking? ›

Checking for a propane tank leak is easy. Apply soapy water or a special leak detector solution to where the propane tank's cylinder valve and regulator outlet connect. Next, you'll need to slowly open the cylinder valve. Bubbles will form if there is a leak.

What are two warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning? ›

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
  • headache.
  • dizziness.
  • feeling sick or being sick.
  • feeling weak.
  • confusion.
  • chest and muscle pain.
  • shortness of breath.

Will carbon monoxide detector detect propane? ›

You should have CO detectors on every level of your home, and outside all sleeping areas. But most carbon monoxide detectors do not detect propane in your home. So, you need propane detectors as well. Contact us to learn more about propane detectors.

Do you need to vent a propane heater? ›

Like most heating options, proper ventilation is necessary to get the best results. Propane heaters need oxygen to breathe. So, in a garage, it will share the oxygen you consume. Additionally, without proper ventilation, you increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Do you have to worry about carbon monoxide with a propane heater? ›

Don't Use Outdoor Propane Gas Heaters Indoors – Carbon Monoxide Issue. Burning LPG can produce carbon monoxide in outdoor propane heaters too. Because they are intended for outdoor use, with unrestricted ventilation, they are not required to meet the indoor propane heater emission standards for carbon monoxide.

Can you sleep with a propane heater on? ›

If you are using a vent-free propane space heater, using it while sleeping puts you in danger of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Because carbon monoxide is odorless, you can take in a dangerous and even lethal amount of it when you're asleep before the CO detector near your bedroom goes off.

How much carbon monoxide does a propane heater put out? ›

Only 5 percent of all US homes are currently using propane as their means of heat. One question that's often posed is: Do propane heaters give off carbon monoxide? If working correctly, propane heaters will produce very little, but usually, no carbon monoxide.

Do propane fumes rise or fall? ›

Natural gas and propane vapors are heavier than air. Natural gas will typically rise into the air and diffuse, while propane will accumulate in low-lying areas such as basement, crawl spaces and ditches.

Does propane smell when tank is low? ›

Empty Propane Tanks

It's also good to be aware that you may smell a strong odor of propane gas when your tank is empty. This is because the odor can sometimes settle and collect in the bottom of the tank. When the propane supply runs low, you are left simply with the concentrated odor.

Does propane dissipate in air? ›

While many people think that propane gas is “lighter' than air and will dissipate into the atmosphere, propane is actually a dense fuel that is 50 percent heavier than atmospheric air at sea level.

Is propane cancerous? ›

LIQUEFIED GAS UNDER PRESSURE. MAY EXPLODE IF HEATED. PRODUCES SKIN IRRITATION UPON PROLONGED OR REPEATED SKIN CONTACT. MAY CONTAIN TRACE AMOUNTS OF BENZENE WHICH CAN CAUSE CANCER OR BE TOXIC TO BLOOD-FORMING ORGANS.

What are the disadvantages of propane? ›

The biggest disadvantage to a propane heating system is keeping up with tank maintenance – or not. If you own the tank, you're responsible for regular inspections, and you have to fix the problem if there's leaks or corrosion. You might even eventually have to replace the tank.

Can the smell of propane give you a headache? ›

High levels of CO can make you dizzy, give you headaches, or cause flu-like symptoms In extreme cases, high levels of or extended exposure to CO can result in brain damage or death.

Is propane gas toxic? ›

Propane vapor is not toxic, but it is an asphyxiating gas. That means propane will displace the oxygen in your lungs, making it difficult or impossible to breathe if exposed to high concentrations. If you suspect you have inhaled a significant amount of propane, call 911.

Is a gas fireplace supposed to smell? ›

Although it is normal for a fireplace to omit a slight odor, it is important to take proper precautions if you think you may smell a potential gas leak. Natural gas itself is odorless, but has an additive that makes it smell like rotten eggs.

Does a gas fireplace give off a smell? ›

Ventless gas fireplaces may produce a faint gas smell during use, but any strong rotten egg gas smells associated with any form of gas fireplace should be considered as a gas leak and you should leave the house immediately and get professional advice.

Why does my propane fireplace smell like propane? ›

If you're getting a true propane or natural gas odor from gas logs or space heaters there's more than likely a very small gas leak that is causing the odor and that can be fixed by repairing the leak. If it is a gas leak inside the fireplace you should smell it all the time and not just when the logs are operating.

How can I make my propane fireplace smell better? ›

The best way to prevent smells in a gas fireplace is to improve the quality of air in your home. If you smoke, take it outside. If you have pets, vacuum regularly and consider investing in a room air purifier. Avoid the use of harsh cleaning chemicals and plug-in deodorizer.

How can I make my fire pit smell better? ›

Place small bundles of rosemary on the outer edges of the fire to give a sweet, pine scent. For a sharper aroma try dried sage which leaves a lingering, lighter scent.

Why does my propane fireplace smell like propane? ›

If you're getting a true propane or natural gas odor from gas logs or space heaters there's more than likely a very small gas leak that is causing the odor and that can be fixed by repairing the leak. If it is a gas leak inside the fireplace you should smell it all the time and not just when the logs are operating.

Do propane fire pits give off smoke? ›

Propane or natural gas fires do not give off smoke or embers, making them safer for use under cover.

Is a gas fireplace supposed to smell? ›

Although it is normal for a fireplace to omit a slight odor, it is important to take proper precautions if you think you may smell a potential gas leak. Natural gas itself is odorless, but has an additive that makes it smell like rotten eggs.

What can I put in my gas fireplace to make it smell good? ›

Hickory, apple or cherry wood chips give off a great smoky scent. Soak 1/2 cup of wood chips in a bowl of water for 30 minutes to an hour. Drain and place wood chips in smoker box. If using an empty tin can instead of a smoker box, place wood chips inside tin can and cover with lid or aluminum foil.

Does a gas fireplace give off a smell? ›

Ventless gas fireplaces may produce a faint gas smell during use, but any strong rotten egg gas smells associated with any form of gas fireplace should be considered as a gas leak and you should leave the house immediately and get professional advice.

Can you put essential oils in a fire pit? ›

Just be sure to never pour essential oil directly on the flame. We repeat: Do not pour essential oil directly on the flame. Essential oils are flammable and will burn you. Scented fire logs are available if you like traditional wood smells like basalm.

What can I do about neighbors fire pit smoke? ›

If you're concerned about smoke emitting from a neighbor's fire pit, speak to your neighbor about the matter. If the smoke remains an issue, contact your local health or fire department to determine further action.

Videos

1. How do I know if my propane regulator is bad?
(Ask About HEALTH)
2. Fire pit won’t stay lit fix - bypass thermocouple - Part 2
(natEice)
3. HOW TO purge the regulator
(HollandGrilling)
4. DIY: Make a propane fire pit from a flower pot
(Fresno Bee)
5. How to Fix a Gas Fire Pit
(Family Handyman)
6. No More Wood Campfires! It's Time to Switch to Propane Firepits
(TrailRecon)

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