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How Hot Does a Fire Pit Get? All About Fire Pit BTU

How Hot Does a Fire Pit Get? All About Fire Pit BTU

Fire pits for backyards is a popular feature that can provide warmth and ambiance to outdoor spaces. But how hot does a fire pit actually get?

The amount of heat a fire pit generates depends on several factors, including the fuel source, size, design, and BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating. Understanding these factors can help you choose the right fire pit and get the optimal heat output for your needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Fire pits can reach over 1000°F depending on the fuel type, BTU rating, and size. Larger wood and gas pits burn the hottest.
  • The BTU rating indicates the heat output. Choose 40,000-60,000 BTUs for small spaces, 60,000-80,000 for medium spaces, and 80,000+ for large patios.
  • Fuel types like wood, propane, and natural gas produce more heat than bioethanol. But bioethanol provides a better atmosphere.
A family gathered around a fire pit at night, with a label on the pit displaying 'High BTU Output' to highlight the flame's intensity and heat.

    What Factors Determine Fire Pit Heat Output?

    The heat level produced by a fire pit depends on these key factors:

    Fire Pit Fuel Source

    The type of fuel used in a fire pit significantly affects the amount of heat it generates. Common fire pit fuel sources include:

    • Wood - Wood burning fire pits can reach high temperatures. A small wood fire pit may reach up to 800°F, while larger pits can exceed 1000°F when fully loaded with wood. Hardwoods like oak or hickory produce more heat output than softwoods like pine.

    • Propane - Propane fire pits use pressurized liquid propane gas and emit up to 60,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units). This allows them to reach temperatures over 1000°F.

    • Natural Gas - Natural gas fire pits can generate over 50,000 BTUs and reach similar heat levels as propane models, exceeding 1000°F.

    • Bioethanol - Bioethanol gel fuel produces less heat than wood or gas, reaching around 400°F. However, the flame height and atmosphere are comparable.

    This comparison table summarizes key factors to weigh when deciding on fuel types for your fire pit:

    Fuel Type Heat Output Max Temp Flame Height Atmosphere Portability
    Wood High 1000°F+ Medium Good Low
    Propane Very High 1000°F+ Tall Low Medium
    Natural Gas Very High 1000°F+ Tall Low High if permanent
    Bioethanol Low 400°F Short Best Very High

    Fire Pit BTU Rating

    The BTU rating indicates the heating power of a fire pit. It measures the amount of heat produced by the fire pit burner per hour.

    • A small 30,000 BTU fire pit can heat approximately 150 sq ft on average.

    • A medium 40,000 - 60,000 BTU pit can heat 175 to 250 sq ft.

    • Large 70,000+ BTU fire pits can heat 300+ square feet.

    So in general, the higher the BTU rating, the more heat the fire pit emits.

    Use this quick reference table to determine the recommended BTU output range based on your patio square footage:

    Patio Size Recommended BTUs
    Up to 150 sq ft 40,000 - 60,000
    150 - 250 sq ft 60,000 - 80,000
    250+ sq ft 80,000+


    an illustration of different fire pit fuel sources such as wood propane natural gas and bioethanol

    Typical BTU Ratings for Different Fire Pit Fuel Types

    The amount of heat energy produced by various fire pit fuel types differs significantly. Here are the typical BTU outputs:

    Wood Burning Fire Pits

    • A small wood burning fire pit (20-30 in diameter) generates 30,000 - 50,000 BTUs.

    • Medium wood burning pits (30-40 in) produce 50,000 - 70,000 BTUs.

    • Large wood-fueled models (40-60 in) can reach 70,000 - 80,000 BTUs.

    Well-seasoned hardwoods like oak, hickory, or mesquite produce the most heat when burned.

    Propane Fire Pits

    • Most propane fire pits have BTU ratings ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 BTUs.

    • High-end propane pits can reach up to 100,000 BTUs for heating larger patios.

    • Compared to wood, propane burns hotter and produces a taller flame height.

    Natural Gas Fire Pits

    • Natural gas fire pits typically generate 30,000 to 60,000 BTUs of heat energy.

    • Permanent natural gas fire pits that are integrated into patios can reach up to 85,000 BTUs.

    • Natural gas provides a larger, brighter yellow flame than propane.

    Bioethanol Fire Pits

    • Bioethanol gel fuel burned in fire pits produces 20,000 to 28,000 BTUs.

    • Though less heat, bioethanol fires provide a good atmosphere due to low smoke and dynamic flame patterns.

    • Portable tabletop bioethanol pits weigh under 20 lbs, making them easy to move.

      How to Choose the Right BTU Rating for Your Fire Pit

      Selecting a fire pit with the right BTU output for the area you need to heat is crucial. Here are some guidelines:

      BTUs Needed for Small, Medium, and Large Fire Pits

      • For small patios or decks (up to 150 sq ft), choose a fire pit with around 40,000 to 60,000 BTUs.

      • For medium yards or patios (150 to 250 sq ft), select a pit with 60,000 to 80,000 BTUs.

      • For large outdoor living areas (250+ sq ft), you'll need a high BTU (80,000+) fire pit.

      Measure your patio size and use these recommendations as a starting point. Consider heat loss factors like exposure to wind.

      For assistance determining the optimal BTU level based on your patio dimensions and layout, reference our comprehensive fire pit buying guide.

      Relationship Between BTUs and Flame Height

      BTUs relate closely to the height and size of the flames produced. But flame height is also determined by the fuel oxygenation, wind conditions, and pit design. So BTUs don't necessarily directly correlate to flame height.

      For example, bioethanol pits produce smaller flames for their BTU level compared to propane. But propane gives off more radiant heat. Consider both flame size and BTUs when choosing your fire pit.

      Safety Tips for Getting Optimal Heat from Your Fire Pit

      To safely enjoy the cozy heat from your fire pit, follow these tips:

      Using Proper Fire Pit Tools and Fuels

      • Only use fuels designed for your particular fire pit model.

      • Use proper fire pit tools like pokers and flame adjustment valves.

      • For an outdoor wood fire pit, burn only dry, seasoned hardwoods. Softwoods like pine pop and throw more sparks.

      Following Fire Pit Manufacturers Guidelines

      • Read your fire pit’s manual to understand the proper setup, fueling, lighting, and extinguishing.

      • Adhere to all specifications for clearances, ventilation, fuel type, etc.

      Monitoring Children and Pets Around Fire Pits

      • Always supervise children and pets around fire pits.

      • Install a safety screen or guard around the pit.

      • Keep anything flammable at least 10 feet away from the heat source.

      Accidents can happen quickly, so maintain constant adult supervision.

      Modern rectangular gas fire pit with flames on a paved patio area, flanked by two Adirondack chairs, with a lush green lawn and stone wall in the background


      Fire pits can reach scorching temperatures, but their actual heat output depends on several variables. The fuel type, BTU rating, and size primarily determine the amount of heat a fire pit produces. Smaller propane and wood burning pits can exceed 1000°F, while larger permanent pits burn even hotter for heating big patios.

      For optimal safety and enjoyment, choose the right sized and fueled fire pit for the space you need to heat. Locate it properly and always adhere to the manufacturer's specifications when burning. With the perfect fire pit for your needs, you’ll be able to create lasting warm memories outdoors.


      What type of wood should I burn in my fire pit?

      It's important to use the right type of wood for your fire pit. Hardwoods like oak, hickory or ash are great choices as they produce higher heat output and remain burning for a longer period, compared to softwoods. Avoid using treated or painted wood as it can produce harmful fumes.

      Can I use my fire pit as a heat source for my outdoor space?

      Absolutely! Many homeowners use fire pits as a heat source to warm their outdoor space. Make sure to select the right size of the fire pit by considering the size of the space and your heating needs. A fire pit with a higher BTU will produce more heat.

      How hot does a fire table or fire pit fueled by propane or natural gas get?

      Typically, a common propane-fueled or an outdoor natural gas fire pit can reach up to 800 to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit (425 to 650 degrees Celsius). However, the heat can vary depending on the BTU of the fire table or the fire pit, which denotes the heating power of appliances.

      What are some fire safety tips to remember when using a fire pit?

      When using a fire pit, it's crucial to keep fire safety in mind. Keep your fire pit at least 10 feet away from any structures or combustible materials. Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and refrain from using a fire pit during windy conditions. Also, avoid leaving the fire unattended, especially if you’re burning wood.

      How to choose between different fire pit styles?

      When selecting the right fire pit for your home, consider how you want to use it. If you want to enjoy roasting marshmallows, a wood-burning fire pit might be better. But if you prefer convenience and less cleanup, a propane or natural gas fire pit could be a better option. Also, consider the size of the pit and its design to match your outdoor decor.

      How much wood is needed to keep the fire going in a fire pit?

      The amount of wood required to keep a fire going in a fire pit depends on the size of the fire you want. Generally, a medium-sized fire would require enough wood to fill the pit about halfway. However, do remember that more wood means higher heat, and always ensure that the fire is manageable and safe.

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      About The Author

      Andy Wu - Resident Expert

      Andy Wu - Resident Expert

      Andy Wu is the resident backyard products expert and hails from Atlanta, Georgia. His passion for crafting outdoor retreats began in 2003.

      As a fellow homeowner, he founded Backyard Oasis to provide top-quality furnishings and equipment, collaborating with leading manufacturers.

      His main focus is on sheds and generators!

      In his spare time he like to hike the tallest mountains in the world and travel with his family.

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