Why I Smell Propane From Fire Pit- Explanation

Many people notice a foul odour when they are near their propane fire pit. If you smell an awful stench, there is a good chance of a gas leak. You should always be vigilant of any potential gas leak and turn off your propane burner if the smell persists or becomes overpowering. Keep in mind that this type of gas smell is normal for some time after starting up your new equipment and using it for the first few times.

Why Do I Smell Propane From My Fire Pit

You should get a propane gas expert if you notice an awful odour coming from your backyard fireplace.

You will want to immediately test the air around where the smell seems most substantial and search traces of propane to ensure there isn’t a potential leak, as this type of smell can indicate such.

Cooking

If you are cooking or using appliances on top of your fire pit and find yourself with these smells more often than not, it may indicate that either too much fuel has been used or poor venting occurs due to obstructions within the area.

Cleaning

It could also mean that something like dust is blocking up some of the gas line, which would cause fumes to become trapped when they come out at the other end.

The best thing you can do if the smell persists is to call a professional gas technician and have them check out your system for any potential issues or blockages that would produce such odours.

They should do repair and service so your back up and running, so don’t hesitate! 

Bottom of the Fire Pit

Lava Rocks
Lava Rocks used in some Gas Fire Pits

Sometimes materials in the bottom of the fire pit like lava rocks, silica sand and glass can also cause gas fire pits to smell.

If you are using any of these materials, it may mean a higher likelihood for such smells to occur. The purity of silica sand may affect the odour.

Silica Sand should be 99% pure to avoid bad smells, but other substances can get mixed into this product which will make it less effective if they have a scent themselves like chlorine or sulphur compounds.”

What is propane, and what does it do?

Propane is a hydrocarbon gas an alternative fuel. What makes propane so popular is its versatility: it has many uses, from cooking to camping and heating homes. It’s also cheaper than other fuels like natural gas or electric power.

Types of propane

There are two main categories for propane: liquefied petroleum (LP) and commercial-grade/tradeable LP (CGLP). CGLP is what you might use in your car because it doesn’t have any sulphur content, whereas LP does contain sulphur compounds which cause the distinctive smell when burned.”

What is Propane Made from?

The process makes propane gas from distilling crude oil and separating the liquid into different parts. One of these fractions, or cuts, becomes propylene, creating several other products like polypropylene plastics (used in packaging), synthetic rubber for car tires, elastomers for hoses and conveyor belts as well as coatings on metal surfaces.”

Propane Usage

“The bulk of propane usage worldwide involves heating homes and businesses. It also makes up a large percentage of agricultural use, including fuel to power tractors on farms. In addition, consumed by industry (e.g., petrochemical plants) because it has high heat value per unit volume.”

Propane tanks LPG
Propane tanks

Physical Properties of Propane

Propane’s chemical structure made from hydrocarbon gas with three carbon and eight hydrogen atoms in a propane molecule. It has the chemical formula C-H-C.

The physical properties of propane are that its boiling point (the temperature at which liquid turns into gas) is -42 degrees Celsius (-44 degrees Fahrenheit), freezing point, 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), density at 15°c: about equal to air, specific gravity: less than one gram per cubic centimetre, vaporization heat: 220 calories per kilogram.

What Does Propane Do?

“Evaporation takes place faster when heated by an external source such as fire.” meaning that when an external source heats propane, it will turn from a liquid to gas more quickly.

So if you are cooking on a grill and have the flame too low or not strong enough, then your food might be undercooked because there isn’t enough heat being transferred from the burner to cook all of the food.

backyard propane fire pit
Luxury backyard propane fire pit at sunset

Are propane fire pits toxic?

Yes, propane can be toxic to humans if released in high concentrations. Exposure to propane’s intoxicating vapours may cause dizziness or a headache, and very high levels cause unconsciousness and death from lack of oxygen.

If you accidentally breathe in the gas, remove yourself from the area by moving quickly into the fresh air. 

Eco-friendly?

Propane is a fossil fuel, and carbon dioxide emissions are released into the atmosphere when it burns. But compared with wood-burning backyard fire pits, propane is much cleaner, releasing less carbon dioxide than electricity.

Propane does not pose a severe health risk to humans if used in moderate quantities for cooking or heating purposes.

But the gas can be toxic at very high concentrations, so make sure you have an adequate ventilation system when using these devices!

Can a propane fire pit explode

Yes, disastrous explosions can happen primarily due to a lack of sufficient ventilation. A gas fire pit can leak if the sealer used on it cracks or chips or has corrosion issues.

One of these reactions creates hydrogen gas as a result. Fuel produced in this way will mix up with air inside the tank to produce moisture and create an acidic environment, which then corrodes any metal nearby- including the sealant lining at the bottom of your unit.

If you smell gas from a ventless fireplace but don’t hear anything when flipping over switches or opening doors near it, there’s still a risk of exploding since “gases build up silently.”

Other signs for propane leaks are: 

  • Foul smells like rotten eggs, sewer gas, or burnt rubber.
  • slivers of blue flame coming out of the ventless fireplace, which is often accompanied by a high pitched humming sound and that “could be an indication of water vapour in the air.”

If you detect any of these indicators, please leave home and call for emergency help.

Young woman holding her nose because of a bad smell like Propane.

Some other potential causes of propane leaks include: 

  • Damaged pipe in your gas system that’s allowing a leak near where it enters or exits from your fireplace
  • The pressure regulator on the ventless unit has worn out over time

Is it Safe to Use a Propane Fire Pit Indoors?

It all depends on the type of fire pit and the ventilation. There are fire pits designed for indoor use. It should be safe to use a propane fire pit indoors. Always read the manual first there are some excellent tabletop bio-ethanol mini fire bowls on the market.

Gas fireplace indoors.

The critical thing to remember about indoor air quality, in general, is that you want good circulation. 

With this in mind, letting fresh air into your home and getting stale air out of your home and having plenty of windows open throughout the day so that all areas get an equal amount of fresh air coming through them at all times.

It also means not using anything with chemicals or any fuel inside your house because these things will concentrate the pollutants in one area where they can’t escape like they would if you were outside on a breezy spring morning.

For people who are understandably concerned about safety – specifically, when we’re talking about using a propane fire pit indoors – the good news is that they’re safer than wood-burning fires or gas appliances.

Fire Pit Maintenance

Maintaining your propane fire pit is crucial to ensure continued safety and peace of mind. Keep the following hints close at hand. For any potential hazards that may arise:

Check

  • Check the gas supply and gas line for leaks or cracks.
  • Inspect fire pit screens to ensure they are not too close together, which can cause sparks to fly out of the fire in unintended directions.

Cleaning your propane fire pit:

  • Remove the grill and ash drawer.
  • Clean these both thoroughly with soapy water, a scrub brush, and a dry cloth or paper towel.

Rinse well before replacing them on the fire pit to avoid any potential chemical reactions from residual soap.

  • Use an old rag dipped in mineral spirits (paint thinner) or denatured alcohol to clean up those hard-to-get crevices.
  • Spray this solution onto gloves to clean out all removable parts like air vents, knobs, electrical connections, etc., and be sure not to let any of the liquid drips into any openings.

Do I need to cover a propane fire pit?

No. propane doesn’t burn as hot as wood, and a properly installed propane fire pit should be safe to use without an enclosure. If you are concerned about the safety of using your propane flame, then consider replacing it with a more powerful natural gas or electric unit instead.

Do propane fire pits use a lot of propane?

It might be difficult to determine the answer because there are many variations in the size and design of different types of fire pits, but it’s safe to say these things:

  • Propane consumption varies depending on the size and type of fire pit
  • The average propane consumption for a typical 20,000 BTU gas log insert with an annual usage of 12 hours per day is about 25 gallons.

Which is cheaper to heat propane or natural gas?

Gas / Propane Fire pit
Gas /propane Firepit on the roof terrace for marshmallows and smores roast check out this post.

In terms of cost, it’s generally cheaper to heat with natural gas. The average varies based on the source price for natural gas, is around $0.11 per cubic foot, while propane averages at about $0.42 per gallon of liquid propane (compressed).

Propane and natural gas are both priced based on your usage, which means that it’s impossible to provide a simple answer to the question.

Prices for natural gas are generally higher in regions with limited access, such as Hawaii and Alaska, while propane prices usually are higher in areas like New England.

Propane or Wood Fire Pit?

Between the two, propane is the best option of these two and with fewer fire hazards. Propane is more environmentally friendly than wood burning fire pits because it only emits small amounts of carbon monoxide or nitrogen oxides. Click this tab and read this article a 101 on fire pits.

Propane is also much safer than wood burning fire pits because it doesn’t have anything to catch on fire and can be quickly shut off.

Propane offers a cleaner, more efficient alternative to the traditional way of getting warm during the winter months (wood). Wood emits harmful particles when burned, which makes air quality worse in your home or at work.

Propane is less likely to create smog-like some other fuels, so if you want clear skies for nighttime viewing, this might be the better choice!

Wood may smell good, but there are many pros to using propane as an energy source, from its durability and versatility.

Concluding

If you are still smelling rotten eggs in your backyard at your fire pit, I recommend that you contact the company that installed it for assistance. So I hope you found this article to be helpful and informative.

14 thoughts on “Why I Smell Propane From Fire Pit- Explanation”

  1. Hi,

    thanks for your interesting and highly informative article. I am always very wary of using gas cylinders for fire pits and BBQ’s. 

    The fire pit I have is a plain charcoal one and so I don’t have to worry too much about it at least! I must admit – there’s nothing better than sitting out on a summers night with a fire and a nice glass of wine.

    After reading your article I’m tempted to invest in a propane fir pit as they seem more environmentally friendly and less toxic than the charcoal / wooden one I have at present.

    Thanks again for your article. 

    Reply
    • Thanks, Rob. I’m an environmentalist, and I love a wood fire. The smell of the smoke, crackling logs in the background – it’s just so relaxing! But when you’re thinking about how much fuel is needed to keep that going for hours on end or what ashes are left behind after use…well, then maybe propane might be better? It burns cleaner than natural gas (less pollution) but still gives off some warmth from its flames. Plus, your fill station will offer portable tanks if you want more mobility freedom along with affordable refills too. You can also get one big enough for any occasion and place it securely indoors depending on size without worrying about leaks, which means ready-made party central anytime anyone feels like gathering up around a warm Firepit. 

      Reply
  2. I did not know what propane was until today. Thank you for such an informative and helpful article. This is something I would definitely recommend to individuals that own a fire pit. They now to know why their fire pit smells like propane (if it does smell like it). I will definitely show them this article. Thank you for this. 

    Reply
  3. I have no prior knowledge about propane until I read this article. Thankfully you have made it a detail one that make me realized straight off the advantages of propane fire pit.

    In this era of climate change, propane fire pit has the advantage of being environmentally friendly. However if I may ask, how can you go about if you want to have a propane fire pit in one remote corner inside an African nation like Nigeria?

    Thank you for such a vivid expository information.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Utuku. Well, You would have to see if there are any suppliers in Africa, maybe down south Africa way you might be able to get parts, burners and bits and pieces to make your very own DIY one, but this all depends on if you can get propane available. Maybe wood is okay if you use quality hardwood.   

      Nice to have someone over in Nigeria here. I’ll have to investigate suppliers of fire pits in those parts.  

      Many Blessings 

      Reply
  4. Hello there, thanks a lot for sharing this beautiful piece of information here and it was easy to relate because I have also smelt it but never knew it was a gas leak up until now. Thank you so much for this, can I subscribe and get updates from you when you post info like this?

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you were able to find the solution, Collin. I’ll get right on it and make sure your email address is up-to-date with our latest news!

      Reply
  5. This was a very helpful and informative article. I don’t have a firepit right now but my husband and I have talked about getting one. My husband knows all about this kind of stuff, but now, with your article, I can tell him a thing a two! I also now know which kind of firepit we will be getting, thanks to your article!

    Reply
  6. When we moved into our house there was a fire pit, and it smelled so bad the first time we used it that we decided not to use it again for a while. A few months later we decided to clean it out and try again. It had collected lots of debris and garbage between the rocks, so we bought new lava rocks and threw out the old ones.

    Now when we burn it, it has no smell, so hopefully the clean-out solved the problem.

    Reply
    • Even though they aren’t as crucial as our automobiles, we should maintain fire pits and vacuums regularly. Dirt and blocked pipes are common causes of propane mishaps and black tar on propane barbecues.

      Many Thanks 

      Reply
  7. I love to see a fire burning and in the past  it has always been the ‘old fashioned ‘way with logs burning. Fire pits have become very popular over the past few years and my sister in law has one at the bottom of her garden. Whilst it’s lovely to sit around for the warmth and watching the flames dance, I can never stay around it for long as I find the fumes toxic for my chest. 

    An interesting article that I will share with her so she is aware of Propane.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Louise 

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Louise. Like we evolve as a species, we discover wonderful things and bad for both us and our habitat. A fire is rather like teetering on edge; a flame is out of our grasp but within our control at the very same time. We are fortunate to have unearthed that smoke fumes can be hazardous to human health. There are now possibilities for fire pits such as propane and eco biofuel, and some developed fire pits to regulate the smoke with good ventilation.

      We must understand the safety features of our cherished equipment to be aware of potential hazards and avoid them, such as the foul-smelling stench of propane emerging from our fire pit.

      Reply

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