Logs of wood aflame in a fire pit, stars above twinkling, ice cubes in glasses tinkling – wholesome stuff for sure, until the rain sets in. Time to take the fire indoors, right? Well, the only way that’s going to happen with everyone safely sitting in a circle is if you use a portable propane fire pit.
With due caution, you can use a propane fire pit in a garage. Remove vehicles and combustible items from the garage. Keep 84” of clearance between the propane flames and the garage ceiling. Open doors and windows for cross ventilation. Keep a fire extinguisher and a carbon monoxide alarm close by.
Most people will call you crazy for even entertaining the idea of lighting a fire pit indoors, with good reason, admittedly. Fire pits throw up tall flames and release carbon monoxide, potentially lethal if not managed correctly. A portable propane fire pit mitigates the risks of wood-burning fire pits and can be used in a garage if proper precautions are taken. Let’s safely light this baby up!
How Does A Propane Fire Pit Work?
A propane fire pit has gas passing from a pressurized tank through a pipe with a regulator and air shutter into a burner with several flame nozzles. The burner rests in a bowl filled with lava rock, fire glass, or ceramic logs. When lit, the propane flame height is adjusted using the regulator.
The combination of flaming propane and fire pit media like lava rock, fire glass, and ceramic logs creates fire with as much ambiance as a logwood fire pit. However, propane doesn’t burn as hot as wood does, making it safer to use indoors.
In all probability, you’re not going to want to install a permanent propane fire pit in your garage alongside your vehicles, tools, fuels, and solvents. What’s more, you’re invariably only going to use your garage as a venue for social fireside events when inclement weather forbids an outdoor fire. Enter the portable propane fire pit (we have this model)!
Portable propane fire pits are smaller and lower than a fixed patio and garden propane fire pit, making them easy to move around. Having flames rising up from a bowl close to the ground makes a portable fire pit feasible for indoor use because there’s sufficient clearance between the fire pit and the room’s ceiling (more on clearances later in this post).
Portable propane fire pits are ignited using a hand-held lighter or electrically via a Piezo ignition unit. The flame height is adjusted using the regulator attached to the propane pipe. The regulator setting determines the pressure moving the propane gas into the burner. The greater the propane pressure, the higher the flames, and the warmer the fire pit.
The air shutter located alongside the regulator will determine the propane-air mixture and the color of the flame. The less air allowed in the mixture, the yellower (more authentic) the flame.
As with other propane appliances (heaters, refrigerators, gas grills, etc.), the heat generated by a propane fire pit is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units).
- A portable propane fire pit will emit between 40,000 and 70,000BTUs.
- A small propane BBQ grill with a cooking area of 300 square inches will emit around 25,000 BTUs.
These comparative BTU ratings demonstrate how much heat a small propane fire pit can generate, ergo the need for absolute attention to safety when using a portable propane fire pit in your garage.
A Propane Fire Pit In A Garage – The Risks
Lighting fuel of any sort indoors presents a degree of risk to persons and property – even a small candle can start an inferno if not properly handled. Propane fire pits used in a garage do pose serious fire and health risks, including:
- Propane leaking from tanks and pipes can cause asphyxiation if inhaled.
- Poorly burning propane releases carbon monoxide.
- Vehicle and tool fuel tanks explode when exposed to flame and severe heat.
- When exposed to propane flames and extreme heat, fuels, solvents and other flammable substances combust.
- Propane fumes in poorly ventilated spaces can cause respiratory and other health problems.
- Extensive use of a propane fire pit in a garage can dry wood out, increasing its combustibility.
- Burnt ceiling
These heavy risks have most fire pit enthusiasts steering well clear of making a bonfire of any kind in their garage. If you’re a die-hard fire pit lover, take all the necessary precautionary measures to prevent your portable propane fire pit from doing nothing other than keep you warm and peacefully entranced by its well-behaved flames.
Making Your Garage Safe For A Portable Propane Fire Pit
The best way to make your portable propane fire pit safe for use in your garage is to create a fireproof and well-ventilated space for it to operate in. Implement these passive safety measures:
- Remove all vehicles, gas tools, and fuel tanks from the garage.
- Remove all highly flammable substances (solvents, gas canisters, spray paint tins, etc.) from the garage.
- Open the garage door and side door.
- Open the windows.
Further reduce your risk of fire, CO poisoning, and asphyxiation with a fire pit active safety regimen:
- Position your fire pit area right at the edge of the garage door and the outside
- Horizontally suspend a 6’x4’ fiberglass welding blanket two inches from the garage ceiling directly above the fire pit area.
- Ensure the top of the burner is more than 84”(7’) from the ceiling and the fire pit is more than 36” away from the garage walls.
- Keep the propane tank at least 36” away from the fire pit when in use.
- Have a dry powder fire extinguisher and a carbon monoxide alarm on hand while the fire pit is burning.
- Keep the flames as low as possible!
- Keep small children away from the fire pit at all times.
- Keep the garage door open at all times
With all fuel containers out of harm’s way and a healthy flow of air through the garage, you’ve lowered your propane fire and health risks significantly.
By installing a heat barrier on the ceiling, you’ll prevent a hotspot from forming on the ceiling board and roof trusses.
The reflective aluminum foil will radiate heat from the fire pit back into the garage, keeping you warmer and reducing propane consumption. You can also erect vertical reflective foil panels to optimize radiant heat reflection from the side while lowering your propane usage.
- Use a portable propane fire pit no taller than 18” (the burner will generally be less than 12”). The average ceiling height of a suburban garage is 8’. A clearance of 7’ is required to be safe.
Remember – Without constant attention to safety, using a portable propane fire pit in your garage is a serious hazard. The instant you see, smell, or hear trouble, turn off the propane tank.
Making your portable propane fire pit safe to use in your garage is an exciting project and promises novel entertainment for your family and friends when wet weather drives you indoors. Be mindful of the risks involved when exposing interior domestic spaces to naked flames and always take the necessary safety precautions to prevent undue harm to persons and property. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll all be sitting pretty in the garage around your portable propane fire pit!