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DIY Smokeless Fire Pit…Here’s Our Attempt!

Wondering how to make a DIY smokeless fire pit? We were too! Learn how we used a battery-operated blower to dramatically decrease the amount of smoke our fire pit produces—no engineering degrees required.

This is a guest post from my husband Mike. He does a lot of projects that don’t make it to the blog, but I had to share this one. Enjoy it!

Our attempt at a DIY smokeless fire pit

We recently left townhouse living and found ourselves with more yard space than we knew what to do with. Naturally the first order of business was getting a fire pit set up. While my wife loves the smell of fire pit smoke, I can’t stand it.

So the research began. I started with YouTube for some quick and dirty inspiration. That is where the rabbit hole began. What the hell is a smokeless fire pit and how can I make one for myself?

If you haven’t checked out some of the designs, they consist of a normal looking fire pit metal ring but with specifically placed drill holes for air intake. The “how” of it all was beyond my comprehension, but Jon Chan gives a great description in the first 2 minutes of his video for anyone still curious. 

To my surprise you can even buy these pits now prefabricated (at a much higher, non-DIY price) on Amazon or your local Home Depot or Lowes. But you’re here because you like to DIY.

man and little girl in a large backyard

Why is my fire pit so Smokey?

But why are fire pits so smokey to begin with? In a fire, smoke occurs when there is not enough oxygen. It’s called “incomplete combustion.” So forcing oxygen to the combustion site (the fire) helps decrease the amount of smoke it produces.

It’s also worth noting that there are other things that can lead to a smokier-than-average fire. Don’t ask us how we know that burning 10-year-old dead wood leads to a lot of smoke. Wood that is not fully dried/seasoned can also lead to more smoke. The tutorial here assumes the use of properly dried firewood.

woman sitting by a fire pit

Like outdoor projects? Check out these Deck Decorating Ideas With Plants, a tutorial for a DIY Patio Coffee Table Made With Pavers, and the build plans for a Small Outdoor Plant Stand!

How do you make a smokeless fire pit?

As it happened, I was recently visiting an old friend over the weekend (shout out to Headberg5000) who is a mechanical engineer. He makes some amazing stuff, so he was a great person to bounce some ideas off of. 

He explained it is a matter of forcing fresh air (oxygen) into the burn site (the wood down below). When he got out the leaf blower to illustrate this using his own (non-smokeless) fire pit, I knew that he was onto something.

The leaf blower also continuously stoked the flames, making it easier to ignite and maintain the fire. And it also provided a raging inferno with minimal smoke.

Many of the tutorials I’d seen online simply drilled a few holes into a steel fire pit ring to help with air circulation, mimicking a similar leaf blower effect on a much smaller scale. However, Headberg5000 showed me that a few drilled holes were no longer on the menu.

The next step was to find a middle ground between a 40-volt hurricane (the leaf blower) and passive air intake (the drilled holes).

stone fire pit

How do I make my fire pit smoke less?

As a full disclaimer, I don’t know that a DIY smokeless fire pit will ever be 100% free of smoke. Therefore, our main goal is to minimize smoke as much as possible using air—to make the fire pit smoke less.

I found a tutorial online that used an underground system with a 12V bilge air blower and several HVAC parts. I loved the look and design; however, once constructed I found that the underneath airflow was minimal at best and had no effect on the fire trials. 

The design required pavers and gravel on top of the air outtake, so there simply wasn’t enough direct airflow to make a noticeable difference. You can take a look at the series of six pictures below to see an overview of this first attempt.

Although I liked the underground bilge blower system, I found that I needed more leaf blower like power. I found the best solution to be a partially submerged direct blower system, which I will describe in detail for this tutorial.

constructing a DIY smokeless fire pit
constructing a DIY smokeless fire pit
constructing a DIY smokeless fire pit
constructing a DIY smokeless fire pit
fire pit with rocks
fire pit with pea gravel

Here’s what I used:

(This was a very extensive project, and I’ve tried my best to make sure I included everything I used. A few smaller things like miscellaneous screws and washers might not be mentioned below. Affiliate links below; read more about those here.)

And here’s how I attempted our DIY smokeless fire pit.

Always take the proper precautions and safety measures before working with any tools or materials. Wear safety equipment and work with a professional to complete projects when necessary. Read my full terms of use and disclosure for more. Happy making and stay safe!

Step 1: Dig the hole and trench

Digging the hole for the DIY fire pit and the trench for the piping turned out to be the unexpectedly hardest step. It turns out that our backyard is no more than 3 inches of dirt on top of a million huge rocks. But once all the rocks were muscled out, laying the ventilation system was pretty simple. 

Our sizing/measurements were as follows:

  • 36-inch diameter pit area for the metal pit ring dug approximately 6 inches down
  • Trench out from the pit area approximately 6-8 inches deep and wide; the length of the trench depends on how far you want your mechanical box to be, and ours is about 7 ½ feet total (about 3.5 feet from the pit to the mechanical box and the rest from the mechanical box to the air intake)

Note that the materials list has a 5-ft duct pipe, but we cut ours down to about 3 ½ to meet the mechanical box. 

The mechanical box with the blower will be at about the center of the trench. The mechanical box is really just a fancy way of saying “a heavy duty plastic tote with a removable lid.” You’ll see it in the photos below. 

Based on the size of our mechanical box, we needed to dig down about 16 inches to ensure it was completely buried. We also needed to widen the trench a bit only in this area to accommodate the box.

Note that while we have approximately 3 feet from the mechanical box to the air intake, it could be anywhere from 2-7 feet. It’s based on the length of the dryer hose you use.

steel fire pit ring on grass
digging the trench for the DIY smokeless fire pit blower system
digging the trench for the DIY smokeless fire pit blower system
digging the trench for the DIY smokeless fire pit blower system

Step 2: Set up the mechanical box with the blower

Once I finished the groundwork, I worked on the mechanical box. I mounted a small piece of 2×4 to the bottom of the tote using a couple bolts and washers. I added this 2×4 to stabilize and align the blower and also to raise it off the bottom of the box in the event some water gets in.

After using this a few times and having a few rains, I also ended up drilling a few small drainage holes in the bottom of the plastic box to help get rid of any excess water that snuck in (it was only a little bit, but I didn’t want it sitting in there).

Once the 2×4 was in place, I attached the blower with a couple screws. Note where the blower intake and outtake are aligned on the tote and cut out circles for the piping between 4-5 in in diameter. (Cut these circles out of the sides of the box–I just used a utility knife.)

If you haven’t toyed with it already, you can test out the power supply. Simply connect the blower’s lines with the 12v power connector using a couple winged wire connectors.

seaflo in-line blower in a plastic box
seaflo in-line blower in a plastic box
seaflo in-line blower in a plastic box

Step 3: Assemble pipe, duct, and mechanical box

Now you can start getting the big pieces together (which you may have already noticed in some of the previous pics). Add the mechanical box to its dug-out location. Remember that you’ll need to be able to access and remove the lid when you use the pit.

Lay out and align the metal duct pipe and the dryer vent hose to the blower intake/outtake. At this point, if you haven’t already, you will customize the length of each and cut down to size if necessary.

You’ll want the duct pipe to be sticking into the fire pit a couple inches (we also used a few bricks to support this). Then attach the duct cap (see photo below) and start drilling in all the air holes. Enough to provide significant air current but not too big that debris could easily fall in.

Now angle up the dryer vent hose and attach the drain grate–the area where air will enter the system. All attachments used either a steel worm gear clamp or the installation duct tape (sometimes both).

plastic mechanical box with tubing in the trench
air vent for air intake
air vent for air intake
air outtake leading into the DIY fire pit
screenshot of instagram account

Step 4: Fill the trench and finish the fire pit

Because the duct pipe extends slightly into the bottom of the fire pit ring, you’ll need to cut out a semi-circle along the bottom of the ring. The semi-circle should be sized to fit the pipe/duct cap. 

I used a Dremel to do this, but fair warning that I went through four or so blades. If you have a better tool for this, definitely use it. Gently place the fire ring back down and fill in with gravel or other pit filler of your liking. 

Once everything is attached and in place, you can start filling in the trench. This stage will take some customization and finesse. Add back some of your fill dirt/big rocks to get the piping snug on each side. Top off the trenches with the grass patches removed earlier.

The areas dug out for the piping shouldn’t support direct standing weight; therefore, we laid out a pathway of wide pavers that extend several inches beyond either side of the trench to protect the area and distribute the weight (the large white tile-looking pavers you’ll see in the finished photos).

After this, we dug out additional space around the pit and on either side of the wide pavers to add some rock landscaping. This is purely aesthetic though and is not a necessary step to enhance air flow.

man and child working in the yard
filling in the trench for the DIY smokeless fire pit blower apparatus
filling in the trench for the DIY smokeless fire pit blower apparatus
filling in the trench for the DIY smokeless fire pit blower apparatus
air intake grate peeking out of the grass
DIY fire pit with exhaust pipe for air intake

Step 5: Get the fire going!

Once we were ready to test our fire, I hooked up a 12V lithium ion battery to power the blower. I chose this battery method for easy charging purposes because it lasts a long time and can be easily charged on the chargers we already have for our battery-operated tools. 

This is why it’s important that you can always access the mechanical box. We simply remove one of the large tile-like pavers and then remove the lid to the mechanical box to add the battery to the blower’s dock.

In the future, I’d like to hook up a remote control system so that I only have to access the mechanical box when the battery dies. But I haven’t quite cracked that nut yet, and I will update this post when I do!

man lifting up paver cover for the DIY smokeless fire pit mechanical box
man lifting up paver cover for the DIY smokeless fire pit mechanical box
man lifting lid off of the mechanical box
battery adapter
adding the battery to the adapter
promo image with text about checking out or xtool M1 review post

Our finished DIY smokeless fire pit

There you have it folks. Here are a few pictures Brit took while we were out roasting marshmallows one night. It’s very hard to capture the presence or absence of smoke in photos, but these show it pretty well. 

The first is a fire without the blower turned on, while the second and third have the blower turned on.

man roasting a marshmallow on a fire pit
man roasting a marshmallow on a fire pit
DIY fire pit

I also want to note that you will hear the blower while you’re using the fire pit. It doesn’t really bother us, and the sound is muffled from the mechanical box, dirt, and pavers. If you do think the noise would be bothersome, you could always extend the vent hosing out further, but that means more digging.

You’ll find that there is a lot of room for customization and modification depending on your setup. This is just the approach we took for ours, and we’re happy with how it turned out. Hopefully you find some inspiration from this project.

Let us know if you have any questions or require more clarity on any particular stage. Keep the fire burning!

Like this? Check out my husband’s latest project, a DIY Solar-Powered Rain Barrel Irrigation System for our garden beds!

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collage that says how we made a DIY smokeless fire pit with images of the process

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  1. Broman says:

    Really neat idea, the comment section is always… well, a comment section. Bottom line – this is ridiculously simple and it appears to work well. If I still lived in the country I wouldn’t have even bothered going smokeless. But once you have neighbors close by you try to be a little more thoughtful. I am glad I tripped over this project! I am going to modify it to work better for me. But I am stealing this idea for sure. I think I will build my blower / battery box above ground and only bury the pipe. Other than that, it looks good.

    • Brittany Goldwyn says:

      Thanks so much! Glad you found it helpful. Great point about neighbors–our yard is long, but we are VERY close to our neighbors on the other side. We could (and have) easily smoked out one of our neighbors while they’re on their patio. One mod we made since publishing this post is to power the blower using the solar panel we installed for our rain barrel irrigation system. Now we just click the blower on/off with a remote and don’t need to swap out batteries or lift the pavers. Good luck with your project!

  2. Kasie Hill says:

    I read these articles all the time and this was the best one yet! Very thorough, explanatory, and simply understood directions. The corresponding illustrative photos were perfect! I’m definitely going to try this if you think it was worth it. I love the concept and idea! Thank you so much for sharing such a good DIY project. Well done!

    • Brittany Goldwyn says:

      Thank you so much!! We do love it–we use it often and have had no issues. The only change we made was wiring the fan to a small solar panel and adding a little remote we can use to turn it on and off. That’s really convenient because we don’t have to pull up the paver to switch it on. It’s spider central down there lol.

  3. David Hinshaw says:

    Way too much work. May have just created a fire pit for half the cost. Smoke is natural – plumbing a blower and running electricity to avoid some smoke is….not green or sustainable.

    I’m sure you could have gotten a propane pit for 1/10th of what you paid in your own human capital.

    I mean even looking at your finished product – that’s about the same amount of smoke assuming you’re not burning green or wet materials.

    • Brittany Goldwyn says:

      Sometimes projects aren’t necessarilly to save money, they are to build something you’re proud of. And we’re proud of this for sure! We use it all the time. After this post, we ended up switching up the power source, too. The blower is now powered by a small solar panel we use to power our rain barrel irrigation system. So I’d say we’re good and green on that front.

  4. Mathieu Del Papa says:

    Hey Brittany/Mike,

    Congratz on the article, it’s very well put together!

    You mention at some point that there is still some smoke, and you don’t think it’s possible to eliminate all smoke for the “smokeless” fire pit.

    I built a few smokeless burn barrels, I’m on my third iteration. I made a hybrid design because I make bio-char and coal for my BBQ pit.

    The reasoning behind the holes in the metal siding is to bring oxygen rich air into the fire, at a higher point which causes a “secondary combustion”.

    Primary air provides the initial combustion air, but more importantly, it controls the amount of fuel that can be burned.

    Secondary air, which is the air that rises behind the metal due to the heat, rushes out the only way it can (the holes at the top of the pit), which improves combustion efficiency by promoting the fuel to burn completely.

    Smoke, as you put it, is an incomplete consumption/burn.

    Venting your fire pit is a great way to make it easier to start the fire and feed it, but the key to a smokeless fire pit is the secondary combustion.

    I also recommend making a mechanism to remove the ashes, or the air intake below your pit will inevitably clog up. 😉

    If you’re interested, I have all the schematics to my burn barrel.


    • Mike says:

      That is fascinating. I’m especially interested in any mechanism to remove ashes. With spring around the corner, I’ll likely be making some new tweaks. By all means, share your schematic. Thanks for reading!

  5. Mitchell Dowdy says:

    your power source does not have to be on top of the motor, run wires up your intake, then onto the fence (under a bird house would be a nice hiding spot) I’ve used 18ga x4 conductor for various projects but its for 12v LED pond lighting and pumps; you could also use a variant power source of a solar panel and battery with the same connections; I also agree with other comments, that the pipe you chose is not for direct bury, SDS, SSDS or PVC won’t crush being that close to the surface, the last 2′ still would benefit from metal such as cash iron or using cast blocks, Eg, single cell cinder blocks

    • Brittany Goldwyn says:

      Hey Mitchell! Thanks for the feedback. I need to get on Mike to update this post–he also installed a solar-powered rain barrel irrigation system last year for our raised beds. When he did that, he ran a line out to the fire pit. Now it is powered by the solar panel we got for the rain barrel irrigation pump, and it’s on a remote. Much easier solution for sure!

  6. John gorski says:

    a poorly executed project.

    • Brittany Goldwyn says:

      Thanks for stopping by. It’s still working great a year later…just used it two days ago. We’ll keep you posted 🙂

  7. Steve says:

    Hi this is a cool idea. I would use a 12v wifi relay that you could control from an app. That way you can start your blower easy until the battery dies. A small batter and solar cell would charge the battery as well.

    Here’s a link to the relay
    Ewelink WiFi Wireless Smart Relay Module USB 5v/12v/24v/48v Inching Selflock Remote ON Off Power Switch for Access Control,Turn on PC, Compatible with Alexa Google Home

    • Brittany Goldwyn says:

      Great point. We need to update this post, because after I published it, Mike set up a solar-powered rain barrel irrigation system. He decided to loop the fire pit system in to the solar panel, too, and put it on a remote. It is SO much easier to click a remote to turn everything on and not have to charge stuff. Thanks for the reminder that I need to get on Mike to update this one!

  8. Josh says:

    The material that you used, the vent piping, isn’t meant to be exposed to moisture 24/7. Really, it’s not meant to be exposed to any moisture since it’s just interior dryer exhaust. Have you had any issues with deterioration etc?
    Seems like outdoor piping would have made more sense, some kind of PVC probably. That’s a lot of labor to use subpar material.

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for pointing that out. No issues have come up, but I’ll keep an eye on it and update the post as necessary.

  9. Jim says:

    I am a retired heavy Equipment Operator and I do alot of diy at home ,I was wondering if you had any problems with your air intake filling with water. it looked to me that you could have considered putting a t fitting at the intake end so any water would drain through

    • Mike says:

      In retrospect that could have been the play. The design process also had to factor in aesthetics of my wife’s garden which led me to the low profile grate. I can’t see if or how much water might be collecting in the underground dryer tube, but I haven’t ever noticed any changes in air flow over the past 1+ years. We just used the inferno last night, and it was just as impressive of an air flow as ever! -Mike

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