Gas Fire Pit Ignition Systems Explained

Building A Fire Pit
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Gas Fire Pit Ignition Systems Explained

Gas Fire Pit Ignition Systems are classified into four categories, although there is quite a large overlap between three of the categories, as you will see.

Several factors will influence what is the best ignition system for your fire pit project, not least of which are budget and Building Codes.

All Ignition Systems are available in natural gas and propane versions.

In this article, we are not going to go into too much detail about how the more sophisticated systems work from a technical perspective. We will highlight the advantages and benefits to the user so that you can decide what’s best for your project.

Match Light System

Let’s start with the most straightforward solution, Match Light ( or as often referred to Match Lit ).

Strictly speaking, a Match Light system isn’t an Ignition System at all, as it is you that lights the burner in a manual process.

First, turn on the gas at the gas shut off valve, then hold a ‘match’ or taper to the fire pit to ignite the gas. The flame height is controlled by the shut-off valve, which also turns off the fire pit when you have finished with it.

These systems are easy to install and require very little maintenance. As such, they are at the lower end of the price range of Gas Fire Pit Ignition Systems.

All major manufacturers offer their ranges of fire pit trays and pans in a Match Light configuration.

Pros: Easy on the budget, easy installation, little or no maintenance
Cons: When alight, the fire pit should not be left unattended.

Gas Fire Pit Ignition Systems - Match Light
A Typical Match Light Kit

Spark Ignition Kits

Spark Ignition systems are the next level in the Fire Pit Ignition Systems hierarchy.

Some people mistakenly refer to these as Electronic Ignition systems because they produce a spark, but they are not Electronic Ignition.

Spark Ignitions have a battery-operated Ignitor Probe set in the fire pit tray close to the burner, connected to the Push Button unit mounted on your fire pit structure.

To light, turn on the gas at the shut-off valve and push the spark button. The ignitor will spark, and the gas will ignite. Flame adjustment and turning the fire pit off is via the shut-off valve.

Spark ignition systems are also very easy to install, ideal for a DIY project. Care needs to taken to ensure a good earth connection for the grounding wire of the spark ignitor.

All major manufacturers offer their ranges of fire pit trays and pans in a Spark Ignition configuration.

Pros: Budget-friendly, easy to install, no matches required
Cons: Fire pit should not be left unattended when lit

Flame Sensing Kits

Flame Sensing Kits are a step up in sophistication and budget when compared to Spark Ignition Kits.

Although you open the gas tap and push a button to light a Flame Sensing Kit, just the same as a Spark Ignition kit, the process involves a lot more technical wizardry.

These kits are battery-powered, delivered ready to install, with all the systems connected up at the factory.

As the name suggests, the systems monitor or sense the presence of the flame. If the flame were to extinguish, the Flame Sensing system would immediately shut-off the gas flow.

Shutting off the gas prevents the build-up of a potentially dangerous gas cloud.

Pros: Extra level of safety, easy to install, battery-powered
Cons: +/- 30% more expensive than the equivalent sized spark ignition kit

All major manufacturers offer their range of fire pit trays and pans with a Flame Sensing system.

Gas Fire Pit Ignition - Spark Ignition Kit
A Typical Spark Ignition System

Round Drop In Pan Flame Sensing Spark Ignition

Electronic Ignition Systems

The first thing to be aware of is that not all the Electronic Ignition systems on the market require an electrical feed.

Some are battery-powered, which is very useful if you can’t get power to your fire pit location.

In the previous three systems, the technology used is almost identical from brand to brand. In the Electronic Ignition category, the manufacturers have the opportunity to show some innovation in their products.

If you look beyond the ‘bells and whistles,’ these systems provide, you’ll find the same core function, which is common to and defines the ‘Electronic Ignition Tag.’

Like the Flame Sensing systems, the Electronic Systems monitor the Flame, and should it extinguish, they will automatically cut off the gas.

However, before shutting off the gas, these Electronic Systems will make several attempts to relight the fire pit, and only if that fails, shut off the gas supply.

Lighting your fire pit with an Electronic System is also a little different. In its most basic form, you will just flick a switch to ignite the fire pit.

The switch can be located anywhere convenient, providing you can run the cable to it. It could even be in your house to light your fire pit without going outdoors.

Beyond the standard set up, you can then add remote controls that will light your fire pit and control the flame via the remote, and of course, nowadays, you can download an App and control your fire pit from your phone, tablet, etc.
Most Electronic Ignition Systems can also be programmed into a ‘whole house’ remote control networksElectronic Ignition Kit from HPC Fire
Electronic Ignition Kit from HPC Fire

Which Gas Fire Pit Ignition Systems Should I Use?

Having outlined the main functions of the four categories of Gas fire Pit Ignition Systems available, we can now look at what is most appropriate for your project.

Firstly there is the budget issue. There is a big price range from the basic Match Light kit to the most sophisticated Electronic Ignition system, from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.

That is a decision for each individual to take and decide which system fits their budget

However, depending on where you live, your options may be limited by local Building Codes. Your fire pit project may be subject to Local Codes.

These Codes often specify that Flame Sensing may be required as a minimum standard. If so, to ensure your fire pit passes inspection, you do not have the option of installing Match Light or Spark Ignition systems.

To quickly check on Local Codes for Fire Pits, call your local Fire Department. These guys will inspect the project and issue a certificate, so they will know what is required.

If you are the owner of or have any responsibility for an establishment in which the general public is close to a fire pit, such as a Bar, Restaurant or a property that you rent out, you may want to consider the following.

Even if local codes do not specify any particular type of ignition, you should check with your Public Liability Insurers, they may have their requirements.

A Flame Sensing system would be the minimum requirement, as Match Lit and Spark Ignition systems require constant monitoring in case the flame goes out, the gas must be turned off manually.

Flame Sensing systems do the monitoring and shutting off the gas automatically.

Finally, if you have, for example, multiple fire bowls spread around a pool or landscaped area, Electronic Ignition systems remove the need to go out to each fire feature to light them, and of course, to turn them off later.

Point you remote or just flick the switch, and with an Electronic Ignition system, your fire bowls are alight.