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Do I Need a Regulator for My Gas Fire Pit?

I'm planning my own backyard gas fire pit, do I need a regulator?

So, you’re looking to build your own DIY gas fire pit but aren’t sure about some of the more technical aspects - don't worry! When it comes to gas and custom projects, it’s best to ask the experts before you plan anything.

One of the most common questions we get, from DIYers and gas plumbers alike, is if they need a regulator for their fire pit kit. It’s a tough question to answer because gas projects can vary based on a lot of factors.

Standard 20 lb. Propane Tank

Here’s the short answer: if you plan to use a 20 lb. propane tank (like you would use on a gas grill pictured here) you will need a regulator to connect to that tank - usually the look like this.

But, if you’re using natural gas or you’re tapping into your large propane tank (like a 500 gallon tank if you live in a rural area), those types of gas lines should be regulated in coordination with your gas plumber. We certainly have bulk regulators intended for that use, but regulators aren't "universal" in that gas pressure and BTU output will vary based on the distance the gas needs to travel, the gas line size, how many appliances are on the line, and so on; that's why it's so important to work with a gas professional to ensure they've taken into account all of the variables to properly supply your fire pit. Failing to do so causes an annoying whistling noise.

First, what is a regulator?

A regulator is a gas component that works to control the pressure of gas. Many of us won’t come across gas regulators, but they’re present in many of the appliances we use on a day-to-day basis like a gas stove, water heater, dryer, etc.

How does it work?

A regulator is a simple device that’s been designed with a gas inlet, a diaphragm, and a gas outlet. As shown in the picture above, you can see the direction of the flow of gas (the yellow arrows) into a standard regulator. As the gas moves in, it runs into the diaphragm (5.) - the diaphragm acts as the “regulator” of gas flow. Many regulators are advertised as adjustable and can be done so using the adjusting screw (7.) - it can be tightened or loosened to determine how much gas pressure it will take to pass through the diaphragm.

What this means to you and me is: a gas plumber will use a manometer (a tool to measure gas pressure) and work with the adjusting screw to properly regulate the flow of gas so that the output gas pressure is the correct amount for its appliance - please note, you should not use the adjustment screw unless you are a trained gas professional.

Regulators for Propane

As mentioned above, a common fuel solution for backyard gas fire pits is the standard 20 lb. (5 gallon) propane tank like you would use for a gas grill. These tanks can provide up to about 125,000 BTU so it’s important to make sure you select a properly sized burner ring if using this type of tank.

For larger propane tanks (again, most often found if you’re in a rural area) you will need the gas line running to your fire pit regulator. However, the gas line presumably fuels your home too, so it’s already been regulated for common household appliances - typically between 8" - 11" Water Column (almost 1/2 PSI) - which is what our fire pit kits call for, so the only thing your gas plumber needs to ensure is that you have sufficient BTU to supply your fire pit.

Regulators for Natural Gas

Most urban/suburban areas are on the city’s natural gas lines, so this is the most common fuel type for built-in units. Depending on how large your home is or how many appliances you must supply (again, pool heaters, et. al.), your gas source (the meter on the side of your home) could be regulated anywhere from 3.5-inches Water Column on up - but most commonly it’s about 7-inches.

Again, as with large propane tanks above, if you have a gas line run to your fire pit it probably will need to be regulated in order to properly supply the appliance. However, how it gets regulated will be up to your gas plumber to determine. If your fire pit is located just 10 feet away from the meter, it might not need to be regulated BUT if the gas line is supplying a pool heater or any other appliance OR if it’s traveling a long distance, your gas plumber will need to regulate the gas line accordingly.

So, why don’t we include regulators with many of our fire pit kits?

The short answer is that nearly every gas project is unique in its challenges in determining gas supply, so it’s best to partner with a gas plumber that will help you figure out what works best for your project.

We certainly have regulators available for purchase and are glad to assist with any questions that you or your gas installer have as you move forward with your project.

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