The cozy ambience of an open flame can turn a coolish evening into an opportunity for stories and good times, and even on warm evenings when you don't need its heat, it still provides a focus for conversation. Of course, you have to start the fire to get all the benefits from your fire pit, and while that isn't difficult, there's a protocol to observe to avoid getting singed by a mini-explosion.
There's No Pilot
Unlike a gas fireplace or space heater, a gas fire pit doesn't have a pilot, which means you have to ignite it from scratch every time you light it. Some models have a piezoelectric spark generator, but if yours doesn't, you'll need a wand lighter or a match.
The main rule to remember when starting up your fire pit, whether it runs on propane or natural gas, is get the flame going before you turn on the gas. If you don't do this, gas circulates inside the logs, and when it ignites, it does so with a a bang -- besides being startled, you could potentially get burned as well.
Whether your fire pit has a piezoelectric generator or not, you'll want to turn the gas control to "Off" before opening the gas valve on your propane tank or natural gas supply. The control is usually in a clearly marked location, behind an access door or panel on the front of the fire pit. On some models, the gas is controlled by a clearly visible rod with a knob on the end.
Models With Piezoelectric Starters
Press in the piezoelectric starter button; it's usually red, and it's next to the control knob. You should hear a series of clicking sounds, which means that sparks are being generated.
Push in the control knob and turn it to the "On" position while you keep the spark generator button depressed. Release the spark button as soon as the flame lights, but keep holding the control knob in.
Continue depressing the knob for 30 to 45 seconds to give the thermocouple time to warm up. Release the knob. If the fire goes out, repeat the ignition procedure, but this time, hold in the knob a little longer.
Models Without Piezoelectric Starters
Light a wand lighter and hold it near the logs at the center of the pit. It's usually best to insert it into a crevice to keep it out of the wind.
Turn the gas control to the "On" position. Remove the lighter as soon as the flames begin burning.
Adjust the control to regulate the height of the flames.
You can use this method to light a fire pit with a piezoelectric spark generator that isn't working. Don't forget to hold in the gas control knob to warm up the thermocouple, or the fire won't stay lit.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.