Box Burners vs Pit/Trench Burners: Which Unit is Best for You?


In This Article

Similarities between box burners and trench burners

Differences between box burners and trench burners

Who is a box burner better for?

Who is a trench burner better for?

Many people call in looking for a burner to help dispose of their debris, but they aren’t sure which will work better for their particular project. Some expect one will be a better fit but it turns out that, for their particular project, the alternate type of burner is better. Below we will explain which factors to consider when deciding what kind of burner is best for you.

 Air Curtain Burners, Air Curtain Incinerators,  Air Curtain Destructors, Trench Burners – all of these are different terms for one basic concept. Air Curtain Burners are revolutionary in the world of debris management and especially when it comes to waste burning.

What Is An Air Curtain Destructor?

In short, air curtain burners are a piece of equipment that creates a fast moving curtain of air across a burn pit or trench.


Similarities Between Box Burners & Trench Burners


Box and Trench burners operate,  from a scientific perspective, exactly the same way. Both types of machinery use the same concept of air flowing quickly over the top and circulating through and down to the bottom to create an extremely hot and efficient fire that burns with less risk, smoke, and emissions than an open fire.


Differences Between Box Burners & Trench/Pit Burners


Box Burners and Trench Burners are relatively similar. The main difference is that trench burners operate by burning in the ground and box burners operate by burning above the ground.


Trench Burners

To use a trench burner, first a trench must be dug. The trench should match the length of the manifold of the burner. The burner then is set up along the length of the pit and the debris is burned in the ground below a curtain of air. To learn more about the set-up of a trench unit, see this article here: How to Use an Air Curtain Burner Destructor.

Trench burners tend to be light weight and easy to transport. They normally weigh around 8,000 lbs, give or take, and can be moved around the site or transported to new locations with a pick up truck. 

Because Trench Burners burn in the pit that is dug in the ground, the volume of the pit is dependent on the dimensions of the pit. The pit can be dug as deep as 15 ft, allowing for a very large volume of debris to be burned at one time.


Box Burners

Box Burners are large metal boxes lined with refractory panels which allow the fire to burn within the box without melting and destroying it. The box sits on top of the ground and the curtain of air blows over the top.  

Because Box Burners are massive steel boxes lined with concrete-like material, they are extremely heavy. Depending on the size and type of box, the weight can range from 30,000 – 59,000 lbs or even more. Box burners often have to be loaded and unloaded with cranes or large excavators and then transported on semi-trucks. 

Since Box Burners are unchanging in size, their production is limited to the volume of the box. That being said, these high powered units are able to burn through large volumes of debris – multiple tons every hour. 


Who is a Box Burner Better For?


Box Burners are best used on sites where burning will be set up permanently or for long  extended periods of time. 

They are also best used in locations with an inability to dig a pit/trench. This could be because there is an extremely low water table or excessive rock that would require blasting. Even in these cases, a trench burner can often be used by building a berm up and creating a pit above the ground, but if that is not possible, then a box burner would be the best option. 

Additionally, some localities do require box burners. In these locations, a box burner would be the only option.

Who is a Trench Burner Better For?

Trench Burners are cheaper and easier to transport, so for most projects they are the best and ideal solution to debris management. The pits can last for a long time, but can also be filled in and redug in other locations as needed. This makes for a flexible job-site set-up on large projects or projects that cover large distances, such as when clearing along a highway. 

In most cases, burning with a trench burner is not classified as open burning.


Many localities require or are beginning to require the use of air curtain burners to burn debris. The type of burner that is best for you will depend on your project. If you are looking for the cheapest and easiest to transport option, a trench burner is likely your best choice. If you are looking for a permanent set-up, a box burner is likely your best option. 

For any additional questions about all types of air curtain burners and how they operate, please reach out to us here at Burn Debris. We are available, Monday to Friday, at 678-793-8546.