Chimenea

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Chimenea burning wood

A chimenea /ɪmˈn.ə/, also spelled chiminea, is a freestanding front-loading fireplace or oven with a bulbous body and usually a vertical smoke vent or chimney.

History[edit]

Historically chimeneas, also spelled chimineas, have been made out of fired clay and used for heating and cooking. These traditional designs can be traced to Spain and its influence on Mexico. The first use of a traditionally designed chiminea appears around 400 years ago.

The chiminea was once a daily life necessity that served a domestic purpose. The chiminea of the past was used indoors for heating and cooking, usually by an open window or in the center of the hut or home with an opening in the roof to allow smoke to escape. With the advent of the modern home, chimineas are now used outdoors mainly for entertainment in a backyard setting.

The design of a good chiminea creates a draughting action, drawing fresh air into the fire directing smoke/fumes upward away from you and your guests. The fire burns hotter and cleaner, leaving behind only a small amount of ash. The efficient draughting of a good chiminea design means the fire will burn out completely in a short period of time so they can be used safely on wood decks or other locations where an open burning fire pit may cause damage. Chimineas can also be converted to use natural gas or propane.

Clay was used in the production of traditional chimineas because it was readily available and very cheap to produce. Most homes that used chimineas in the past had dirt floors so a broken clay chiminea was not a real crisis. Today, chimineas are primarily used outdoors for entertaining.

Because of the exposure to elements and occasional usage, clay chimineas no longer serve as the material of choice. The lifespan of the newer Cast Iron and Aluminum design outdoor fireplaces and concern for safety has mostly replaced the traditional clay building techniques.

Visually, the Cast Aluminum and Cast Iron chimineas look the same. They are the same thickness and cast from the same mould. Only the weight of the material is different. Compared to Cast Iron chimineas, the Cast Aluminum chiminea will not rust, heats the same as Cast Iron, is very low maintenance, and is easier to move for a patio or entertaining re-arrangement.

The Aluminum chiminea is readily transported and can be easily stored in the wintertime in the off season. (Chiminea storage is only recommended to prevent damage or theft). Both Cast Iron and Cast Aluminum chimineas are designed for year-around use in any climate.

Repair[edit]

In Mexico, when the cooking pot or clay Chimenea cracked and fell apart, the people simply scooped some more mud or river clay together and made another.

A clay Chimenea can also be repaired by the use of automotive repair putty or high temperature epoxy[1][2][3] to join major parts. Fresh clay can be used as a final binder after application of glue. After the clay Chimenea is left to cure for 24hrs a small fire should be set to cure the glue and clay.

Fuels[edit]

Most of available firewoods can be used as a chiminea fuels for burning. However, there are certain type of woods that is not suggested to be used as fuel, for example pressure treated wood may emit toxic gases that are dangerous for the health.[4]

You must also note that the kind of fuel you use for a chiminea boils down to the kind of chiminea you you own. As already mentioned above, most wood can be used as fuel for chimineas, but not all kind of wood. Also, there are other fuel which can be used efficiently for lighting up and firing your chiminea. Below are most of these fuels which can be used for your chiminea or patio heater...

Charcoal[edit]

Charcoal is one of the best fuels you can use as fuel for your chiminea. They are the ideal fuel if you are using a cast iron chiminea. However, it is not advisable for you to use either coal or charcoal for your Mexican clay chiminea as charcoal can become very hot and might damage your chiminea.[5] On the other hand, cast iron chimineas can handle any kind of fuel you through in them. Charcoal are also the ideal fuel if you intend to cook with your chiminea. It is best to use charcoal because when you cook with it, it does not add its own taste to the meat or whatever you are cooking with it. Wood on the other hand will add taste to your meat, and it's not a good taste.

This does not mean you cannot cook with wood in your chiminea, yes you can. However, before you cook with wood, you have to cover or wrap your meat with tin foil to prevent the taste of the wood from entering the meat you are cooking.

Wood[edit]

Wood as have been mention above is the most popular fuel used by chiminea owners because of its abundance. You can almost find wood anywhere you live, so it is the favorite to most people. However, if you are planning on using wood for your chiminea, it is ideal that you use dry wood due to its ability to burn with little smoke. You should not use wet or green wood, because they cause a lot of smoke, and are stressful to burn due to their raw nature.

Wood is the ideal fuel for Mexican clay chiminea users. However, you must not to fill the base of your clay chiminea with sand or lava stones before you fuel it. Sand will or lava stones are used in clay chimineas due to the fact that clay chimineas crack open at the base if you apply heat directly. So, in order to prevent it from cracking, you have to fill the base with a little bit of sand or lava stone.

As an alternative to wood, you can also use heatblox, hollow boxs made of refined timber. They are very good alternatives to firewood. Heatblox is made of refined timber.

Ethanol[edit]

Yes, ethanol is another fuel which can be used in a chiminea. Ethanol is a flammable liquid, so when using it as fuel in a chiminea, it has to be used with caution. To use ethanol in a chiminea. It is first placed in metal cans. Small metal cans will be appropriate, the size that will fit well inside the chiminea. After putting the open cans of ethanol inside, the next thing to do is to light up the ethanol with a long-nosed lighter.

The advantage to using ethanol as fuel in your chiminea is that you can use your chiminea indoors, because ethanol does not produce smoke when it burns. So it is okay to use it indoors.

However, care must be taken when using ethanol due to the fact that ethanol is a flammable liquid. Inappropriate use of it may lead to a fire hazard. If you are in doubt about the kind of fuel to use in your chiminea, you should consort the supplier or manufacturer of your chiminea for clarification.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]