Chimenea vs Fire Pit: What's Better for Outdoor Winter Heating? - Backyard Boss
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Chimenea vs Fire Pit: What’s Better for Outdoor Winter Heating?

When it comes to heating the outdoors, there’s nothing like a roaring fire to take on the job. It will warm you nicely but it’s also entertaining. Not something you get with a regular outdoor heater. There’s a reason why camp fires are nicknamed nature’s television. If you’re so inclined, your outdoor heating solution could also give you a chance to cook food on an open fire.

Making the right choice when it comes to outdoor fireplaces will have a big effect on whether you actually stay warm outside or not. When it comes to chiminea vs fire pit, they both have situations where they shine and situations where they’re not so effective. We’re going to break down everything you need to know about both and help you make the right decision for your situation in the post below.


Image credits: Glen Bowman via Creative Commons

Chimineas have their roots in Spain. They’ve been used for over 400 years to heat homes and cook food. They were traditionally made from fire-baked clay positioned on a tripod of some sort.

In modern days they’re used mostly as decorative fire pits. You can still find traditional fire-baked clay varieties, but you’ll most likely encounter models made from cast aluminum, cast iron, or a combination of the two intended for use as outdoor fireplaces.

One advantage of the traditional clay chiminea is the thermal mass of clay. In a nutshell, this means that clay readily absorbs heat and stores it for a long time. So once the fire goes out, the chiminea will still radiate this heat into the environment.

Another advantage of the clay varieties is that they’re easy to cook on. If you’re looking for a novel way to cook over open flames then a chiminea is a good bet for you. Look for one that has an exhaust opening that will fit a cast iron pan.

Chimineas can also be quite small. Which makes them a great option for small outdoor spaces. Since the fire is enclosed, it makes them a safer option than trying to keep an open fire under control in a small space. They could make an effective patio heater on a small patio.

Fire burning inside a chiminea
Image credits: CrankyPK via Creative Commons

The traditional fire-baked clay varieties look cool and nod to history, but they’re limited when it comes to fuel varieties. Fire-baked chiminea’s work only with dry wood fires.

Cast aluminum and iron varieties can be fuelled by a wider variety of things such as charcoal or gas. So a gas model could easily hook up to your gas mains.

Now for the performance. When it comes to heating an outdoor space, a chiminea is not your best bet. There’s a small opening on one side that will allow radiant heat to warm those in its immediate vicinity. Anybody sitting away from the opening will not likely feel much warmth.

The thermal mass of the clay won’t be effective outdoors. Thermal mass works when used in conjunction with insulation to keep the warmth contained inside a space. So when a chiminea is used outside the advantage of thermal mass is lost.



Fire Pit

People sitting around a fire pit
Image credits: Jim Chesek via Unsplash

The outdoor fire pit has transformed many a backyard into a nighttime oasis. They’re like campfires for suburbia. And there’s nothing like a campfire to bring people together. They work where electric heaters and gas heaters won’t.

The great thing about fire pits is their versatility. They can be as simple as a hole in the ground for the affordable option, or they can be elaborate cast iron or aluminum structures with all the bells and whistles. There are some truly remarkable fire pits on the market these days. Take a look at the best wood-burning fire pit on the market to get an idea.

On top of that, you can buy fire pits that can be fuelled by many types of different fuel. Gas fire pits, propane fire pits, and backyard fire pits could all be a heat source. Have a look at some of the best propane fire pits if you like propane.

You can cook on them, warm yourself around them, or stare into the embers for hours on end. You can make one a focal point in your backyard or you could put a raised one on your deck. They’re also a good option for those that love larger fires or wood fires.

You can buy one or you can make your own. Fire pits can also easily be used to cook over. All you need is a metal grid and a way to elevate it over the flames. The options are endless.

When it comes to warming folks while outside, a fire pit is a great option. An open fire, with space all around for seating, can warm a large group of people with a relatively small fire.

The biggest downside to a fire pit is the fact that they are open fires. This can increase the threat of wildfires in areas that are predisposed to such conditions. They’re also not appropriate for small outdoor spaces due to the nature of open fires.



How To Choose

Open fire in a pit
Image credits: CHUTTERSNAP via Unsplash

When it comes to choosing something to heat your outdoor space it’s important to think about what you need and want.

If the main function you need is warmth, then a fire pit is the best option for you. An open fire in a pit is able to heat a large group of people standing in a circle around the pit.

We are heated by radiant heat from a fire. This means that anything blocking the direct path between person and fire will reduce the warmth felt.

Following this logic, you’ll feel less warmth from a chiminea because the fire box is enclosed in clay. As mentioned above, this clay will hold onto this heat and radiate it outwards slowly, but this is only effective in a closed and insulated space.

On the other hand, if you want a decorative place to light a fire outdoors, that can double as an easy place to cook, then consider a chiminea. They’re also a good option in smaller outdoor places where a fire pit wouldn’t work, or you’re only trying to warm one or two people at a time.

What Will It Be?

After reading the post above, which one will you choose? When making your decision it’s always important to remember why you want to have a fire in the first place. If you want a chiminea for its decorative qualities, that’s great, but don’t expect it to warm you up effectively. A fire pit would be much more effective at filling this need.