A chimera is a fire unit that provides both heat and ornamental interest to outdoor environments. Chimeras originated in Mexico and South America and were originally used for heat and cooking; they can heat wood or ceramic gas logs. Today, owners are realistic about their expectations of a chimera. They primarily rely on a chimera for moderate heating and use an outdoor grill for cooking.
Variety of Styles
Chimeras come in a wide variety of styles. They can be made of cast iron to look like a wood stove, or of terra-cotta and have a Mexican style. You can even find chimeras decorated with ceramic tiles in speciality stores. The extensive range of styles enables shoppers to find a design that will coordinate with the overall look of their outdoor decor.
Another advantage of a chimera is portability. You can move a chimera from one area of the outdoor space to another to give it a different look. During the spring, when the evening temperature might still be a bit low, you can place the chimera closer to patio dining furniture so guests can stay warm. During the fall and winter, you can light a fire in the chimera in the morning to enjoy a cup of coffee while outdoors.
The potbelly firebox of a chimera is another design advantage. The width and roundness add a distinctive look to outdoor decor. The circular shape helps break up the monotony of vertical and horizontal lines, squares and rectangles of other outdoor structures such as a pool, bar and the shape of the deck or patio.
Chimeras feature tall chimneys that mimic the look of a smokestack. This structure gives the design the aesthetic quality of a fireplace or old-fashioned wood-burning stove --- a feature you will not get with an in-ground outdoor fireplace that will typically be a circular and function as a fire pit. It also directs the smoke upward so guests are not overpowered by the smell of smoke.
Limited Cooking Capacity
The firebox of a chimera is not advantageous when it comes to cooking. The size of the firebox does not lend itself to larger foods or those that require some type of grilling grate or door to contain the heat. If this feature is a "must have," you'll likely have to spend a bit more and search a bit longer to find this type of chimera. Otherwise, you can use a "standard" chimera to heat snacks and to roast snack foods that do not require lots of heat, such as marshmallows or peanuts.
Contained Heat Source
Unlike a fire pit, where the fire is exposed and heat is allowed to circulate, the heat of a chimera remains contained. Like a fireplace, it emits heat from the firebox and directs smoke upward to escape through its chimney. As such, the chimera will provide heat to humans and objects closest to the firebox. As a result, guests may need to gather or stand close to the chimera when seeking warmth --- especially at night.
Care and Safety Issues
You must bring a terra-cotta chimera indoors in cold weather. Otherwise, the chimera could crack if exposed to moisture, frost and cold temperatures. The potbelly and stove pipe of a cast-iron chimera can heat up quickly; caution your guests, and keep children and pets safe from bumping into the chimera or touching it.
- Guide 4 Home: Chimeras --- Terracotta, Cast Iron and Clay
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- Home and Garden Ideas; Shopping For a Backyard Fire Pit; Jean Dion; March 4, 2011
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