You have several options for fuel choices with your chiminea.
If you want to start simple, charcoal briquettes are the most commonly available source. You can locate these easily, even at your grocery store. You may even have them in storage for your grill! Would you believe that there are even ones that are “self lighting”, which means that they are preloaded so you just apply a lit match, preferrably a long one, and they catch quickly and easily. Charcoal lights rapidly and within about 20 minutes with lit charcoal and your chiminea will be glowing well and putting off some lovely heat.
Wood is the most common fuel for chimineas, since the origins of the device itself with the Mayans of Central America. The preferred wood fuel needs to be dry, green wood will be hard to burn and will give out a great deal of smoke rather than a warm fire. Hardwood will burn best and there are several options to choose from. Some wood types give different smells and smokes so you will want to experiment whether you simply add it in with your fire of you use it exclusively as a fuel source. Aromatic sources are applewood, red cedar and pinion. Pinion wood smoke works as a mosquito repellant, so adding it to your fire gives you extra benefits for your backyard lounging comfort.
If you peruse your local hardware store you will also find some specialty fuels, most notably logs that are man-made rather than natural. The manufacturer generally uses sawdust, packed together to make a log shaped fuel. Some are wrapped in wax paper, which holds them together well and allows for easy lighting when you use it. Premade logs like this save you time and effort, and can get your chiminea fire started nicely. If you so choose, you can add additional fuels to your fire once it is goin.
Cast iron chimineas can have options that the clay ones do not, and one of which is that an insert can be inside it. A gas or propane insert can be the fuel that easily warms your yard through your chiminea. It takes less work on your part, doesn’t make ash that needs to be cleaned up, and can be removed if you wish to use your chiminea more traditionally.
There are also cans of alcohol gel that allow you to light an individual tin of alcohol rather than an entire fire in your chiminea. The benefit of this is that you can use them in a chiminea safely indoors, something you cannot do with a traditional fire source. When alcohol is burned water is produced instead of carbon monoxide, which is dangerous, particularly indoors where it can rapidly cause asphyxiation. Be sure to look carefully at any fuel sources you get, read all instructions and warnings carefully, particularly if you are using it in an enclosed space rather than outdoors. As always, a chiminea gets very hot with any kind of fire within it, and the heat as well as embers may cause a secondary fire. Chimineas are not intended to be used for cooking inside an enclosed space.
Do not burn the following in your chiminea: green wood (you will get a great deal of smoke from green wood), gas or lighter fluids, pellets that are treated or not made for chimineas. This is not a conclusive list but a guideline. Consider your investment in your chiminea and think carefully about what you use as fuel in order to safeguard your investment. Take the time to check with any manufacturers directly to ask questions about appropriateness of fuels for your chiminea.