Filed under: Biofuels, cold, Corn, Corn Stove, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, winter, wood heat
My last post, “Slave to the fire,” generated a question about heating with corn. I’ll expand on my corn stove for those of you who are interested.
I’ve been heating with biomass, mostly wood, in my house since my first winter here over 30 years ago. At one time I had two wood stoves in the house, one in the basement and one in the living room. The basement wood stove was always giving me problems, it smoked into the house, wood was carried in and ash was carried out. The day came 5 years ago when it needed replacement and I went with corn.
With a corn stove you use the kernels of dent corn (Not the sweet corn or pop corn you eat) to create heat. The corn is harvested in the fall and dried to about 15.5% moisture then stored in bins for later sale or sold right out of the field. The corn we burn is taken from the bin and added to the hopper of the stove. Corn is metered into the fire box where a constant stream of air is blown upon the fire. Corn will burn, reluctantly, but needs to have the fire fanned. This is the only draw back of the corn stove, you must have electricity.
The corn stove could also be called a biomass stove since it will run on any pelletized fuel including wood waste or other plant materials. I’ve burned both pelletized wood and straw. Wood and straw ignite easier so I keep a bag around for starting fires.
Corn as a fuel generates a good amount of heat at about half the cost of propane, and much less than electricity or coal. Since you are burning a fuel source that is renewed every year it is a very green fuel. Corn is easy to store and easy to find in rural areas since it is used in livestock feed.
Corn for a biomass stove must be dry and clean. I have burned corn at up to 17% moisture, any higher is not recommended. Also corn needs to have the broken kernels and other fines removed. These fines tend to pile up and create problems for the stove. Another problem that can happen with corn that is not clean is foreign material. Since I take corn directly from my bin I have had things like small pieces of metal or rock in my corn. These can get caught in the auger and stop the flow of corn.
Some farmers have made a nice bit of extra cash for themselves cleaning and delivering bags of corn for biomass stoves. For those who do not have a dry place to keep corn outside, bagged corn is best. You also could use a wagon or small bin to store the corn. I have one neighbor who has an auger from his bin outside straight into his stove.
Corn is not for someone who wants everything neat clean and simple. It takes less work than burning wood but more than propane or electricity. The stove needs attention everyday. Cleaning and adding fuel are everyday activities.
For me the corn stove is my main source of heat. The stove is in the basement and keeps the floors for the upstairs nice and warm. When the weather turns extra cold my wood boiler provides added heat. As a fall back, I still have my propane furnace for when I am gone for over 48 hours.