Low cost heat using environmentally friendly shelled corn, wheat

joyfulguyFebruary 14, 2004

Something over ten years ago here in Ontario, Canada, near the Great Lakes, some corn-fired heaters were brought in from the States.

My friend sold the original one, later a different brand (that didn't work well) and said that he could build a better one, which he began doing over ten years ago.

They are very safe, as firing grain requires forced draft, so they do not require a chimney but can be vented through any exterior wall - combustion air incoming through 6" stove pipe, exhaust through 3" pipe inside it.

It's hard to believe that a small 5" firepot, with a few kernels dropping in at a time, can produce about 60,000 BTU/hr., to heat about 2,000 sq. ft. home, with good insulation and circulation. Continuous burning precludes temperature variations when most furnaces cycle.

Burning slightly over one bushel per day means that the heater is economical - multiply the 150 - 200 bushels of annual consumption in this cold area by the price per bushel in your area and compare it with your current heating bill.

Forced draft also produces almost complete combustion - so there's minimal product of combustion. What is produced is environmentally benign - meets environmental requirements easily. No toxic stuff here.

Some say that it provides heat at lower cost than any except wood - that you cut and haul yourself.

It takes millions of years to produce petroleum - we grow a new crop of wheat and corn every year.

Further - the price of a heating unit is only the down payment - the major cost comes from feeding the darn thing through (one hopes) many years of life.

Why would one force one's self to buy fuel from one of the dozen or so members of the international petro cartel, who have no interest in providing low cost fuel?

When one can buy from any of half a million or so farmers.

There's a half dozen or so members of the international grain cartel that runs world grain: all privately owned, so they make few reports of their business. But they ensure that the price of your fuel continues to be low.

Good wishes to you as you plan how to meet your heating requirements,

joyful guy

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What I'm seeing on this page is ads for purchasing such stoves as what burns corn. What I'd like to see are the designs, maybe make one myself.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2004 at 11:58AM
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I've seen these corn stoves at various farm shows. They seem to work quite well- same principle as pellet stoves, just a different fuel. But unless you live in an area that grows a lot of corn, like the midwest, and can buy it in bulk, it may not be economical. Last time I checked, 50# bags of shell corn were almost $5.00. A bushel of corn weighs 56#. I'm not sure if it would be all that low cost for most folks that aren't in farm areas.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2004 at 12:28AM
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Would truly be interested in more information on these stoves---sounds like the ticket for us at this point but do need more info! Do you have any recomended sites or literature? Thank you! spotted bunny

    Bookmark   February 15, 2004 at 12:53PM
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P.S. Shortest post yet.


    Bookmark   February 16, 2004 at 5:54AM
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There's a lot of info about pellet stoves here.
"Pellets are made from compacted sawdust, wood chips, bark, agricultural crop waste, waste paper, and other organic materials."
The EREC Brief covers a lot but doesn't mention anything about how much energy is needed to produce the pellets.
Anyone know how many Wh energy it takes to produce a ton(metric) of pellets and from which source this energy is derived?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2004 at 8:30AM
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On that note how much energy and chemicals are used in growing a bushel of corn? I used to live in a rural area and had a pellet stove. I didn't look at corn stoves because of the inconvienence of storing the bulk corn. All that took to store a ton of pellets took floor space in my storage barn. I didn't need a bulk bin to store it.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2004 at 2:46PM
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Pellets are a byproduct. They just take a lot of sawdust, get it damp, and squeeze it into a tube. Very little energy.

The waste, more than anything, is in the bag. (Since I'd have to transport every other fuel, too...) 7 empty bags are about the same volume as an entire weeks worth of our trash! Ouch.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2004 at 2:37PM
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Most producers of pellets use some plastic to hold the pellets in shape, I hear. Pelletizing machine powered by either an engine or an electric motor, I think.

I can't quite figure why someone would buy a pellet stove, depending on price levels set by a limited number of producers of pellets, usually located a number of miles away. We had one not many miles away, but plant burned, not replaced, now pellet producer is a long way off.

When many can buy a stove that burns sawn wood blocks - that may be sourced nearby, if there are woodlots. Usually a variety of possible sources, so more competitive pricing. If you have mechanical equipment available, maybe able to cut the wood yourself. Check the woodlot for trees whose tops are dying, cut them. Or cut tops of trees after the trunks have been carried away as logs.


    Bookmark   February 19, 2004 at 8:13AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

My neighbor [a dedicated wood burner] checked into a corn burning stove. He has had some trouble with his shoulder and desired some easier way than wood cutting and hauling. It was going to cost him about $2.75 a day for corn ...plus the cost of the stove

    Bookmark   February 19, 2004 at 11:17AM
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The reason I went with wood pellets at the time was ease of storage,(bags instead of bulk),pellets produced less ash than either wood burning or corn burning, price fairly stable (only went up 50 cents/bag the entire time I was buying them approx 10 yrs) I could save pellets from one year to the next with no risk of rodent infestation. You can't say that about corn or cherry pits which I also burned for a while. I quir burning pits when the mice ripped open a couple of bags and stuffed pits into everything in our storage barn. Some years I would have 20 or 30 leftover bags of pellets that would be just as good the next heating season. You cant store corn like that it would probably get moldy over the summer or the rodents would have a field day with it. I lived in an older home surronded by corn or soybean fields depending on the year.

I pulled out a wood stove because you couldn't regulate the heat output. It was either cold in the house or 80 degs depending on whether the stove was fired up or not. The pellet stove also has its own outside air intake which the wood stove didn't

The pellet stove you can regulate the heat output. Turn the feed up for more heat or turn it down if it is too warm.

Cleaning the flue was a piece of cake. Twice a heating season vacuum it out with a shop vac. Plus the ash bin on the stove was only emptied 2-3 times a heating season.

Pellets are compressed with a binder and as far as I know it isn't plastic. I believe it is a glue of some sort.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2004 at 2:41PM
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There are quite a few corn stoves in use around here, just north of the Minneapolis area. The folks I know say that it costs about 1/2 of what natural gas does to heat a house, barn, garage, whatever. Corn is very plentiful and cheap here, most just have a deal with a nearby farmer who has animal feed corn, and pick up a trailer load every once in a while. Most of the folks I know were wood, then pellet, users for out buildings and workshops, and after switching to corn, say it is much better and easier. Myself, I am too lazy and have always stayed with natural gas and good insulation to keep the cost down.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2004 at 7:29PM
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You're right - corn-fired heaters aren't for lazy people, who want to hook up to the end of the pipe, then pay the bill at the end of the month.

Work better for farm-type people who are used to firing wood-fired stoves, whether pellet or block, for they need servicing more often than once daily.

We've been getting so lazy ... that the stores feel it necessary to set their doors up so that we don't even need to push them open.

But ... who am I to talk? During break at a meeting I disrupt the line at the coffee urn to add my cream and sugar to the mug before pouring in the coffee - to reduce stirring effort.

I figure that's about the height of laziness.

Can anyone think of a greater one?

If anyone needs some hot air - just ask.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 20, 2004 at 5:11AM
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The pellets I get (and there are four brands) are held together only by water and pressure. The lignin in pellets are a natural glue. Why would you ADD anything? I have never heard of a binder being used.

Locally, pellets are sold at Wal-mart, Home Depot, and specialty stores. I don't like Wal-mart's, so I switched to Home Depot, which is just down the street.

There is no local supplier for corn, aside from all the other problems involved.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2004 at 5:55PM
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Hi again all,

Not meaning to infer that everyone should use grain-fired heating systems.

Many haven't yet become familiar with them.

They are minimally polluting.

They don't need a chimney.

They do need tending oftener than once a day.

One does need a source of supply - nearby, usually (unless you have a fairly large storage) - takes about150 - 200 bus. annually here around the Great Lakes.

Several around here say that it's cheaper heat than any but wood that one cuts one's self - and few have the equipment necessary.

The fact remains - international petro cartels aren't lowering the price of various types of petroleum products.

International cartels ensure that the price that our farmers get for grains - will remain low.

Have a great week-end - full of as much hot air as you need.

joyful guy/Ed

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 5:11PM
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Joyful Guy,

Would it be possible to grow your own corn and then process it and use in the winter?

    Bookmark   February 23, 2004 at 4:30PM
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Yes you can grow your own corn if you have a an acre of land, a tractor and a planter at your disposal. Typical corn yield for a farmer in NW ohio is about 150 bushels to an acre. Figuring in planting costs, herbicide costs, fertilizer costs, seed costs and the labor to manualy harvest the corn it will probably cost you more than buying it from the farmer. Oh I forgot you have to shell it all too.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2004 at 9:33AM
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And have enough energy available to dry it.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2004 at 2:02PM
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I guess I am one that has not been very satisfied with our corn burner. We bought a big one that we duct into our furnace and we have not been very happy all the way around. We seem to be messing with it more than a couple of times a day. Inevitably it goes out either in the middle of the night or during the day while we are not there. The corn for us is not a factor as we live on a farm and grow our own corn.

We usually go through about 3 tanks of propane during the winter and I just purchased our second tank. At this rate it will take me 10 years to pay for the burner. That doesn't even account for the cost of corn as others would have to pay.

We have to change our furnace filter at least every 10 days and at that time it is black from the corn burner.

Overall I am not impressed with the corn burner and would not recommend it to anyone as I am extremely disappointed.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2004 at 12:18PM
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I regret that you have had such unsatisfactory experience with your corn-fired heater/furnace.

Is your system used as an add-on to an exisitng heating system that was in place previously?

Did the manufacturers of your corn-fired system engineer it to be an add-on to an existing system and recommend that owners use their system as you are?

I hope that you find a means to make your system operate in a manner that satisfies you - it is a shame to be stuck with expensive systems that don't work well.

I'm not sure, as I haven't asked them, but I think that if some potential owner planned to hook a Grain Comfort stove into a ducting system and use it in conjunction with a furnace, the manufacturer wouldn't sell one to him. They would certainly make it clear that they made no recommendation whatever that their heater be used in such a way.

It's designed to be a single-location heating system - not to be hooked into ducts.

Some have done it, with varying success.

But it is not recommended.

Filters on those stoves need to be cleaned/changed infrequently.

By the way, the developer of this stove sold the Dovetec, the original stove introduced in this area, about 15 years ago, then another brand. He said that he could build a better one and did, also got several patents on his innovative concepts. His Grain Comfort stove has been built for about 13 years, a strong unit built of heavy metal for long-term trouble-free service.

In an informal agreement with him, I later sold the stove that he introduced. Then a different brand, about 14 years ago but not for over 10 years.

I respect the stove that he has built: in my opinion, it's the best of the lot. No financial connection with his program, by the way.

Good wishes to all for low cost, environmentally friendly heating, using renewable resources, where possible.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 9, 2004 at 9:41PM
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Joyful -

I have a link to the cornburner that we bought. After having several problems with it one being that the corn would get stuck in the shoot and thus cause the burner to get shut down. My DH would have to disassemble the unit everytime this would happen. The gentleman that sold us the unit came out and looked at it and said not to run it so hard. huh

Here is a link that might be useful: model 7100 corn burner

    Bookmark   March 10, 2004 at 9:24AM
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Hi again waddles,

I'm fairly sure that the Amaizeablaze is made by the same people that make the Amaize-ing Heat furnace.

Don someone (Magelitz? - haven't been in contact for a while), based in Illinois, makes them.

Go to Google and do a search.

Don seems like an accomodating guy, and I'm sure that he'll go to great lengths to get one of his machines working well.

If you don't have successs, give me a shout and I'll see what I can find for you.

Ed (more joyful when folks with corn-, grain-fired heaters are happy with their system)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2004 at 7:05PM
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The man that sold us the unit told us he would be willing to attempt to sell the unit to someone else and give us the money he sold it for. We still have not decided on that option but we will be getting rid of it one way or another. My FIL has a smaller unit that is the fireplace and he is pretty happy with his. We opted not to do that as we have small children and did not want them to get burned as the unit is very hot while running. In fact my 3 year old DS burned his arm on my FIL's unit.

The whole concept sounded really good when presented to us and we may in fact go with a bigger unit that would require less maintenance (we hope) but have not made a decision as of yet.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2004 at 11:55AM
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Hi again waddles,

You speak of corn getting stuck in the chute through which it drops into the fire.

*Important* You need to use clean corn, with minimal cracked material and no dust.

You will most likely find that dust collects at the bottom of the drop tube, then burns there to form a dam, then the kernels back up the tube and everything goes wrong. Sometimes the kernels backing up at the bottom of the tube burn, and the smoke backs up through the tube and hopper out into the room. Not a pleasant experience.

Which is a major reason that more modern stoves have sealed hoppers. It's a rare occasion when it may be needed. If yours doesn't have one, perhaps you can fit a piece of metal over the top of the hopper so that air can't escape. Then drop a weight on it to hold it tight against the top of the hopper, so smoke can't get out.

Some people set up a sloping screen system with spaces in the upper screen small enough to allow whole kernels to slide down off of it, which means that the cracks and dust fall through, into a bucket - provide the stuff to local bird feeders.

Next screen below is just large enough to allow kernels to drop through into bucket that is used to feed the stove hopper.

Pieces of stalk, cob, etc. slide off of that screen. They are often a problem, for sometimes they tend to jam the auger. Sometimes the auger, providing increased torque related to reduction in speed from the speed of the electric motor to one revolution or so per minute, cuts the scrap piece - which is O.K with the owner.

Unfortunately - sometimes the extra load causes one of the (usually plastic) gears in the gearbox to get a couple of teeth chewed up/break - which is not O.K. with the owner. As most do not want to have someone sit near the stove to reach down through the hopper to roll the auger ahead an inch or so, every few minutes.

As motor and gearbox are an integrated unit in most cases, it means that both must be replaced. Again, not a pleasant experience.

Is there a pipe going from the combustion fan to the top of the drop tube? There is such a tube on many stoves, which blows a small draft down the drop tube to keep fire from running up the tube.

Sometimes that tube gets plugged near the top, cutting off the air draft, resulting in fire going up the tube, causing trouble.

One needs a fairly stiff, but flexible, piece of wire to push up that tube to clear it. In some cases a piece of old truck speedometer cable will do the job.

These are ideas that come to mind as a result of your message. I hope that they may be of help.

I can't do much about the hot surfaces - as most every heating unit produces some hot areas. Many are surprised, however, that sides and back of most of these stoves are cool enough that they could, if local building codes allowed, be installed touching a wall.

As you may have noted if you visited www.grainstoveinc.com, (maybe "grainstoves.com" - I haven't checked it for a while) the top of the stove that my friend builds is cool enough that (one of his dealer's) cat can sleep on top. It is warm enough to keep a coffee pot reasonably warm - but those who love hot coffee would likely reject the stuff that had come from a pot sitting on top of his grain stove.

Hope you're getting spring - it's been snowing and cold for a few days, here. Anyone around here full of hot air that has some to spare?

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 24, 2004 at 7:20PM
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I prepared a reply a few hours ago and am sure that I sent it, getting a confirmation.

However, I don't see it here.

It is important that you use clean corn, with no dust and minimal number of cracked kernels. Dust collects at the bottom of the chute, burns, forms a dam and the kernels back up, then more than likely burn in the drop tube, with smoke backing up through the hopper into the room. Not pleasant.

Build a sloping screen, apertures on top unit just smaller than corn kernels, so cracks and dust fall through - provide them to bird feeders.

Next screen down has apertures slightly larger than kernel of corn, so corn falls into storage box or plastic bucket that you use to fill stove.

Pieces of cob, stalk, etc. slide off. If they get into auger, sometimes high torque due to downsizing of speed allows auger to cut them, but sometimes they jam the auger, resulting in a (plastic) gear in gearbox getting chewed up.

That works if you don't mind having someone sit beside the stove to reach down through the corn in the hopper to give the auger a bit of a twist every few minutes, so that the gears re-engage, but most of us don't consider that to be much of a remedy.

Usually results in replacing the gearbox - which usually is integrated with the motor, requiring that both be replaced.

Quite a few stoves have an air feed pipe going from the combustion fan to the top of the drop tube, to push air down the drop tube, so that kernels waiting to drop don't get on fire first. Sometimes it gets plugged at the top. Need a piece of stiff yet flexible wire to push up there to dislodge the blockage - sometimes a piece of old truck speedomter cable does the job.

Not much I can do about hot areas, but some are surprised that, if local building codes allow, one can install most of these stoves with sides or back touching a wall.

If you've visited my friend's grain-fired stove website www.grainstoveinc.com (maybe "grainstovesinc.com" - I haven't gone there in a while, so forget), you'll see that (one of his dealer's) a cat sleeps on top of their stove.

If you're content with warm coffee, you could keep the pot on that stove: but not if you like hot coffee.

But don't misunderstand - his stove, producing about 60,000 Btu/hr. will heat about 2,000 sq. ft., given good circulation and insulation.

By the way - I think you'll find that a larger stove requires quite a bit of work - adding corn/grain daily, likely - but the main catch is that you must remove a clinker that builds up in the firepot oftener than once a day. Not a hard job - but if you're going to be away, you need other heat source, or a diligent and accomodating neighbour/relative (to whom you're willing to give a key to your home).

Most homeowners' insurance policies require that when you're away, you need to have the home checked daily, in any case. In case of split water pipe, etc.


Message me if you'd like further info.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   March 24, 2004 at 11:54PM
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Hi again, all,

It seems to me that, with another heating season upon us, folks who are about to replace their heating systems might well consider using a corn- or grain-fired unit.

Power draft means that it burns almost completely and there is almost no particulate in the exhaust, none of it noxious. It also means that one does not need a chimney - it can be vented through any exterior wall.

There is a small residue that builds up in the firepot that must be removed daily, sometimes oftener, or the draft is cut off and the fire goes out.

Consumption in areas around the Great Lakes is usually around 150 - 200 bus. annually. Multiply that by the cost per bushel of buying grain or corn from a local farmer, then ask yourself if you are heating for that price.

Is anyone willing to suggest that the price of petroleum-based heating fuel will be at anything like current prices in ten years, the power of the petroelum cartels being what it is?

There's a cartel that controls world grain prices - and they are have built a record of paying low prices to the farmers for their grains and corn. I doubt whether that plan may change any time soon.

Some thoughts for your consideration during these long fall evenings.

Good wishes for a continuing supply of hot air - at reasonable cost, and in a way that causes as little detrimental effects to our environment as possible.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   October 16, 2004 at 11:44PM
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The farmers around here tell me that the price of corn is lousy, this year.

One person's junk is ...

... another person's treasure.

If your fuel is petroleum-based, I'll bet that its price advance during the next ten years will be a great deal more than the prices of corn, wheat or rye.

Which are not a lot higher now than they were ten years ago.

Good wishes to all for environmentally friendly, renewable, cheap heat. That isn't dependent on the reliability of the political system of a far country.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   November 18, 2004 at 6:06PM
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Corn-fueled stoves are not environmentally friendly.

Corn production is heavily subsidized with our tax money, lots of fuel is used, oil-derived pestisides, irrigation pumped with electic--coal-fired power--or natural gas/diesel, land erosion/loss, conversion of land better left natural, etc.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2004 at 6:04PM
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"Corn-fueled stoves are not environmentally friendly.

Corn production is heavily subsidized with our tax money, lots of fuel is used, oil-derived pestisides, irrigation pumped with electic--coal-fired power--or natural gas/diesel, land erosion/loss, conversion of land better left natural, etc."

Okay, there's friendly and there's friendly.

For example, the most eco-friendly thing Humanity could do is to go extinct.

No more hogging resources, strip-mining, pollution. Great news for the planet. Maybe the dolphins will have better luck than we did.

On the other hand, there ARE some humans I'm fond of. I'd hate to see them ALL go extinct.

So, the phrase that comes to mind is "live lightly".

People have needs. As long as we still live on this planet, we must find ways to meet those needs responsibly.

For example, we NEED to heat our homes, we NEED to eat food and drink clean water.

How to do this? Well, Solar comes to mind.

But as my Physics Professor in college pointed out, making solar cells requires mining, smelting, and the by-products of this process aren't exactly pretty.

And he went on to say that Solar cells don't last forever. Eventually they fail, requiring both replacement and disposal. Have you ever tried to get rid of 400 pounds of broken glass? If so, tell me how to do it, please !

Wind Power is good, really good. But again, there will be some consumption of resources. And wind turbines don't last forever either, although it's easier to recycle copper and steel than glass.

We need to do a cost-benefit analysis. Barring extinction, what are the lightest ways to live on this planet?

Well, the alternatives to Solar and Wind are incredibly filthy. Burning oil and coal !

If there's any way to move away from that, we should start walking now....

Which brings us to burning corn.

Sure, producing corn has SOME ecological cost. But it's much, much less than the current alternatives. And it's a step in the right direction.

"Even the longest journey begins with a single step". Sound familiar?

If you are heating with electricity or oil, consider the impact you are causing.

We have an oil furnace. It's not running right now, since the new corn burner is making more than enough heat to keep the house warm. The oil burner kicks on a couple of minutes a day.

It's a step. One step. But it's more than I was taking last year this time.

As for corn subsidies, that has NOTHING to do with ecology.

There are some people who despise any government program to help farmers.

They should jump in a lake, IMHO. Farmers work hard. And their income is usually very erratic.

If the market for corn takes a dip, the farmer is looking at a silo of corn that is suddenly not worth selling. So he sits on it hoping that the price recovers.

And maybe it does. Or it doesn't, and he goes bankrupt.

Government subsidies may be all that keeps farming in this country from going completely factory-farm. And if you're worried about pesticides, who uses more? Smaller farms that can make their own decisions, or factory farms?

With pellet and corn stoves becoming more prevalent, farmers will have a more reliable market for their goods and will NEED less subsidies.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2005 at 12:20PM
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I also have concerns about the by-products of conventional farming. It uses a huge amount of chemicals, and both the chemical fertilisers and insect/weed killers affect the environment.

While burning natural gas may damage the environment because it's releasing Co2, its use doesn't require toxic chemicals to be applied to the ground where they will wash in to rivers and lakes.

I'd prefer a wood burning appliance, assuming it's well designed with good efficiency, to a corn burning appliance because growing wood doesn't require the intensive use of chemicals. Also, managed forests contribute far more to the environment than a field of corn, which is both a mono-culture incapable of hosting much wildlife, and also treated with poisons/pesticides which reduce the insect numbers, and everything in the food chain above them.

I also have to question just how renewable corn really is. The plant itself may be grown again and again, but the intensive chemical farming techniques used to grow high yields of it depend on fertilisers and pesticides made from fossil fuels. If we no longer have access to these chemicals, then it's not possible to grow it as easily or affordably as we currently do.

It seems everything we do comes with an environmental price tag, some higher than others. I don't however regard corn as the most environmentally damaging source of energy, I believe it's much better for the environment than electric heat generated in a coal power plant, but I certainly don't consider it the most environmentally sound fuel either. Wood has most all it's advantages without the chemicals used to grow it. Solar heating requires no chemicals, it doesn't even require land to grow or extract a fuel, and it doesn't need any storage or transport.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2005 at 10:20AM
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The trouble with corn-fired heat is that it takes more gasoline to grow the corn than the BTUs it delivers to heat houses. Add in transportation costs and it becomes even less efficient. If the corn has to be dried using other fuels, the use of it becomes ludicrous. Acre of acre, corn growers use more fertilizer, more insecticides, and more herbicides than almost any crop.

Corn stoves make some sense; they do reduce emissions of greenhouse gases compared with fossil fuels (corn absorbs CO2 as it grows, offsetting what it releases when it is burned). They'd make more sense if farmers growing corn as fuel practiced no-till agriculture (reducing tractor use) and minimized chemical use, and if the corn got used in the local area, reducing fuel consumption to move the 4 tons or so of corn a home needs each winter.

Is this really the best way to save energy? How many wind generators can fit on an acre of land anyway? Much of the cornbelt is prime wind farm country.

Then, and no one raises it, is the ethical question of burning up food when so many people in the world don't have enough to eat.

The subsidies bother me as well; I hate to granting tax subsidies to a farmer who uses all that energy and all those chemicals just to make something that gets burned up anyway.

Finally, if we start seeing corn transported all over the place, you're going to start to see supercarriers full of corn breaking up in the ocean and disastrous corn spills affecting our beaches. What will this do to the birds?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 8:36PM
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The problem of using pesticides and herbicides in corn production will likely become minimal if the idea of "burning corn for heat" takes off. In a very short while all corn not used for human consumption will have the BT gene inserted and also it will be "Round-up Ready". So there will be fewer passes made by pesticide and herbicide equipment. This raises other issues, but nothing like the issue of freezing in your home. Remember, our time in history is going to be known as the "Age of Islam". If you don't believe it, then read about projected Western European demographics. No energy is free or is it ever going to be free. The question is this: Do you want to be held hostage to foreign powers or American? Corn won't be for everyone. In some locations wood will have an economic advantage, in other places it will be wind and in others solar, etc.
Has anyone used wheat in their pellet or corn stove?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 10:11PM
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As long as we use tractors to plant, spray and harvest corn and trucks to transport it, it's going to require fossil fuels, which indeed, are mostly imported. If the corn has to be dried using fossil fuels, even more has to be imported. Since it takes more gasoline to produce, dry and transport corn than the BTUs we get from burning it, corn-based heat jst puts us more at the mercy at these foreign powers.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2005 at 12:29AM
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"The trouble with corn-fired heat is that it takes more gasoline to grow the corn than the BTUs it delivers to heat houses" This is bogus. No one uses gasoline to produce, dry or transport corn. They use diesel and propane.
As I said in my previous post, very soon there will be no petroleum products used for herbicide or spraying in the production of corn not intended for human consumption,
At 142 bushels per acre you will get 5,566,400 BTUs from one acre of corn. My tractor uses five gallons of diesel per acre per year. That is 183,000 BTUs of energy. So that leaves 5,382,900 net BTUs per acre. Forget the transportation costs. All fuel will, of course, require some distribution cost. It is either oil hauled down the freeways on eighteen wheelers or trains hauling corn. And as you said yourself, most of the oil is coming all the way from foreign countries. To paraphrase you, what about the poor fish when an oil-carrying super tanker breaks up on the ocean?
There are many new considerations for drying corn, including ambient air drying, stirring systems being added to many of the old dryers still in use and newer units that use heat recovery methods. If the farmers were paid a little more for their corn they could buy these newer drying systems. They would also develop systems that burn the corn itself, a self perpetuating system. They wouldn't need the subsidies.
"Then, and no one raises it, is the ethical question of burning up food when so many people in the world don't have enough to eat"
It is estimated that half of the world's food crops simply go to waste from not being used. This type of corn is not used for human consumption.
"Since it takes more gasoline to produce, dry and transport corn than the BTUs we get from burning it"
This is fallacious. Again, 5,382,900 net BTUs per acre. I agree that corn is not going to be for everyone, for example, it is not for me. But your argument that it takes more gasoline (BTUs)to grow than what it produces is simply wrong. When the revolution happens in Saudi Arabia, and it is going to happen (read about the Wahabi sect of SA), you will find more people using corn and wind. And some, like my grandfather in South Dakota many years ago, will burn cow chips to stay warm.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2005 at 10:31PM
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I am sold on corn heat and will be installing a corn stove next year in my vacation home. I want to put it downstairs in the family room and will need to figure out how to get the warm air to the main level. Even if I only use it to heat the downstairs, I will go ahead with the project.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2005 at 6:35PM
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Geraldo said, "No energy is free or is it ever going to be free."

Fossil fuels will allways cost, their very form makes them ideal consumer items; you can wrap them up in a measured box and sell them.

They're the energy of choice for most every industry and home consumer, and have been for a long time now. We're so entirely stuck on this fossil fuel mentality where tons of coal and gallons of oil equal energy, that we miss something very important.

Everything contains energy, in fact the very structure of matter is bonded together by immense energy. Nuclear fission proved that tiny atoms when split released vast power. The energy stored in the atoms of this keyboard I'm typing on would power thousands of homes for a year, could the energy be extracted. The earth is not running out of energy, that concept is entirely impossible. Energy cannot be made or destroyed, it just changes form. And, during it's constant transition there's millions of opportunities to divert some of it for human purposes. Just a tiny fraction would be sufficient.

I doubt there is a single sq. foot of this planet's surface that does not contain at least one resource. Wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, even the plants themselves contain carbon and can be burnt to release energy. All this energy is out there free for the taking, and it allways has been.

If we keep thinking of energy as a consumable item you use once then discard, like a cheap battery, we will keep paying for it. If however we realise that there is no possible way anybody can sell such an abundant resource, (it's like trying to sell air), everything changes. Why buy energy when you're practically swimming in it?

    Bookmark   January 25, 2005 at 4:08PM
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Yeh, Bry, the energy is there(like sun and wind), but I think you will agree with me that extracting it has costs. Solar panels and wind machines, etc.
I really want everyone to understand that our supply of oil could be severely curtailed overnight. I mean literally overnight. Saudi Arabia could be taken over by people who are not at all friendly with the USA. It isn't so simple, because they would still want to sell the oil to get the money they want, but you get the idea. Also, this is like the California earthquake, it isn't "if", it is "when".
I don't want to go into a survivalist rant, but it would be nice if you had a way to heat your home that didn't depend on others to a great extent. Me, I am burning wood and have a big supply. Simple firewood works for me. Now if I just had a way to power the pickup without petrol.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2005 at 8:36PM
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Actually, we don't allways have to spend money to use the free renewable energy around us.

My washing line is a good example of extremely low cost solar and wind power that could be used in millions of homes around the country.

You can also build passive solar features in to a house, which depending on how good the design is will provide some of the building's required heat for free, potentially 80% or more in some cases, but anything, even a modest 10% is good. This shouldn't cost money, just require some more planning at the design stage.

You can also construct solar heat panels at home, which may not be as efficient as the factory bought ones, but they're cheap (potentially free if you re-use old materials) and still gather some free solar energy. Besides, at those prices (free) you can allways build a bigger one or install several.

I've also seen examples on-line of people who used their compost, something that the average kitchen and garden generates plenty of for free, to pre-heat water for household uses. They had built their own kit and it seemed to work fine.

In California during the late 19th century many houses had solar water heaters which were just a metal tank of water on the roof painted black, which provided at least one or two hot showers or a bath each day in the summer. In some climates this is still possible, and you could improve the design by introducing a glazed outer box to help retain more heat.

There are energy freebies out there, some more practical than others, but all of them low cost and capable of doing something we traditionally use expensive fossil fuels for.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2005 at 5:25PM
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Clothes line, I like it. Good example. That is what we use in the summer and the cost is free. Well, except for the cost of the clothes line. :)
I was looking at some old homes in an old farming community. Many of these houses had porches that shielded the front windows from the sun in summer, but permitted the lower angle sun to strike the windows in winter. I was never sure if that was asethetic or if they had actually been built with that purpose in mind. They also had trees to shade in summer, but being bare of leaves in winter allowed the sun to strike the house. They had the big old fashioned sash windows on the west and east so as to provide for cross venilation. there are many common sense things we can do. Now, about my pickup...

    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 1:24PM
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Horses, Geraldo, horses.

In the Dirty Thirties on the Prairies when there was almost no rain and the wind blew the soil around ...

... people hitched a team of horses to their car, from which the engine had often been removed, to travel.

They called them "Bennett Buggies" - the Prime Minister of Canada at the time was R.B. Bennett.

In the mid '40s, when there usually was adequate rainfall - the "blow dirt" as we called it - the land that the wind had relocated - wouldn't grow much of anything - wheat only about a foot high, with undeveloped heads and wizened kernels.

(Hey, guys - there's as much heavy oil in the Great Canadian Oil Sands in northern Alberta as there is in Saudi - but it takes processing to obtain it ...

... which pays when the price of oil is at a certain level - above $15.00 - $20.00 or so, I think - maybe more).

Oil isn't needed just for heat and power - it's feedstock for a lot of plastics, chemicals, etc.

I heard years ago that the Shah of Iran said that we should use petroeum only for portable power - that set-in-place power, e.g. electrical generation, sdhould be done with some other energy source, e.g coal.

But about half of our pollution here in southern Ontario comes from those dratted coal-fired electricity generators in the Ohio valley.

Good wishes for a fine week ahead.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 7:31PM
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I did a washing a couple of days ago, when it was cold, but they promised (?) mild weather, which it was today, so I hung it on the clothesline when the temperature was a few degrees above freezing.

My hands were comfortable while I did it - in two stages, with a warm-up in between, but it would not have been necessary.

Will take it in tomorrow, as I think it's to be mild. Unloading the line is the hard part - as the clothing is usually rather stiff ... and *cold*, even if it is a mild day. Wash basket doesn't hold much of the stiff clothing - and you are glad of the trip inside to unload it, so that you can warm you hands.

It's not as uncomfortable as it sounds.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   February 1, 2005 at 7:18PM
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There was a lot of hoar frost on the clothing this morning, but much of it was mostly dry by this afternoon. Some of the clothing was rather stiff, but I managed it all in one load and the fingers did not get heavily cold by the end.

Spread it on living room furniture to complete the drying - and the residual moisture will add some badly needed humidity.

Good wishes.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   February 2, 2005 at 6:25PM
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"I also have to question just how renewable corn really is."

Well, when you come down to it, TREES aren't all that renewable.

Tree farms have hit the diminishing-returns rule. Take the first generation, plant another. The second generation will be less vigorous.

The third will be puny. The fourth...

Now, this could be solved if all the waste from cities were processed and used to renew the soil in the tree farms.

Which, since transportation requires energy, suggests that we should be building tree farms down-stream of all the major cities that are near rivers.

Anyway, I'm burning cherry pits and corn mix in my pellet stove. Now, cherry pits are the ideal pellet fuel.

Unlike corn, cherry pits are not edible. They cost a bit more, but they aren't dirty, and much, much drier than corn.

They are a true waste product and they burn like gangbusters.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2005 at 7:33PM
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Geraldo,,,When you say it takes more fuel and chemicals to produce corn than what the corn is worth, obvously you are following the same investigative reporting procedures as your infamous TV counterpart.

I grew up on a 160 acre dairy farm in Greenford,Ohio that was totally self sustaining. Currently I am hobby farming on a small 60 acres farm in Youngstown, Ohio.

Lacking the initial startup capital to buy modern farm equipment, we opted to get some basics on the used machinery market, a 1960 Mineapolis Moline 36 drawbar horsepower tractor ($2000), a 1966 ford 20 drawbar horsepower tractor (2.7gal/hr), 3 bottom 16" moldboard plow ($300 new), a tandem 9 ft disc ($50) and a two row John Deere corn planter ($300).

The large tractor burns 5gal/hr and plows 6 acres per hour( $.83/acre), discs 12 acres per hour ( $.41/acre).

The small tractor plants the corn at 5 acres/hr ($.55/acre)

We practice crop rotation by planting corn one year, then timothy and clover hay for two years. The legumes provide a very lucrative cash crop of hay, which we bale in small bales targeted to the individual horse owner market. Five acres of hay will provide enough cash income to provide all the fuel used by our equipment for the entire season. In addition, the legumes replace the nitrogen that is taken out of the soil by the corn thus we have no need of buying fertilizer. (Though the concept of crop rotation is almost abandoned in commercial large scale farming in exchange for no till planting, chemical fertilizers and herbicides, in truth George Washington Carver originated the idea of crop rotation for self sustaining farming before the civil war.

While tinkering with my antiquated equipment and outdated farming techniques will in no wise rival the fuel efficiencies of our commermercial counterparts on the mega farms with 200 horsepower diesel tractors, I can still produce an average of 100 bushels to the acre. (100 bu x 56lbs/bu = 5600 pounds of corn.)

I currently have contracts to supply corn for home heating fuel through a small co-op of 20 homeowner neighbors. Based upon this little experiment I am discussing with 4 or 5 local farmers who are interested in joining our co-op to have a market for what they do best, produce corn.

As a sideline, we are now applying for a Federal Gasohol" permit, which will allow us to own and operate a "Still" to manufacture corn whiskey, which will be used as the primary fuel for all our current gas burning engines. Federal law requires that all the distilled alcohol must be labeled as automotive fuel only, but no doubt someone may get a bit fueled up on a saturday nite tooo.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2005 at 9:46PM
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Hi lazypup,

Bet you're getting a lot less subsidy than the big guys, too, huh?

Our countries enjoy some of the cheapest food in the world, we've been told.

But when it gets all corporatized - those days will be gone.

Corporations rule.

Congratulations on what you're doing.

As far as the ethanol is concerned ... you can make your own beer or wine, can't you? Doesn't that go for the heavy-proof stuff, as well?

It's when you sell it that the trouble starts.

Hope you're enjoying spring.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   April 15, 2005 at 4:14PM
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Most people have no concept of how farm subsidies work. In the first place, a farmer is not given financial assistance to produce a crop. In most cases a farm subsidy pays a farmer not to grow a crop. Why? Because the American Farmer is without equal the most efficient farmer in the world. If every farmer in this country were to grow all the wheat they could grow the world would be overrun with wheat, and countries such as Canada,Austrailia and Argentina who must compete for the world market would soon go belly up.

Even with todays production quotas Texas and Louisianna produce more rice annually than the combined production of China and India.

Here in the Midwest over 80% of the small family farms have gone belly up becuase their is no martket for the corn, wheat, Oats, Hay, hogs and dairy that they formerly produced.

All the while, we are all held captive to a few dozen multimillionaire oil magnates who have the political clout to dictate the energy of the world. If the public would demand our government to use the technology that we have had since the early part of the second world war, we could convert all our fossil fuel engines to run on alcohols or corn oils. In fact, gas engines run cleaner on alcohols, with less emmissions and deisels actually produce more horsepower when burning corn oil.

So why dont we convert? The answer is simple. Who has more political clout, a couple dozen multi gazillionaire oil men, or thousands of individual farmers?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2005 at 8:22PM
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Hi everybody,
I'm new to this forum, but being a farmer i have a little so say. (not that I am at all right, but here it goes)
Farmers are not to blame for just taking handouts from the government and wasting fossil fuels. Farming is away of life. We try to raise our children to be polite hard working american citizens. We work very hard for what we get. We also try to save on fuel consumption. I just purchased a off brand tractor that consumes 3 less gals of fuel an hour than a john deere. we also clean and sell our corn for corn stoves that we sell (I am not advertising for myproducts because I can only sell within 50 mi of home.) we rotate crops and no til our bean stubble.
We also use treated bt corn so we don't have to go over the land as much. 1 trip herbisides also help. I am a small farmer and if you think thinks aren't right now, let the big corps take over farming. we not only loose jobs but small town america goes away and it old time values go with it. so when you talk about corn being a valuable resource for energy, it's more than just energy it's consumtion saves a way of life.

by the way cargo ships are already crossing the ocean every day. i don't think they have even killed one bird....maybe fed a few with the corn spilt.

for what it's worth there is my 2 cents.

good luck to all and god bless everybody.

pineridge farmer

    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 8:11PM
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I think the real question here is; Is the corn that can burn in the stove also good to make the mash for corn whiskey? Thats the important thing here ....

    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 5:21PM
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Same corn.

Can use lousy corn for heating - when you can find some. I think that the guys using the mash are more particular.

I think, as I mentioned above, that in a number of areas it isn't illegal to distill it - it's when you sell it that the trouble starts.

Here in Canada we've built some ethanol plants and add it to gasoline at some stations up to about 10%.

One plant is within about 50 miles of the U.S. border. The local corn farmers are complaining because they're buying U.S. source corn, which is cheaper than the local production due to the U.S. subsidies offered on products for export.

The stoves that my friend builds are licensed for wheat and rye as well as corn.

Cheapest heat available, I think - except wood that you cut yourself.

Which requires an ongoing source of supply not too far from home, plus specialized equipment, plus room for storage - plus a lot of time and a good deal of work. Plus dirt (and sometimes bugs) in the house.

It heats the operator about 8 times between the standing tree and the throwing of the wood block into the wood-fired heater.

If you need any hot air - just come to this thread, folks.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   September 22, 2005 at 2:51PM
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you have been talking about shelled corn for the corn stove. could you store it in metal barrel with a cover on your porch in the winter? that would be an out side porch.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 4:24PM
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You could store it in a metal barrel with cover on the porch.

You'll need slightly more than a bushel daily (in the Great Lakes area) - usually 150 - 200 bus. per heating season, many find around here.

Plastic pail to haul it to stove probably about the handiest.

As one must use power draft to burn corn, there is almost complete combustion, with so low pollutants that some of the testers ran tests again because they were so low that they were sure that there'd been some mistake.

Insurance companies love 'em, for they produce no creosote, so one needs have no worries about chimney fires.

Good wishes for finding economical, environmentally friendly heat - and have a happy fall, everyone.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 4:41PM
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Information about the stoves that my friend's family builds is at www.grainstovesinc.com - be sure to use the plural of the word.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 19, 2005 at 4:27PM
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Does ANYONE have any idea if cherry pits for pellet stoves are available for purchase in Connecticut?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 3:12PM
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