Corn burning Boiler and an existing in floor radiant heat system

Dragon1968October 15, 2005

Hi Folks, Let me start of by stating that I'm 95% blind and work with a dog guide. Therefore I'm not up to much DIY stuff. I'm writing this as my xyl (wife) and I are attempting to purchase a brick 3 br ranch style home with a natural gas fired hot water in floor radiant heat system (piping installed in 1947 when the house was built). The house also has a gas log fireplace, and baseboard heat in some areas of the house.

I am a senior broadcasting major at Western Illinois University and as part of a newswriting class that I'm taking this fall I wrote a story about the projected rise in fuel costs this winter including the very real possibility of natural gas going up by as much as two thirds. This news literally scared the scat out of me. The xyl and I then decided to do some research on alternative fueled heating systems.

During our google search we came across a site for LDJ Manufacturing Inc. of Pella, IA. LDJ offers various corn burning heating options. 100k btu per hour stove, and water boiler and a variable 80k-165k btu per hour stove and water boiler both types 100k and the variable rate one have 14 bu hoppers that should hold enough fuel for ten days, more if the rate is turned down on the variable system. LDJ claims that their corn burning boilers are great for use with in floor radiant heat systems. I called a local (well, nearly local) dealer and asked for pricing. Talk about sticker shock the 80k-165k btu boiler runs $5,200.00 not including installation. Are there other companies out there that offer a similar quality product at a lower price, or should we just suck it up and plop down the valuta and hope we gain it back in lower fuel costs in two years or so?

With the availability of corn and corn prices being very low. How can we resist this fuel option. The price the local elevator was paying to farmers was $1.62 bu. yesterday. The elevator will sell me corn at $.10 over what market the price is. The only problem is going to be getting the bulk corn to the home and storage of said fuel. We don't own a pickup as we only need one vehicle and it has to be able to haul three humans and a K9. For obvious reasons the state of Illinois will NOT issue me a driver's license ...:-) I have come up with a solution though. Go to a farm auction or a used farm equipment dealer and see if I can buy a small used gravity box cheaply that I can have a pickup owning friend haul to the elevator to get the fuel, or price out how much it would cost to buy 200 bu from a feed company and have them truck the 200 bu in and auger it into the gravity box and then put a tarp over the top to keep out moisture, bird droppings and rodents. BTW: I should probably mention that I was raised on a dairy farm and for some reason still tend to approach problem solving the way a farmer would. ....:-)

Sincerely and Respectfully Yours,

Wayne es LD Riot

I have no financial interes in LDJ Mfg.

Here is a link that might be useful: LDJ Link

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Hi again, I forgot to mention that I've talked with my insurance agent and the company has no problem with alternative fueled heating systems as long as they are UL listed, are not the main source of heat, and are installed to meet manufacturer's specs.

Vy 73
Wayne es LD Riot

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 2:21AM
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I'm a big fan of radiant in-floor heat . . . .

I'll suggest you be a bit careful and look into what the "boiler" really is . . . ANY radiant heat setup that I'm aware of likes temps around 120 deg F. "Boilers", unless specifically intended for radiant use; tend to run much higher . . you'll need to temper it with a tempering valve if your system likes lower temps and the "boiler" runs higher. Tempering valve is a better choice than trying to run the "boiler" at a much lower temp to achieve the same result; it would end up operating where it really isn't designed to run. Likely will not hurt anything; but efficiency will go down.

I'll also suggest that moisture content might be a big issue. "Dry" to an elevator / mill; may be a very different thing than "dry" to someone who wants to burn it. And, batch to batch can vary signifigantly. Any moisture will get boiled out when burned; the more there is the more heat goes to boiling away the water . .. and hence less actual heat output you'll see.

I've seen corn-fired stoves; they are very similar to pellet stoves in that they use a small but pretty intense fire by way of a pretty strong air stream. They have the potential to put out lots of heat . . not sure how well they really work in real life. Just like pellet stoves; they all look great in the showroom; but can perform very differently in the real world.

Price for the unit you're looking at sounds pretty stiff; likely in part due to the fact that fuel prices have gone up . . . supply / demand again. I'd also want to know that if I need service / parts in a year or two or five; that the company will still be around AND have someone who can come service it who knows the system.

Good luck. . .


    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 7:57AM
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You should be able to find one for $3200 to $5000. I have a friend who sells them and he said demand is very high and supply is low right now. His 100K btu unit is $3200. I have a smaller 70K unit that I paid $2500 last spring for. It would not work for radient heat.

Dry corn is 15% at most elevators. That would work fine for burning. Anything between 12 and 15% is good to burn.

I have a gravity box parked next to my basement with a 3" PVC pipe going through the wall and into the hopper on my burner. I havent tried it yet, but it should feed itself. Another few weeks and I'll know for sure.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 10:12AM
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RCMJR & misoilman, tnx for your replies.
RCMJR: LDJ appears to have been in business since 1999. According to the LDJ website they claim the boiler is "Great for radiant floor heat systems". I'd be interested in talking to existing users to see how they are getting on with the the system. I took a closer look at their page about the corn boiler and they claim it's thermostat controlled, perhaps it's able to be dialed down. The picture of it looks like a water heater with a hopper sitting next to it. I'll post the url for the corn boiler. The capacity of the water heater portion is eighteen gallons. They also have an option that would allow the boiler to provide hot water for "domestic" use. So would be able to heat water for shower's, washing dishes etc. Right now the utility room has two gas fired water heaters sitting in it, one for the floor heat and one for domestic use, I think. We'd have to talk the heating and plumbing guy that took over from the H&P guy that had been maintaining the system for many years. The retired fellow is still in town and we might be able to talk him into coming over and orienting us with the systems.
misoilman: Having the seller comfirm the moisture content of the corn would be the first thing I would insist on when purchasing the corn. I do know from talking with the folks at the elevator, they will not accept corn that is more than 15 percent moisture.
I also need to check with the city to make sure there isn't an ordinance that would preclude me from having a small gravity box sitting next to the carport. If the gravity box is small enough, I'd even consider backing it into the carport. Alas, there is no basement on this dream house. Just a thick concrete slab...:-) So We'll probably use a couple of five gallon buckets for transfer of fuel from the box to the hopper. I'd just consider it a form of exercise...:)
We're also a bit concerned about the age of the plumbing in the floor as it is original to the house. The impression I got from the house inspector was that the in floor plumbing was put in place then had the concrete poured over it. I'm going to have to have someone that has better eyes than me and know's what they're looking for, look at the blueprints and see if we can find out how thick the concrete is. Luckily, we've secured a "home warranty" from the seller for at least the first year (at their expense), and there is a possibility of extending it through the second year.
I should also probably state that the corn boiler is not a done deal as we are still in the early part of the research stage. Although, a friend of ours has suggested we check the website of the Governor of Illinois and see if there are any grants or other incentives that we might be elgible for. Governor Blagojevich (Bla-goy-a-vich, what a mouthful) is very interested in promoting alternative fuels and energy use in Illinois.

Here is a link that might be useful: LDJ's Corn Boiler page

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 12:37PM
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If corn gets much above 15% moisture, it'l mold, or at least cake in the bin so that it won't "run".

Scarcely anyone will offer corn, except pretty well direct from the combine at this time of year, at much about 15% moisture.

Though the machine may hold enough fuel to run for a week or so, many of those heating systems have a small firepot and a residue builds up in it which, if it isn't removed frequently (in small heating stoves, probably oftener than once daily) the residue will build up so that the air from the forced draft can't access the firepot, so the fire goes out.

Haven't been in touch much lately, so the system to which you refer may have overcome this problem.

I'd suggest that, if there are farmers growing corn locally, that you investigate buying from them. Quite likely cheaper, and they'd probably deliver, at minimal cost if they knew ahead and could deliver while running errands in town, having been notified a few days in advance.

Are the units that you refer to certified also for wheat, rye, etc.?

My friend built a grain-fired heating stove about 60,000 BTU that'll heat about 2,000 sq. ft. (given good circulation and insulation) in the Great Lakes area, using 150 - 200 bus. corn per heating season, usually.

He began building his stove about 15 years ago. Well built, very few complaints or service calls.

He was working on a boiler, don't know if it's been certified and ready for sale., I think - maybe try ".ca" at the end. Or (519) 523-9897. There may be an 800 No, but I don't know it. If you give them your number, they'll call you back.

An outfit called "A-Maize-ing Heat" built a furnace a few years ago, a guy called Don something (Magelitz) in Illinois was a dealer - I think they were built in IL. Should find them by Googling.

I sold such stoves about 14 years ago - many of us say cheapest heat available (except wood that you cut yourself, which requires specialized equipment - and heats the operator about 8 times between felling the tree or cutting up tops after logging, and throwing the block into the heater).

Good wishes with your quest.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 4:06PM
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joyfulguy is correct.

They have dealers all over the place - as outlined on their website.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 19, 2005 at 3:47PM
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I have a web site about my experiences with buying and installing a Traeger corn burning boiler in my house. The web site is at

To answer a few questions from above:
Most corn that you buy from a grain elevator is going to be less that 15% moisture. Sometimes much less. I feel like the corn burns best at 15 or just under. It seems like if it is a lot dryer it burns quick and intense with not as much lasting heat.

If you don't have your boiler ordered yet you are not going to get one until well into next year. Most of the dealers are backordered into the hundreds of units.

Yes, most units do require cleaning. My Trager has to have it's firepot removed weekly and cleaned. Others however, like the Amaizablaze boiler does not.

If your house is newer than 1980 you will need to check your zoning ordinances to make sure you can install a corn burner (or any solid fuel burning stove for that matter) most states have laws against installing solid fuel stoves in newer homes. ...I guess they figure us people in old homes are hopeless or something. :-)

Check out the web site for more information!

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 11:34PM
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