Pellet/corn stove usefulness or lack of...

intercessorDecember 11, 2006


My parents and I were looking at buying pellet/corn stoves for our

houses. However after research into wood pellet/corn prices we were

disappointed to find out that wood pellet/corn is quite a bit more

expensive than natural gas :*(

NG in Wisconsin = $1.00 per therm

Fleet farm had 40 lbs. bags of wood pellets and 40 lbs. bags of corn for


Corn = about 7000 btu per pound.

1 therm = 100k btu

So 100k/7k= 14.28 lbs. of corn per therm.

$4/40 lbs.= .10 per lbs. x 14.28 = $1.428 per therm of corn! Not to

mention the hassle of purchasing/moving/storing/loading/cleaning etc.

On top of that the corn is not 100% efficient. I know $5.62 a bushel

of corn is outrageous,also it would have to come down to $4.00 a

bushel or $142 per ton just to be even to NG per therm.

I don't understand all of the fuss over bio-furnaces when they

actually cost more to operate?


(Posted this on yahoo group also,sorry for the double post)


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

intercessor you are going to see this more and more as alternate fuels increase in popularity you are not going to any deals on shelled corn in America's Dairy land. Last season shelled corn was $120/ ton in the Midwest. What good does that do us, none, I live on Cape Cod where we have the highest utilities in the lower 48. NG is $2.01/therm, electric is .18/kwh, and cheap unleaded is $2.39. I burn wood, lots of it and it is a drag however several tree guys take care of me, a do a fair amount of cutting to log length and splitting but that's a snap with good red oak.
Good oak produces 7,500 btu's/pound so it is quite efficient and a modern catalyzed wood stove warms quite well. I used 4 therms last month for hot water.

Solarjohn way to go with the stove! Blizzard '04 just after Christmas entire state of MA was out I think I said come on over "how cold is your house" they ask, I said 72 well we had quite a blizzard party. There really are some great wood stoves out there and our house is nearly green certified.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 7:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Coal and Natural Gas are frequently the most cost effective traditional energy sources but both have environmental and economic considerations which limit their availability to millions of Americans for use in residential heating. Costs of energy vary widely by region based upon infrastructure and distribution costs. What makes sense in one area of the country may not make sense in others. Even in Wisconsin, Natural Gas is not readily available to many residents who must rely on Electricity, Propane, Heating Oil, Coal, Wood, Wood Pellets, or even Corn based upon the value delivered.

Corn has approximately 8000-8500 BTU/Lb of heat energy on a bone dry basis according to most objective information available on the subject. Approximately 90 BTU/LB of effective heat energy are lost for every 1% of moisture content contained in most solid biomass fuels according to most information available on the subject. Cleaner, dryer heating corn delivers more effective heat energy with better combustion efficiency just like comparing seasoned firewood to green firewood and improves performance of most major brands of stoves and furnaces.

Premium heating corn with a moisture content of 11-12% offers 5-10% more heat value than standard USDA Grade #2 Yellow Corn with a moisture content of 15-16%. There are approximately 6800-7350 effective BTU of cleaner energy in every pound of corn based upon moisture content between 11-15% or about 396,000 BTU of energy in every 56 pound bushel of dry corn. Corn hybrid selection and consistent processing to optimize corn's value as a solid biomass heating fuel could offer improved BTU content and value to consumers.

1 Bushel (56 lbs) of Corn has an approximate energy equivalent to

30 LB of Anthracite Coal (13,000 BTU/LB)
4 THERM of Natural Gas (100,000 BTU/Therm)
3 GAL of Fuel Oil (140,000 BTU/Gal)
3 GAL of Kerosene (125,000 BTU/GAL)
4 GAL of Propane (91,000 BTU/GAL)
115 KWH of Electricity (3412 BTU/KWH)

Energy efficiencies of various heating appliances must also be factored in to accurately determine potential cost savings. Improving appliance heat transfer efficiencies by just 5-10% can dramatically improve energy value of all fuels. We've have seen these heat transfer efficiency improvements occur in traditional HVAC equipment beginning in the 1980's and have room for continued improvement in pellet and corn stove/furnace heat transfer efficiencies.

In general consumers can be expected to save 20-50% using renewable solid biomass fuels such as corn or wood pellets based on typical retail prices for these fuels compared to current average retail prices reported by the Energy Information Administration for Electric Resistance, Propane, Heating Oil, or Kerosene. Environmental considerations are actually much better for renewable solid biomass fuels such as corn and wood pellets which have nearly a zero net effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

In this era of high and extremely volatile energy costs controlled by a few large international energy corporations and influenced by the whims of unstable governments in much of the world at the expense of average American consumers, Corn and other renewable solid biomass fuels offer better value to many Americans and hope for a cleaner environment if used wisely. They are being used more widely throughout Europe and Canada to replace dependence on more volatile oil and natural gas and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Economics 101 teaches that people will find alternate materials and methods to meet wants and needs when prices for existing options become too high. Electricity, Oil, Propane, Kerosene, and even Natural Gas Prices have become too high and seem likely to remain so with environmental costs becoming of increasing concern. Let the free market work its magic in allocating these increasingly scarce resources.

If it makes sense for you use it. If it does not make sense for you don't. By the way with I find it interesting that with Natural Gas Market Prices less than 1/2 what they were last year, consumers are not seeing their residential heating costs reflecting these lower costs.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 11:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Environmental considerations are actually much better for renewable solid biomass fuels such as corn and wood pellets which have nearly a zero net effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

The problem is that farming is an energy-intensive business largely based on petroleum. The chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers used are almost always petroleum based. Planting, harvesting, transporting, and processing the crops all use petroleum energy and produce greenhouse gases.

A realistic analysis shows the difficulty of obtaining positive net energy yield from corn ethanol. However, I haven't been able to find any net energy analysis for heating corn, much less an unbiased one. Have you seen one? Can you direct me to it?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 9:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The problem is all of modern society is an energy-intensive business largely based on petroleum. Petroleum is the fuel that drives the economy that all Americans take for granted. With much of that oil coming from increasingly unstable countries hostile to liberty and freedom, Americans are facing the same conundrum which undid the Persians, Greeks, Mayans, Aztecs, Romans, Spanish, French, and British before us. National interests demand we look for alternatives beyond a petroleum based economy that can deliver immediate results. Renewable solid biomass fuels such as corn and wood pellets offer economically viable alternatives with oil trading above $50.00/Barrel and driving other energy costs ever higher. Government subsidies of the Energy sector dwarf Agricultural subsidies that many like to criticize when discussing renewable energy initiatives and deliver little relief to average Americans struggling to make ends meet and provide for their families.

Any web search on "heating corn" or "direct combustion of corn" will yield a growing body of evidence that direct combustion of corn has merit and potential. Even some critics of ethanol from corn will give grudging merit to direct combustion of corn for residential heating. Penn State University, Kansas State University, Ohio State University, Cornell University, Duke University, University of Minnesota, AURI, and the Canadian Government have all been involved in research directed toward analysis of renewable solid biomass fuels such as corn, wood pellets, wood, and other agricultural waste materials for residential heating applications.

I would recommend that you contact any of these sources for more objective information beyond what some industry sources present. Also, Ohio State University presented some interesting conclusions drawn from a study evaluating the economics of "direct combustion of corn" this past summer. A search for "direct combustion of corn" should get you some information on the energy analysis for heating corn that you are looking for.

Commodity prices for corn, oil, and natural gas along with their many derivatives are a critical economic factor which are subject to change and cannot be neglected in the final analysis. These prices are subject to change and it is best left for the free market to work out the allocation of these resources provided objective information can be maintained that is as dynamic as the market.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 10:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Dave, thanks. You're right about modern society.

My apologies; I asked the wrong question. I appreciate the source suggestions, but can you quote those sources? What I really want to know is, what is corn's net energy yield?

My concern is that if we heat with corn instead of petroleum products, but it takes as much (or nearly as much) petroleum to grow, process, and transport the corn as we would otherwise burn, then the corn isn't really a fuel. It's more of an energy carrier.

If that be true, then diverting cropland from growing foodcrops would be ethically questionable, just as it is for ethanol and soy diesel.

We already have special interests trying to convince us that their cash cows - be they biofuels or hydrogen - are the Ultimate Answers. I'd hate to think that corn would turn out to be yet another blind alley. We really need to examine this closely.

Of course I have lots of speculation in the above, because I don't have the numbers. Can you help?

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 9:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would again recommend the Ohio State study on direct combustion of corn at as a starting point. I am sure they can better argue any finer points about their numbers with you than I.

If we are going to turn this into an ethics debate, whose ethics are we going to use? Are we going to use the ethics of CEOs from large multi-national corporations involved in industries who benefit greatly from the status quo or are we going to use the ethics of farmers and average Americans in rural and suburban communities who can save significant money on heating costs utilizing renewable solid biomass energy sources for residential heating? If we are going to talk about food are we going to include twinkies, candy, and pop as food? Are we going to include in the discussion the present health care costs of Americans and others resulting from eating too much of these foods? Are we going to discuss the ethics of value placed on raising food often being less than costs associated with raising food? Are we going to examine the ethics of importing a $60+/Barrel of oil from countries that wish us no good and exporting a $2.00-$3.50/Bushel of corn to those same countries at great expense to American citizens when this corn could be used to heat American homes for less than the oil imported? Ethics is often the last refuge of those who really don't want to just consider the facts.

I would suggest the ethics springing from Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" would be the better guide for many of the choices facing Americans in a post-modern world. It never ceases to amaze me the value we place on resources and the costs we often seem to ignore because of misguided "ethics".

If it makes sense or cents for you to use it, use it. If it doesn't, don't. But be careful about relinquishing this right to choose for oneself, to anyone else.

Does this help?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 2:34PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Ideas on how to capture gray water runoff from A/C?
The pipe that comes out of our crawl space which empties...
PV installation ROI review
My wife and I are researching solar panel systems for...
Evaluating a building site for solar?
We are considering purchasing some land, contingent...
Best roof for solar panels
We recently bought a house. The roof is in bad condition...
Planning for a new green home
I am in the planning stages of building a new home...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™