How a Corn Burning Stove Works

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The Facts

  • Corn-burning stoves are an affordable alternative to fossil-fuel-burning residential or commercial heating systems. These stoves burn shelled feed corn in the form of very dense pellets. Shelled feed corn is a renewable fuel with a heat value comparable to that of wood. Unlike wood, however, pellets do not contain enough oxygen to burn in an open pile: They require additional oxygen in order to ignite. Corn-burning stoves contain a storage hopper, which varies in size depending on the desired burn time and the size of the space to be heated. The pellets are metered into a small combustion chamber into which a small fan blows air to facilitate the combustion process. Burnt pellets produce ash in the form of a small brick called a clinker.

How It Works

  • Load corn pellets into the storage hopper. From there the pellets are either fed into the combustion chamber from above, or pumped in from below with the use of an auger. To start the stove, light a small fire inside. Once the fire is hot enough, the stove will start working. A thermostat control manages pellet distribution and temperature; the more pellets the stove burns, the more heat it will produce. The pellets burn in the combustion chamber, and a heat exchange system separates the flue gases from the heat. The stove has two blowers, both powered by electricity. One blower distributes heat to the room, while another blows out the exhaust via a direct vent system installed in the wall, much like that of a clothes dryer. Installing the ventilation system in a wall eliminates the need for a chimney and allows for use in a variety of living spaces, even mobile homes. The combustion chamber is small, so the clinker should be removed daily. Ideally, this should take about 20 seconds, but for beginners, removal of the clinker can require turning off the stove, removing the clinker with special tongs, and then relighting the stove. With practice, you should be able to perform this task efficiently, while allowing the stove to remain lit.

Considerations

  • Corn-burning stoves will burn any grade of corn, but a high-grade corn will produce more heat. One corn-stove dealer, Earth In Hand, recommends burning high-grade, screened corn for the best results.

    One manufacturer, Northern Tool, recommends burning a handful of crushed oyster shells with every load of corn to keep the stove burning clean. Oyster shells can be found at local feed stores.

    Corn-burning stove surfaces can become extremely hot to the touch. Homeowners wishing to install one in a main living area should take this into account, especially if young children are present.

    Corn-burning stoves are clean burning and, unlike wood stoves, do not produce creosote. They do, however, require constant connection to an electrical power source, which can be a drawback in the event of a power outage. Take precautions by supplying a backup power source, such as an electrical generator.

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