Update of Corn Burning Stoves (Heat - Other)

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I requested literature from all four of the sources cited in my previous thread on this.

The units produced by three of them are fairly ugly, maybe something for the basement, but nothing I would want in the living room. The ones from Snow-Flame are very attractive, and you can even purchase gold-plated trim for them.

Snow-Flame sells a fireplace insert and a freestanding unit which is basically another version of the fireplace insert. They can be used against a wall or in a corner. Three other models are basically box heaters.

Each is equipped with two blowers, one under the burn box and one to circulate heated air through the room. Venting, except for the insert, is through the wall with the same ducting bringing in outside air and venting the carbon dioxide, etc. outside. There is virtually no smoke generated. Zero-clearance is required, so their box units would only protrude into the room about 24”.

The unit is started by building a small fire in the firebox, such as with small pieces of kindling. Once it is going, the unit can be turned on. The thermostat setting selected determines the amount of whole kernel corn to be augured into the firebox. When functioning properly, a bushel of corn (56 pounds) produces about a coffee cup of ashes. No creosote or flue soot is produced.

For their box-type, standard model, figuring whole kernel corn at $3.50 per bushel, at the lowest setting (10,625 BTUs per hour) a hopper (60 pounds) would last about 48 hours at a cost of about $.08 per hour. At the highest setting of 30,000 BTUs per hour, a hopper would last about 15 hours at a cost of about $.17 per hour. The person I spoke with said they have reports of people using a single unit to comfortably heat a 2,000 square foot house.

(I pay $3.20 for a 50-pound bag of whole kernel corn to feed to the ducks. However, if you had a way to store it, you could buy a grain truck load of corn directly from a farmer at say $.20 per bushel above what they would get at the grain elevator. Say it dropped the cost to $2.50 per bushel, heating cost would be reduced by about 25 percent. Also, one could ask for a discount if a full pallet was purchased at a time.)

I asked about the quality of corn required and was told any whole kernel corn with a moisture content of less than 15 percent was fine for their units. It did not need to be clean corn either, as field trash, such as cockleburs and small pieces of cobb are not a problem. However, a large enough piece of corn stalk can jam the auger, in which case the fire would go out due to lack of fuel. Was told pellets could also be used, but may or may not generate the same amount of heat per volume.

Compared to wood heat, the unit is extremely clean. Once started, there is no need to open the door and ashes would only have to be removed about once a week.

Cost is a bit steep, with their box-type units running from $1,295 to $1,370, plus accessories desired. Units are shipped UPS and weigh about 150 pounds. Using corn at $3.50 per bushel, 1,600 heating hours a year (five months) at the middle setting, operating cost (excluding electricity) would be about $450.

On the down side, I called my homeowner’s insurance company (State [We’ll Either Drop You or Raise Your Premiums in a Heartbeat] Farm) and they said any insulation not done by a factory trained technician would void the policy. They do have a network of distributors who they do train in installation.

I’m still not decided on this. Say it would save me $200 per year in heating costs. Also say it ran $1,600 with shipping and installation, the payback would be eight years. Using the above per year heating cost for corn, I’m not sure I would even realize a $200 savings since I keep the thermostat set a 68 degrees during the day and 60 at night (when I remember to turn it down). Out of curiosity I just recorded my meter reading. I’m going to keep things the same and read it at the same time tomorrow. Then I will jack the thermostat up to 80 degrees for 24 hours and read it again. Since I know my cost of electric per kw hour, it may provide a comparison.

On the bright side corn is a readily available and renewal resource and the price of corn doesn’t fluctuate much from year-to-year. Even at the same heating cost, the residence would be warmer. On the down side, it won’t work without electricity.

My overall analysis is corn burning stoves would be better suited, economically, for those with long and severe winters whose primary heat source now is electric, propane, natural gas, fuel oil or purchased firewood.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 10, 2001


Ken please keep us posted .I think this could be a good option for us .Anyone who can grow there own corn could really save a bunch .

-- Patty {NY State} (fodfarms@slic.com), February 11, 2001.

Assuming you burned 45 pounds of corn a day on the average for a five month heating season, you would go through about 120 bushels. Two acres ought to grow that without using herbicides and pesticides. However, you would have the problem of planting, harvesting, storage and removing the kernels. May be more economical to buy direct from a farmer out of their storage bin. Remember the old basement coal bins. Perhaps someone could make one under a basement window and have a truck load dumped directly into it. How do you know how much to pay for. Fairly simple, have them weigh their truck before loading and when loaded. Difference divided by 56 (the standard weight for a bushel of corn) gives you bushels on the load. I sold a couple of trailer loads of calves this way.

Another advantage is, if the hole in the wall can be patched, you could take it with you when you move.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 11, 2001.

The price of corn may have been pretty stable in the past, but I would not count on anything for awhile. The price of fertilizer is going up if not becoming scarce, corn takes at least 200# per acre. The cost of diesel fule is up 40-50% from last year, plowing, fitting, planting and spraying all use diesel, somewhere is has to be paid for. I looked into corn burners 15 years ago and even tho I lived in corn country, it still seem like a lot of money to run one.

-- Hendo (OR) (redgate@echoweb.net), February 12, 2001.

This aspect was discussed on my first thread. My thinking is farmers will have to largely eat these higher input costs, so the retail price of corn isn't likely to change much.

My conclusion is I live in too temperate of a climate to justify one of these units. My heat cost savings would not cover the cost of the unit for ten years or more.

If 120 bushels used during a heating season is reasonable, someone could lock in their winter heat cost by just storing 135 50-pound bags in their garage or someplace. It's a bit over three pallets worth.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 12, 2001.

Maybe this should be another thread but I was wondering how it would be possible for any farmer I know to "eat" the higher costs when they are already losing money???

-- diane (gardiacaprines@yahoo.com), February 12, 2001.

1. Farmers farm basically because that is what they want to do, whether they make a profit on it or not. 2. It is possible to lose less money farming than not farming.

As I have noted before, I could sell my entire cattle herd, rent out the field to row croppers, and make more net income with a whole lot less work.

Say a farmer shows a $5,000 loss on their Form F. Probably all of that, plus some, is loan interest and depreciation of equipment and farm buildings. Now say they don't farm at all, with no farm income. They still probably have mortgage payments and equipment to pay off, which now has to come from off-the-farm income. Well, sell the equipment. I have seen $100,000 combines just a couple of years old sell for a fraction of their purchase price.

Unlike Europe, with strong farmers' unions, the U.S. doesn't have them, just lobbiest for various causes.

Farming is the only profession I know of which buys at retail and sells at wholesale. Farmers are also one of the few professions without the ability to pass on higher input costs. When I take cattle to the livestock auction, they go for what they go for unless I want to buy them back (in which case I still pay full auction fees.) I can't say to the buyers, "Well, my hay cost doubled, so I want $.10 more a pound." They are likely buying either for feedlots or to fulfill futures contacts make a year ago.

It was bad enough when basically it was a U.S. market. Not its a world economy where a sneeze here causes a cold there. Europe won't import our beef because of concern over the use of hormones in cattle feed. Japan won't import it in order to protect their own cattle industry. South American and Australia can supply hamburger patties cheaper than the U.S. even with shipping.

The only real way farmers can affect prices is to not grow a particular crop. Say they think it will be a good year for soybeans, so they switch crops causing a shortage of corn. If a shortfall is not make up on the world economy, or there are sufficient reserves, then demand may drive up the price of corn.

I guess basically it comes down to stuborness.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 12, 2001.

I don't expect to make money anymore on the farm. The only way I could break even was to sell my beef on custom orders,at haging weight, I set my prices $.10 per # higher than the local slaughter house got, the same with pork. I could get $7-10 per cow/calf pair per month for pasture but it would take 25 pairs just to pay the electic bill for 5 months of irrigation, not to mention the cost of fertilizer, fence fix'n and such. Now I have packed it in, my place is paid for, (no mortgage) the equipment is free & clear. We are packing up and going to Australia for a year, I want to see how the farmers there are getting along, or not.

-- Hendo (OR)r (redgate@echoweb.net), February 13, 2001.

Hi - I agree with you - family farmers farm because they love to farm, - I grew up on a third generation dairy farm and we were never rich, but we always had enough and plenty of space to enjoy a life worth living. After we grew up, my brother and I made a board game about our life on our family farm, and we have a website at www.werfun.com. You probably would like it. The object of the game is just to be the first to retire, not to run each other out of business or be the one with the most to win. Back to the subject of the stoves, I am very interested in the corn burning stoves - we heat with a wood boiler and have gone through 14 cords already in one winter. With wood heat there are so many ashes and it takes years to grow a tree to the size that would really burn for awhile - Corn is easily renewable, it seems like much less work and you don't have to have the enormous winter woodpile by the boiler either. It seems to me also to be a sale that many farmers would be able to make directly to the consumer, without going through all the "middle men", who generally make most of the profit. I think that corn burning stoves would be great for the family farmer and for the environment.

-- Ev Johnson (evjohnson@werfun.com), February 16, 2001.


Excellent points. A corn farmer could open up a display area (perhaps sub-leasing space from another business), do the installation once factory trained and then provide the corn supply at say half way between the elevator and Co-op price.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 16, 2001.

I just found this site on corn burning stoves. Interesting comments going on about them. Just a couple things. I live in the heart of corn country. The only things grown where we farm are corn and beans with some guys putting in hay and straw for the livestock, although alot of farmers have copped out and put up confinements for some mega corp/ But that's another story. I don't know where you guys looked at getting corn from bu our corn market is running around $1.50 to $2 a bushel, not $3.50. That would be for organic corn. Second with what we paid fo LP to heat our old brick, drafty home last year , a corn stove is more than economically feasible. Winter came Nov. 7 and stayed til after April 1, Weonly filled our tank the min. gal neede for delivery which is 250 Gal and paid almost a $1/gal for LP! Yes your winter needs to be more harsh and not so temperate. 2 aces of corn would more than get you through a harsh winter like we had last year.

-- Ro H. (tramar@iowatelecom.net), July 22, 2001.

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