Corn Stovesgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
I would like to get some comments from anyone that has a corn stove. Do you like it? Does it work up to it's potential? How much does it cost you to use for a season?
-- Harlan Pallen (email@example.com), January 13, 2002
We just installed ours last week. I think its great. Had some problems with the chaf in the corn but I took care of that.
-- Jay (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 14, 2002.
Harlan...we just fired ours up a week ago in the new house that we are trying to get finished. Our back up heat is electric. We absolutely love the corn burner. It took a couple of days to discover the best way to start it up (ie. where to set the draft and stuff). But does it ever kick the heat out. Today the wind is blowing 30 miles an hour..this old house is drafty and chilly..we have electric and two propane wall heaters in it. The little house we are building is running us out with the corn burner. I have burned wood several different years...I already like this corn burner better!
Good luck and enjoy!
-- Sher in se Iowa (email@example.com), January 14, 2002.
Hi Harlan, Like you, I am trying to get some feed back from actual corn stove users. Ideally, they would be long term user-more than one heating season. There seems to be a lot of initial enthusiam, but can't find anyone who has long term use experience. The corn stove doesn't have a history like wood burning stove,but think they have been around for at least ten years. Let me know if you get any direct response. Thanks
-- ken ballard (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 10, 2002.
I have been heating my house exclusively with corn for two years - not exactly longterm, but give me time. My unit throws about 35000 btu at the highest setting and easily handles my heating needs. I burn between 30 and 40 lbs of corn per day in the coldest months. It is easy to use and I love it thoroughly!! The only problem I have encountered is with cracked kernals and other fines causing the feed-auger to stall. I solved that problem completely by "whinnowing" my corn before use in the stove. Not a single feed-auger problem this season!!!! I recommend building yourself some kind of fanning mill to efficiently process/clean your corn - the "old fashioned" mills are pretty bulky and usually require retrofitting an electric motor. But that's just my opinion. In short, I plan to continue heating with corn for a long, long time.
-- George Thomas (email@example.com), February 18, 2002.
I EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRR HEADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD
-- WAHHHHHHH WAHHHHHH WAHHHHHHHHH (WAHHHHHHHHHH@mail.com), May 28, 2002.
What a head eater. I think the corn fumes got to his head. I wonder if that is a good drug to get high with. Wee.
-- Just... not (NotAPaddlemaker@aol.com), May 28, 2002.
Our Formative Years
The Wellsville Fire Company, an integral part of our community, celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 1991.
Looking at the Wellsville Fire Company today and reflecting back to its humble beginnings, you might want to compare the process to that of growing a beautiful lawn. To do that, one must remember the seeds that were sown at the beginning, and the hard work and nurturing that ensued continuously from its actual formation in 1941.
Back in the late 1930s, a group of hard-working and dedicated people projected that our community was growing and that a community center was needed, and also that the hazards of fire always existed - thus the need for a community building and a fire company.
On January 10, 1941, a meeting was held in the Wellsville High School building (the restored William Wells Young Memorial School, presently owned by Joe Garner), and the citizens of Wellsville and surrounding areas responded to plans to build a community building/fire house. The following officers were elected at this meeting to spearhead this endeavor:
- Rev. Floyd Carroll Treasurer - E. W. Gladfelter Secretary - C. G. Brougher
A Charter, a Constitution and Bylaws were written and the "Warrington Community Center and Fire Association" was chartered in early 1941.
The original parcel of land (on which the present building stands) was donated to the community by Mary J. Lewis, whose family lived on the adjacent property.
Until this time, the only piece of equipment in the borough relating to fire fighting was a 40-foot extension ladder owned by the borough and stored at the old ice storage house at the rear of the general store (what is now the Richard Wagner Apartment Building, next to the bank). In December 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, our nation was drawn into World War 11 and, therefore, the progress being made regarding the new fire company slowed down considerably.
However, Spurg Kimmel relates vividly how he helped Sylvan Weigard to cut down many trees on the Sylvan and Alvin Weigard woodlots above town, cut the trees into logs, drag them by horses to the roadside, load them on a large Dodge truck owned by Walt Spangler, and haul these logs to Bill Strayer's sawmill (then located near Rossville) to be cut into the framing lumber that is in the building today. These trees were all donated by people in our community. Also, ten civic- minded people in our community were asked for five hundred dollars each without any collateral in order to purchase the other building materials. None of the ten people turned us down. Some loaned us the money and others endorsed notes at the bank. Mr. Paul Bodwell, one of the ten people, before his death donated his $500 to the association.
The pain and suffering of World War 11 continued but this small group of people persisted in getting the pieces together to begin the construction of our new "Community/Fire Hall." Finally, in 1945, the war came to an end and shortly thereafter four walls and a roof were constructed for a 40' x 100' building (the present social hall area). Martin Meyer, who owned the shoe factory across the street (now a parking lot, as the building was purchased by the fire company in 1967 and torn down), provided water and electricity to the new building until we could afford to have a well dug and pay the monthly electric bill.
In 1946, Richard Crone bought an old Reo chemical truck in East Prospect and gave it to the fire company. This was our first truck (sorry, no pictures could be located). About this same time, Clarence Brougher bought a surplus military trailer-mounted, engine driven pumper with a hose for use by the fire company. This trailer was stored at the Brougher Net Factory and Brougher had the only vehicle with a hitch to pull the trailer. Recognizing that the response time with such a set-up was enormous, Spurg Kimmel and Martin Meyer got together and made a commitment that Spurg would donate a truck (a 1937 International) and build a pumper, and Martin would obtain the required donations to buy the trailer-mounted pumper from Clarence Brougher. The fire company now had its first motorized pumper, which it owned outright. (S.E. Kimmel with our first motorized pumper built in 1945) At this time, the fire company had no money to buy a door for the fire company garage on the lower level of the building, so Spurg Kimmel paid rent on a building to house the equipment during the winter of 1946.
Early events held at the Community Hall during cold weather were heated by wood stoves with the pipes sticking out the windows.
From its beginning, the fire company has counted on the yearly picnic to be its top fund raiser for the year, and a much-anticipated social event for the community and surrounding areas. Our first picnic was held 50 years ago at the rear of the Wellsville High School. Two of the main features of the Wellsville Picnic, which continue to this day, were the chicken corn soup and the interesting bingo games. The famous Wellsville chicken corn soup has always been everyone's favorite food item at the picnic. For many years, the ingredients for the soup were totally donated by the residents of Wellsville and our rural neighbors. Cash was scarce but farmers could always be counted on to donate chickens and corn, and the Wellsville neighbors would purchase noodles, etc. at the store and donate them to the fire company for the soup.
From the beginning, as it is today, putting the picnic together was/is a total cooperative effort of most everyone in Wellsville and surrounding townships. Everyone, young and old, has a job - is part of the team pulling the picnic together. In years past, Mr. and Mrs. Ira Miller always came with their electric operated chicken picker which sure helped make the chore of preparing the chickens much easier and quicker.
In 1946, the Warrington Neighbors Women's Club bought the kitchen equipment, which was in the original kitchen in the basement of the building, for approximately $3,000.
In 1948 Walt Spangler engineered a fund raiser that provided the funds to enable us to drill a well on our property and have plumbing installed in the building.
In 1951, realizing that we needed a larger truck, we bought a u sed 1946 Ford chassis. Spurg Kimmel and Del Rodgers designed a very functional pumper with room for accessory equipment, including helmets, boots and coats. Bob Urich built the body on the truck, we painted it white and it served us well for years. This truck (pictured below) was retired in 1968 when we purchased our present Engine 66-2.
In 1952, through the cooperation of Fermin Myers, a Washington Township neighbor, we obtained our first tanker which was the first fire company tank truck in Northern York County.
In 1956, Leroy Sherman donated a Dodge cab-over truck on which we mounted a larger tank. At this time, our equipment had grown to the point where we thought we were capable of handling most any fire emergency in our area. We were quite proud of what we were able to accomplish in a decade without incurring any major debt.
Beginning in the mid-1950s, the fire company sponsored weekly Saturday Night Square Dances at the Community Hall, which were well attended by people from all over York County and surroundingareas. The fire company, in its effort to promote family-oriented activities, sponsored a square dance group in state competition in 1959, 1960 and 1961. This group responded by earning blue ribbons in 1960 and 1961 in the state competition at the annual Farm Show in Harrisburg.
In 1959 and 1960 the membership began searching for additional ways to generate more revenue. Wellsville at that time had a number of families owning horses, many of whom belonged to the fire company. This group would regularly get together to trail ride and hold competitive events. From these informal get-togethers came the idea to form Wellsville Frontier Days with the purpose of promoting "frontier" flavor activities and attracting outside dollars to our community with the fire company providing the refreshments and receiving the revenue. All activities (rodeo, parade, square dances, trail rides and camp outs) were designed and oriented so that people of all ages could participate together. It took a year or two to get the word out that Wellsville could put on a professional-type rodeo, but soon after we were drawing large crowds to not only the rodeos (one year we even had Larry Mahan, the professional rodeo National Champion Cowboy, as a contestant) held on Memorial Day and Labor Day but also the square dances which were held on Saturday nights and also the trail rides/camp outs. Food for all of these functions was provided by the fire company. In 1966, we even had the "Pony Express" pick up our mail at the Labor Day rodeo. In 1967 our activities were recognized by the State Capitol as "one of the prominent yearly events in Pennsylvania." John Lauer and Russell Griest provided much imagination and creativity that contributed to the success of this endeavor.
Summary of Important Dates Over The Years
January 1941 First meeting to discuss forming a fire company was held at the Wellsville High School. March 1941 At this meeting the name "Warrington Community Center and Fire Association" was adopted. August 1941 First community picnic was held. November 1941 Charter for the association was accepted. March 1945 First piece of equipment was purchased - a second hand truck for $100. June 1945 Moved the fire siren from Spangler's Warehouse to S. E. Kimmel's garage. A test was held each Saturday at 12:00 noon with one long blast. Other codes: - Two blasts - fire in Wellsville Borough. - Three blasts - fire outside the borough. - Four blasts - blackout (turn out all lights, possible air raid) August 1945 From the profit realized at the picnic, fire company purchased a pumper for $483. March 1946 Purchased 400' of 21/2 " hose and two sections of 10' suction hose. April 1947 Moved all fire apparatus to the new fire company building. September 1948 Installed hardwood floor in the auditorium area of the fire hall. November 1948 Drilled a well on our property - 80' deep at 20 gallons per minute. October 1950 A new fire siren was installed at the station and a street pipe was installed at the dam on Doe Run to pump water from the creek. December 1959 A 1957 Ford truck was bought to be used as a tanker.
November 1961 Purchased 11/2 acres of land from Mr. and Mrs.Lewis. Summer of 1962 A blacktop driveway was put down from the street to the engine room doors. New cement stairs and retaining walls were built at all three exits to the fire hall, as well as metal fire escapes. October 1963 Purchased approximately 4 acres of land from Mrs. Barrett. February 1964 The fire company joined the York County Fire Police Association. May 1964 The first two-way radio was installed in the pumper. August 1964 Acquired 1956 four-wheel drive Dodge truck to be used as a brush truck and was also equipped with a CREATOR. June 1965 The Ladies' Auxiliary was formed to assist the fire company in raising revenue. July 1965 The Trustees voted unanimously to change the name of Warrington Community Center and Fire Association to the Wellsville Fire Company in order to be eligible for State of Pennsylvania insurance grants, etc. November 1967 Purchased approx. 3/4 acre of land from Mr. Noll. During 1968 We purchased our first "new" factory built fire apparatus. The truck has a high pressure pump and a 750 gpm, 1,000 gallon booster tank, and also included were a new 10 hp alerting siren, helmets, boots, coats, nozzle, 600 ' of 11/2 " hose and a two- way radio.
York County Control went on the air. April 1972 Brick facing was done to the fire hall at a cost of $6,600. May 1974 York County Control was set up to use the "911" call-in for emergencies. During 1974 The six-bay Engine Room was constructed.
We purchased a used International van truck which the membership built into a very nice Rescue Truck. This was one of the first to be certified by the York County Fire Chief's Association as a properly equipped Rescue Unit in the northern part of York County.
A 1968 International Tank Truck, that carries 2,500 gallons of water, was donated by Jerry L. and Carolyn Rutter.
(Unfortunately, the minutes for the period of JANUARY 1968 THROUGH DECEMBER 1975 are missing.) December 1976 The Warrington Neighbors Women's Club donated $400 to be used toward purchasing equipment for the Rescue Truck June 1977 Sold small parcel of land to the Wellsville Municipal Authority for $300 to be used as a sewer pumping station. Fall 1978 Ladies' Auxiliary purchased our first set of Air Rescue Bags, capable of lifting up to 22 tons. The first such equipment in York County. November 1978 Ordered a new 1979 Ford pumper (present Engine 66-1) for $67,000. December 1978 Warrington Neighbors Women's Club donated $2,000 to be used for equipment for the Rescue Truck. 1964 through 1978 During his 15-year term as Fire Chief, Larry Hunter was instrumental - in getting the Ladies' Auxiliary started - in obtaining enough fire hose to cover the distance from the dam on Doe Run to the borough boundaries on any side - as a member of the York County Fire Chief's Association, in getting the York County Fire Training School in Emigsville established. August 1979 During the Annual Picnic, the auditorium roof and insulated area became engulfed with fire due to a faulty chimney next to the building, where large stoves were used earlier that day to make chicken corn soup. Efforts by Wellsville Fire Fighters and those of other local fire departments saved the building from being destroyed. October 1979 New fire truck arrived and was put into service. January 1980 Sold our old tanker. June 1980 During a Lucky Number Club Fundraiser, a tornado struck the area creating much damage and almost collapsed our Engine Room doors. July 1980 The membership built a new stove area next to the Barbecue Pits to use for making soup for our picnics. August 1980 Decision to build new rest rooms in the building. October 1980 Purchased 1,500' of 3 " hose for Engine 66-2. July 1981 Installed 12,500 gallon water storage tank January 1982 Bought our first Hurst tool (for use in automobile accident rescue). April 1982 Portable 2,100 gallon water tank was built for use at large fire scenes. June 1982 Blacktopped the parking lot. July 1982 Permission obtained to install electric sign at the intersection of Carroll Street and York Street (Route 74). October 1983 Decision was made to make major renovations to the building, including a new kitchen. November 1985 Purchased present Rescue Truck (used) for $21,667 in Long Island, New York. June 1986 Outfitting of Rescue Truck was completed and it was placed in service. August 1986 Sold our old Rescue Truck for $1,500. August 1987 With the completion of new refreshment stand on the west side of the building, the picnic site was moved to the west side of the fire house. January 1988 Three new electric garage doors were installed on the Engine Room. December 1988 Capacity of Engine 66-1 was increased to 1,000 gallons per minute. August 1989 Purchased 3/4-ton Chevrolet chassis to be equipped and used as a Brush Truck and a Medical Assist vehicle. Purchase price for the chassis was $14,684. March 1990 "Brush 66" was placed in service. May 1990 The membership built a Band Stand in the picnic area. Summer 1990 Refurbished Engine 66-2. June 1990 Purchased 50' x 230' lot adjacent to fire company grounds for $3,500 from Ida Griest. February 1991 Purchased 1,500' of 5 " hose and adapters for $9,000. August 1991 We are celebrating our 50th Anniversary with all of our friends and neighbors!
It is impossible to estimate the total manhours of personal time that our members have given over the years in maintaining the premises and equipment, obtaining fire, rescue and medical training, responding to emergency calls (anytime - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), and working at fundraising projects.
THANKS TO ALL!!
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-- Yeah, uh Yeah (Yeah@aol.com), May 28, 2002.
Corn is an excellent source of heat for your home. Corn burns much cleaner than wood and cannot seep dangerous chemicals into the air. It's easy to operate, and takes less than 2 minutes a day to maintain. Corn is the only energy source that can be renewed every year. It does not pollute, and it contributes oxygen to the atmosphere while it grows.
-- Harlan Pallen (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 28, 2002.
As I write this, it is fall in New England. If you burn wood, you are probably well along with the annual chores of chopping, splitting, and stacking. Back in the spring, you had your chimney cleaned of creosote buildup (or if you have no fear of heights, you climbed up on the roof to do the job yourself). Around that time, you might have walked the woodlot picking the right trees to drop for your next year’s winter wood supply, and then the song of the chain saw was heard in the land. In the absence of a woodlot, you consulted the newspaper or a wood-burning neighbor to find seasoned firewood for sale at the best price. Any woodstove owner knows this routine well. It seems a fair exchange for the fire that warms your home during the coldest, darkest months of winter.
Or is it? Even you, who secretly believe your stove is the best woodburner of them all, have occasional misgivings. There was that October two years ago when an early sleet storm froze the uncovered woodpile into one great ice cube. How long was it before you could get to that wood? Or the cold night in February when the green logs bubbled and steamed inside the firebox, giving off the meager warmth of a lighted match. The farmer who delivered your wood swore that it had been drying at least two years. It seems he meant two months. And what about the worst scenario: that time when black ooze spilled down along the chimney, a warning of an impending fire. You’ve only had that kind of creosote buildup once, but it gave you chills no fire can warm.
With all your reservations, you have remained loyal to wood heat. After all, the other options do not stand up in comparison. Electric heat is incredibly expensive, and oil is not far behind. Natural gas would be nice, but it is not piped in to where you live, and bottled gas is more expensive than wood. A kerosene space heater that warms only its immediate area is not a consideration. You continue to stoke up the fire.
Still, thoughts rankle. There is the interminable nuisance of cleaning out the ashes. For every bucket that is carried outside, a fine dust remains in the air and on surfaces inside the house. Spiders build slovenly webs that capture this dust, giving certain corners in the living room an Addams Family look. Far more unsettling is the fact that any friend or relative who has emphysema, allergies, or asthma does not feel totally comfortable visiting in your home for any length of time.
Less vital, yet still annoying, are the problems of dry air and static electricity. No amount of boiling water on top of the stove brings the humidity up to a healthy 30-40%. Your skin is constantly dry. Some of your furniture shows signs of coming unglued. The dining room table wobbles dangerously. If you own a computer, you must remind yourself to touch the anti-static pad before you put your hands on the keyboard. To forget could mean wiping out the memory.
Heating with corn
For all of these grievances, big and small, there is apparently no ready answer. Until now. In the past ten years, there has been a revival of a heating method so obviously efficient that it is remarkable how few people know of it: using corn for fuel. A corn stove does not burn stalks or left-over cobs. It burns kernels, less than a handful at a time. No, the corn doesn’t snap, crackle, or pop. (One of the things people ask is whether the corn pops as it burns.) Corn contains oil and ethanol, which burn cleaner than other fuels, and more cheaply, too. Once you learn how valuable this reasonably priced source of fuel is, you have to wonder why someone in the government has not caught on to the idea of using corn for more of America’s energy needs. Given the current political climate in DC, maybe you don’t wonder at all (but more about that later).
Corn stoves have been used in the South and Southwest since 1969, when the stove was invented by Carroll Buckner of Arden, NC. The most famous demonstration of the stove was in the Oval Office, installed during the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Even that, as grand a promotion as one could ask for, was evidently not enough to create a rush of orders nationally.
Here in New England where people are likely to mistrust ideas that come “from away,” the corn stove might look to some like a southerner’s gimmick to use up waste corn. Northerners might also think that any stove used in the South will not really do the job in their cold climate. They would be wrong about that.
In the last few years, corn stoves have been showing up for demonstration at county fairs all over New England. You might have seen one and passed on by, thinking it was just one more wood stove. The only difference, at first glance, is that the fire burning in the glass window is tiny compared to a wood fire. Small as it is, it is capable of producing 60,000 BTUs or more. A lot of heat.
Living with a corn stove
Pour a 50-pound bag of corn into the hopper, light the fire, and go about your business. Unlike the wood stove, after the initial lighting, you do not have to keep an eye on it, poke it, or refill it every hour or so. It burns for at least 24 hours. After filling the hopper of your corn stove, you can go away overnight in the winter without fear of the pipes freezing. To a person who is accustomed to burning wood, that is a luxury.
No more chopping or splitting. No more stacking. No messy ashes. There is no danger of fire, no smoke, no poisonous effluent released into the air, and a minimal amount of dust settles inside the house. For every bag of corn you burn there is a small “clinker” left in the stove to poke out to the side of the fire box. Later, when it is cool, you crumble the clinker and add it to your compost or save it to sprinkle it on your lawn in the spring. The corn stove is safe to touch on its exterior surfaces. Only the door and its window would cause a burn if touched.
The corn stove does not have to use air from inside the house for combustion, although frequently it is hooked up to an available chimney. Instead, it can draw air for combustion from outside, thus alleviating the usual dryness that afflicts homes heated with wood.
There is no need to clean the chimney each year. In fact, you do not need a chimney. A corn stove can be situated free standing and without a hearth next to an outside wall. A dryer-like vent is all that is required.
Unless you have a woodlot, corn costs less to burn than all of the other fuels except for natural gas. A renewable resource, corn can be replaced in three months’ time. Compare that to 30 years replacement time for trees, and 3000 years for oil, and you have one of America’s largest and least expensive resources. Yet corn is actually stockpiled by our government, while it struggles endlessly with the politics and the cost of importing oil from other countries. The search for more sources of coal, oil, and other fuels here in our own land is conducted at great expense to taxpayers, while corn and ethanol are, for the most part, ignored.
There may be other, more personal reasons why Americans have not yet begun to use corn for heat. New Englanders, for instance, are loyal to what warms their nest. They discuss wood stoves with the same fervor they ordinarily save for their cars and trucks. Models are important. Form and function are fascinating. Economy in terms of cords burned is as important as gas burned in miles per gallon. Although we New Englanders are not pioneers when it comes to trying new-fangled gadgets, we reverted to wood burning quickly enough when oil prices skyrocketed a few years ago. Wood after all is a time- honored fuel.
Will corn catch on?
So when will we catch on to corn? Soon. At least 500 stoves have been purchased each year over the past three winters in Maine and another 700 in New Hampshire. Vermont is the slowest to acknowledge the advantages of corn heat. As the yarn goes, a Vermonter will not buy an item unless it is recommended by a Vermont native, preferably a neighbor or friend who already has one. That makes it a challenging market to break into.
Changing from one source of fuel to another can be expensive. Not everyone can afford to abandon a current source of fuel, even if corn is cheaper and cleaner. (I paid about $2000 for my corn stove. I’ve heard there will soon be a model available for half that.) Still, those who are tired of paying high fuel bills owe it to themselves to check on prices and do some figuring:
1. Research into actual heating costs in four northeastern U.S. cities found shelled corn fuel to have the lowest cost-per-unit of effective heat over nine other “traditional” heating fuels, from oil to wood pellets. (I got this information from the distributor who sold me my corn stove.)
2. It takes 2.2 bushels of corn to produce one million BTUs of heat, at an average cost of $8.79. Producing that much heat by burning wood costs, on average, $22.07. (You can use other oil-bearing grains, too.)
3. Heat from wood stoves can’t be controlled as well, so there is some waste of heat. Corn stoves are designed to feed the burn unit automatically with the exact amount of fuel required to produce heat at a pre-set temperature. There’s no waste. And corn stoves are much more efficient than wood stoves, so you get more heat from the fuel.
For those heating with wood, there are two advantages that corn cannot offer. One is radiant heat. I have heated with both wood and corn for years. Members of our family often stand near the woodstove for the comfort it offers (a habit so ingrained that they are apt to do it even in summer, when the fire is not burning). A corn stove, however, does not raditate that kind of immediate warmth. You can’t cook on it, either. Although it can be every bit as attractive to look at as a wood stove, it is not hot to the touch, so the heat from within must be forced out by an electric blower.
The second advantage of wood heat is for emergency power outages. A corn stove needs electricity to operate the auger and to blow the heat into the room. When people purchase a corn stove, they often save their old wood stove as a standby for those occasions when the power fails and for the incredible sub-zero nights when extra heat is needed. Corn stove distributors also offer a 24-hour battery backup in case of outages, but that costs an extra $300 or more to install, and the battery, of course, has to be re-charged.
A corn stove doesn’t need a chimney: it’s vented through the wall.
If you cherish silence in your home, the hum of the corn stove’s motor may be a temporary annoyance. I live in rural Maine, and I had always heated with wood. The mechanical sounds of the corn stove, like the fan on my computer, seemed an intrusion at first. I had forgotten how quickly I became deaf to the sound of furnaces in other houses, as well as the refrigerator and the water heater in my own home.
In addition, like any other appliance or piece of equipment, corn stoves have little idiosyncrasies you learn to live with. You will need to experiment for a few weeks (or longer) to feel comfortable running the stove. Starting up the fire is not that much different from starting a wood stove. You can use paraffin blocks, twigs, or wood chips. Once started, the stove regulates itself. At first, you will need to watch for signs that the corn has actually caught and that the auger is dropping the right amount of corn into the fire box.
With wood, it is a given that there is some dirt and other residue attached to the bark. Corn, on the other hand, should not be dirty. If a piece of stalk, for instance, gets twisted and caught inside the auger, that slows down the fire and can cause the fire to go out. Sometimes there is a buildup of corn in the fire box, and then when more corn drops down, the fire is smothered. There are similar inconveniences with a wood fire, but on a different scale.
Use a good grade of corn
Buying corn from a farmer or a feed supply store means insisting on clean, dry fuel. Ask about the grade of corn for sale. The higher the quality of the corn, the hotter it will burn. Any grade corn can be burned, but the corn that supplies the most energy as animal feed also burns the hottest. Most suppliers are beginning to understand that there is a growing market for fuel corn. Those who do are glad to supply clean, high quality corn at a good price.
When thinking of storage for corn, think small. You can store two tons of corn in 50-pound bags in one corner of your garage (about six feet high, six feet wide, and two feet deep). That is the usual amount delivered at one time and is enough to heat your house for two or three months.
The corn stoves of today are much more efficient than the one invented in 1969. Even five years ago there were no thermostats for them. Today, thermostats are an option. Five years ago there were probably only two stove models available. There are at least six now. One early model, the one owned by the author, could be mistaken for a clothes dryer.
Occasionally, because our stove is attached to the chimney, on a day when we turn the corn stove down low, we notice the faint but sweet perfume of cooking corn in the air outside. This is in conspicuous contrast to the smoke billowing from a neighbor’s chimney. Our corn stove, homely as it is, has won our allegiance hands down.
-- Judith W. Monroe (Judith W. Monroe@Judith W. Monroe.com), May 28, 2002.