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As conventional fuels become scarcer and costlier, homeowners are willing to experiment with and adopt unconventional fuels for heating their homes. Of late, corn has become a hot favorite for home heating purposes. But with that arises the big question – can you burn corn on the cob in wood stoves?
A straight forward answer to this question would be ‘No’, because regular wood stoves are meant primarily for burning wood, not even wood pellets. To use corn as a fuel for heating, a specially designed corn stove or a multi-fuel stove is what you’ll need to procure. Before we talk about how and why corn makes for a better heating fuel, we’d like to shun one of the common myths surrounding corn stoves. For most people who have never used corn as a fuel, a corn stove is meant for burning the cobs leftover after the kernels have been removed. However, that’s not the case and contrary to this popular misconception – corn kernels are burnt in corn stoves.
There are reasons why the cobs are not a preferred fuel for use in heating stoves and the most important of these reasons is their low fuel efficiency and excessive production of smoke and dirt. Corncobs are mostly used for the production of charcoal, and although charcoal is a cleaner and efficient fuel, the cobs in their natural form can be very messy to use in heating stoves.
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Why Corn Makes for a Better Heating Fuel
Even though burning corn seems to be a greener option because of the renewability factor, some people do have an initial inhibition about using this ‘animal feed’ as a heating fuel. Corn kernels are indeed a popular animal feed, but the corn kernels that are available for burning are the rejected kernels which are not fit for use as animal feed. That said - here are some more reasons to justify corn kernels as a better fuel heating your home.
Corn can be grown and harvested every year, thus its quick renewability earns it a higher score than even wood. Trees take many years to grow up and provide timber, also felling trees for fuel has a devastating effect on the environment. So when compared with wood, charcoal, coal or the non renewable resources, corn is the best fuel to use in heating stoves.
Efficient and Economical
Corn kernels produce more than four times the amount of heat that is produced by burning the same amount of wood in a regular wood stove. The heat efficiency of corn is comparable with that of wood pellets, and this high heat efficiency translates into great savings. The corn stoves come equipped with thermostatically controlled hoppers, which further adds-up to the economical efficiency.
Cleaner and Environment Friendly
As pointed earlier burning corn for heating is certainly more environment friendly than using wood, but its quick renewability isn’t the only factor that makes it a greener fuel. Corn kernels contain ethanol and oils, both of which burn efficiently without producing any dangerous gases. Also, the amount of smoke produced is negligible. Burning corn in corn stoves doesn’t leave behind any ashes, only a hardened clinker remains which is absolutely biodegradable and very easy to clean. Corn stoves are designed to pull in air from outside, which ensures that the air inside the house doesn’t lose its moisture and remains free of odor.
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Using a Corn Stove for Heating
Ever since the Midwesterners came up with the idea of using corn to heat the house during winters, lots of corn stoves have made their way into the market. These come in different sizes and with a range of features. The ones with a thermostatically controller corn dispenser are the best, as you can just start the fire, adjust the heat settings and forget about feeding the stove with more corn every few hours.
Installing a corn stove is also easy and nothing much needs to be done except for connecting it to the existing vent of your heating stove. If you already have a multi-fuel stove you can try and replace your existing fuel with corn kernels and see the difference for yourself, but before that do read through the stove instructions to see whether or not the stove can be used to burn corn.
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Ministry of Agriculture Food and Agriculture –Ontario, http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/93-023.htm
Back Woods Home Magazine, http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles/monroe42.html
Dried Corn, H. Zell, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zea_mays_005.JPG
House Heating Stove, Thomaswm, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hase_Husum.jpg