Heating your home with corn can be a way to save money this year. You have to buy a corn burning stove, have it installed, and load the hopper – Then it’s go to go, right? Not so fast. Corn burning can save you money, BUT it is not without its hassle.
I am all about saving money, but you have to assess ALL of the costs. First, let’s take a look at some another common alternative:
- Cheaper than gas
- Generally can provide a “home-y” ambience
- For higher efficiency burning you are going to need an insert or wood burning stove
- Fire Hazard (Creosote build-up)
- Have to store large quantities of wood (Fire rack’s aren’t cheap)
- Have to buy wood
- Have to transport (or pay to transport)
- Have to clean out ash from insert (which can easily travel in your air)
- Can dry the air in your house
- Chimney’s need cleaning ($$$)
- Have to carry wood through house
- Have to maintain and watch the fire
- Chimney replacement (I’ve read 10’s of blogs where someone has claimed they had to completely replace their chimney after 10-15 of *HEAVY* use. Even if the chimney lasts 30 years – it can be costly to replace
- You have a VERY hot stove in your home which can be a danger to you and your children
Let’s break it down. You buy a corn burning stove (which cost roughly the same as wood burning stove, $2000 – $3000) and have it installed, you find a local farmer with corn for sale and you get a stockpile for the season. You load the corn as needed into your system and perform regular maintenance on the stove. Corn costs roughly $4.00 a bushel give or take. 2.2 bushels is claimed to product around one million BTU’s. That 2.2 bushels at the cost of roughly $8.80 would produce the same amount of heat as an estimate $22.00 worth of wood. That is 60% less cost than wood! Now all of these numbers are completely subjective to who is telling you and vary on lots of factors, but compared to natural gas heating – it’s less than half the cost, but is it really worth it? What about overhead?
Time to break down the Pro’s and Con’s
- Much cheaper than gas and even cheaper than wood
- Also can provide ambience of fire
- Virtually no smoke
- Automatically loads corn into burner
- No odor (or so they claim)
- No radiant heat (so the burner itself isn’t going to burn you if you fall on it)
- Cost no more than a wood burning insert
- Much more green than gas and even more green than wood. Corn is completely renewable in about 3 months.
- Don’t really need much of a chimney, an out vent is similar to a dryer vent.
- Can buy corn from local sellers
- Have to find large quantities of corn
- Have to store large quantities of corn which can be costly
- Requires you to reload hopper
- The system requires regular cleaning (The system makes a sort of burn “cake” that falls into a bin that you have to empty)
- Need electricity (for the hopper and blower that automatically loads), batteries can be installed that last approximately 1-2 days, but they are a costly addition
- The corn must be dry enough (10-16% moisture is optimal)
- Keep animals out of your stockpile of corn (I can see a squirrel finding your 400lb bin and thinking he found El Dorado)
Conclusion: Seems like a lot of overhead and hassle to me, but if you had the equipment and a supplier and enjoyed cleaning your stove out and making an effort to be green, corn burning might be up your alley. Sadly, if go to ten different sites you will get ten completely different break downs of the costs. It’s cheaper, but getting a firm grasp on the cost might be hard. Do you have to buy a gravity storage container for your 2,200lbs of corn? How much does corn cost today? How much will corn go up if corn burning becomes more popular? How much electricity does the system use? (One sites states $2.50 a month while another states $9.00 a month) There are a lot of questions. Also this system maybe less work than wood, but its still a lot of hassle. Let’s say hypothetically you save $500 – $1000 a year – that’s a lot of effort and commitment for that savings in my opinion.
Also on youtube.com there was a video of a guy who was completely unsatisfied – it showed him sitting in a 46 degree room and all of the water in his house frozen (probably including his pipes). It’s important to note that apparently this person went to court and lost – Maybe he wasn’t operating it as intended? Whether the case I find it interesting that this is a viable alternative.
Time to invest in corn commodities?