Corn burning furnace

Click HERE for answers to Frequently Asked Question about heating with a corn burner.
Click HERE to view a PowerPoint presentation of how our cornburner works
-- click "slide show tab then > from beginning".
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We heat with corn (shelled corn) that we get from the local grain elevator. This is a boiler type furnace and is very efficient and clean burning. The cost varies from year to year, but averages about the same cost as wood.

Over to the left is a hopper that holds 500 lbs. of corn and auto feeds to the bottom of the furnace.

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We installed our corn burner in 1995 and here are some things we have learned from experience.

Frequently Asked Questions about heating with Corn Burners:

1. Do you have a problem with mice or mold?
Mice- If you keep things swept up and tidy mice are not a problem. When
        we stored our corn in bags then, yes we had mice.
If you store corn in a damp place like a basement for a long
        period of time, like over the summer, than, yes, mold will develop.
        We have found that it is best to use up all the corn at the end
        of the heating season to avoid this and other problems.
2. How do you store your corn?
We now store our corn in a 6 ton grain bin that gravity feeds the corn
    down into the basement. The corn is delivered by truck and we get bulk
    prices with a $25 delivery charge.
3. How much do you buy at a time?
We like to fill the whole bin whenever we get a delivery.  We just have
    to estimate how much to tell the truck to bring depending on how empty
    the bin is when we call them to request a delivery.
4. What is the temp of your house?
We keep our house a nice cozy 72 degrees in the dead of Michigan's
5. How big is your house? Sq ft?
1017 sq. foot, not counting the full basement.
6. How much corn do you use yearly on avg?
The amount of corn we use each year depends on how cold the winter is.
    Generally we use about from 12 to 16 tons of corn.  Last year (2003) we
    over estimated what we needed and got 18 ton--3 full fill-ups of our
    bin--and we were burning corn in 80 degree weather in May with our
    windows open!  We do not keep corn in the bin over the summer because we
    don't want to take a chance on moisture building up in the bin which
    would cause problems.  So we burn up all the corn each spring.

    One more lesson we learned:  We left corn in our hopper (the container
    next to the burner shown in the picture above) all summer and we found
    tiny, little corn bugs had hatched and were crawling around our
    basement.  We won't make that mistake again!  We clean it all out every
    Spring now.

7. What quality of corn do you use?
The corn we use comes from our local grain elevator and is the same
    field corn that is fed to horses, and other farm animals--shelled corn.
    The elevator dries the corn to 14%, which is just fine for our

 8. Is it true that you can't have cobs or other debris?
Debris that is as small as corn kernels are okay, as long as it
    can be augured.  We have had rabbit pellets, sticks, bits
    of cob, and small stones.  BUT, it is the dust that can be a
    problem for the auger. It builds up, then binds up the auger,
    and builds up at the bottom of the fire pot.  Not good.  There
    is going to be some dust, but the less dust the better.  If we
    find a load of corn is pretty dusty we use a screen as we put
    it into the hopper.  It takes a little time, but not that much
    more than normal to move the corn.

    We make sure the elevator people know we are using the corn for
    a burner and that we want the truck to have some corn run
    through the truck auger before they load up for us.  This helps
    to clean out the dust from other things that have been delivered
    before our corn is put in the truck.

9.  Are the clinkers that build up a problem?
Yes, clinkers can build up and turn rock hard then block the corn
    feeding into the bottom of the fire pot.  The remedy is simple.  Run a
    clinker tool (ours came with the furnace) around the inside of the fire
    pot and break them up regularly.  The hotter the fire, the more the
    clinkers build up.  I just do it once a day, but every few days is just

10. How often does the hopper have to be filled up?
Again, that depends on how cold the weather is--the colder it is, the
    more fuel will be used.  We have gone away for a week at a time in March
    and in April and there was no problem.  Try doing that with a wood

11. What is the worst part about having a corn burner?
It took a long time for us to get the hang of keeping the fire going.
    The draft has to be right and with a boiler like we have, we needed to
    have an aquastat installed which helped to prevent cool water from
    constantly circulating around the fire and sapping off too much heat.
    But we learned, and today there are so many professionals around to help
    it really isn't as much of a problem as it used to be.  But like a wood
    stove, corn burners take some adjustment.  Once you get it figured out
    it will burn all winter just fine.

12. What is the best part about having a corn burner?
It is so clean!  Nothing can be seen coming out the chimney.  It is a
    clean, renewable source of fuel which costs about the same as buying
    firewood.  It is great helping our farmers too!!

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