ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Memories of last year’s high gas and propane bills for home heating are stimulating interest in alternative fuels-despite the recent declines in prices for the convenient traditional fuels.
Two new favorites are a corn-burning or wood pellet-burning multi-fuel stove for the home or a new stainless steel wood-burning furnace that pumps hot water to a water-containing coil within existing furnace air ducts for heat distribution.
Gregg Pope grows corn as a major crop in his farm operation between Canton and Gypsum. He figures that makes the corn fuel alternative especially attractive. He recently purchased a multi-fuel stove from Goodwin Enterprises at Burns.
Pope said that if he burned corn as fast as the stove could take it, it would burn about a bushel a day.
“If you had to run it wide open for 180 days,” he said, “that would be 180 bushels, or at close to $2 a bushel-about the same as one load of propane. And it won’t stay that cold that long.”
Pope said he’ll heat nearly the entire winter with corn and use propane as a back-up.
Although some literature says the corn burners don’t need to be vented, Pope is venting his.
“There’s no need to take a chance,” he said.
An attractive benefit to the stove is a glass front to give it a fireplace effect.
Ron Goodwin, owner of Goodwin Enterprises, which markets the stove at Burns, provided information that supports Pope’s view of corn as a good fuel. The corn burns at 92 percent efficiency, which, at a cost of $1.75 a bushel, would mean a price of $3.61 to produce a million BTUs of heat energy,
The cost of producing a million BTUs with other fuels would be:
–$12.82 for wood pellets, assuming 80 percent efficiency and a cost of $160 a ton;
–$11.63 for wood at 60 percent efficiency and $115 a cord;
–$12.57 for propane at 70 percent efficiency and 80 cents a gallon;
–$8.62 for fuel oil at 70 percent efficiency and 85 cents a gallon;
–$6.43 for natural gas at 85 percent efficiency and 50 cents per 100 cubic feet;
–$21.39 for electricity at 100 percent efficiency and 7.3 cents per KWH.
The corn is ignited by starting a preparatory fire in the stove burner with wood pellets and fuel gel. Once the fire is started, corn is fed to the burner with an auger. The stove is plugged into 110-volt household current to run the auger and the fan which blows the heat out into the room. It is rated at 50,000 BTUs with a capability to heat 2,500 square feet of insulated living area. The stove has five heat settings.
The stove hoper holds about 75 pounds of corn. The corn burns to coarse ashes that look like potash. The ashes drop into a drawer that needs to be emptied about every week and a half.
The stove is directly vented through the wall of the house with a double-wall pipe that makes it look similar to a clothes dryer vent. The exhaust smells like roasted corn.
If the smell of wood smoke appeals to you more, you can also have increased efficiency in burning wood with the Heatmor stainless steel outdoor wood-burning furnace.
Arlo Koehn, who sells the furnace at Arlo’s Tire and Supply in Burns, said the furnace has an air-tight firebox with a thermostatically controlled squirrel-cage fan jetting air in to increase combustion as needed.
The controlled burn means logs are thoroughly burned, thus reducing the wood supply needed to as little as two cords, depending on furnace size. Ashes are removed by auger.
“There’s no burn-out or rust-out because it’s all stainless steel,” he said.
Koehn said the furnace comes in four sizes: to heat 3,000 square feet, 5,000 square feet, 10,000 square feet or 30,000 square feet.
Hot 180-degree water is taken by underground insulated PEX pipe to any building where it’s needed, meaning one furnace can handle multiple buildings.
That feature is what made the system attractive to Orvin Koehn near Burns when he installed it last spring. His 10,000-square-feet model heats his home, dog kennel where he raises Newfoundland and Samoyed dogs, and a 50×75-feet staging and maintenance building for his home-building business.
The hot water was piped through the floor of the shop building to keep it at an even 68 degrees.
Orvin Koehn said he went to the wood furnace because the cost of heating that much space with propane would have been prohibitive.
“It worked very well last spring, and so far this fall I’ve still liked it,” Koehn said.
Not only is the heat kept constant because of being stored in the water, but if more is needed “you get a fierce fire so quick because of the fans. It’s clean and efficient.
“I use a mix of types of wood, but hedge is the best we have, and I have plenty available.”
Arlo Koehn said the furnace is designed to burn whole round pieces of any wood, and there’s no need to split it.
The 20 square-inch hot water filled copper coil in a home’s duct system provides instant heat when the furnace fan comes on because with the water there, there is no time lapse to wait on combustion.
Arlo Koehn said the furnace, which resembles a small out-building when equipped with a roof, comes in many colors to enable customers to match it with existing buildings.