Corn Stove - my neighbor's nightmare!

Discussion in 'Countryside Families' started by valschickens, Dec 6, 2006.

  1. valschickens

    valschickens Big Brother's Watching

    Nov 23, 2004
    Their furnace broke about 2 months ago. They looked into their options of repairing the old furnace and hope nothing else goes wrong next year, buying a brand new furnace or buying a corn stove.

    They went the corn stove route. After waiting for it to be ordered, it finally got installed last week in their basement.

    His complaints are:

    - Not heating the house (living area is 60-65, bedrooms in 50's)
    - Going through corn like crazy (buying it in 80 lb. bags)
    - Is now thinking he'll have to drywall/insulate the basement to force the heat up.

    Does everyone have these problems? What are the solutions? :shrug:

  2. GoldenMom

    GoldenMom Well-Known Member

    Jan 2, 2005
    Central Iowa
    I had fits with my corn furnace the first year I used it too (it came with our house, so we didn't get the low down from the installers).

    At my house, the corn furnace WILL NOT keep the house warm when it's windy (more because of the lack of wall insulation than anything else). We have to keep our propane furnace on and set it at about 65 or so to keep the house warm enough when the wind blows. If the wind is not blowing, the corn furnace keeps the house toasty no matter how cold it is (ie it keeps the house warm enough that the propane furnace doesn't kick on when it's set at 65 or a bit more). We had problems keeping the house warm enough until I really got the hang of adjusting the air flow. Too much air and the fire burns low and you don't get nearly as much heat as you should, too little air and the fire is not very efficient. Your neighbor might have to look into that.

    I can't for the life of me remember exactly how much corn we go through. The first couple of years I was carrying it in 5 gallon buckets and I *think* I'd go through about 30 buckets twice a week (could have been 40-45, I try to block those memories!). Now we have a bin and auger system that dumps right into the little bin in the house, so I don't have any clue how much we use. Usually my dad brings us enough corn to totally fill our wagon and then a bit more to fill the bin too (not this year though corn is really pricy). That much typically gets us through about 4 months or so.

    I don't know if insulating the basement would help. Our basement is not insulated or finished (it still has a dirt floor on part of it).

    One thing to remember with a corn furnace vs. a forced air furnace: the corn furnace is much more a constant heat while the forced air furnace gives short blasts of hot air that you notice. That REALLY threw me off when we first started using the corn furnace. I thought it wasn't working.

  3. Silvercreek Farmer

    Silvercreek Farmer Living the dream. Supporter

    Oct 13, 2005
    Morganton, NC
    Sounds like the beast is in the basement, probably not hooked to any ductwork, the heat just perking up through the floor. If the house is not tight, the heat is getting sucked out faster than it can perk. If you don't mind it, I would suggest moving the stove into the living room, that would be the quickest fix. Of course making sure that the house is sealed as well as possible, as infiltration is even worse than lack of insulation, although insulation will always pay for it self if done right (Although it may pay back someone else if you move!). Or if you don't want it in the living area maybe you can hook up some duct work.
  4. hunter63

    hunter63 Well-Known Member

    Jan 4, 2005
    Wisconsin.. Zone 5
    Is this a "corn stove" or a "corn fired furnace"?
    I can't imagine anyone thinking a corn stove in the basement would be a replacement for a furnace.

    All the promos for the "corn, wood pellet etc. stoves all sound good, but if you have to buy the fuel. I guess I don't see an advantage of using one.
    If you grow your own corn, maybe, but it still takes a lot of screwing around to be comfortable at all times.
    If the power goes out it won't work, as most use electricity to fire the power vent motor and blower.

    Even with a wood stove, you need to get into the rhythm of filling, adjusting, carrying out ashes, temp swings etc.
    If your used to just turning the T-stat, your in for a long winter.
  5. Slev

    Slev Well-Known Member Supporter

    Nov 29, 2003
    Boy our first year was a nightmare! but we never even had a wood stove or other knowledge. My wife wanted to divorce me at first and thought it a waste of $$$. But after we got the hang of it, we realize the savings! It used to cost about 5 full tanks of propane to get by a year, now with the corn furnace it's about 1.5. Even buying your corn it is loads cheaper than propane and depending on how much you like to cut, haul, stack and/or buy the fire wood, (not to mention all of the bug mess) I really think corn is the way to go, especially if you can bulk store it and/or auto auger feed it into your system.

    My suggestions to you are:

    1. Contact the manufacturer DIRECTLY, don't trust anyone who installed it. Seek their advice, it's their product and they should give you the best information.

    2. Make sure you are piping in OUTSIDE AIR (if your unit requires it) and not just count on it recirculating the air from around the corn burning unit, the air around it will heat up as the burner does) ...duhhh, I learned that the hard way...

    3. make sure the corn you are burning has as dry of a moisture rating as your barnd of corn burner recommends. Mine calls for 10%-12% but here in Illinois, the farmers keep it right around 14%-15%. Just enough to keep from molding, so we mix in a couple cups of the wood pellets, and then mix in JUST A LITTLE ground oyster shell. To mix it all up I use my cordless drill and one of the medium duty mud mixers.

    This year we were lucky to get last years corn so it's extra dry and I've changed my "formula" a little.

    Properly installed is the biggest question. Mine is the Magnum 7500
  6. TNHermit

    TNHermit Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jul 14, 2005
    East Tenn.
    Just talked to the store about a pellet fired stove. 1500.00. Ask how much pellets it burned. She told me a 4.95 bag could alst between 10 hours on high and 41 hours on low. If you give it a 24 hour average thats 150.00 a month for a stove w blower that only puts out 60,000 BTU at the high end.
    Gonna be a while before I put one of them in.
  7. unioncreek

    unioncreek Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jun 18, 2002
    SE Washington
    We use wood pellets and go through a 6 bags every 7 days when run on low. We only use 2 ton a year which comes out to about $300 for the winter. That's pretty cheap heat for me, my Mom in MT uses natural gas and it cost them right at $200/month.

  8. TheBlueOne

    TheBlueOne Well-Known Member

    Jul 2, 2004
    This is the key question. We have a wood furnace in the basement which works well to heat the whole house. A wood stove in the basement would not work at all for heating the whole house.
    What's the Btu rating on the stove/furnace? That's also a clue. Our fuel oil furnace is 140,000 Btu; our wood furnace is 120,000 Btu. Typically stoves are much less.
    Corn burners can cost much less to run at the present price of $3/bushel, providing the corn is dried to 15% or less. In fact, if I were installing a furnace this year it would probably be a corn furnace as opposed to a wood furnace. However, a poor harvest and/or increasing ethanol production could push the price to $7 per bushel in which case other alternatives become more attractive.
  9. TnAndy

    TnAndy Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 15, 2005
    EastTN: Former State of Franklin
    I can't help but think in years to come, we'll look back at burning some as edibile as corn and say to ourselves "Wow....WHAT were we thinking ? "

    When the cost of peak oil gets factored into the cost of raising corn, I suspect 7 buck/bushel corn will seem cheap.

    But more on point with your neighbor's problems: Have them look at the BTU rating of their former furnace, if they still have it around. A central furnace for anysize place is going to run at least 120,000 BTU, and probably quite a bit higher.

    Now look at the BTU rating of the corn stove. Anywhere close ?

    Then, as others have pointed out, is the stove hooked up to deliever the heat to the house, via ductwork or something ?......or is it just heating the basement. I have a small Fisher woodstove in the basement, and it will heat the basement to 90 degrees, and not do TOO much for the upstairs unless we leave the door open to the basement and let the heat flow up. Even so, it wouldn't keep the upstairs much above what you list in cold, windy weather.

    A stove is not a furnace.