modifying a wood stove to burn pellets/corn

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Simpler Times, Oct 18, 2007.

  1. Simpler Times

    Simpler Times Well-Known Member

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    The previous threads on pellet stoves have intrigued me. I would like some way to modify my existing wood stove so that *at times* (when sick, lazy, or whatever) I could burn pellets or corn for convenience and possibly to lengthen the time the stove could go unattended. It would seem like this would be simple but I'm not very engineering minded. I have, however, found camp pellet stoves (http://www.walltentshop.com/RileyPellet.html) that use a gravity feed system to get the pellets inside the stove and I have found that slanted woven steel baskets are made to put in a wood stove to allow it to burn pellets (http://www.thepelleteer.com/). Why couldn't you combine the two ideas by doing something like modifying a top-exiting stove pipe to allow a gravity feed hopper to be added? I assume the gravity-feed pellet camp stoves operate without an augar so that would overcome the drawback of a pellet stove needing electricity to operate. Cheap pellet stoves go for about five times what I paid for my used Mama Bear Fisher and the used pellet stoves aren't much cheaper. Used pellet stoves are also hard to come by in my area. Kinda hard to justify that kind of cost for only occasional use. I know all the arguments about pellets being hard to find, costly, difficult to store, etc. I just want to explore the possibility/practicality of doing some sort of modification to an existing wood stove without naysayers harping on the obvious drawbacks of pellet cost, availability, commercial nature etc.
     
  2. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    Try it and post pictures.

    :)
     

  3. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I do not believe it will be easy to make a safe & efficient stove that will burn both chunk wood & pellets - even with some minor reconfiguring in between.

    They are really very different things. Stove tends to be low-tech, pellets tend to be high-tech.

    Not saying you can't do it. :)

    --->Paul
     
  4. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    Pellet stoves are CRAZY expensive, and over-all they really just are not rated very high in Btu.

    Our 200kBtu all-fuel stove / furnace we use now cost me almost $100. But it is not a pellet burner. I have shoveled pellets into it, but I think that a auto-feed feature would be cool. :)

    I think that it would be neat to see someone figure out how to rig one together. It needs to be functional, it needs to be safe, it needs to be reliable.

    Take tonnes of pictures. Pictures of the parts, pictures of it together, pictures of it running.

    A website showing such a thing, once Google and all other web spiders and crawlers have scanned it, would become a part of the collective knowledge. Everyone everywhere interested in learning about pellet stoves, could Google it, and among the hits would be "How to build your own pellet stove".

    Conversation would be kindled.

    And it would force the prices of manufactured models to drop.

    Salesmen: "So now that you have seen our finest model pellet stove, are you ready to talk to the bank for the low price of only $6,000?"

    Customer: "Well I don't know, I was just looking at a website with plans to make a duplicate of that model, and this morning I price checked all of the component parts, and I could slap one together this weekend for $200"

    Salesman: "Well, uh, uh, but, uh, uh, you can't do that, uh, ..."
     
  5. Christiaan

    Christiaan Dutch Highlands Farm

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    I use a pellet basket in my regular woodstove. It would be great to have an automatic feed. To keep the stove at full bore I have to add pellets every hour or so. To maintain a steady heat I feed every two hours or so. Unfortunately, I can't bank the fire at bedtime, so to keep the fire going I need to feed it every 4 to 5 hours. I also need to let it go out every 4 to 5 days to clean ash out. I can do it without the fire being completely out, but it is a pain in the ash to do it that way.
    But, I like it better than burning cordwood or firelogs. Its cheaper, storage is easier, bringing it in the house is easier and cleaner. Now if there was just a way to recycle the bags..................
     
  6. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    I can burn pellets in the sove just by shoveling in a pile on the standard cast iron grate.

    then squirt on some BBQ lighter and a match and shut the door.

    they burn unattended like a log for a while, then you stir it up and itll burn away to ash.

    but pellets are 5 bucks a bag.... burning that way I'd burn a bag a day.
    however 5 bucks will buy me a 50#bag of antricite coal, which will burn longer hotter and have no ash, and no fumes.

    your better off, buying hard coal and being lazy that way.

    corn burns great, dumped on a pile of hot coals. but corn is now 8 or 9 bucks a bag, and thats = to 100 # of hard coal.....

    I also found that at a sawmill, where they debar the trees, the really chunky bark waste burns fantastic.

    if its really dry, which is the kicker... you have to spread it out in the sun, get Its bone dry and then stow it in bags where its dry.

    do that, and you have cheap fuel for (I pay) $20 a truckload.

    I got sasafras bark last time.... mmmmmmmmmmm!

    however and whatever you burn... its still a lot of stinkin work, or money.
     
  7. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    I see a pile of wood chips the size of a VW bug, a couple miles from our home, I drive by it most every day. As soon as my utility wagon is back on the road, I plan to load up oil drums with those wood chips, before the snow comes.

    Wood chips soaked in kerosene, then laid as a layer on top of green firewood, once it is dried, will burn real nice. Kind of like BBQ charcoal briquettes, they are dry but you can still smell the kerosene they soaked them in.

    We have used the wood pellets too. The best use of wood pellets that we have found, is again soaked in kerosene and dried, a shovel of them on top of newspaper on the grate, then pile on the wood. One match will light the fire and those kerosene soaked pellets will ensure the firewood lights nicely.

    :)
     
  8. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    DON'T PUT ANY FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS INTO A WOOD BURNING STOVE.
    They can and do cause explosions. A wood stove is for just that wood. A Coal stove is for that coal. A pellet stove is for pellets. Their are stand alone Kerosene burners.... Not just the wick type.

    When you choose your stove you choose your fuel. Stick to it.
    Even when a stove is "duel fuel" Like a wood and coal furnace. You lose as it does both poorly.
     
  9. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    I have never tried burning wood pellets since I have plenty of firewood available and am still physically able to process it. However I had seen the stainless steel baskets to use pellets in regular stove. From peoples comments apparently they work, but I still suspect much less efficiently with the basket than in a stove designed for them. By way in the Great Depression, people in Iowa who were used to burning coal at that time switched to burning ears of corn since price of corn bottomed out and made it less expensive to burn than coal.

    As to buying bags of coal, must be a northern thing, I've never seen such anyplace I've lived. Have heard that coal is sold in bulk in the Dakotas and in some coal producing states. I am thinking ahead to time when I cant deal with firewood anymore and coal would be viable alternative at prices mentioned. Very easy to store without worrying about moisture. I have feeling propane and diesel/oil arent going to be economical alternatives and for lot of people its going to be wood or coal or wearing a snowmobile suit full time. Course real smart people will build a superinsulated cabin and be able to economically heat it with tiny electric heater. I know somebody that did this and its quite impressive. Makes you feel stupid to do all the work of cutting wood or wasting all money buying fuel when you see how easy it is. Just really need a air to air heat exchanger so air doesnt get stuffy. The person I knew didnt do this and it did get stuffy after a while.
     
  10. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    I agree never put liquids into the stove.


    We disagree on this matter.

    An all-fuel stove burns all fuels fairly well.

    We burn peat, wood, coal, cardboard just about any solids.

    :)


    We have never experienced this.

    A 200kBtu stove will still put out lots of heat, and can heat water very nicely. Regardless of the current fuel your burning.

    Each different fuel has it's own 'personal habits', but that should be expected when shifting from peat to wood, or whatever.

    :)
     
  11. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    I guess we can agree to disagree.
    For instance.
    hard Coal is 16,000 BTU per pound.
    Soft coal is 12,000 btu per pound.
    wood is 8000 btu per pound (dryweight)

    So say you put 25 lbs of wood in your stove and burned this for 1 hour you would have your 200,000 btu. To load it for 24 hrs. you would need 600 lbs of wood. So you would use about 1 cord of oak 3500LBS (dry weight) in A little less than 6 days. Now taking into account that your home built stove/furnace is about 60% effient. The cord of wood would last like 3.5 days at full burn. So you would use about 8.5 cords a month. I'm sure you aren't using that kinda volume. So your 200,000 is probably closer to 40,000per hr. to the house or about 1.5 cord a month. Right.

    Now to get that same result useing a properly designed wood stove would look more like this.
    Same effiency 75%
    for 40,000 btu an hour You would need to create 53,333 btu's an hour.
    Now wood has 8000 btu per pound so you would need 160 lbs per day. or 4800 lbs a month Or 1.33 cords a month for the same heat to the house.

    Now per month thats not alot but over 6 months.
    1.5 X 6 is 9
    1.3 X 6 is 7.8
    at 100 dollars a cord (yes it's free to me too. But we do pay for fuel, land taxes, and labor isn't free!) You would save $120.00 A year.

    At the claimed 200,000 BTU HR you would save 5 times that amount. :)
     
  12. Ernie

    Ernie Well-Known Member

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    I'm in the market for a stove, but I'm looking at just wood stoves. I'm not up on this whole pellet thing. Are they wood pellets? How do they differ from just wood?

    Most of all, why should I want to buy something that only uses a material for which I would be dependent upon someone else?
     
  13. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    Well to tell you the truth... I don't know why you would buy something that you can't supply your own fuel. Other than lazyness. ;)
     
  14. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    Old age?

    Physical disabilities?

    Regular firewood and coal and other do-it-yourself fossil fuels banned in your area or at least the appliances used to burn them?

    Insurance companies forbidding use of such in your home if you want to insure with them?

    I am sure you can think up some other reasons......
     
  15. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    I dont mean common bituminus coal like is all over the UsA.
    I mean hard Antricite coal, it is only mined in central PA and a few other places.

    it is as hard as glass, and pure carbon. it burns hotter and much longer than bituminus coal.
    unless you live in central PA, buying it in bags is about the only way to get it.

    its like burning hard rocks, and unless it burns away to ash, whats left is still usable in the next fire.

    No buying common soft coal in bags would be stupid.... lol
    Antricite smokeless coal is what I mean by bagged coal.
     
  16. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    Coal is not mined here, however it is available in the hardware stores, and feed stores.

    As is hardwood pellets and bio-mass bricks.
     
  17. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    Hard coal or soft coal, I've never seen it sold in bags any place that I have lived. Maybe available from some stove dealer trying to push coal stoves??:shrug: I dont shop at stove dealer places so wouldnt know about that. Havent seen any at any garden store, farm store, hardware store, or big box store. All these places have carried the wood pellets at one time or another.
     
  18. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    Here at the hardware stores, the bagged coal 'Antricite' or 'pea-coal' is not out on display. They keep it in the warehouse on a pallet. I was looking for it, for a while, trying to find someone who carried it, when I over heard another customer buying some.

    Since that time, I have asked Blue Seal feed stores, and they also carry it.
     
  19. YuccaFlatsRanch

    YuccaFlatsRanch Well-Known Member Supporter

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  20. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    Hmm, yes, so somebody do it.

    Document what you have done, and lets see how it works [before another troll comes along insisting that it can not be done]

    :)