Friday, November 23, 2012

The possibilities of using corn as fuel

Corn stoves are becoming popular for heating out-buildings, commercial premises and homes. There are more and more corn fueled stoves being produced to meet the high demand. For example, hot water furnaces, boilers and stoves with companies offering specifications tailored to individual's needs. In order to ensure safe, efficient operations of corn-burners, regular cleaning of ash residue and constant filling of the fuel is needed, reminiscent of an old wood burner from years gone by.

Corn-burning stoves can be complex or very simple. The more complex systems can have a corn delivery system and a combustion air fan; whereas, in standard wood stoves these are not a requirement. The fuel hoppers are usually located at the back of the stove and can be fed by an old coal scuttle.

Why use corn for burning?

Corn is an attractive heat source and is in abundance. Lower corn grades can be used and preferably that of none food grades; it also has a high heat energy content per unit weight. The quality requirements of corn as a fuel include:

Shelled corn should be checked as they must be dirt free, because dirty corn has a lot of lose fragments and cob pieces, these can cause problems by clogging up the fuel delivery system.

Shelled corn's heat content is based on its weight and moisture content. Corn high in moisture has a lower heat value per unit of weight delivering lower quality heat efficiency, so shelled corn should be dry, at least 15% moisture content or less.

Corn cannot be burned on just any stove or outdoor furnaces. There have specific design requirements in order for it to burn efficiently; similar to pellet-burning stoves. Clinker (ash residue) from the corn must drop away from the area where the corns are delivered and burned, which means that the clinker has to be shoveled away on a regular basis.

Shelled corn must be aided in burning with a combustion chamber that is fan assisted blowing in oxygen. The whole process is systematic from the corn delivery via a storage chamber, which is regulated, to enabling the amount of fuel to be burnt and the level of heat delivered. Ignition systems can be manual or automatic, wood pellets are burned to get the corn burning in the manual operation and the automatic method involves a fuel rod, which ignites the corn.

Heat exchanges do the job of separating flue gasses from the heat as a larger fan pushes air from the room through the stove and out again as heated air. This system must rely on electricity for it to operate. If the electricity supply is interrupted, a backup battery supply kicks in. The stove will need manually starting as a safety feature when there has been a power outage.

There are other types of corn stoves that do not use the systems above and burn at the bottom of a hopper. Multi-fuel systems are also an option and have the advantage of being able to burn shelled corn, cherry pits, wood pellets and more, giving a choice of fuels if one becomes in short supply.

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