Pellet and Corn Stoves

There are many advantages to using an alternative-fuel stove or fireplace. Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces often do not provide a reliable source of heat, and must be vented carefully through a metal flue and a chimney going through the roof. In addition, alternative-fuel stoves can be left unattended much more safely than can wooden stoves or fireplaces.

Pellet stoves are one type of alternative-fuel stove. The pellet stove, which uses sawdust pellets, was invented by Dr. Jerry Whitfield in the mid-1980s, as a way around the energy crisis of the 1970s. Whitfield, who was working as an aeronautical engineer at Boeing, was looking for ways to use organic waste products, or biomass fuel — such as sawdust and fruit pits — as a more economic type of fuel.

Resembling conventional stoves which use wood or gas for fuel, pellet stoves have a hopper, into which the pellets are loaded. One hopper full of pellets can provide enough heat for a full 24 hours, or even longer. An auger system, which is powered by electricity, drops the pellets into the burn pot a few at a time. For a higher temperature, more pellets are dropped in at once.

Pellet stoves must vent in the same way as gas-burning stoves and fireplaces. A pellet stove may be installed as a direct-vent stove or vent through a metal flue and a chimney. It is possible to convert a traditional masonry fireplace to become a pellet stove, but an expert must evaluate the flue to see if it is appropriate for a pellet stove.

Wood pellet fuel is available in two different grades. Standard wood pellets are allowed to contain up to 3 percent inorganic ash content, with premium wood pellets including up to 1 percent inorganic ash content. In addition, standard grade wood pellets are made up of more nut hulls and tree bark, producing more ash than premium pellets, which contain more of a homogeneous sawdust mixture.

foreman In case of an electricity failure, pellet stoves are often able to use a battery system for backup. The ash pan and burner of a pellet stove must be cleaned periodically in order to remove the deposits and ash from the burning pellets. However, pellet stoves require less cleaning than wood stoves, since they burn much cleaner.

Corn stoves use the same technology as pellet stoves. By using one bushel of corn that is damaged or not fit for consumption, a 2,400 square foot (223 square meters) home can be heated for 24 hours. Since corn stoves have a direct venting system, they do not need a chimney and flue, but only to be placed against an outside wall. Like pellet stoves, corn stoves have a dispensing system that runs on electricity.

Written by Bronwyn Harris