Pellet and corn stoves, also known an biomass pellet stoves, are becoming increasingly popular due to the rising cost of oil, in conjunction with an increased awareness of the damage done by burning fossil fuels. Biomass materials, such as wood pellets or corn, burn more cleanly than cord wood, and are more efficient to burn than cord wood because they contain less hidden moisture.
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There are biomass stoves that are designed to burn either wood pellets or corn, and some that are made to burn both. What happens if you burn corn in a stove only designed to burn wood pellets?
You can burn corn in a wood pellet stove if the appliance is designed as a multi-fuel or flex-fuel biomass pellet stove that accepts both fuel sources.
Pellet and Corn Stove Differences
Pellet and corn stoves need to be filled only once a day, and both types of fuel are easy and clean to both store and use. There is one difference between the two types of biomass stoves, however, and that difference lies in the construction of the stoves themselves.
Corn-burning stoves possess a metal rod known as an augur or agitator, which stirs the corn as it's burning. The rods are often long metal sticks running along the length of the burnpot, with smaller rods attached perpendicularly to them. These smaller attached rods keep the corn moving as it burns, and break up any obstructions caused by the sticky ashes resulting from burned corn. Wood pellets don't create sticky ashes, thus eliminating the need for such a rod in a wood pellet stove.
Corn in a Pellet Stove
As mentioned, wood pellet stoves don't possess the spiked augur or agitator that a corn pellet stove possesses. If corn is fed into a biomass stove specifically designed for burning wood pellets, the sugar in the corn kernels create the sticky ashes known commonly as "clinkers." These will build up, since they are not being crushed and spread out by the spiked rod, and will eventually block air passages and impair air flow within the stove to the point that it can eventually cause serious and permanent interior damage.
For those who have found that wood pellet prices in their area have gone up, and who wish to pad out their pellet supply with dry corn kernels, a 50-50 mixture of corn and pellets seems to work with minimal to no damage, although you'll have to clean out the "clinkers" left behind by the corn on a daily basis.
Combination Wood and Corn Pellet Stoves
Increasingly, there is a demand for multi-fuel biomass stoves which will burn both wood pellets and corn, in addition to other nontraditional fuels. Having such a biomass stove would help the homeowner contend with the fluctuating cost of different natural fuels by not enslaving them to one particular type of fuel.
Companies that manufacture multi-fuel stoves, also called flex-fuel stoves, that are approved for burning wood pellets as well as corn include America's Heat and MagnuM pellet stove.