Almost every form of home heating source availble to LP or natural gas users is also available to corn burners. Hot water boilers, forced air furnaces, freestanding stoves and fireplace inserts are all commonly available and manufactured by a varity of companies.
Indoor Corn Burners
Indoor corn burners are either fireplace inserts, free standing corn stoves or forced air furnaces.
Free Standing Corn Stoves
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A typical Freestanding corn burner looks much like the sealed wood stoves we have been familiar with for years. However the outside is where the similarity ends. In most cases the corn burner will have a hopper located in the top of the unit. It is filled by lifting a lid, or a door on the top and the corn is simply dumped in. The corn feeds down via gravity into a feed auger system that moves it into the burn chamber and into the firepot.
The burn chamber on a corn burner is not at all similar to a woodstove. It will have a small burn pot in the center of the burn chamber where the fire actually burns. Some models have a viewing window so you can see the fire burning from the outside (though some users will have to employ a reflective surface placed next to their TV so they don't have to turn their head around). As covered below, some corn burners stir the corn while burning, while others do not.
The freestanding corn burner will also have a control panel of some type, mounted on it. Many units are BTU-output-adjustable, so the control panel will regulate the amount of corn fed into the burner. It is also possible that some units will have settings for different feedstocks, such as a setting for either burning corn or burning wood pellets.
Exhaust from the corn burner is will either be through a vertical flue, or in some cases a horizontal vent out through a side wall. Additionally, some stoves rely on room air for combustion, whereas others, utilize a vent pipe to the outside to draw air into the house. All corn burners use a fan to force combustion air into the burn chamber. Pelletized fuel, such as corn or wood pellets is too dense to burn naturally and must rely on combustion air being pumped into the fire at a high rate.
Simpler designs, without the gold trim are also available, as are more complex. Some manufacturers use 12 volt electric motors for feed and air so that the stove can easily utilize a Battery backup source for power in case of an electrical outage.
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A fireplace insert is again, very similar on the outside to a wood burning, or even a natural gas fireplace insert. It will have a large window in the front so the user can enjoy the dancing flames. It will have trim kits to fit into a varity of spaces, in either new construction or old houses.
It will differ in most cases to a conventional fireplace insert in that it will stick out into the room a few inches. There are no flush mount models. The reason for this is there has to be some convenient access to the corn storage hopper. There will be some sort of lid system that will be raised, and the pelletized fuel, either corn or wood pellets will be poured into the hopper. Usually the hoppers on a fireplace insert are a little smaller than the hopper on a freestanding stove, just because of the space limitations.
Otherwise, the unit works very much like the freestanding stove above. Fuel is fed from the hopper into some type of feed auger. Then, pushed into the burn chamber. A fan of pressurizes the air blowing into the burn pot to create a very intense, hot fire.
Electronic ignition is available for most fireplace inserts burning wood pellets. Electronic ignition systems are not known to work when using corn as the feedstock because the kernels are too dense.
Forced Air Furnace
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A forced air furnace works by burning corn and then using the heat from the fire though some type of heat exchanger which warms the air in your house. Typically these are much larger units in both size and BTU output. They are made for heating entire structures and so they are sized acordingly.
In addition to the shear size of the furnace itself, the corn storage hopper is made for burning large quantities of fuel. Multi-bushel hoppers make for several days of burning before the hopper must be refilled.
But, other than these differences of scale, the units are much the same as their smaller cousins. They feed the granular fuel, either wood pellets or corn into a burn chamber which contains some type of firepot. The corn is burned in a pressurized air environment from a blower fan. Exhaust must exit the furnace via a stainless steel chimney. Usually this chimney must be vertical, but horizontal installations are possible.
Indoor and/or Outdoor Corn Burners
In addition to indoor corn burners there are also outdoor corn boilers. These units sit in your backyard and have underground piping to deliver the heat into the house.
Hot Water Boiler
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Available as either a unit that sits inside your house, or different models are made to sit outside, like an enclosed garden shed. A boiler is ment to heat water for radiant heat systems. So, radiators or in-floor heat. They can easily be plumbed in series with an existing natural gas boiler for a backup heat source.
Like the forced air furnaces above, these are large scale units designed to heat an entire home or shop. They have large hoppers for multi day burning between refills. Some have specific BTU output settings so they have in effect a low output and a high output setting.
The better of the indoor burners have a bottom feeding cast iron burn pot for fairly maintenance free use. Corn is pushed into these burn pots from the bottom, clinker and ash is forced over the top edge of the burn pot and into the ash pan below.
Outdoor corn burners move all the mess of burning and storing corn outside and pipe the hot water back into the house to either radiators or even a forced air heat exchanger.
Type Summary and Extra Info
What you need is really a function of your uses for the corn burner. Will you be heating your whole house? Replacing or augmenting your existing central heating system or will you be doing space heating of a centralized or often used room?
And, finally, there are Specialized corn burners for particular applications such as tents and ice fishing houses.