Thursday, February 21, 2008

Alternative Heat Sources

I ran out of propane the other night. I was on a "keep full" basis with the co-op, but since it had been so cold I guess we went through it faster than they expected.

It wasn't that big of a deal, even though it was to get to -10 that night. I have a back up source of heat in the form of a multi-fuel pellet stove. It can burn corn, wood pellets, and a few other things that I have forgotten. Within no time, it was a toasty 71 degrees in the living room.

The corn, wood pellets, or a new fuel DDGS (Dried Distiller's Grains with Solubles, a by-product of ethanol production. It has a higher BTU than corn or wood pellets, and is also used as feed for animals) are put in the hopper, which can hold a 40lb bag of wood pellets, enough for about 24 hours of heat, depending on the heat setting.

The auger at the bottom, feeds the fuel into the fire box.

All of the burning takes place in that little box. Just a few pellets, or corn kernals, are fed into the box at a time, and the stirrer (the rod with teeth in the middle of the box above) stirs the fuel periodically. My stove has five heat settings, and five stirrer settings, and can be connected to a thermostat.

It also comes in handy if the electricity goes off. This stove does use electricity, but very little, and I have a little battery inverter that can run the stove for about 24 hours before needing to be recharged. It has saved me on more than one occasion.

Before Mom came, I used the stove almost exclusively to heat the house. A 250 bushel gravity wagon full of corn more than took care of my needs for the winter. At that time, corn was cheap, I spent less than $500.00 for heat for the year. The stove paid for itself within one year of use.

Unfortunately, Mom wouldn't leave it alone. She was used to having a regular wood burning stove, so she always wanted to open the door and throw things in there. It was too dangerous to use. My heating costs quadrupled, despite keeping the thermostat at 67 during the day and 60 at night.

However, I discovered Thursday night that now Mom pretty much ignores it. I have been running it since then, and she hasn't touched it. She probably appreciates the warmth. The living room has been right at around 72-74 degrees, in order to keep the rest of the house at a reasonable level.

One of the best benefits? I can hang our jammies in front of the stove to warm before going to bed. Warmed jammies, a simple pleasure that I had forgotten.


rilera said...

Wow, that is so cool! Warmed jammies sounds good to me. Mom always complains about her jammies being cold at bedtime.

cornbread hell said...

holy corn combusting contraption, batgirl!

Annie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie said...

I'm going to try this comment again!

Robyn, I think it is cool too. I like knowing that what I am burning is essentially a waste product.

Hey Rick, I wonder if it would burn cornbread? :)