If you are looking to cut back a little on home heating
costs in the winter, the answer may be a kernel burning stove. These stoves make use of corn kernels, the kind used to feed cows and other livestock (not its more famous cousin, popcorn). During the Depression, burning corn was a way to survive the cold. Today it could be a way to survive the ever-increasing cost of oil (which fuels many electricity plants) and natural gas.
The savings average around $500 per winter. To heat an average 2,000 square-foot home for one month the cost in corn is about $130. Compare that to the between $240-$290 per month that it costs to heat the same home with natural gas. Corn is an abundant, renewable source of fuel that is unlikely to run out any time soon. And it does not usually have to be transported far because most states have some sort of corn-growing going on. And it can be purchased easily at the local feed store.
A corn burning stove can be a step in the direction of cleaner, renewable resources for this country. With the furor over the possibility of developing ethanol for cars from corn, and the advent of kernel burning stoves en masse, it appears that something that American has plenty of could become our next energy source.
But while the long term savings have the potential to be significant, it is important to note that the upfront investment in kernel burning is rather large. Stoves can cost upward of $2,000 (which means it pays for itself in about four years). Unlike in the Depression, when regulation was low and people just tossed kernels in whatever stove they had.
Now, in order to meet code, a stove designed for burning corn kernels is required. There is also a good deal of work involved. Instead of chopping wood for a wood stove, one has to load a thousand pounds of corn per month. And, as with any stove, there are ashes to remove.
However, the extra work and the upfront costs haven’t deterred sales of kernel burning stoves from going up. Biomass experts estimate that this year sales have more than doubled on kernel burning stoves. And, due to the rise in their popularity, you might have to wait months before you can get one. That means this year you are out of luck, but next year you’ll be ready.