By James Dulley, Published November 26 2009
Pellet, corn stoves efficient, convenientDear Jim: I am tired of hauling wood indoors for my fireplace. I saw pellet and corn stoves at my home center store and they sell the pellets there. Are they convenient to use and do they produce much heat efficiently? – Ron H.
Dear Ron: The new wood pellet and corn stoves are very convenient and energy efficient to use. I have been heating my home office with various designs of them for the past 12 years. I now use a Paromax Europa corn/pellet stove with battery backup which keeps running during power outages.
There is a difference between a corn and a wood pellet stove. Most corn stoves can burn either corn or pellets or a mixture of the two. Pellet stoves generally will effectively burn only wood pellets with perhaps just a little corn mixed in.
Wood pellets are made from sawdust from wood mills. Ash content in the hardwood is much less than in corn. Corn also burns much differently than wood and requires different combustion air/fuel ratios and ash removal rates.
For a stove to burn either corn or pellets efficiently, it must have sophisticated controls to keep all these combustion factors in balance. The Europa model uses an easy-to-change (by the homeowner) dual-firepot design to be able to burn either fuel efficiently and cleanly.
When burning only pellets in my stove, I have to empty the ash pan only about once a week. I do not even have to put out the fire first. I open the bottom ash door, slide out the ash pan, carry it outdoors and dump it into a galvanized steel garbage can. It makes great fertilizer for my vegetable garden. I actually fire it down about only once per month for cleaning.
Even though it may cost a little more initially, select a stove that burns both corn and wood pellets. Sometimes wood pellets can be difficult to find in winter. I usually buy mine early in September, well before I need to heat my house. Corn is usually available. If you plan to burn all corn, make sure it is dried enough for burning. Standard feed corn may have too much moisture.
The firepot design in these stoves makes them very efficient and clean-burning. Combustion air is drawn into the firepot and all around the pellets and/or corn kernels. With the high ratio of surface area to weight of the fuel, as compared to firewood, the combustion is very complete.
With its high efficiency, little heat is left in the exhaust gases so they can be vented outdoors through a small double-walled metal pipe. The pipe stays cool enough so it will not burn you if you accidentally bump it. This makes it easy and inexpensive to install a stove. With the negative pressure inside the firepot, there never is a smoky odor in the room.
The following companies offer corn and pellet stoves: American Energy Systems, (800) 495-3196, www.magnumfireplace.com; Even Temp, (800) 331-8862, www.stcroixheat.com; England’s Stove Works, (800) 516-3636, www.englanderstoves.com; Lennox Hearth Products, (800) 953-6669, www.lennoxhearthproducts.com; and Paromax, (877) 419-9877, www.paromax.ca.
Dear Jim: We have a problem with noise coming in from outdoors. We have installed new windows and an insulated fiberglass door which helped, but not enough. Will installing a new storm door make much difference? – Linda S.
Dear Linda: In your case, installing a new storm door will likely not do a lot to reduce the outdoor noise transmission. This is because you already have a new primary entrance door which should be very airtight. Check for other gaps in your house walls which could be sealed. Window drapes may also help.
For people who do not have a new front door, installing a tight fitting storm door can reduce the noise transmission. This is usually cheaper than installing a new primary door.
Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com