Shelling corn pertains to the process of removing the corn grains from the cob so you can use it as an ingredient in your food preparations. But do you know that shelling corn can also save the environment?
Shelled corn is being used in many parts of the world as a fuel source. It’s an alternative energy source for conventional fuel sources like oil, propane, and natural gas which are notorious for their high and unstable prices. Dry shelled corn not only has the potential for energy; it is also easy to handle. In fact, corn stoves have long been used to heat homes, buildings, and even commercial establishments.
Additionally, unlike fossil fuels that takes years to be produced, shelled corn as fuel can be produced within 180 days.
The best part is – corn is available around the world. Many countries are abundant in this important crop. In fact, the US Department of Agriculture recently estimated that world corn production for 2015-2016 is around 970 million metric tons.
Pros and Cons of Corn as a Fuel Source
Like any other fuel source, corn has its advantages and disadvantages.
One of its advantages is that it is easier to handle compared to other bulky biomass materials like wood, straw, and hay. Compared to those three, shelled corn flows fairly well through hoppers and augers. Moreover, it has a better energy-to-volume ratio; meaning corn takes less space to store the same amount of energy for the crop compared to other bulky biomass materials.
In terms of energy produced, shelled corn can compete with wood. It has a high heat energy per unit weight of 7,000 BTU/lb at 15% moisture content, which is close to the 8,000BTU/lb of air dried wood.
And like alternative energy sources, heating shelled corn is clean. It produces very few particulates. It also doesn’t produce carbon monoxide, which makes it environment-friendly. And if corn is spilled on the ground, it won’t harm the environment or contaminate water table.
Corn is also abundant in many places, so harvesting, handling, and storing shelled corn would be no issue especially on farms that produce corn. This makes shelling corn important in rural areas, because shelled corn need not be thrown away as it can be used as an energy source.
However, there are also disadvantages in harnessing shelled corn as a fuel source.
One is that a homeowner who is thinking of tapping corn as energy source would have to invest in a corn heater or corn stove. A typical stove can cost anywhere from $1,700 and $3,000. We’re not even talking of installation costs here.
Let’s say that you were able to cough up enough money to start using shelled corn as fuel source. Don’t think that the costs of buying and installing pellet stove are the only disadvantages of harnessing corn as fuel source. You’d still have to use tight storage containers to prevent problems with rodents and insects. This is particularly true if you are to store corn for long periods of time. Moreover, you will have to clean up corn spills right away to prevent pests from causing more headaches.
Using corn as a fuel source is ideal if you have a farm where you plant corn. But if you don’t have one, you might want to look for other green energy sources. Non-corn farmer will have difficulty accessing, hauling, and storing the needed amount of corn for heating a home or building.
The corn-burning appliance will also need daily attention. You’d have to remove the residue daily and deliver fuel to the unit. It’s basically a maintenance protocol that harkens back to the gold old days when heating with a wood stove was the only way to keep a house warm before central heating systems were introduced.
Lastly, although corn stoves would allow you to set a temperature and sustain that level for 24 hours, these appliances use electricity. Thus if the electricity is cut, the fire goes off as well.
Things to Consider in Buying a Corn Stove
Now if you’re interested in investing in a corn stove given its benefits, here are some things you need to consider:
- Check local laws and regulations. If you live in an urban area, check with your local government if installing a corn stove is allowed. Oftentimes, those who live in rural areas are the ones who can easily put a corn stove at home because there are fewer requirements from the local government.
- Sourcing of corn. If you have a corn field, then this should not be an issue at all. But if you don’t have one, you can ask feed and seed stores, or even local farmers. Avoid a stove retail store as this is often the most expensive place to buy shelled corn.
- Place where the stove will be put. Ideally, the corn stove should be placed in a central area for best heat distribution. While corn stoves don’t require chimneys the way wood stove do, they still have to be vented.
- Corn storage. Corn should be dry and kept out of dirt or cement. Ideally, it should be kept in a place where pests would not be able to get at it.
- Ashes/clinker. While burning corn won’t produce as much residue as wood, you’d still have to deal with some ashes. You can bury these or use it as a mild fertilizer in your garden.
Indeed, shelling corn not only makes you enjoy a cup of cornmeal. Shelled corn can also be used as an environment-friendly energy source. If you think you can make good use of shelled corn as an energy source, then go ahead and invest in a corn stove.