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The Difference Between Corn Heat and Corn Fuel (ethanol)

Corn, as a renewable energy source, has become quite popular in the U.S. and most Americans are probably most familiar with its use for vehicle fuel. In recent years corn ethanol has received a lot of attention as a potential replacement for petroleum and a way to decrease the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

Those who live in America’s heartland have likely seen E85 popping up as a fuel source at select gas stations, and “Flex Fuel” emblems on the backs of vehicles that have been formulated to run on fuel consisting mostly of corn ethanol. But while the positives of using corn ethanol as a fuel source are notable in that it’s a domestic and renewable fuel source, there are also some negatives. It can be expensive to produce, and breaking the actual corn plant down into liquefied ethanol is a somewhat energy-intensive process – which decreases its environmental benefits as a renewable energy source.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t more efficient ways to use corn as a source of renewable fuel.

A more efficient use for corn as a fuel source: corn stoves

While you might also see a flex-fuel designation on the description of a corn pellet stove or corn pellet furnace, using corn as a heat source is markedly different than using ethanol to power a vehicle or motorized device. The biggest difference: Corn heat requires no processing, as the corn burners in household stoves accept the fuel in its unaltered state and you burn the kernel itself.

So while ethanol requires a complex process that requires a lot of energy, corn fuel for stoves and furnaces doesn’t require anything further than removing the kernels from the plant. While ethanol factories must ship corn to their processing facilities where it undergoes a complicated transformation to a gasified liquid, powering your stove with corn can be as simple as purchasing the necessary bushels from your neighbor.

The beauty of buying a pellet stove or pellet furnace that accepts a variety of different fuels is you can pick and choose the type of fuel that is best for you. If corn is a cheap and abundant resource in your neck of the woods, it’s a great option for your pellet stove. If not, there are a number of options that provide economically viable and environmentally friendly methods for heating your home.

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