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Cutting Cost: The Little House That Did

By Mike Tidwell

Click here to see Mike Tidwell talk about biomass/corn heating

There's never been a better time to protect your pocketbook and the planet by reducing your energy use at home. And thankfully it's never been easier to do.

I should know. I've already made big energy changes in my three-bedroom, 1,600-square-foot bungalow in the small Maryland town of Takoma Park on the edge of Washington, D.C. Those changes save me hundreds of dollars every year.

In 2001, motivated by global warming and the Sept. 11 attacks, my wife and I set aside $7,500 to achieve a big goal: dramatically reduce our fossil fuel use at home without sacrificing our lifestyle. Since then we've cut our electricity use a whopping 52 percent and virtually eliminated natural gas use. Here's how we did it.



Home heating accounts for about a third of energy use in a typical U.S. household. Yet even in the face of soaring prices for oil and natural gas, my heating bill won't rise a penny this winter.

That's because I heat my home with corn kernels. That's right, I have an ultra-convenient corn-burning stove controlled by a manual dial. It takes up the space of a TV console in our living room. I load up to a day and a half's worth of corn in the side hopper, and the stove self-loads the fuel with a low-energy electric auger. Then we simply enjoy the radiant heat.

Agriculture advocates say farmers can grow enough corn to meet the energy needs of millions of citizens. Our corn is easy to buy because we joined 35 other families to set up a community-run corn granary, a 25-foot-tall, corrugated-steel silo that stands amid our town's houses and high-rise apartments. And burning corn contributes almost nothing to global warming if the corn is planted without tilling the soil (an increasingly common farm practice) and raised using organic fertilizer. So corn fuel is good for farmers, good for consumers and good for the climate.

Learn more about stoves at Cost: $2,400.


Corn-Fed Heat

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