Dec 05

Keeping Warm – with Corn

The warm spell is definately over with highs now in the 20’s and the bees are nicely tucked away in their hives. The front that brought an end to the heat wave came in with a roar with wind gusts I believe near 50 mph. I ended up having to check all my hives and replace telescoping covers which had blown off the hives and landed 20 feet away in some cases. As I was coming home from work I wasn’t dressed appropriately and between the standing water soaking my shoes and gale force winds below freezing, it wasn’t pleasent.Quadra-Fire Sante Fe

So it made for a good weekend to sit by the fire and do on overdue computer work. We actually installed a Quadra-Fire pellet and corn stove in both the home and at my wife’s business to help cut down on fuel costs (our furnace runs on fuel oil). Of course it helps that we live in an area where corn is plentiful and we can buy it directly from the farmer.
Overall my wife and I both love the stone. It isn’t enough to heat the whole house; mainly because the heat isn’t distributed well because of the floor plan. It has automatic start and can be hooked to a thermostat so it can be left on when you aren’t at home. It can use a direct vent strait out the wall with a 3″ID double wall pipe making installation a breese (and you get to play with power tools!). It has very minimal power requirements to run the blowers and electric start so it can be plugged into any 120v outlet. It generates a bit of smoke when starting, but is virtuly smokeless once started and the exaust is cool enough to put your hand in. It does need daily cleaning (especially if you run corn or a mix of corn and pellets that is required for auto starting), but it typically only takes about a minute and has several pulls built in to clean the various parts. The top and sides get warm, but not too hot to touch. In fact several of our cats love sleeping on it while it is on. Overall it is quite well thought out and we wouldn’t trade it in, however:

I do have a few complaints and suggestions:

  1. The corners of the soot drawer (underneath the unit to catch and remove the ashes) are not tight or sealed. This means soot leaks out and forms a small pile at the botton front corners of the unit. I’m not sure why the corners couldn’t be welded or simply sealed with a heat resistant sealant as several parts inside the unit already are. (It just seems cheap and a big oversight in an otherwise nicely designed stove).
  2. The unit comes with a can of paint to touch up scraches and a small scraper to break up clinkers and scrape the fire pot. It’s a small thing, but very nice to have included. However, I’m surprised Quadra-Fire stops there and doesn’t also include a 99 cent cheap 1″ paint brush to clean the soot. (I bought one myself).
  3. It does come with a thermostat, but it’s a cheap bimetal mechanical model. I would have appreciated a cheap digital thermostat with a stove that costs a couple thousand dollars. I purchased one locally for $20 retail.
  4. The 3 speeds is a very nice feature and a big selling point in my opinion. However, I was surprised that the only way to control the speeds is via a switch in the back of the unit. There are no contacts available so that it could be controlled by a remote switch or even a dual stage thermostat that could turn the speed up when the room is colder. Such thermostats are readily available (typically for heat pumps) but could be used with the stove if only the connections were available. The switch that is built in unfortunately is part of a sealed speed control unit with a ‘warrantee void if removed’ seal. So unless one wants to void the warrantee, you cant use a remote switch or multiple-state thermostat.
  5. The speed of the feed mechanism is controlled by a plate inside the hopper where the fuel is. It’s located such that it’s nearly on the bottom so the hopper has to be mostly empty to adjust the feed which is inconvenient. We also found that with our two units, the plate had to be adjusted significantly different for the two units to work properly. On the stove at home it needed to be adjusted all the way down or the feed rate was too high (the fire was too high), yet the same model we have at work wouldn’t maintain a fire at all unless the plate was raised to increase the feed rate. It seems to me that the feed rate between units with feed control plates set identically don’t end up with the same feed rate. It would be nice if the rate could be controlled electronically by a simple knob located inside the unit. It would also be good if there was a feed rate ajust for each of the 3 speeds as we have found that a different feed rate is optimal for each speed. (We had originally set the feed rate when on low and it ended up being too fast for the medium speed setting. Now we have it set well for the medium speed, but it tends to be a bit slow (bit still useable) on low).
That may sound like a lot of complains, but we still are very happy with the stove and think it offered a better value than the other stoves we looked at.
One optional item I’d like to see avaliable for the stove is a hopper extender to increase the capacity of the hopper. I think it would be a simple matter to have an extender consisting of a cast iron top (identical to the one already on the unit), sides to match and sit inside the ridge on the existing top and a sloped bottom to feed the fuel into the existing opening. The cast iron lid could be removed and simply used on the extender.

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    1. jim

      can you use the corn stove if your electic goes out. we have a wood stove that proved usefull when our electric went out for 12 hours because of those high winds.I find the corn stove interesting.

    2. Tim Arheit

      It does unfortunately require electricity to run the feed system, electronic ignition (autostart), blower for the fire and for the heat exchanger. It’s requirements are pretty modest though, 4.1 Amps when starting and 1.1 Amps (120 Volts) when running so it could be run on a small generator or possibly even from a battery.

    3. Robert Hatfield

      I purchased my stove in October of 2006 and love it. I agree with the need for a larger hopper or an extender for the hopper. The feed adjustment has not been a problem for me so far.

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