Hi all. My father and brother both invested this summer in an outdoor pellet/corn boiler back when we all thought heating oil was going to $5/gallon. They considered coal as well, but the fact is that as potato farmers, they always have some sort of grain they grew as a rotation crop. And, with the low prices they have gotten historically for the grain, they thought they might as well burn it. A business acquaintance bought one of these last year, and has been burning all sorts of things in it with success... rye, barley, cherry pits. Basically, anything he could get for free or cheap, that was granular enough to go through the machine seemed to burn OK.
This is the unit:http://www.maximheat.com/
Here's a few pictures I took of my father's unit during Christmas.
They put their units in their garages. Why trudge through the snow?
A 43-bushel hopper and auger saves constant filling. They bring oats in old oil drums in the back of the pickup. Takes 7 to fill the hopper. (The internal hopper is only 7 bushels.)
Inside the unit more oats trickle in.
Pex to the house. The unit uses propane to light up your fuel.
Here's the burn chamber, heat exchangers off to the left.
Burning. Dad's is pretty dirty. Needs regular cleaning.. just scraping. My brother's is cleaner... with a bigger house and 3 kids and their showers, his unit runs at full blast much more often. Dad's unit has to idle sometimes.
Ashes are pushed forward by incoming fuel and by the agitator. The agitator is there to aerate the burning matter and break up clinkers. Dad scoops out the ashes with a grain scoop into an oil drum. Seems to run about 15 drums oats = 1 drum ashes. Oat ash is interesting, you are left with little black oats.