The "A-Maize-Ing Heat" biomass furnace (model number LDJ620-9 and LDJ620-10) runs on wood pellets, corn kernels (maize), or other biomass pellet fuel. A full load can keep the house heated for two weeks. The biomass furnace is only used when it is needed with the help of the programmable thermostat.
Currently the furnace uses wood pellets since corn was more expensive to use and its use as a fuel source was detracting from its service as a primary food source for our nation. The pellets can be made out of recycled wood, which can be considered a more sustainable practice than using corn. Just like any other furnace, the efficiency depends on temperature, time of year, oxygen intake, user efforts, etc.
The unit was purchased from an Iowa-based company, LDJ Manufacturing, Inc, for $3,650.
Wood as a fuel source can be a controversial discussion. Some believe burning wood is better for the environment than burning fossil fuels due to the comparably minimal release of greenhouse gases over the lifecycle of wood pellets. Some consider wood to be cleaner than coal for this reason. Particulate matter when burning coal is considered to be much worse than when burning wood. Though, burning wood still involves cutting down trees which leads to forest degradation and habitat loss. Additionally, burning wood still does release greenhouse gases. Wood is considered by many as a renewable resource (unlike fossil fuels), though some argue that the classification of wood as a renewable resource is dangerous since it may encourage deforestation and destruction of old growth trees. It also ignores the concern that cutting down trees causes captured carbon to be released into the atmosphere.
With all of these factors to consider, Ecohouse residents are given the opportunity to further explore energy options currently available and think about potential solutions to these problems.