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Diesel furnace alternatives  RSS feed

 
Andreas Poleo
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Hello, I just had an idea and thought I'd post it here for discussion. I live in Norway, in a 100-year old house that came with a central heating unit that's diesel powered. Since I'm not all too fond of the whole petroleum game, our homestead has been using wood this winter, and we've left the diesel beast alone.

Then, all of a sudden, I thought, surely there must be a way around this? Surely I can find some scrap oil somewhere and use that in the furnace? Everywhere I read about these sort of things people have such stories, of how they got their car to run on discarded vegetable oil, their lawn mowers on old crankcase oil or their helicopters on fizzy drinks. There must be a way?

There's a catch though, and that is that I know nothing about these things. Does anyone here know what I should look for in my current heater to know whether it'll accept an alternative fuel, or whether it can be modified to do so? Does anyone know what alternative fuels are the most likely to work? In short - do you understand what my intentions are, and if yes, do you know anything that may help me along?

Thanks for reading, all the best!
 
John Elliott
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The only difference between petroleum diesel and vegetable oil is the viscosity. Once you get vegetable oil hot enough and it becomes less viscous, you can put it directly into a diesel engine. In fact, Rudolf Diesel designed his engine to run on vegetable oil as that was in the days before fuel was pumped out of the ground. Back in the 1880s, the only use for crude oil was to refine it into kerosene for use in kerosene lamps.

Modern conversion kits for diesel cars can be had that preheat the fuel line to get around the viscosity problem. Of course, if you want to drive in the winter in Norway, you need to think about the tank as well. The engine is not going to start if the whole fuel tank has congealed. Is your fuel tank in a place where it would get cold enough for vegetable oil to congeal?

Then there is the subject of bio-diesel, which is animal fat or vegetable oil that has been chemically processed (1 or 2 step process) so that the fat molecule has been de-esterified and it won't congeal. Biodiesel is much closer in viscosity and other physical properties to petroleum diesel than it is to the fats it was derived from.

Does this help you think of alternative fuels? What kind of potential fuels are available to you?
 
Randy Voss
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Location: Between Lincoln and Omaha ,Nebraska
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Andreas, it would be quite easy to convert your furnace to run on waste engine or veg oil, just look at how a modern commercially made waste oil furnace burner head works.
the waste oil furnace burner head pre-heats the oil to 60-77C and then uses a a small air compressor to blow the oil past the ignition electrodes to burn the oil. (similar to the way a paint gun turns paint into a mist).
There are quite a few videos on YouTube of people that have converted old oil furnaces to do just what your talking about. I built the one that i use in a converted fuel oil burner to burn wast oil to heat my shop from scratch for less than 200.00$ it still has the electronic safety controls and runs from the thermostat just like it did originally.
 
Andreas Poleo
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Thanks for the feedback guys, since last time I've read a bit more around on the interwebs, and it does seem feasible. I have to say though, Randy, that what you write is close to the most optimistic news I've read - it indeed sounds within reach. Now, the next question, since I live a bit away from things, is going to be concerning the economics of it all. I live two hours outside of Oslo, the capital, and one of the people in our homestead works there fairly regularly. If he were to haul home a decent amount of litres every so often, when he's driving home anyway, surely the possibility for both being quite environmentally friendly, helping out a chip shop owner and saving quite the dough must be very present? I am trying to look for weaknesses in the plan - in any case I've got a machine engineer friend of mine coming around to talk conversion - super exciting! Thanks again for your replies!
 
Darryl Roederer
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Andre, do a google search for "altfuelfurnace" (alternatively fueled furnaces). They've got a forum as well as a discussion group. VERY knowledgeable folks over there who can educate, assist, and guide you thru converting your diesel furnace to burn WVO (waste vegetable oil) or WMO (waste motor oil).

I've got several internet friends from that site who heat their homes using that method.

A good place to obtain used motor oil, other than automotive reapir shops, is junk yards. A medium sized automotive recycling yard will process about a dozen cars a day, and each one of them will have about 2 gallons of motor oil, transmission fluid, gear oil, and differential oil that the recycler has to deal with. They should be happy to have someone take it off their hands.

WVO is getting difficult to obtain here in the USA since the bio-diesel revolution took off a few years ago. Restaurants used to have to pay someone to haul it away for them. Now the bio-diesel producers are paying the restaurants to buy it from them. Some companies have even gone so far as to LEASE cooking oils to restaurants. Every few days they send a truck around to collect the used oil and replace it with fresh oil so the used stuff never even makes it out of the kitchen. Of course things may work differently in your country.

From an environmental standpoint, WVO is going to be much cleaner when burned, but don't let that factor alone sway your decision. Do a little research as to what the laws and practices are in your country regarding WMO and WVO. Here in the USA, we used to dispose of WMO in ways that were very damaging to our planet. If you find that your country isn't disposing of WMO in a responsible manner, then burning it to heat your home would not only be preferable, but responsible.

When I was a kid, I remember seeing tanker trucks spraying WMO on gravel and dirt roads to help keep the dust down. It horrifies me to think that we used to be so careless. I know that similar practices still exist in some countries around the world today.

Good luck with your project, and let us know how it turns out.

 
Chris Badgett
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Posts: 289
Location: Whitefish, Montana
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I've converted a diesel truck to run off of used waste vegetable oil and driven it to Alaska and back from the US east coast.





The truth is there is no real "conversion." You just have to preheat and clean the oil before it heads into the engine. I'm not talking about biodiesel. I'm talking about straight waste vegetable oil. Your furnace can run off waste veggie oil if you can find a good consistent supply and figure out your preheating and cleaning systems. I suggest you start exploring information on this website: http://www.goldenfuelsystems.com/ Their stuff is mostly about vehicles, but the principles are the same.

 
thomas rubino
Posts: 828
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
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Hi Andreas; Have you heard of or considered a rocket mass heater for your home ? If you have been burning wood this winter ,then you have a chimney system in place and a local source of wood. You can still use your current heater , hopefully with warm veg oil BUT... Use it a lot less ! There is a book available online by ianto evans called "rocket mass heaters" that has all the information you would need ,and of course the forum here at permies of the same name . Hope this interests you Tom
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Storing the fuel in the furnace room and using your hot water heater to preheat the fuel takes care of most of the viscosity problems. Keeping the home occupied and warm solves most of the problems vehicles face with gelling fuel.
 
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