Most oil furnaces can also readily adapt to biodiesel fuel, although a few models might require a minor modification. As a result, not only have these do-it-yourselfers saved a tremendous amount of money (as well as all those trips to the gas pump), but they also have the satisfaction of knowing they are doing something good for the environment.
Since biodiesel fuel is most commonly made from used fry (vegetable) oil in combination with lye and methanol, its production minimizes the amount of oil waste that would otherwise wind up in landfills. It is estimated that there are more than three billion gallons of waste oil produced in the U.S. alone each year.
Beyond the obvious landfill benefits, the use of biodiesel fuel also reduces vehicle emissions of sulfur oxides, particulates and carbon monoxide by 70 percent. In the home, it burns cleaner and eliminates the smell often associated with oil furnaces. In addition, biodiesel is non-toxic. It’s also biodegradable and less combustible, which makes it easier to store and transport.
But the biggest factor driving demand for make-it-yourself biodiesel, especially in light of current market conditions, is runaway prices at the pump. In Europe, where gas prices are significantly higher, diesel vehicles are more common (60 percent of the market), as is the practice of consumers making their own biodiesel in their garages, sheds and even basements.
Newer product designs and more advanced technologies make it easier than ever for Americans to achieve the same degree of energy independence. Within the past year, the next generation of biodiesel processors--the FuelMeister II--was introduced. Some of the product’s special safety and ease-of-use features not found on other processors include direct catalyst injection, which increases the speed of chemical reaction, allowing for twice as many batches to be made in the same time period.
This special feature also allows the system to work with one tank, eliminating the need for a secondary tank. The single-tank design is not only more convenient and space-efficient, but it’s also safer in containing potentially harmful gases. Quick-disconnect connectors further enhance the product’s ease of operation and safety performance.
If you think making your own biodiesel fuel is beyond your technical skill level, you might want to do more research. With the current technologies on the market, virtually anyone can benefit from making their own biodiesel fuel without any special technical experience or scientific degrees required.
The process starts by collecting used fry oil -- ideally from area restaurants that have an almost endless supply of waste oil they’re only too happy to unload. Once the oil is in the FuelMeister, simply add lye which will act as a catalyst for neutralizing the free fatty acids that have formed in the waste oil.
By mixing methanol with the lye, you effectively dissolve the catalyst and begin the process for biodiesel production -- a process that takes about one hour for 40 gallons of fuel.
And in case you’re wondering how popular biodiesel is, consider the fact that the National Biodiesel Board estimates that production of biodiesel increased approximately 3600% between 2001 and 2006.
Properly made biodiesel will actually run cleaner and smoother, resulting in better engine performance and improved air quality. And since it costs less than a dollar per gallon to make at home, the savings are substantial. As an example, if you own a diesel vehicle or equipment and purchase 40 gallons or more of fuel per week, based on current prices, you would save more than $4,000 per year.
Despite the many advantages of processing your own biodiesel fuel, it’s important to realize that not all systems perform safely and reliably.
Unfortunately, the biodiesel market has, in recent years, become overcrowded with many garage-based operators hoping to quickly ride the biodiesel gravy train. Some system designs even utilize old hot water heaters as the main processing unit -- a design that has proven unsafe, unreliable and produces inconsistent results.
When considering the purchase of a biodiesel processor, always investigate the reputation and track record of the manufacturer, the availability of technical and field support, and the inclusion of special features designed to minimize contact with the fuel during processing. Such features include vapor return hoses, special mixing chambers and an overall closed-system design.
For more information on the benefits of making your own biodiesel fuel, visit www.fuelmeister.com.