Waste Oil Heater Plans, Guide to Homemade Waste Oil Heaters
There are a number of different waste oil heater plans on the web, and some of them are even free for the taking. Many can be built mostly from scrap materials that you may have lying around or can pick up for cheap or free. A few require several hundred dollars worth of parts, in addition to welding skill and electrical expertise.
I have no doubt that any of them will work, but the differences lie in how efficient they are, how cleanly and completely they burn the fuel, how safe they are, and how much attention they require to keep them operating. Disclaimer time - The links below are provided for information only, and in no way are an endorsement of any product or design. A homemade heater can be dangerous, as you are dealing with a flammable liquid, extreme temperatures, and carbon monoxide. Use at your own risk!
Now that we got that out of the way, there are three basic types of homemade waste oil heater plans.
First is the pot burner or pan and drip valve type. This type basically just drips preheated fuel into a pan or pot where it burns. This is the simplest and least expensive way to build a waste oil heater, but the results vary greatly. Some of them burn cleanly with very little soot or smoke, but others don't. One of the more interesting designs of this type adds a pot burner inside of a wood stove, instead of having a stand alone waste-oil-only unit.
Some of these heaters require a lot of "babysitting", though. The problem is that as the burner heats up, the preheated fuel gets thinner and flows faster. This causes the fire to get hotter, which then makes the fuel flow even faster. When you turn down the flow, then the fire cools, and the fuel flows more slowly, which makes the fire get even cooler, etc. Because of this, they can be difficult to regulate.
The second type of homemade waste oil heater uses compressed air to atomize the fuel before it is burned. These can either be of the Babington burner type or the spray gun type. They are much more sophisticated than the pot burner, but they can be more efficient and burn cleaner. There are many different burners that can be used, and there is likely to be some trial and error involved in getting one to work properly.
The third type of used oil heater is basically a conversion of an old fuel oil furnace so that it can burn waste petroleum products. These are the most expensive of the bunch, but when done correctly will eliminate the need for babysitting, will burn very efficiently and cleanly, and can be used with a thermostatic control just like a regular furnace.
If you are thinking about the second or third type above, it would be a good idea to get a handle on how oil burners and furnaces in general operate. I would want to get a book on the subject in order to understand how they work, and to know what to do when they don't!
Another thing you might want to consider is to start out by building a waste oil water heater first, just to get your feet wet. That way you could get a little experience with how things work on a smaller and less expensive scale. Once you are comfortable (and successful!) with that project you could graduate to building a furnace to heat your home or garage.
If you want to build a waste oil heater, it would be smart to look at as many of the designs as you can. Realize that there are some limitations and safety concerns with some of the heater plans that are out there.
Some designs will burn the fuel efficiently, but may not be very efficient at transferring the heat into the room, and most of the heat goes up the chimney. A homemade heater is likely to create more smoke and emissions than a factory built furnace. Some waste oil heater plans don't have safeguards built in to prevent them from getting too hot, or to keep them from emitting noxious fumes into the room. Lastly, a home built unit may void your fire insurance policy, so check with your insurance agent first.
I have gathered a number of resources here that offer waste oil heater plans. Some of them are free, some you have to purchase, and some are really just verbal descriptions with some photos.
Here's the list:
- Mother Earth News published a set of waste oil heater plans in 1978 that use a scrapped electric water heater tank as the main body. It is of the pot burner type, and requires no electricity or compressed air. Years later, there were complaints that units built from those plans would not burn motor oil very well, and Mother stopped selling those plans. Several people have come up with their own modified versions that supposedly work very well. The original article is available here .
- Roger Sanders' "new and improved" version of the Mother Earth News unit is on the JourneyToForever.org website.
- Bruce Woodford's updated and improved version of the Mother Earth News unit is on a different page of the JourneyToForever.org website.
*** Side note: the Journey To Forever website has a lot of interesting information about different types of alternative fuel heaters.
- Spicrosoft.com has free plans of the homemade waste oil burner he has used since 1997. This is also a pot burner type. Here is a video of it:
- Murphy's Machines sells a set of waste oil heater plans that utilize a 55 gallon drum and a 100 lb. propane tank. This type is much more complex, but will burn almost anything. It requires compressed air and electricity, but can be thermostatically controlled. He says it is not a pot burner or spray gun type, but isn't very specific as to how it does work.
- WasteOilPlans.com sells a waste oil heater plan that utilizes one or more 55 gallon drums and requires compressed air. Not a lot of info on the website though.
- The Garage Journal forum has a thread where one member posted a rather detailed explanation of how to build a waste oil heater using parts from an old fuel oil furnace. It is available at Garage Journal.com.
- The AltFuelFurnace group on Yahoo has a lot of great information on how to build your own heater. It is a forum that is dedicated to the exchanging of ideas and information on modifying gun-style fuel burners to work with all sorts of alternative fuels. You have to join the group to be able to view the information and participate in the discussion, but it is THE place to go if you are thinking about using this type of homemade waste oil burner.
- WasteOilHeaterForum.com also has a number of active members, and would be a good resource to check out.
That ought to be enough to get you started, and give you an idea of the different variations of waste oil heater plans that are out there. Just keep in mind that you are dealing with a flammable liquid and extreme temperatures. BE CAREFUL and don't do anything that will get you killed or burn down your garage! If you prefer a safer, less adventurous method of using waste oil for heat, take a look at our page on waste oil furnaces. For information on other types of heaters, go to our Related Pages menu on the right near the top of this page. If you know of another resource for waste oil heater plans, please use the Contact Form to let me know about them and I will add them to the list.