Well, Nearly Free
Fuel can be purchased at the moment from oil manufacturers or a regional distributor. Check your phone book under restaurant supplies. In this case you will be using new oil so filtering is not required. However if you are using used oil you will have to pre-filter it before you can use it. That's right, I said USED oil. Proper filtration is the key to operating a Greasecar reliably. There are many factors that dictate the quality of vegetable oil and a variety of processing methods to suit the different needs of Greasecar users. On this page we hope to give you several options for collection and filtration, remember: the more effort spent assembling a good filtration setup the less effort the job of filtering will be.
Though filtration process and equipment are important to ensure the cleanliness of your oil they are not the only factor. Choosing a good source of oil is equally important. If oil is heavily contaminated to begin with it will be that much harder to process for use in your vehicle. A good clean source of straight vegetable oil will mean much simpler collection and filtration which will translate to a happier driver and less onboard filter maintenance.
Though most oil sources can be used you will want to choose wisely because not all waste oil is created equal. Though any vegetable oil can be burned with a Greasecar conversion system the condition of the waste oil will vary depending on the policies of the oil source and how it is stored. We will try to address most of these variables below.
Finding an oil source is the first step to your petroleum independence. There are several common sources of oil for your diesel, selecting one is largely dependant on the quantity of oil you will need as well as your location. Storing oil can become a real inconvenience so you should find a source that suits your needs. The most common sources of free vegetable oil are:
Large oil distributors may be able to provide competitive pricing on bulk new vegetable oils and often have an abundance of off-spec or dregs oil that is disposed of. This oil has not been used for cooking and generally requires very limited processing. These companies are few and far between but can provide several thousand gallons per month.
Snack food Companies
Snack food companies are also large producers of waste oil. Though the oil has been used for cooking it is often far cleaner and of a higher quality than that used by restaurants. There are many smaller snack food, chip companies around the country and supplying you with their oil can often lead to good P.R.
Restaurants are the most common source of waste vegetable oil will produce anywhere from 5 to over 50gallons a week. The quantity and quality of this oil is largely dependant on what they fry and how often they change their oil. The longer oil is used before it is replaced, the thicker and dirtier it can become. If a restaurant cooks heavily battered foods and replaces their oil only once a week chances are they are not going to produce very much and the oil that is produced will be very dirty. Another consideration in choosing an oil source is the type of oil they use. There are two main classifications for frying oil: Hydrogenated and non-hydrogenated (or "pure"). Hydrogenated oil is processed to be used for longer periods and is made up of larger oil molecules. This means that it will become thick and sometimes even solid at temperatures up to 100F. Non-Hydrogenated oils can remain pour able at temperatures below freezing. The reason this is important is because you will need to filter restaurant waste oil. Either type of oil can be burned in a modified diesel but collecting and filtering hydrogenated oil will be much more of a pain in your neck than the straight variety.
Besides oil type you must consider oil quality. Make sure that if the restaurant rinses their fryers with water after draining them that the oily water is kept separate from the oil that you are collecting. Also, if the oil or the storage container has a rancid odor or a foamy surface it is likely that it is contaminated with bacteria and should not be used.
The final considerations, which can be negotiated, are the methods of draining and storing waste oil that the restaurant uses. There are three common storage methods: dumpster, barrel or jugs/buckets.
DumpsterMaking the deal
It is very important to conduct your dealings with a restaurant in a proper manner. I have heard many stories of people losing or being denied access to a restaurants waste because they do not approach the situation in a proper manner. A restaurant owner is concerned only with the workings of their place of business any inconvenience can jeopardize your access to their oil. Whether the problem is puddles of oil in their parking lot, delayed collection resulting in oil accumulating beyond their ability to store it or distraction of their employees. The board of health and appearance of their establishment will always be on their mind. You need to be organized and respectful, you may be collecting their oil for free but they are also providing you with a service. If they are producing more oil than you will need you should find someone to share the source or make some room at home to store the surplus. If there is a risk of spilling oil lay down some cardboard or carry some kitty litter or saw dust along to clean up the mess.
Once you have tracked down a good source of oil you need to reach some sort of agreement with the producer of the oil source, i.e.; the restaurant owner. Any arrangement is going to be dependant on the attitude and interest of the owner/manager. The manager/owner will probably only want to deal with one oil collector so you may be expected to provide your own container and pick up the oil every few weeks, so make sure you have an idea of how much you will be using.
When you approach the restaurant you will want to ask for the manager as you first contact person. Be friendly and though you may be saving the restaurant money don't act like you are doing them a favor. Even though no money may change hands you are going to be starting a business relationship with the oil source and you will want to appear as professional and organized as possible. It may be helpful to bring in a copy of this book or some other piece of information to help them understand what you intend to do and show that you have thought things through. Once the owner/manager agrees to give you their oil you will need to arrange a pickup schedule and storage situation so plan ahead. Most restaurants filter their oil each day to be reused until it is changed, some may even be willing to run the oil through a filter for you when they drain the warm oil. This would be ideal because the oil can flow right through a filter when it is hot. You may also be able to setup a storage drum behind the restaurant with a filter in the top to clean the warm oil as it is being poured in. Refer to the filtration design section with plans for this setup.
Once the arrangements have been made you are ready to build your storage and filtration setup and get started.
If you can filter, store and dispense the oil at the source you should not have to worry about collection but if you need to transport the oil there are some things to think about. Oil containers can be messy to you will want cardboard or tarps in your vehicle to place under the containers. You may also want to carry some paper towels, rags and work gloves to keep clean. If you plan on collecting larger quantities of oil you will probably want some sort of transfer pump and larger storage tank on board.
A 12V DC pump can be fitted to the vehicle, which will allow the user to pump oil from large storage containers to smaller containers that can be carried with you. This operation will be limited by oil viscosity and ambient temperature. Remember to always draw oil from just below the surface of large containers because water and debris will collect near the bottom.
If your oil source stores their oil in jugs or buckets a collection pump may not be necessary. This will also mean that the oil is less likely to have been exposed to bacteria and water contamination. But be aware that 35lb vegetable oil jugs are made of a thin plastic similar to that used for milk jugs, this material can easily puncture so it is not recommended to reuse containers for very long and they can melt if filled with hot oil.Filtration solutions
Because oil filtration and collection is the main responsibility associated with driving a converted vehicle, you will want to be sure that you create the cleanest and most convenient method to suit your needs. Though it may be hard to believe, collection and filtration of waste oil can be a very simple and hassle free process if you put in the time to create a good system.
The following are several filtration systems designed for various applications. A parts list for each is included but parts can be substituted using the guidelines laid out in the previous section in order to fit your specific needs and budget.
What continually blows my mind is that since the creation of the diesel engine we have had the opportunity to use vegetable oils for fuel and we have refused to do so. What MADNESS!
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