Customer Spotlight: Burning Biodiesel In A Forced Air Heater

Over the years we’ve been asked several times if Biodiesel can burn in an air fired kerosene heater. The quick answer is yes. The long answer is, we weren’t sure exactly how to do it successfully, but we knew it could be done.

We get the question from time to time because one of the first videos we ever put up on our YouTube Channel was of a force air kerosene heater burning Biodiesel that we posted in 2008.

The guy’s at AGR Energy (Now Springboard Biodiesel) were the ones that I shot the video of and it’s generated questions ever since. We remember it burning the biodiesel, but we never wrote down exactly what it took to do it.

One of our awesome customers, Bill Oeming, who is a research technician at the Great Lakes Fisheries in Harbor Springs, Michigan, decided to figure out just what it takes to get one of these sweet heaters to burn properly on Biodiesel.

He picked up a Dayton 75,000 BTU Portable Oil-Fired Heater
Here’s a shot of what it looks like:
daytonportableoilkerosenefiredheater-usingbiodieselA

daytonportableoilkerosenefiredheater-usingbiodieselB

He added some Biodiesel that he made to the heater and began experimenting. What he noticed immediately is that the Biodiesel burns a little slower than Kerosene and if the heater is run with the fan on full blast, the Biodiesel doesn’t burn very efficiently.

So, he started off by restricting the air flow a little.
In the first test he covered about 1/4th of the air opening at the back of the heater.
daytonkeroseneheaterburningonbiodiesel-increasedairA

The fire burned pretty well, but it didn’t seem to be doing as well as kerosene did.
daytonkeroseneheaterburningonbiodiesel-increasedairB

So, he decided to cover up the vent at the back a little more leaving just a little area for air to enter.
daytonkeroseneheaterburningonbiodiesel-reducedairA

What he found was that with the reduced air flow the heater burned the Biodiesel much better! It generated a hotter flame, fully burned the fuel, and operated at the same level of output that it did with Kerosene.
daytonkeroseneheaterburningonbiodiesel-reducedairB

He called us with the exciting news and when we asked if he’d be willing to send in details on how he accomplished it, he was gracious enough to not only send in the pictures you see above but also shot this awesome video of the heater in action!

If you decide to give this a try, here’s some additional helpful information Bill shared:
=========
1. Our PSI setting on the back of the heater was set to about 4 PSI.

2. We covered the air intake about 75% with the can.

3: If you set the PSI too low, below 3 PSI, the pressure will not be high enough to ensure proper burning of the B100. By the same token, if you cover the back of the air intake TOO MUCH for too long, the fan will overheat and the heater’s sensor’s will automatically shut the heater off. You do NOT want this to happen regularly.

** The two main take home points of this video are if you burn B100 in a heater like this, you want to 1, make sure your PSI is at the correct level, and 2, you want to make sure you cover the air intake well enough, so the AIR SPEED is slow enough to ensure complete combustion of the B100, i.e the fan isn’t going too fast so that it’s blowing unburned B100 out of the end of the heater, WITHOUT limiting the airflow to a low enough point/speed where the unit, particularly the fan motor overheats.
=========

So, if you’d like to burn Biodiesel in a force air oil-fired heater, now you know how to do it!

UPDATE: 12/8/2014
===================
Since we first heard of this, Bill’s been having issues with the unit burning the fuel all the way. The fan motor seems to be wearing out because of the added stress of the rear air flow being restricted and the fuel doesn’t seem to completely combust in the unit.

If the air flow isn’t restricted, the unit unit will still burn Biodiesel, but it tends to build up unburned biodiesel that can begin to drip out of the front of the unit making a mess everywhere. It

More updates as we hear.

Happy Heating!

About Utah Biodiesel Supply

Utah Biodiesel Supply is an industry leader in offering innovative ways to empower our customers to produce Biodiesel. From free online instructional videos on how to get started making this great renewable fuel to promotional items to help our customers proclaim their energy independence, Utah Biodiesel Supply has it covered. With the widest selection available of Biodiesel equipment, supplies, and promotional items, you're sure to learn something new about Biodiesel every time you visit.

2 comments on “Customer Spotlight: Burning Biodiesel In A Forced Air Heater

  1. Dear Graydon It’s a while since you kindly gave me some good advice re Tilly from you know where!
    Any way because I’ve always respected your early deliberations re Bio ( I’ve always stuck to your very clear vid re titration right from the start) I though I’d like to mention my experimentations with B100 burnt through a pressure jet burner. In the early days Riello were not very educated in this fuel (who can blame them). I twigged
    that better than the nozzle pre -heater which in my experiments caused a deal of problems with nozzles I made a stainless cylinder 1″ x 3″ with appropriate connections onto the outlet of the Tigerloop device. As you will know Viton is pretty well essential for the flexes not least the 300 C working temp of that rubber. Fit a heat band over the increased diameter cylinder and control to 50 -60 C. This heats the fuel in the loop only but eliminates the problems associated with nozzle heaters which I did experience. I am 74 and have worked with commercial oil fired gear and can remember when they used to have immersion heaters in fuel tanks because the heavy diesel then was thicker than the 35 sec as of the last 50 years ! Why didn’t I think of this heaterband method earlier I don’t know….. I think you could easily sell the idea as a kit but all I can say is thank god for ‘tigerloops’……. A long time ago when I was first asked to fit one I replied what do you want one of them newfangled things for ? The answer is that they are good and furthermore I was wrong to doubt the need for one. Same as making my own Bio – I love it.

  2. Pingback: Shop Heater Questions.

Leave a Reply