Don't Waste Your Waste Oil — Reuse It

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Do you recycle your waste oil? Furnaces that do just that have been around for a long time. Dealers like them not only because they produce "free heat," but also because they eliminate disposal costs and risks. Most dealers contract with a company to collect their oil, and some buy insurance to protect themselves in case of an accident on the road after the oil leaves the building.

But most dealers don't know that they're liable, says Robert Kay, owner of Star City Motor Sports, a Top 100 Dealer in Lincoln, Neb. He once owned an insurance policy that covered up to $100,000 in cleanup costs. That's one reason he invested in an oil-burning furnace. Now, all of his waste oil is stored in two 300-gallon tanks and a couple of smaller ones.

Every three or four weeks, depending on the season, an employee pumps oil from these tanks into the 250-gallon recycling center, which is the lower storage tank of the unit pictured here. The actual furnace (sold separately) sits above. Clean Burn ( manufactures both.

Kay uses the furnace to heat his entire service department. This includes a 50'x25' drive-through bay that's insulated mostly by glass and heated by only one vent. But when it's zero degrees Fahrenheit outside, Kay says, the room's temperature is 50 degrees. At the other end of the 6,600 sq. ft. service department is a garage-door-sized opening leading to a 12,000 sq. ft. warehouse that has only two radiant heaters in the ceiling. Kay uses a fan to pump warm air into the warehouse to keep it at 55 to 60 degrees. A second, 6,500 sq. ft. warehouse above the shop has no additional heaters, but its temperature also remains acceptable.

Kay heats all of these areas for the cost of running a fan — and, again, he doesn't have to worry about disposing his old oil or insurance. He claims the cost for the unit was about the same as if he'd installed a traditional furnace. Maintenance is easy: Once a year, the janitor opens up the furnace and wire-brushes away the soot.

According to a Q&A posted on the Clean Burn Web site, a used-oil furnace is practical for any business with an average minimum volume of 500 to 700 gallons of used oil per year. The company also claims an 18- to 24-month return on investment, depending on where you are located. Finally, the site says that a business that burns about 1,500 gallons of used oil per year saves about $3,750 on fuel bills. — Arlo Redwine